Tuesday, October 10, 2006

What it means to be a liberal.

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.

Comments like:

“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.


Malacandra said...

The True Liberal fights.

Fuck yes.

And they're so convinced that we're all effete girly-men that they'll never see us coming. This is what scared them about Howard Dean - they recognize an Alpha Male when they see one. So, of course, out come the fecal grenades.

The only answer is to roll up our sleeves and keep advancing.

joel hanes said...

'If by a "Liberal" they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind,
someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions,
someone who cares about the welfare of the people --
their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs,
their civil rights, and their civil liberties --
someone who believes we can break through the stalemate
and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad;
if that is what they mean by a "Liberal,"
then I’m proud to say I’m a "Liberal."
- John F. Kennedy

eddie blake said...

..>With apologies to ALLEN MOORE......

....PAGE carcass in alley this morning, IM tread in BURST scandal the GOP is AFRAID of me i have SEEN its true face..

....K street is an extended GUTTER and the gutters are filled with LIES and when the DRAINS finally scab over all the vermin will drown...
..the accumulated FILTH of all their sex and MURDER will FOAM up about their waists and all their WHORES and politicians will look up to their NEON JESUS and shout 'save us!"

....and we'll look down and whisper "NO"

...they had a choice. ALL of them. they could have followed in the footsteps of GOOD me like my father or president GORE...
...DECENT men who belived in a day's WORK for a day's PAY

...instead they followed the DROPPINGS of lechers and LIARS faith HEALERS and talkshow hosts and didnt REALIZE that the trail led OVER a PRECIPICE untill it was TOO late...

...don't tell me they didn't have a CHOICE...

..now the whole world stands on the BRINK staring DOWN into bloody HELL and all those republicants and THINK TANKERS and smooth talkers...

...and all of a sudden NOBODY can think of ANYTHING to say....

eddie blake said...

....WOW...that's quite a DROP...

US Blues said...

It used to surprise me that people could walk around and just be so fuck-ignorant. Sadly a good 40% of the people in this country (and members of other nations besides) have convinced me that fuck-ignorance is supported by the human OS, like viruses are supported by windows.

Stalin? Lenin? Riiiight...

Miss Cellania said...

Great post. This is one of those thats worth passing around to everyone I know.

tweez said...

Good one. You da man Driftglass. You're getting to be right up there with Digby and Billmon.t

I try never to open the editorial section of the Trib for fear of coming across Kathleen Parker or Charles Krauthammer or their remarkably delusional editorials. I guess you miss a good one now and then that way.

Loveandlight said...

Wow. All those accusations of what liberals supposedly are according to winguts are so "pot, kettle, black". That's called "projecting". Fanatics do that a lot.

Kid Charlemagne said...

"I am disappointed, Veidt. VERY disappointed." His name is spelled A-L-A-N. :) Now I need to get some sleep and then grab a meal at the Gunga Diner before returning to the Ministry of Silly Walks.

eddie blake said...

...yeah..FLASH of visionary posting, HORRIBLE typoes...

...great IDEA crappy EXECUTION...

...'but it ALL worked out in the END,'


skunqesh said...

oh man, that list from the whackos iterating 'whut a librul iz' is rich (lol!)
One I really take point with:
a conservative pays as he goes??

since when?

I believe deficit spending can be a good thing - when it's used to aquire capital which creates jobs, (spend money to make money, yadda yadda) - it's a balancing act, but this has been completely perverted by so called 'conservs'. For the past 20 some odd years it's been 'Dine and Dash'. Stiffing us with the bill.

The rest of those comments make me wonder if ~34% of the US population is hypoxic?

justme said...

Dialectic? Isn't that by L. Ron Hubbard?

knaverupe said...

"The Democratic Party will live and continue to receive the support of the majority of Americans just so long as it remains a liberal party"
- Franklin Delano Roosevelt - Denton, Maryland - 9/5/38

Truer words were never spoken.

(Well, ok, anytime anyone has said "Bush is an asshole", those might have been truer words....)

At any rate, this should be pounded into the head of every aspiring dem politico.

driftglass said...


That's "Diuretic" (a little something for the "Repo Man" fans.)

They're just...gone. It'd be one things if we were 20-40 degrees of difference apart, but people who call themselves proud American and continue blindly support Bush like the Sunn King and virulently hate anyone who criticizes the government are for all intents & purposes members of a different species.

And they so rarely even wake up and change. And when they do, they are tossed out of the Big Tent faster than they ever imagined.

Rare company. You are very kind.

joel hanes,
Superman where are you now :-)

Anonymous said...

I don't understand this...

"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."

What is the utility of doubting your own truth?