For many the word liberal holds different meanings, for instance if one is a "liberal" it means they may be more socially "conscious" or possibly environmentally conscious; for others being a "liberal" could mean that they are those "damn" hippy, tree-hugging, flower-freaks! As someone steeped in a tradition of "conservatism" and having over time realized that many of my views were based in bigotry and hatred of being called a "liberal", the label elicits multiple instantaneous reactions.
My first reaction is anger; I want to beat the person doing the calling over the head until they slide down bleeding into the street. My next reaction is stupefaction; I wonder how in the heck someone who spends almost every waking minute discussing and researching the Constitution could possibly be a "liberal." My last reaction is to go about figuring out what a "liberal" really is, and is it really a bad thing.
When in doubt check the etymology and English language definition, this is my mantra and it honestly serves quite well. Merriam Webster states that Liberal can be defined as the following, "of or befitting a man of free birth; marked by generosity; lacking moral restraint; not bound by authoritarianism, orthodoxy, or traditional forms" (Liberal, 2009). I know that while my moral compass may be different from many others it is not lacking in restraint, so that portion does not apply. I was born free in the United States of America so that definition does apply. I am not bound by orthodoxy (religion) nor do authoritarianism and traditional forms bind me so this portion also applies. Am I generous, yes and no, as a staunch objectivist I tend to be generous only with those that are deserving, i.e. directly related or with whom I know will not necessarily squander my generosity. This means that in some cases I am generous, so this definition does apply. According to the dictionary than, I am a "liberal."
So far, according to the dictionary definitions I am quite happy to be called a "liberal." In fact, I should thank the people who have used this term derisively against me. We found that a dictionary defined liberal is born free and does good things. My problem is that the people who use the word "liberal" derisively do so out of ignorance and through a sense of superiority because they are following the morally superior path (in their own minds.)
So let us look to the history of this word, otherwise known as its etymology. For one to look to the history of a word it is important to know where its foundations lie, with most of the English language it is Latin in base, however, as with most of the American/ English language we find that other languages seep in. After all, we Americans are not very original really, that however, remains to be discussed.
Liberal is an adjective, it is a descriptive and a modifier not a noun. With this alone it is improper to use it how many do today, as a noun or worse a pronoun. Liberal describes what a person is not who that person is. On to the history: The Old French "Liberal circa 1375," reads as follows, "befitting free men, noble, generous." I like this, after all, I tend to think of myself as a free man, and I would like to be seen as noble. It was also taken from the Latin liberalis meaning "noble, generous" literally "pertaining to a free man," Even the Greek and others show this as the definition. When applied politically the history dates from 1801, utilizing the French "liberal," meaning, "tending in favor of freedom and democracy," Interesting yes.
So now, we see that the word that is slung at people with such viciousness at times should be worn proudly. Of course, on the opposite side we must also see that those who wear it so proudly are not always so very "noble" or worse seekers of true democracy. How can one pursue socialism and call themselves "liberal?" Our founding fathers were very proudly "liberal" yes; many of them embraced the word to its fullest. In addition, to this day while I have at times bristled at the use pertaining myself I am proud to be "liberal."
Our founding fathers tended to be largely liberal in their viewpoints and political stances. We would never have begun and or had a revolution if it were not for their "liberal" views on revolting against the current government and rules. "This new world hath been the asylum for the persecuted lovers of civil and religious liberty from every part of Europe." Thomas Paine - Common Sense 1776. It's amazing really that this founding father would say that "civil and religious liberty" would be the reason for this nation, or is it?
BORN FREE = Liberal
TENDING IN FAVOR OF DEMOCRACY = Liberal