Absolutely, you can and should thank a liberal for your freedom.
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I'm not denying they exist, or that they don't exist in great numbers, only that I've never encountered one: a "liberal' so estranged from the real world that Press Secretary Robert Gibbs' suggestion, they won't be happy until the Pentagon is dismantled. However many may adhere to that definition, I agree with Gibbs that they ought to be "drug tested." Indeed, the world is as it has always been, a very dangerous place, where those unprepared to devour an enemy will surely be devoured by that enemy. (Yet, please don't mount your frail steed, Rocinante, and feel you'll be successful tilting at this windmill. The word I used was "prepared." It does not by the longest stretch imply one must by necessity be the least eager to employ any arrow in the quiver. I've spent more time in that dark and ugly valley than most, and try as hard as I can not to recount a moment. It is only those who never . . . who are the most eager, and always for others to bear the ghastly burden.)
Liberals, that's who I'm talking about. And I count myself as one. What brings this suddenly to my mind is Frank Rich's op-ed in today's (Sunday, August 15) New York Times, "Angels In America." ( click here;emc=th )
In his piece, Rich refers to Judith Dunnington Peabody, an Eastern socialite, born in 1930, who died a short time ago, after a life that was far from the one she could have known, had she adhered to the upper-crust privilege and mores she'd been born into. At age 72, she spent two nights in jail, the consequence of participating in a sit-in in St. Augustine, Florida, protesting racial segregation. She was asked why, "I shall go wherever I am asked to participate for freedom."
"Freedom." FREEDOM! FREEDOM . . . Not your freedom, nor my freedom, but that of "all men" (and women.) Hopefully most, if not all, can agree that subsumed within that single word is its elaboration as contained in the opening lines of our "Declaration of Independence," "We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness."
Many quite errantly cling to the myth that the United States is a product of some Judeo-Christian heritage. The enunciated endowment is directly from the European Enlightenment, the hostile reaction to the religious excesses of the Church and its numerous offshoots. Richard Cumberland, the seventeenth-century British philosopher penned the notion that the promotion to first rank the well-being of our fellows is necessary for the "pursuit of our own happiness." Another seventeenth-century British philosopher, John Locke, in his "Essay Concerning Human Understanding", wrote "the highest perfection of intellectual nature lies in a careful and constant pursuit of true and solid happiness." William Wollaston's 1722 The Religion of Nature Delineated defines "natural religion" as "The pursuit of happiness by the practice of reason and truth."
The entirety of the preceding are liberal concepts, not conservative. Moreover, I am unable to locate a single virtue adhering to conservatism, and await my expanded education on the matter by a conservative. Indeed, I am unable to locate much in conservatism that is not a loathsome opponent to the liberal ideals of the founding principles of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
It was the conservatives who argued vehemently against separation from Great Britain, not liberals.
It was the conservatives who forced the recognition of slavery as a prerequisite for the union of the colonies, not liberals.
It was the conservatives who unwilling to divest themselves from the institution of slavery committed treason by firing on Fort Sumpter, and seceding from the union, not liberals.
It was the conservatives who instituted Jim Crow, and later, the indefensible doctrine of "separate but equal", not liberals.
It was the conservatives who fought tooth and nail against women's suffrage, not liberals.
It was the conservatives who insisted there were certain books that full-grown adults must not be permitted to read, and banned their sale; Ulysses, Lady Chatterley's Lover . . . not liberals.
It was conservatives who continue to insist certain "types" of adults are inferior to others and should not have full access to their pursuit of happiness, not liberals. Liberals harkened back to the enunciated line in the Declaration, insisting all men (and women) retained the equal unalienable Rights.
It was conservatives that tried, during the Bush years, to pass a Constitutional amendment that would have proven the line was in fact for window dressing only, not liberals who defend the absolute validity of it.
It was conservatives that in fact did pass legislation that made of that sacred line naught but window dressing, and it was liberals who fought to restore it to full honor.
It was conservatives who were cowed by the anti-American viciousness of Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy, and indeed, backed him, not liberals. It was a liberal who at long last brought the senator down. And I ask, if we are to hold these Truths . . . and if the First Amendment right of assembly is to have any meaning at all, whose business is it whether any one of us does or does not attend a communist, or any other group meeting? Which adult should another adult have to answer to, before he or she can associate with someone freely? I'll tell you what: an American doesn't have to tell anyone anything, about their choice of friends or other associations. If he or she commits a crime . . . okay. Until that happens, none of anyone else's business! That's liberalism, not conservativism!
It was conservatives who fought to the last to deny an American citizen, based exclusively on that American's melanin, the right to register and to vote, and to eat and to shop and to live where he or she preferred. It was liberals who fought, often losing their life in the effort, and won those battles against such ignominy they never should have been necessary.
It is conservatives who would deny to those with which it disagrees the promises within that line, and in the First Amendment; the freedom of religion. The current fight about a mosque anywhere, is a most despicable demonstration of the most utter hypocrisy. Liberals live the credo, not demean it.
And as to that first unalienable Right, Life . . . how is it that it can ever be held as one that is unalienable if the person clinging to it can only access the medical care that might preserve it if he or she has the money to pay for it? Conservatives strive hard to deny that life preserver to those who need it, liberals fight just as earnestly to fulfill the Declaration's unalienable standard.
The heart of liberalism is within Mrs. Peabody's response, "I shall go wherever I am asked to participate for freedom." Conservatives' history is one that betrays the line, interested only in extending its full breadth to those few it finds consistent with its own narrow definitions of being worthy of the entitlement. Conservatives' history, relative to "freedom", is their freedom to deny it to those it chooses. Liberals' long, long history is one of flinging the closed doors open, even to those who would slam it shut upon them. Conservatism's long, long history is dishonorable. It has been only liberals' indefatigable pursuit of honor that has been as a bulwark against the scourge of conservatism's debased meanness.
And there are "Angels in America". They're called liberals!
You can thank one for your freedoms, not so much can be said of conservatives. In fact, not to make too much of a deal about military service as any index or criterion that would characterize an American patriot, but among the conservatives in the U.S. House and Senate, the only whiff of it on the conservative side is Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina who served and serves in the Air Force Reserve JAG corps. Others do a great deal of talking . . . Perhaps the most dishonorable of dishonorable displays was when conservatives denounced Georgia Senator Max Cleland as being insufficiently patriotic; all he did was, as a US Army captain in Vietnam, leave three limbs on the battlefield.
There are "Angels in America". They're called liberals, and conservatives owe them a salute, and a debt of gratitude that can never be paid.