Geoffrey R. Stone, a law professor at the University of Chicago and the author of "Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime" published this essay entitled “What it means to be a liberal” in the Chi Trib today.
I thought it was interesting and have excerpted is here.
It's quite worth going over and checking out the whole of it.
What it means to be a liberal
Published October 10, 2006
For most of the past four decades, liberals have been in retreat. Since the election of Richard Nixon in 1968, Republicans have controlled the White House 70 percent of the time and Republican presidents have made 86 percent of the U.S. Supreme Court appointments. In many quarters, the word "liberal" has become a pejorative. Part of the problem is that liberals have failed to define themselves and to state clearly what they believe. As a liberal, I find that appalling.
In that light, I thought it might be interesting to try to articulate 10 propositions that seem to me to define "liberal" today. Undoubtedly, not all liberals embrace all of these propositions, and many conservatives embrace at least some of them.
Moreover, because 10 is a small number, the list is not exhaustive. And because these propositions will in some instances conflict, the "liberal" position on a specific issue may not always be predictable. My goal, however, is not to end discussion, but to invite debate.
1. Liberals believe individuals should doubt their own truths and consider fairly and open-mindedly the truths of others. This is at the very heart of liberalism.
2. Liberals believe individuals should be tolerant and respectful of difference. It is liberals who have supported and continue to support the civil rights movement, affirmative action, the Equal Rights Amendment and the rights of gays and lesbians. (Note that a conflict between propositions 1 and 2 leads to divisions among liberals on issues like pornography and hate speech.)
3. Liberals believe individuals have a right and a responsibility to participate in public debate. It is liberals who have championed and continue to champion expansion of the franchise…
4. Liberals believe "we the people" are the governors and not the subjects of government, and that government must treat each person with that in mind. It is liberals who have defended and continue to defend the freedom of the press …
5. Liberals believe government must respect and affirmatively safeguard the liberty, equality and dignity of each individual.
6. Liberals believe government has a fundamental responsibility to help those who are less fortunate.
7. Liberals believe government should never act on the basis of sectarian faith.
8. Liberals believe courts have a special responsibility to protect individual liberties. It is principally liberal judges and justices who have preserved and continue to preserve freedom of expression, individual privacy, freedom of religion and due process of law. (Conservative judges and justices more often wield judicial authority to protect property rights and the interests of corporations, commercial advertisers and the wealthy.)
9. Liberals believe government must protect the safety and security of the people, for without such protection liberalism is impossible. This, of course, is less a tenet of liberalism than a reply to those who attack liberalism. The accusation that liberals are unwilling to protect the nation from internal and external dangers is false.
10. Liberals believe government must protect the safety and security of the people, without unnecessarily sacrificing constitutional values. …. Liberals adhere to the view expressed by Brandeis some 80 years ago: "Those who won our independence ... did not exalt order at the cost of liberty."
It’s a good list, and if you scoot down into the subscription vault, you’ll find several comments.
Some on both sides are sober and thoughtful and use traditional definitions to differentiate between two honorable positions, but to what should be no one’s surprise, there was a vicious streak of distilled, irrational hatred drizzled through the wingnut comments like a cancer through the marrow of a bone.
“Liberals are open-minded as long as you agree with their neo-Stalinist economic views and secular social views. If you do not agree, trust me, you have no rights or freedoms…”
” In the issues of the individual rights vs. rights of government to order people to cede their rights and incomes to perfect their socialist model ant farm, liberals are in no way liberal. For accuracy they need to refer to themselves as socialists, or even more accurately neo-Stalinists or neo-Marxists.”
“Liberals are … intolerant of everyone who disagrees with their point of view.”
“Conservatives believe in self-rule, while liberals believe in rule by the government.”
“Liberals care more about whether their immediate, selfish needs are met and satisfied than they do about the long-term survival of their country,”
“…without strong and decisive actions by America to keep her citizens safe, the America we know and love (which liberals take for granted) will not survive to be passed on to future generations.”
“On economic issues, a conservative pays as he goes (the present Republican regime is not conservative);”
“A liberal has disdain for the values that built this country;”
“Liberals are basically misanthropes who posture and preen about their so-called love of humanity in all its variety while despising actual men, women and children. They have been responsible for some of the most horrendously wasteful, dangerous and useless programs foisted upon mankind this side of Lenin and Stalin.
Never turn your back on one.”
“Here is a definition of a liberal: To have the real fear that somewhere, someplace, people can actually take care of themselves.”
“As a former member of the National Rifle Association, I define a liberal or conservative by his or her view of the 2nd Amendment and gun control. Who is more likely to have a "More Guns, Less Crime" bumper sticker? The conservative, of course.”
To which I can only say this that for over twenty years, people like me have been called traitor and tree-hugger, feminazi and fag by people who cannot spell “dialectic”, much less know what the fuck it means.
People who have never met a genuine Liberal in their entire, swinish existence. Or if they have and actually discovered that their Limbaugh-implanted and Gingrich-fertilized stereotypes are just dead-wrong, write off the anything that conflicts with their carefully cultivated hatreds the same way Archie Bunker explained away a good black man like Lionel Jefferson.
As some freakishly rare example of "one of the good ones", that left not the slightest crease or dent in his basic racism.
People who pay others to reassure them that paranoid pig-ignorance is actually a noble and All Murrican state of nature, and that “elites” and “intellectuals” who tell them that 2+2 does not equal 22 are a buncha Commie liars who are not to be trusted.
Communists? Well fuck me twice and call me Engels! So it has actually come to this?
They are surrounded on every side by an implacable tsunami of bloody and unassailable facts that their pinhead ideology is imploding everywhere and at warp speed. But rather than finally behaving like grown ups and admitting that they have been wrong about damned near everything, these slabs of mentally underclocking headcheese are now just running flat out into the desert, screaming any incoherent idiocy Rush regurgitates into their mouths.
Trotting out this necrotic McCarthyism -- that the Republicans they have cheated, slimed and spent every sou to install in power somehow aren’t “really” Conservatives, and that anyone to the Left of Brit Hume is a dirty Commie rat -- to fend off the terrifying truth.
That they have failed.
That everything they believe is a lie.
That their leaders have laughed at them while played them for the bigoted rubes that they are, and that now they are screwed for the next two generations. That they have not merely had their futures stolen from them, but -- so very much worse -- they have eagerly handed their futures, their faith, their children, their air, their food, their nation and their Social Security checks over to lying fucks and war criminals, gift-wrapped in scripture and red, white and blue.
And worst of all, that for the last twenty years they have been merrily pissing and spitting on those very traitors and tree-huggers and feminazis and fags who have been desperately trying to disenthrall them from the Shiny Hate Sorcery of the Roves and the Rushes and warn them they were crippling and butchering liberty at the behest of tyrants.
But no more.
The hour is far too late and the stakes far too high to continue to play nice with people who have proven themselves far too ignorant to govern a great nation, far too immature to face and correct their mistakes, and far too hateful to be reasoned with.
Far too late to continue to pretend that those who stand on the side of klansmen and fascists and theocrats and scream that we are the ones who hate our country, that we are totalitarians, that we are misanthropes...are anything but insane, and deserve anything but the open and loud contempt of reasonable men and women everywhere.
Which is why I would add an eleventh value to the list of characteristics of the True Liberal.
The True Liberal fights.