Roger Cohen of The International Herald Tribune wrote a wonderful piece
today. It is behind the TimesSelect Firewall, so many of you will not be able to read the entire thing. I will highlight some of the key points though.
Freedom has been much invoked this year. President George W. Bush used the word 27 times in 20 minutes during his Inaugural Address in January. But what does it mean in these illiberal times?
There are no easy answers to that question, as Karen Hughes, a senior Bush administration official charged with spreading freedom in the Muslim world, learned last month in Saudi Arabia. You can keep your liberty, a bunch of Saudi women told Hughes, and we're quite happy not driving. One criticized America as a ''right-wing country.''
If Saudi women are criticizing America as a bunch of rightwingers, you know we are in trouble.
The key point -
Certainly, the United States is a country where the word ''liberal'' has become the most fashionable political insult. For the right, it connotes all the lily-livered, tax-and-spend wimps who would, they claim, hand U.S. defense to the United Nations. Liberalism is fighting for its life even as liberty is lauded to the skies.
That's a paradox and a problem. It's not clear how freedom can thrive in an atmosphere of intolerance.
Raymond Aron, the great French liberal thinker, defined the ''heart and soul of the unending human adventure'' as ''freedom of inquiry, freedom of controversy, freedom of criticism, and the vote.'' That's why he couldn't stand communism or any form of fanaticism. In politics, Aron liked to say, the prosaic is preferable to poetry.
I have always felt that America is the perfect result of liberalism. Especially if we use the definition from Wikipedia
Liberalism is an ideology, or current of political thought, which defines itself as striving to maximize individual liberty through a democratic system of rights under law. In this system, the form of society is determined by the outcome of open competitive process, generally including economic competition, free exchange of ideas, and political expression within a defined framework. Liberalism rejects many foundational assumptions which dominated most earlier theories of government, such as hereditary status and established religion. Economic liberalism defends property rights. Social liberalism defends individual rights.
The fundamental principles of liberalism include these. That governments should rule with the consent of the governed; that individuals have a right to life, liberty and property; and that all citizens have equal rights under the law.
On could say that there are many things in there that many Republicans would believe in, however, not today as Cohen put it - in today's illiberal world.
Bush and many of his base do not believe in the free exchange of ideas (how many rightwing blogs use things like Scoop?) or political expression. People like Ann Coulter would like to see most of us here at DailyKos in Abu Gharib or Gitmo. But they talk about freedom like they know what freedom truly is.
So when a "conservative" or "Republican" friend tells you what they believe in, ask them if those beliefs match their definition of freedom.
If they say they believe that they should be able to worship at their church, ask them if they believe you have the right to worship at your church or mosque or temple or not at all. If they say "No", then they do not believe in freedom.
If they say they believe that they the right to know, ash them if they believe you have the right to see the pictures from Abu Gharib or to go buy a X-rated movie. If they say "No", then they do not believe in freedom.
I could go on and on. But look around you and think of everything we as Americans would not have if it was not for Liberalism and think are you better off with those things or without them. Freedom is a word. Liberalism is a word. But what they define is something very similar.