BY VERN TURNER
“What do our opponents mean when they apply to us the label ‘Liberal’? If by ‘Liberal’ they mean, as they want people to believe, someone who is soft in his policies abroad, who is against local government, and who is unconcerned with the taxpayer’s dollar, then the record of this party and its members demonstrate that we are not that kind of ‘Liberal’. But 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
In the war of words that has our nation seething with anger and at each others’ throats, certain terms and labels require definition and, perhaps, re-definition if they are going to remain useful. Indeed, it may be more important to put the definitions in context of the greater picture rather than just limit them to political context. The quote above from President Kennedy illustrates this need in our national conversation.
Where things get muddled is when punditry, sponsored by financial interests, takes the lead in defining words and labels that suits their sponsors rather than nestling in with truth. The word liberal has been used and abused by so-called conservatives for decades to label those who actually believe in progress and assistance to those in need.
In an ideal democracy, everyone’s opinions should be heard, but should they all receive meritorious recognition? Of course not, but when an opinion receives sufficient support, then it should be tried. This dynamic is the result of debate.
Ah, debate, that gloriously American tool to sensible government; where has it gone?
As we see painfully every day, the United States Senate will not debate issues that one political party thinks is wrong for its paymasters. The current filibuster rules allow loopy, irresponsible, naïve and unhinged members of that august body to stop legislation that is to the benefit of the people they presume to govern.
For example, gun laws are being held hostage to a political agenda that is fueled by the gun manufacturers’ largesse and the intimidation of lawmakers by those same “businesses” and their hirelings, aka the National Rifle Association.
Senators from North and South Jakassia and Moronia have promised to filibuster and/or vote against any laws pertaining to gun control. This is their position on guns in Oklahoma, Texas and Kentucky, respectively, because their senators have decided they understand the Constitution and its meaning better than the Supreme Court.
They reckon that an armed mob is what he founders thought a “well-regulated militia” meant instead of the court’s meaning about a National Guard.
This ridiculous stage play that all the world gets to laugh at is brought to the audience by the Senate itself who wrote the filibuster rules then proceeded to abuse them to the detriment of the majority of the citizens they presume to govern.
High level thinking and reasoning has clearly given way to political wrangling and polarization the likes of which we haven’t seen since before and during the Civil War.
Remember, the Thirteenth Amendment to abolish slavery and give every male the vote passed the Northern House of Representatives by two votes. Two. Then, though, there were courageous representatives who voted to do the right thing irrespective of the political price. They represented a larger constituency than just those who voted for them. Some of those who voted for the amendment were voted out of office, but with heads held high. That is what liberal means!
I’ve written before about the dictionary definitions of liberal and conservative and how the media and the politics/media have destroyed those meanings of intent and instead created a demonic connotation for each depending on the side speaking.
Without beating this horse too hard, I only imagine what things would be like if the true definitions of the labels were adhered to.
Could a conservative accept cutting promised benefits that someone earned through years of hard work in expectation of a dignified retirement? The freedom from poverty and want is a freedom implied in the New Deal, the most successful human services programs in the history of mankind.
Could a conservative actually justify cutting education budgets and thwarting teachers’ unions, salaries and freedoms to teach meaningful pedagogy? Isn’t being conservative meant to be someone who nurtures and husbands resources for the future and the goodness of all of us? I see our children’s education as a most important conservation of our national intellect and successes.
Who can deny them that … outside of Texas and Oklahoma?
It is proven many times over that education gives rise to improved lives for everyone, conservative and liberal alike. So why harbor ignorance for the sake of money? Cutting education should be the last thing our governments do instead of the first.
Isn’t it conservative in intent to husband and nurture the lives and duties of those who volunteer to protect us from enemies who threaten to invade and destroy our country? So why do we invest, instead, in preemptive war in lands where no ability to harm us exists?
What is conservative about wasting trillions of dollars on a “defense” budget that defends nothing except the profits for the military/industrial complex? How can I say this? Well, we spend more that the next 26 nations combined on “defense,” all but six of which are our allies.
The word that fits this situation is not conservative. Wasteful, stupid and corrupt are the words that seem more appropriate.
That all said, we are not making progress either as a nation. Our preoccupation with money and a budget that favors the richest of the rich while reducing the quality of life of everyone else to pre-1940 levels doesn’t sound like progressive action.
Our progressives of today have become more like the so-called conservatives. They no longer represent the small towns, big cities and the people in them. They represent the moneyed interests, the corporation, the CEO, the lobby, the hedge fund manager and the richest of the rich.
The silly thing is the people who are not doing well keep electing the people who cater to those things not in their best interests. Why? Because they label themselves as conservative or liberal, that’s why. This labeling isn’t working.
– Vern Turner is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer. He lives in Marble Falls, TX, where he writes a regular column for the River Cities Daily Tribune. He is the author of three books – A Worm in the Apple: The Inside Story of Public Schools, The Voters Guide to National Salvation and Killing the Dream: America’s Flirtation With Third World Status – all available through Amazon.com.