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Understanding the Liberal Mind: Its Strengths and Weaknesses

By       Message Shirley Braverman     Permalink
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Again going back to George Lakoff, Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California Berkeley and his books Don't Think of an Elephant  and  The Political Mind, he agrees with Freud that in our ori gins lays the explanation of everything that follows.   Lakoff likens the two different political points of view to the two different models of the family.   The Strict Father model and the Nurturant Parent model.  

The Nurturant Parent model is gender neutral and democratic in style.  Each parent has equal responsibilities for the children and family decisions are decided jointly.  The parents assume that their child is born good but can become better.  They believe that the world is a good place but also can be made better and it is their responsibility to work on that.   They want to nurture their child and teach it to nurture others.  They want their children to be happy, fulfilled, creative and to find their place in life.  To discover their special gifts, their bliss.

Nurturance is a combination of responsibility and empathy.  Children are treated with respect and raised to take care of themselves and to care about and respect others.  Discipline is positive and comes out of the child's developing sense of care and responsibility.  Restitution is preferred over punishment.   If you do something wrong,  do something to make it right.  If you hurt your baby brother you give him a kiss and say you're sorry.  Children are praised and thanked when they do something correctly.  This empowers them to rely on and develop their own value system.

All sorts of values immediately follow from a nurturant, liberal set of values.  If you want your child and your fellow humans to be fulfilled then they must be free to do that.  So freedom is a big value for liberals.  Since you do not have freedom if you do not have opportunity, equal opportunities for all is another liberal value along with fairness for all. 

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Then there is community building and open, honest, two-way communication.  Obviously one cannot be happy and fulfilled in a vacuum.  Freedom for one must mean freedom and equality for all.   As the famous line in Oklahoma states: "I ain't saying I'm better than anybody else. But I'll be damned if I ain't just as good!   

Plus the liberal God is tolerant of other beliefs and doesn't mind science at all.  The really funny fact about these two divergent political points of view is that the majority of both worship the same God; they just interpret their God differently.  To the liberals, God is a loving, caring, forgiving, blessing-bestowing creature.  Helping and caring for the poor is commanded.  Feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, tending to the sick, and sharing the wealth is an obligation PLUS all are equal in God's eyes.  The strange thing about this is that both sides have their bible quotes to back up their beliefs.   The bible is truly a wondrous tome.

From these core liberal values you can easily discern the liberal political agenda.  In the first place liberals are not afraid of their government.  It is a tool to be used.  Nor are they afraid of big government.  They simply want a better, more efficient, responsive government.  To their way of thinking there is no problem that government can't cure or make better.  They expect their government to protect them from terrorists, environmental toxins, spoiled food, epidemics, crime, corporate greed, unfair business  practices, and just about anything else that the local or state government can't do.  They expect the government to rescue them from disasters whether financial or weather-related.  They expect the government to promote the general welfare with laws to help the less fortunate obtain the necessities of life and a decent education.  And now, one of the last western nations to do so, they expect their government to provide affordable health care for all.    

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The fact is a true liberal naively believes that there is no problem so large that the government cannot solve it.  No problem that money cannot solve.  No problem that education cannot solve.  As the Republicans point out the liberal idea of an ideal place is the "nanny state" where big brother provides.   What's worst, the liberal wants to save the world.  They dream of living in a world of peace.  A world where there is no war or ugliness.   Where all government is democratic and equality and good will is showered upon the people.  Where the good ole USA  fights to keep  peace and bring prosperity to every creature on earth. 

Many liberals get frustrated and bitter when they suddenly run splat!  into reality and realize that such a dream is far off in the future if it is possible at all.     Injustice rears its terrible head and man's inhumanity to man chills their souls.   The anguished liberal spirit goes from Paradise to Paradise Lost and truth is, many become disillusioned and drop out.   Only the toughest are willing and able to grit their teeth and dedicate their lives to continue fighting the good fight.

Because they seek fulfillment liberals are creative souls.   Writers, artists,  composers, performers and almost all comedians are liberals.  They tend to take jobs in the helping professions.  Nurses, teachers, social workers, volunteers and even governmental work.  If they seek power it is for the cause--a way that leads to Paradise Found.   And through all their disappointments and exasperations they do not lose their love for the human race no matter how despicably it may be behaving at the time.  Defense attorneys love to have liberals on their juries.  They're so forgiving.

Conservatives have only to conserve their way of life so they can sit back and say no and feel like they've accomplished something.  Liberals, on the other hand, enlightened by science and current events, have branched off into distinct points of view about how to save the world.  So we have the environmentalists  who think in terms of saving the earth and all its sacred plants and animals.  We have our civil libertarians who fight to maintain  freedoms against the threats to freedom.   Freedoms like the right to vote and the right to abortion.   Our socioeconomic  liberals feel it is all a matter of income so if they can just straighten out the economy with equal pay for all, that will save the world.   The antiauthoritarians (and we have a lot of these on the oped list)  feel that there are a lot of illegitimate sources of authority out there and they must fight them whether they are corporations or unjust laws--Then everything will be OK.  There are identity progressives who feel that their group has been mistreated for years and needs to be recognized so they can get their fair share of the goodies.  Women, blacks, immigrants, the homeless and the misbegotten make up this list.   And finally there are the spiritual liberals who are working within their religious beliefs to fashion them nearer to the hearts' desires.   To one and all,  I say, know your limits, pick your poisons, and have at it! 

But these are the archetypes I have given you.  The extremes, the ideologues who pull the cart each in a different direction.   Few people are pure liberals or conservatives -- the great majority of the population are what Lakoff calls the biconceptuals.  They have traits from each group.  They are like what one angry pope called Cafeteria Catholics.  They take what they like from the religion and ignore the rest.   Unlike the pure conservative or liberal the biconceptuals actually change their minds about things.  They are the ones the political strategists aim their arguments at.  They are the ones with the power to take a nation one way or the other.   So how do we deal with the biconceptuals?  How do we entice them to our way of thinking???    Ha, that's another article altogether. 

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Nurse journalists for 60 years. Animal activists -- the sane kind. Author of Animal Rescue Crusaders available on Amazon and Barns and Nobel and The Nurses' Stories


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