Wednesday, November 30, 2016

What Does It Mean To Be A Liberal?

Increasingly, I'm beginning to despise political labels like "liberal" because I think they're ceasing to have any meaning. Politics today is far too complicated for these traditional categories to define us much of the time. How many of us are liberal or conservative on every single issue? What if you're liberal on 80 percent of the issues and conservative on the other 20 percent? Are you still a liberal? If so, then at what percentage would you cease being a liberal? 70 percent? 60 percent? Certainly you can't go below 50 percent.

But therein lies my problem. I consider myself a liberal by and large but I disagree with my fellow liberals on several key issues that sometimes become debating points with them. For example, I think European countries should limit their immigration from Muslim majority countries because there are problems with assimilation, radicalization, unemployment, and in some cases, problems with crime. My liberal friend's jaws drop when I say this. They can't believe that I, a self-professed liberal, could ever utter such a thing. I'll give you another example. I think African-American culture contributes to the problems in the African-American community and that it isn't just systemic racism and poverty. Again, when I say this around my liberal friends they can't believe I could say such a thing and they always feel compelled to push back and debate me on it.

A handful of times I've been accused by people of not being a liberal, and instead being a conservative! Oh my! Me? A conservative? How could this be? That's one of the dirtiest words you could call a liberal. I think it's preposterous that I would be considered a conservative. I'm liberal on almost every issue - but I'm not a liberal fundamentalist. I don't take the extreme left position on every issue, and I detest being pressured by the far left to jump on over to their side, while at the same time I can understand that urge. This is exactly where the political labels like "liberal" fail.

So what can we do? Do we create a variety of new terms to describe the growing political micro-genres? What do we call Second Amendment loving liberals? Or pro-choice liberals? Another reason I despise the labeling is because once you call yourself a "liberal" in a conversation you're going to be assumed by your interlocutor to hold every position liberals typically believe, and I hate that. When I'm talking to conservatives and I identify myself as a liberal I often have to clarify that I disagree with liberals on certain issues — like Islam and terrorism — because liberals have a reputation of thinking Islam has nothing to do with terrorism (an absurd idea). And so more recently when I'm asked to identify my political affiliation, in order to try and avoid the assumptions I've been calling myself a "left-leaning independent populist," or that I'm "mostly liberal, but disagree with liberals on certain things." But it isn't as convenient as having a single word represent you.

So as it stands I lack a definitive label that I feel identifies me properly in the political sense and I'm not motivated to try and create the right term. Unlike with the term "atheist" — a label I proudly wear because I know it identifies me and I know how to defend it — the term "liberal" is increasingly becoming something I identify less with, not because I'm becoming a conservative, but because the term is too restrictive.

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