Most of my family are Republicans. They frequently gripe and moan about "the liberals", and then define liberalism in any way they choose. I try to argue with them on Facebook to explain to them what liberalism is, and to show them that it is not their caricature.
That never goes over so well since I am always outnumbered 3 or 4 to one. So I write this diary as a means of explaining exactly what liberalism really truly is. I am considering posting it to my Facebook status, but I also know it is likely going to be ignored.
So, I write this diary, as much as any thing else, to vent.
Here is what liberalism is.
Liberalism is, first and foremost, about self-respect. This is what the union movement is about. It's about workers recognizing their value to the success of the company they work for, and understanding that they deserve more than the pittance their employers work them for.
For the worker, it is also about recognizing that they deserve a safe workplace, free of abusive managers, discrimination, and other workplace hazards, and having the self-respect to stand up and say so.
Liberalism is about understanding that we all are entitled to equal dignity. Liberalism rejects the notion that a man is entitled to more respect or dignity than a woman. Liberalism rejects the notion that respect, dignity, and worth is determined by gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or age.
Liberalism calls on each individual to recognize their equality in these matters and stand up for themselves. Liberalism is about empowerment. To be a liberal, one must first recognize that, as human beings, they are entitled to the same degree of respect, dignity, and worth as any other person whether the other people have more or less money, whether the other people have a favored or dis-favored skin color, whether the other people have a favored or dis-favored gender, whether the other people have a favored or dis-favored sexual orientation, whether the other people have a favored or dis-favored ethnicity, whether the other people have a favored or dis-favored ability status, or whether the other people have a favored or dis-favored religion, or whether the other people have a favored or dis-favored age.
Liberalism insists that we have the empathy to see ourselves in other people. Liberalism is not just about your or my respect, dignity, or worth. Liberalism is about everybody's respect, dignity, and worth. Liberalism respects the individual, but it is not about hyper-individualism. Liberalism is about all of us, because liberalism recognizes that we are better off when we work together, because we can achieve more together than any one of us can achieve alone.
I am a liberal because I have self-respect and have not so internalized the stigma that others have attempted to sow in my brain about gay people that I bow my head and submissively nod when I hear awful untrue things about gay people. I am a liberal because it empowers me to stand up for myself and to say that I don't deserve maltreatment because of my sexual orientation.
But it is that same sense of empowerment that causes others to stand up and remind the world that they don't deserve maltreatment either. It's that same sense of self-respect and empowerment that leads workers to form unions, that leads women to become feminists, that leads African-Americans to fight racism, that leads immigrants to fight for immigration reform, that leads the disabled to fight for proper accommodations, that leads all of us to fight for each other.
And that, the standing up and fighting for each other is also, deeply, what liberalism is all about. Because liberalism is about all of us, and cannot thrive if we only stand up for ourselves. I said earlier that liberalism insists that we have the empathy to see ourselves in others. This is true. Liberalism needs, first, our self-respect, but it must also have our empathy. Liberalism is, after all, the natural unfolding of the Golden Rule to do unto others as we would have done to ourselves, and that Great Command to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.
This is what liberalism is.