You Shall Not Side With The Great Against The Powerless

Pachacutec asks why you’re a liberal.

I say this all the time whenever my Republican parents are playing Bait the Liberal (gently, of course) at dinner, but I’m a liberal because when my right-wing family taught me to listen and respect and help others and never, ever, ever belittle anyone who was different from me and never, ever, ever assume I was better than anyone else or deserved any more than anyone else did, I actually listened. They taught me to stand up for the weaker kid when that kid’s getting beaten on, to speak up if I’ve got something to say, and to work tirelessly on behalf of those depending on me.

If that’s not the foundation of a liberal life, I don’t know what is.

Why are you a liberal (if you are)?


20 thoughts on “You Shall Not Side With The Great Against The Powerless

  1. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
    Damned hard to hear that in your blood and be a Reagan Democrat, let alone a Republican/conservative.
    But it’s older than that in my blood. The Texans I knew to be presidents were Eisenhower and LBJ.

  2. I had many similar experiences growing up in the South – having black friends but not being able to invite them anywhere, it just felt so completely WRONG. But I have trouble with the chicken and egg question – did I see it as wrong because I was already a liberal, or did it’s very wrongness push me toward liberalism? In the end, I think your answer is right: Empathy.
    Why some people have it and others don’t is a complete mystery (i.e., why the people who support the war in Iraq purely on economic/continued U.S. hegemony terms have no empathy at all for the innocents that have been killed, no sense of how they would feel if their father/mother/wife/husband/child/sister/brother ended up as collateral damage).

  3. As I get older, something I have been doing consistently for 70 years, I have become more and more liberal. My dad was a lifelong Republican, who used to lecture us about the righteousness of being conservative, so I grew up being conservative. But, my life experiences kept chipping away at that. The Vietnam war knocked off the biggest chunk. Nixon knocked off another big chunk. And, when I was courting my wife, who was very, very liberal at that time, she kept winning all of our debates.
    Then we lived in San Francisco for several years, where I was involved with some of the extreme left folks in shared interest campaigns, and where I learned that they had some very good points (once I got over their incessant pot smoking). I gained a lot of respect for their positions and found that they were just people, not ogres.
    Now, it seems that, as dr2chase said, the facts just don’t allow me to do anything but shift further and further left. I have arrived at the point where I ask myself, “why not communism?” and don’t have a solid answer to the question.

  4. “Truth, Justice and the American Way” and “With great power comes great responsibility” and “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” “First do no harm.” “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed.” “We The People” and “…we pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.”
    These were the things that shaped my world. Liberalism questions government always because it’s the responsibility for each and every one of us to BE the government. Liberalism doesn’t believe in justice, but in the striving for justice. Liberalism doesn’t believe in simple answers to complex questions, no matter how much we want them. Liberalism affirms that the powerless are no less (or more) great than “the great” are – only that their circumstances are different.
    And I too am proud to be a liberal. But as a liberal I’m not happy that I’m proud 🙂

  5. I was a conservative through high school – even had the Reform party (Canadian) stickers up in my window.
    However as I grew up, experience with different cultures (coming from a white bread Canadian suburb it was a nice change); a chance to visit other countries, being the only white guy in a sea of black people in Zimababwe (and having street children call me “baas” – Afrikaans for “master” unnerved me tremendously); and seeing the pain a gay man had at being apart from his long-term partner for 6 weeks while studying overseas showed that the conservative ways were not the direction I wanted to go.
    (That being said, many Canadian Conservatives (esp. from the old Progressive Conservative party) are more liberal than many American Democrats). The line with the corporatists and conservatives has been blurred immensely over the last 25 years.
    When I lived in Austria, people asked what colour the respective American parties would correspond to in Austrian politics. We figured that most Dems would usually be similar to the black of the Christian Conservatives (though there would be a few red socialists in the mix). As for the Repubs, many would be on the right side of the Christian Conservatives. However we figured many wouldn’t be out of place in brown – the party colour of that failed Austrian meglomanical painter.
    Conservatives often don’t know any better – the traditional isolationists don’t know the reality outside of their boundaries, and others are sheep wanting much more help from the government than their mantra portrays. And after seeing the clusterfuck of the last 6 years in America (plus living through a ‘conservative revolution’ in Alberta that saw thousands lose their jobs, a lack of planning, tuition hiked 10% a year for over a decade and voting electoral twits who took the punishment), I have often asked myself, “historically speaking – how often have the conservatives come out on the right side of society moving forward?”
    Hell, we’d still be serfs serving the manor before King John signed the Magna Carta at Runnymeade. (Oh wait…the Magna Carta is out of service in the USA)
    Isn’t it interesting that America looks like England prior to 1215:
    “John had incurred general hostility. His expensive wars abroad were unsuccessful, and to finance them he had charged excessively for royal justice, sold church offices, levied heavy aids, and abused the feudal incidents of wardship, marriage, and escheat. He had also appointed advisers from outside the baronial ranks.”
    “Magna Carta.” The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition.

  6. The word itself. The old definition in the Wikipedia used to be:

    Liberalism is a political current embracing several historical and present-day ideologies that claim defense of individual liberty as the purpose of government. It typically favors the right to dissent from orthodox tenets or established authorities in political or religious matters. In this respect, it is sometimes held in contrast to conservatism. Since liberalism also focuses on the ability of individuals to structure their own society, it is almost always opposed to totalitarianism, and often to collectivist ideologies, particularly communism.
    The word “liberal” derives from the Latin “liber” (“free”) and liberals of all stripes tend to view themselves as friends of freedom, particularly freedom from the shackles of tradition. The origins of liberalism in the Enlightenment era contrasted this philosophy to feudalism and mercantilism. Later, as more radical philosophies articulated their thoughts in the course of the French Revolution and through the nineteenth century, liberalism equally defined itself in contrast to socialism and communism, although some adherents of liberalism sympathize with some of the aims and methods of social democracy.

    The right has for too long tried to steal the principles of liberalism, specifically liberty itself. But they just offer cheap authoritarian knockoffs. Liberalism is the source; liberals are the outcome. And for that reason, I’m ferociously proud to be a liberal.

  7. Before racial integration came to New Orleans, I took the bus to school every day – a public transport bus. This was in the day of those wooden placards that fit into the chrome seat back bars and stated “for colored patrons only.” I must have been about 11 or 12 when I found myself looking at the sign and thought to myself, “Why was I born white? Why was that other girl behind the sign black? I must be lucky.”
    That moment has been with me all my life. I imagined myself sitting behind that sign and how I would feel about it. Empathy, I guess. Empathy made me a liberal.

  8. much like you. but add absorbing the who bible jesus beatitude stuff. i believe in justice, but more FAIRNESS and what it RIGHT, not what is acceptable. some things shouldn’t be. deeo down i am a socialist, but not bleeding heart about it. i hate stupidity, i hate meanness.
    i hate that i don’t have many people like me on the side of what’s right. but i also hate being in a crowd, so maybe being in a small group of the civilized progressives is ok.

  9. My folks both had a classical jesuit education, and were liberals at heart, but once Dad started making money and they started moving up in the world, we suddenly started hearing a lot about how “If you’re not a liberal when you’re under 30 you have no heart, if you’re not a conservative when you’re over 30, you have no mind.” Retch.
    I was about 12 when I looked at all of the poverty, disease, famine and wars in the world and realized, a) there must not be a god or s/he would have gotten a handle on this shit loooong beforehand; and, b) given a), the only chance for the world was to try and get a handle on this shit myself. For a long time I gave away all of my allowance to the Red Cross and Unicef and got very sad watching pictures of typhoon flooding in Bangladesh and starvation in Africa. It was a bit overwhelming.
    Thankfully about a decade later I came upon the Jewish ideal of tikun olam (making the world a better place): the understanding that deeds of loving kindness, both large and small, work to perfect the world and bring justice and equality. It made my job, in the great scheme of things, more manageable.
    In my mind, that ideal is the perfect umbrella for liberalism: making the world a better place through justice, equality, hope and kindness, practiced daily.

  10. yeah – you’re right, A…a lot of conservatives don’t like talking about politics. They see who they vote for as very important, but their preferences aren’t any more describable than why they like hot dogs over hamburgers.
    While a good portion of them are liberals, they just find it easier to protray themselves as staunch conservatives because doing so provides quick answers to issues of great importance.
    In other words, the more you bother to worry about a situation, the more likely you are to take the liberal path.

  11. I’m not a liberal. But I’m also not an idiot – anyone could have seen where a Bush presidency would lead if they had bothered to actually listen to the man.

  12. Because the facts have a liberal bias.
    Because that’s what Jesus would do.
    Because the conservatives have now had their chance to demonstrate how they’d run a government, and it’s pretty clear that liberal government is better.

  13. You’d have to ask them, to know for sure, but to me they’ve always separated themselves from the far-right bigot types, the Operation Rescue crazies and the people who call for gays to be put to death.
    It’s strange. Some portions of the extended family are Republican the way they’re Packer fans, because you just are and that’s all there is to it, and there’s no discussing that at all. Others, we can talk policy for a while before we run into some area of disagreement, ie. it’s based on specific issues and not some tribal identity thing.
    I try to tell myself there’s nothing I can’t get past, in terms of disagreements, but I had a friend once who I later found out was a weekend clinic protester. It did sour the friendship, knowing that about her. It really turned my stomach. I was sort of disappointed in myself for feeling that way, but there it was.

  14. I am a liberal for all the reasons Webster tells me I should be.
    “Main Entry: lib·er·al·ism
    Pronunciation: ‘li-b(&-)r&-“li-z&m
    Function: noun
    1 : the quality or state of being liberal
    2 a often capitalized : a movement in modern Protestantism emphasizing intellectual liberty and the spiritual and ethical content of Christianity b : a theory in economics emphasizing individual freedom from restraint and usually based on free competition, the self-regulating market, and the gold standard c :a political philosophy based on belief in progress, the essential goodness of the human race, and the autonomy of the individual and standing for the protection of political and civil liberties d capitalized : the principles and policies of a Liberal party”

  15. Taxes and abortion.
    We’ve been shockingly civilized, amongst ourselves, considering the past six years in this country. I guess the family that attends hockey games together can overcome any divisions. 🙂

  16. Why are you a liberal (if you are)?
    For the babes. 😉
    Actually, my story is quite close to yours Athenae. Child of conservative parents before FoxNews ruined ’em.

  17. I’d say it’s because as a child I was drenched by my parents, (my dad especially) in lessons on American history. I don’t think I really knew what the definition of a liberal was until I got to college, but I’d learned from going to church and working with the less fortunate through public school functions at an early age that what you give you get back in good fortune. Applying that to the beginnings of this nation – I think it’s rather inconceivablt to imagine that all this was created just for a handful of well-educated old white men. This country – this idea of America – was created for generations of Americans to indulge in. It’s the ultimate form of charity – the guarantee of freedom.
    A conservative would never have created America. Well, he would have created it, but then he would have put a fence around it once his family was in.

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