I’m in the state of confusion, the 51st state of the Union where I seem to have taken up permanent residence. Lately I’m very confused about the definition of words we toss around with reckless abandon. Words like Democrat and Republican, in my opinion, are totally useless words that should be banned from use in private or public. But words like conservative and liberal are two words that need some attention.
The dictionary defines the two this way as adjectives:
liberal – open to new behavior or opinions and willing to discard traditional values.
conservative – holding to traditional attitudes and values and cautious about change or innovation, typically in relation to politics or religion.
The “troubling” words in the liberal definition are “willing to discard,” because discard is so close in meaning to toss or throw away like a piece of trash. The words “cautious about change” in the definition of conservative are, in my opinion, less offensive, but can easily be used to stop progress.
What I hate about the two words, aside from their lame definitions, is the fact that both words have driven a wedge between us.
I am a conservative. I conserve water, energy, and natural resources. I am a liberal. I am liberal with the time I spend helping other people, in using my money to help the less fortunate, and in praising people when praise is deserved.
But, I am not so cautious about change, when change is beneficial to us all, even if it might benefit some more than others. I am not willing to discard traditional values without some gut-wrenching decision-making because, as Tevye said in Fiddler on the Roof, “without our traditions our lives would be as shaky as a fiddler on the roof.
I have no problem embracing relationships of and between genders. I have no problem with people who are working hard to legalize marijuana. I am a big supporter when it comes to making sure everyone’s rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are defended. I am not a big, vocal proponent of abortion, but, I am against making it illegal because that won’t work. Does that mean I’m too weak to defend the lives of the unborn? No. It just means that I think a woman does have a right to make a decision despite the fact that I believe life is life…but a life has to be wanted, and I don’t buy the argument about so many couples want to adopt children. (The issue is far too complex to fit into a blog.)
But I also fear that we are living in a society where anything goes without giving a second thought to traditional values that perhaps might have some permanence and universal viability. These values, in my opinion, include respect, honesty, tolerance, selflessness, compassion, etc. My conservative genes believe that today it is hard to maintain values in a world that spins on an axis of entitlement.
When I was in college during the big anti-war movement of the 60s, I was amazed how a “liberal” student could come home from a peace march and turn up his stereo to a deafening volume, but would say “fuck off” to a conservative, aka, hawk, when asked if the stereo could be scaled back.
I sometimes believe that extreme liberals and conservatives make it hard for all of us to create a world of mutual respect and admiration. There are numerous forks in the road and we have to believe that not all of the roads to the left need be taken nor should we take all of the roads to the right. As a secular people we have to understand that our rights can be found in our founding documents. As a secular people we also need to know that we have a right to make changes in our laws and that our “laws” are not necessarily sacred.
Progress is not a dirty word. It does not, pardon the expression, trump, using our heads or following our hearts in the pursuit of creating a just world. It does mean it is going to take a lot of internal courage to support justice for all.