How do you describe a liberal?
Liberals are a group of citizens that subscribe to a political philosophy with a tolerant worldview . Many people know this and understand it. I feel a need to add a couple of key words and phrases that may need defining in order to aid in conveying how I comprehend their meaning so I’m not just spinning my wheels.
One such word is : tolerance.
I will strive to define, as best as I can, what tolerance means to me. I will also attempt to make a distinct clarification in a term that was thrown around a lot in chat rooms and blogs during the past Election Circus Fiasco cycle. That term is “Liberal Tolerance”
Liberal tolerance has as many interpretations when it comes to defining its’ meaning .
Let’s begin by taking that word apart for a more precise illustration of the two separate words that construct it.
Lib·er·al : a person that generally support ideas such as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, free markets, civil rights and gender equality. It is a belief in tolerance and in progressive reform in sociocultural, moral/religious, and political matters.
Liberals generally support freedoms and civil rights.
That doesn’t sound like awful things to agree with. I would think that supporting these ideals would be embraced my many, if not all, but they are not. And there is plenty of opposition.
The opposition comes from a group that feel that they are entitled to decide if others are worthy of receiving these liberties.
That worth is based on skin color, sex, social class, religion, nationality, net worth and they also want to have a say in who you can fall in love with. Some officials in Texas have even gone as far as to draft a law prohibiting certain sexual acts in the privacy of your own bedroom. I am sure that I will get fired up at a later time at the audacity of Section 21.06 of the Texas criminal code and I will reserve my commentary for a later entry.
Liberals do not care that a person is different from themselves, they do not assign people value by the size of their bank accounts. We are not impressed by your public display of prayer. We are touched by your humility.
We are not preoccupied with what goes on in your private bedroom, in fact, we are too busy making some sweet love of our own that we don’t have time to ponder what position you may currently be in or how high in the air you managed to get your legs up last night.
I think this is a good place to pause and give you a glimpse of what my upbringing was like in suburbia and how it molded my liberal outlook.
I’ll return to the topic of those that oppose soon enough.
A Liberal is Born
I don’t remember when I first heard the L word. I didn’t use the term when I was growing up in Texas. It wasn’t because of any fear of being ridiculed, it was because I didn’t really know there was a name for what my social views were.
As I became more aware of the social classes and which political party I identified with, I categorized liberal as being cooked “just right” I was nestled between an ‘over-done’ radical and an ‘under-cooked’ conservative.
I knew what I believed in but I still didn’t know the word for it. I didn’t know it in my teens nor did I know it in my twenties. I would be midway through my thirty’s before I added liberal to my vocabulary.
All I was sure about, at a young age, was that I was a Democrat . I “knew” that because at the age of 8 years old, I asked my mother what the difference was between a Democrat and a Republican. All she said was that Republicans were a champion for the rich and Democrats favored the rest of the populace. She didn’t say it quite so eloquently, but that was the way I heard it.
I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s and I recall hearing reports of riots and civil unrest. I learned that it was African-Americans fighting for their civil rights from the local evening news that was coming from our huge television console that sat on the living room floor. I also remember how the term that was used back then was negro.
I didn’t pay it too much attention, however, because I didn’t think at the age of 9 ( in 1978) that it would matter much to me.
In the 80’s I remember there was mention of gay people wanting their equal rights, as well. I also remember that the prominent term I heard was queer.
I didn’t pay it too much attention, however, because I didn’t think at the age of 13 ( in 1982) that it would matter much to me.
I wondered to myself. ” Why don’t these people have the same rights as others? Why should they have to demand them?
I didn’t know that there were conservative people out there that did not think of blacks or gays as deserving of the same rights that they enjoyed.
I pondered and worried for all of five minutes. I then resumed my childhood, which was already in progress in the streets and sewer tunnels of Farmers Branch with my diverse mix of friends from the neighborhood.
While writing this, a memory of a conversation I had with my mother suddenly came to me. It is a very life changing one that I can’t believe I didn’t even think of it as I drafted this. It’s the time that my mother steered me away from bigotry when I was about 7 years old. I believe that the way I perceived people different from me came from the environment I encountered outside of my home and in the movies. I know that my parents didn’t raise me to be racist. I am still very ashamed that I ever said what I am about to tell you:
It was December 1976ish, I was in 2nd grade and my brother Alex was in Kindergarten at Janie Stark Elementary . We were both watching the TV that sat on a dresser in our parents’ bedroom and we were on our parents bed or we were both in my bedroom playing “Joon Joon Jesus” ….don’t ask. There we were when my mother walks in and asks if we have any Christmas gift ideas for our teachers.
I had lily-white Mrs. Lewis as my teacher. My brother Alex had a black teacher.
I guess we were shouting out suggestions, when suddenly I stopped and said, ” Mom, don’t get Alex’s teacher anything for Christmas.”
My mom looked at me with a puzzled look on her face, “Why?”, she asked.
I think I looked around the room as if to make sure that there was no one nearby or under the bed.
“Because she’s blaaack, ” I whispered.
I still can’t believe I didn’t get the proverbial “Chankla” in the face.
“Why would you say that?” she asked.
I imagine she asked me more questions and I may have answered back, but 1976 happened so long ago so I do not recall it verbatim.
This part I do.
” Black people are no different from us, ” she said sternly,” we are not better than them. I never want to hear you say anything like that again. Who told you that?”
I had no answer and I think I cried. I have obeyed her all these years. Thank you mom.
As I grew up and acquired more information and experienced the world, I wondered if I would get an answer to my question, ” Why don’t these people have the rights that they are asking for?”
I didn’t realize it at the time that I was a person of color (Mexican) and I didn’t know enough to identify myself as gay.
That day eventually arrived when I would know these things about me. When I would be aware that I was a double minority . I realized that I was one of a group that did not share the same rights as HeteroJoe McWhitebread.
And then I learned why.
I learned of the conservatives and their Bible.
I learned about the hate.
Thankfully I was raised right – to be left.
Being a Liberal
lib·er·al adj. Not limited by traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, or dogmas; free from bigotry. Favoring reform, open to progress. Tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded. Tending to give freely; generous.
I may not have always known the name for it, but I knew that I liked it. I couldn’t understand why everyone wasn’t this way.
I was a little afraid knowing that these people had a God that encouraged them to live in a manner that didn’t reflect any attitudes that were outwardly Godly. I struggled and questioned the religious beliefs I had because of the hypocrisy and I imagine this to be a reason that some choose not to delve deeper into establishing a relationship with a specific denomination.
I guess the point I want to make is that, with all this talk I hear from the far right, about being Christian, about telling us what the Bible says; supposedly and talk of “Family Values”; I would think that those people would be broad-minded and free from bigotry.
Boy was I mistaken….
Let’s examine the word tolerance. What is tolerance?
I used to think it was a bad thing to tolerate when I was younger. To me it was more like to “put up with”, akin to suffering through, but with a smile.
Tol·er·ance: the ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the of opinions or behavior you don’t necessarily agree with.
Okay, that’s good but let’s go further in defining tolerance as freedom from bigotry. It’s having a permissive attitude toward those different from one’s own
I believe that defines the tolerance in the word Liberal Tolerance.
It can also be defined as an ability or willingness to tolerate something like opinions or behavior that we don’t necessarily agree with.
Tolerate something I don’t agree with?
I don’t agree with corruption. Would I tolerate it? I despise lies and liars. Should I tolerate that? Do I tolerate fake news and hypocrisy? No, I do not. I do not have the ability or willingness to do so.
By not tolerating such things, we were called out and called liars.
I heard this all too much.
Liberals are not as “tolerant” as they think they are.
Well, so much for liberal “tolerance”
She called me deplorable, I guess that’s liberal “tolerance” at it’s best!”
Tolerance was always in quotes.
I could picture the person smugly speaking the words and using the little rabbit ears gesture to show quotes and saying it in the obvious tone that people use when not really meaning what they’re saying, like when I say that I’m only in my “thirties” or How is your “diet” coming along ?
Neither one is about being required to accept all people’s viewpoints all the time, especially when those viewpoints are themselves the opposite of tolerant and liberal, containing bias, prejudice, hate, or a belief that someone other than the self is less-than the self.
To be clear: Tolerance in America is about respecting (and celebrating) the equal/human rights of all people in this country. It is not about begrudgingly allowing other people to exist while lobbying against their equal/human rights. And it is not about accepting the viewpoint that lobbying against peoples’ equal/human rights is a legitimate course of action.
I can accept and live among the very people who hate what I am. I am tolerant. I accept your differences.
I cannot accept nor tolerate the irresponsible sharing of fake news and I cannot tolerate lies
I can be tolerant of ignorance; because knowledge will cure it.
Some say, you can’t fix stupid. I believe you can. All it needs is a willingness to take the extra steps and access sources that are available to grow your knowledge base. All it takes is a thirst for it.
I would have to say that you can’t fix complacency. Some people just don’t give a shit.
I can only hope that a conservative person might read this piece and possibly feel some empathy or compassion. Stop and see that these people you want to treat as second class citizens are all around you and they just want to be left alone to love their families, provide for their children, work hard and be responsible citizens pursuing their happiness. Stop and think about the real reason you discriminate.
My upbringing was wonderful. I was not taught to hate. I am grateful for that.
I did grow up feeling like I didn’t belong. Not always…but I felt misplaced. At times invisible. I was a misfit. I am a Misfit.
This misfit will continue to defend what I cherish. I will disagree with bigotry and discrimination. I will do this with fervor that is not to be misconstrued as Liberal Intolerance
It’s something else, it’s a virtue I hold dear and embrace in others.
It is Integrity.