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All content © 2002-2005 Anne Zook

January 12, 2004

I always think that part of what defines a liberal is the urge toward comprehension and understanding of others, okay? A "conservative" isn't going to reach out and try to comprehend someone else's worldview, that runs contrary to what "conservative" is all about That means it's left to those willing to read out to find common ground.

The trick is to identify that common ground and explain it in terms that also conservatives to see it exists without moving to the right, which is what I think the Democratic Party has failed at for the past twenty years.

And I'm not best pleased by the recent move on the part of the Left to try and match the Right in venom and lies, okay?

I mean, I understand the drive to do so. It's easier to talk trash, yes, there are better words to use, and we seem to be wired to respond to that kind of thing. It's as though our animal instincts to avoid danger in order to maximize our chances of survival were translated, when we developed a complex, spoken language, into a better language to discuss those dangers/evils than we were able to formulate for the less-adventurous even though preferable state of peaceful survival. If I were a semanticist (is that a word?), I'd go find the research I'm sure someone has done on the subject.

But is this matching of the Right's venom really necessary? Is it the way to go? Is it what we have to do to capture 'the public's' attention?

We're stuck with "sound-bite" politics. I don't like it, but I accept it. (My issues with the media are a different rant.)

But I'd rather we came up with a dozen positive sound-bite messages than stooping to the kind of, "Look! Gore's wearing a brown suit! He's inconsistent!" idiocies characterized by the Right in the last election.

Maybe we need to open up our minds and consider whether, disregarding the "Republican" and "Democrat" labels, there isn't a way we can balance fairness and justice for all with the maximum amount of personal liberty and the maximum amount of personal security.

There's childhood and eventually (one hopes) maturity. It takes maturity to allow disparate worldviews to exist and, more, to accept that these worldviews have their own merits. I wish we saw that kind of maturity in our government more often.

But, back to the topic at hand. It's a mistake to characterize "big government" as a core Liberal belief. Liberals aren't married to the idea of big, expensive governments and high taxes, so can those on the Right stop spreading this meme? It's been around for decades and it's getting tired.

What Liberals, what I mean when I talk about "Liberals" anyhow, do believe in is equality of opportunity. We believe in trying to level the playing field around the starting gate. We believe, not in eliminating class differences, but in the kind of "class structure" (for lack of a better phrase) that allows movement based on individual ability and effort and, yes, sometimes a bit of luck. (Yes, even the kind of luck that comes from someone three generations back on your father's side of the family having shown political or financial acumen at the right moment. We acknowledge that some things are going to be made a lot easier with money. We just dislike it that so many things are impossible without, comparatively speaking, a lot of money, and I'm not talking about becoming president. I'm talking about decent housing and education, that kind of thing.)

What we've have in this country is a well-meaning but flawed system and basic human nature, which is to stomp on the heads of those below you on your way up the ladder. So, "Liberals" are forced to implement big government programs and to use tax funds to try and give those with footprints on their scalps a chance of getting a rung or two higher on the social and economic food chain.

(Because, cute as the current Administration's naiveté is, thinking that a corporation is voluntarily going to maximize the quality of life of the assembly line workers, or that the CEO has any real conception of the problems of the janitorial staff, it just doesn't have anything to do with reality.)

Nor are Liberals 'weak on defense.' That's another untruth. We might not choose to go to war on Iraq because there are terrorists in Saudi Arabia and Iran but we don't think we can take Saudi Arabia and Iran, but that doesn't make us wimps, okay?

(Also, yeah, to a certain extent Liberals do believe that killing a few thousand Iraqi civilians who were guilty of nothing more than sitting down to dinner at home is kind of a bad idea and that maybe we shouldn't be fighting that kind of war, but everything surrounding the recent invasion of Iraq is so emotionally charged that I've just decided to stop using that situation as an example in this post.)

Okay. Anyhow. Liberals don't, in fact, think that making war is actually a good solution to the world's problems. We accept that sometimes it's the only viable solution to a problem, but we don't like it and as a matter of fact, I think a lot of Conservatives might agree that killing large numbers of people is better avoided if possible. We all know it's not always possible, but the fact that Democrats are the ones willing to speak up against it in public doesn't make them wimps.

Diplomacy isn't a dirty word. Neither is compromise. We're not always going to be able to force the entire world to do things our way but, guess what? We're not always right. Live with it.

Our brand of "democracy" isn't suitable for the entire world, nor is our current brand of democracy all that shiny and special. There's some tarnish here and there, and we all know it. On the other hand, by gosh, we have a lot of the responsibility for making "human rights abuses" a concept that the entire world was both aware of and concerned over, so we're not entirely in the wrong, either.

I dunno.

In the end, I find myself thinking that Conservatives say we're pretty darned good because this isn't a totalitarian dictatorship and people like Anne are allowed to say all of the mean things they want about the government, and that's very true.

On the other hand, that sentiment is amazingly offensive to me because it's so...so illustrative of how low you can set your expectations.

Is your glass half-empty, or half-full?

I guess that depends on how negative your measuring stick is.

It is good enough for you that we're better than the worst we could be or is your world one where you focus on how much better we could, or even should be than what we are?

Conservatives measure how far they are from the bottom and are mostly satisfied. Liberals measure how far we are from the top and think we need to work harder.

That's how I see it, anyhow.

Posted by AnneZook at 11:00 AM