Sympathy For The Liberal

A friend sent me a link to a terrific article several days before Christmas. In hopes that some of my loved ones would find it thought provoking, I printed it out after reading it quickly. Afterwards I sat down to peruse it again more carefully: one learns to exercise caution when attempting to share what friends and family members will almost certainly consider libertarian "propaganda." I truly would have liked to share that article with a few special people who are intelligent, conscientious, and passionately liberal (the word these individuals choose to describe their political orientation, and not intended here in any derogatory sense as a "label").

It was not to be. Naturally, in reading for myself I skim over and barely notice things that would irritate social liberals intensely, because I'm well accustomed to libertarian and anarchist commentary that refuses tribute to the mad gods of political correctness. In reading from the perspective of a social liberal, however, this particular article contained one caustic comment that pre-empted any possibility of sharing it without causing fur to fly at a Christmas celebration. Blood runs deeper than politics; I left the article at home.

The article itself isn't a particular issue; it's unimportant who wrote or published it. What I find frustrating is that material I feel comfortable sharing with self-professed liberals is hard to come by online. Granted, in large part I try to cater to liberal sensitivities out of a basic instinct for self-preservation, and I find the endeavor discouraging at times. Most often the unflattering use of the word "liberal" itself and a contrasting glowing usage of the term "conservatism" renders an article inappropriate to foist upon loved ones who dub themselves liberals: Curtains drawn instantly upon all hope of convivial communication.

Other times, I encounter provocation of the politically correct liberal mentality that may or may not be intentional. I'm acutely aware of the painstaking effort required to avoid ruffling liberal sensitivities: That effort appears the more daunting, because as vigilantly as politically correct people guard PC sensitivities, they're prone to defense by mounting a swift offensive against anyone attempting to breach the walls of the Ivory citadel: Sue first; question motives later. A serenade takes on sinister tones of sexual harassment, and outreach may be interpreted as a hostile invasion. Rapunzel is not a PC fairy tale; today, Prince charming might find himself locked in handcuffs instead of a passionate embrace for his heroic pursuit of romance. Attempts to woo the liberal mind away from its cozy palatial prison feels like waltzing over a minefield sometimes; I try to remember that politics has planted that minefield and that in order to communicate with people I love, I need to avoid damaging precious relationships by triggering explosive emotions.

As a moonlight writer, I try to avoid stepping on political mines or ideological triggers: impossible, perhaps, but no harm done in trying. Naturally, I hope someday the effort earns a bit of appreciation or at least genuine interest from the people closest to me, but I suspect a long journey across that minefield lies ahead yet. The old scriptural warning that a prophet has no honor in his hometown often applies to writers and other artists; our work sometimes must achieve honor a long way from home before we glimpse a spark of recognition from loved ones and long time acquaintances. People who know us most intimately tend to know who we've been, without wondering who we're capable of becoming. How many dreams never venture to cross the threshold into reality because we allow loved ones to know us more intimately than we dare to know ourselves?

I want to communicate with liberals. I've heard the old saying to the effect that "If you're not a liberal/socialist by 20, you have no heart. If you're not a conservative/capitalist by 30, you have no brain." Given the choice between a heart and no brain, or a brain and no heart, I'd prefer neither; because one without the assistance of the other will either suffer tremendously without learning from experience, or inflict tremendous suffering without feeling the consequences. Surely people don't need to outgrow their hearts in order to engage their brains.

Liberalism has fire underneath it, even if liberal folks appear to enjoy chasing monsters back under the bed and into the closets where monsters like to hide; I want to chase the monsters out of our bedrooms, homes and relationships altogether, and most conservative folks seem disinclined to take up that torch. Monsters under the bed keep children tucked in safely, but a time comes for adults to give old monsters pink slips. The world needs more employment-challenged monsters; most liberals would at least agree with that.

I'm weary of living in a political world where everyone wants to harness the monsters and chain them securely under someone else's bed. The great liberal conservative divide is a bugaboo wonderland, and the debate appears to distill down to a juvenile argument about whose bed the old monsters should hide under. People need to outgrow old monsters and the desire to hide them under anyone else's bed, not outgrow their hearts. Liberals have plenty of heart and enthusiasm, and maybe that's just what the freedom movement needs. Any more conservative brain, and an already lopsided movement may fall flat on its face. Political correctness has taken such great strides toward brainlessness that it shouldn't be hard to win over thoughtful liberals: Contrary to popular opinion, there are lots of them; and last I knew, we freedom lovers desperately needed active reinforcements.

Honestly, the words "liberal" and "conservative" no longer convey decipherable meaning to me; when I hear either term, I feel like a tired old dairy cow, wondering which milking machine she'll get pumped dry by today. I wonder if the political labels we choose to describe ourselves reveal half as much about us individually as the labels we use to slap on other people. It so happens that many of the people I love call themselves liberals and I love them enough not to get them started on the subject of conservatives. Many of the people I most respect call themselves conservatives and I respect them enough to brush off their impassioned tirades on the subject of liberals. I'll never learn to love or respect a milking machine, no matter who runs it: I don't care what the label on the milk carton says, but I care about missing persons in the freedom movement - especially liberal loved ones. Misfits love company.


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