Posts Tagged ‘liberal’

I occasionally mix up words and their meanings, in part because I’m drawn to words that roll off the tongue and in part because my brain lacks optimal agility. But I try hard not to use words carelessly or thoughtlessly and I’m careful not to toss off bon mots without making sure I have a handle on what they actually mean. In the world of politics, however, all is fair, which doesn’t make it any easier to ignore the twisting and turning, the skewing and screwing of the meanings of certain words for the twin purposes of inspiring fear and misrepresenting the views of those unknown people known as the Others.

Who are these “Others”? What words can possibly describe a group, let alone their beliefs, which poses such a clear threat to our very way of life?  Ladies and gentlemen, I have met the enemy and he is apparently me. I am such an Other. I’m also a United States citizen and I’ve had it up to here with insults and aspersions and yes, I’m ready to fight back. Hand me a dictionary.  CA7XFZKMCAPQHZ2YCAA3QKOQCAEK026ZCA91YWSYCADB339QCALURQF8CAKSMRQCCAE1WP27CALZF82ECAUEL6XOCAEXMAGICAPCK0N9CA539OOSCAV1I7VECAWK10YWCAfighter

Herewith, a selective list of the most inexcusably misused words and phrases that are currently being fired off like weapons of mass deception. Believe me, I’ve barely begun:

 1.  liberal: showing or characterized by broad-mindedness; having political or social views favoring reform and progress. These are good views to have, American views, one might say. Furthermore, there is no evidence that liberals are less moral, less family-oriented or less about the American way of life.   

2.     socialism (see also socialist): A system of government that aims to prevent the concentration of wealth within a small segment of society, either by complete nationalization of the means of production and distribution or, as is far more common in contemporary society, selective nationalization of key industries while maintaining private ownership of capital and private business enterprise. People, we do NOT live in a socialist country and we’re not likely to. Government oversight is not a bad thing. It’s not always good either; I’m not keen about endless snooping disguised as protection from terrorism. But all this ranting about losing your “freedom”; what are we talking about? Freedom to openly carry a gun? You got it, at least in some states. Freedom from taxes? How would you like your vaunted terrorism protection provided to you? Or your roads paved? How about the freedom to live in this country without giving a crap about the effect your way of life has on other people? Yeah, I thought you’d like that one. If I were you, I’d pay more attention to privacy issues. But that’s another argument.  

3.      moral: (see also immoral); of or pertaining to matters of right and wrong. Believe it or not, the world is becoming more moral over time — slowly, imperceptibly and selectively throughout the world. For example, many people (although regrettably, not all) see slavery and genocide as wrong. It still seems necessary to remind the fine citizens of this country that people who don’t agree with them aren’t necessarily immoral. Neither are atheists or agnostics. Neither is the concept of social justice, never mind Glenn Beck. 

4.      elite: a group or class of persons enjoying superior intellectual, social, political, or economic status. Okay, I can see where this would inspire envy and anger, especially when it appears to be deliberately exclusionary. But then why do we exempt athletes, lucky reality show stars, or outrageously overpaid political commentators?  Why don’t we focus on the word’s secondary meaning, i.e. “best in class”? That’d give us all something to aspire to. 

5.      theory: a well-substantiated and plausible explanation of a phenomena. Scientific theories are generally accepted as true, unless and until new evidence is discovered that alters the accepted explanation. Scientific theories aren’t like conspiracy theories, and evolution isn’t just “one of several explanations.” 

6.    secular: wordly, temporal, not overtly religious (see also “humanist), i.e. someone who does not believe religion is required in order to “provide for the common good” or “promote the general welfare” of a society. Secularists may be atheist, agnostic, freethinkers, private religious, or spiritual; but not necessarily, as Newt Gingrich likes to say, “godless.” And yet, they do believe church and state need to stay very separate. I am proud to say that yes, I am a secular person and this is my country, too. 

7.      Constitution (of the United States): the foundation and source of the legal authority underlying the existence of the United States of America and the federal government of the United States. Three points to consider: a) it’s a legal document and subject to amendment and interpretation b) it does not appear to have been written in order to create and preserve a Christian nation but rather to protect a potentially persecuted minority 3) before anyone is accused of subverting the Constitution, the accuser should have read the Constitution.      

      I pride myself on being a reasonable, open-minded person who is more than willing to listen to the complaints and concerns of my fellow citizens. I share some of those concerns, especially as I begin to fill out my census form and consider how the information will be used. But I’ve been feeling under attack recently and I don’t like it. I’m getting a little edgy, not so much afraid as irritated. And you do not want to irritate me; I might wallop you with my Webster’s.  Websters2


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I spent a few hours this morning interviewing a friend of mine for a chapter in my book. My friend has spent his entire career in government and has recently and delightedly retired.  During his professional lifespan, he worked for the Department of Agriculture, specifically Food Safety, and with the Food and Drug Administration, with short stints with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation. The guy got around, mostly unhappily, which may explain why the once pro-government liberal seems to have turned into a libertarian. He’s all for removing government from our lives and damned if he didn’t make a compelling case for doing just that. I’m not convinced yet but I was struck by the extent to which government has insinuated itself into our lives, mandating certain behaviors we take for granted are in our best interests, although they may not be.

What? You say you know that already? Then you’re more informed than I, or perhaps I haven’t put things together as he has. Sure, it could be argued that he’s a bit paranoid. Then again, he’s watched government work – or not work – from the inside for thirty years. What follows are a few of his examples which, amazingly, don’t even address the subject of post 9/11 erosion of civil rights.

  • It takes roughly 10 years for a drug to make it to the market place because of all the FDA requirements. That may seem like a good thing except that if you discover a cure for cancer and you’re not Merck, you won’t have the resources to keep your tiny research company alive long enough to get the drug out there.
  • Speaking of drugs, you don’t have to be pro-vaccine or anti-vaccine to realize that perhaps the argument shouldn’t be whether individual vaccines are effective in inoculating children (studies have shown they are) versus whether individual vaccines are dangerous for some children but rather whether combining all the vaccines and their preservatives and putting them all at once in a tiny body is the best method of delivery or might actually cause avoidable harm. Have we seen that study?
  • You may have noticed your car doesn’t have bumpers. Bumpers worked well in absorbing the impact of a low-speed crash, say in a parking lot or at a stop sign, where many accidents take place but they were eliminated in order to make lighter, faster cars that would presumably get better fuel mileage. Nowadays, cars get better gas mileage, probably because of more efficient engines, but there’s no  study showing bumper-less cars helped. However, rest assured that the decorative fascia that replaced the bumpers don’t absorb impact well and cost much much more to replace, which of course impacts your insurance.
  • All you drivers know seat belts must be worn; you can be pulled over and arrested if you’re not buckled in. Air bags are standard on all vehicles. We know that seat belts can keep you from flying out the car. They can also keep you from escaping the car. Air bags deploy in many instances, like that parking lot fender-bender described above and have been shown to be dangerous to children, pregnant women, pets, smaller people and anyone who wears glasses. These things save lives and also cost lives but anyway, it’s out of your hands at this point.

These are but a very few of the tidbits my friend shared with me, along with some insights into how regulations come into being. One thing we both noted is how often people petition the government for redress of one kind or another. We may not want to pay for Uncle Sam’s interference but we want him to make things better, even in the face of mounting evidence  that he isn’t always on top of his game. 

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William F. Buckley, who passed away yesterday, was of my father’s generation. Buckley was considered the premier promoter of mainstream conservatism (some would say arch-conservatism) in the United States. My father, who could not have been more different From William F. in terms of worldview, was still able to admire Buckley’s style while largely rejecting his substance.  

Buckley preached a particularly distressing brand of close-minded conservatism that brooked no arguments. The founder and head of the magazine National Review, he  promoted ideas that seemed to me to be outdated, outmoded and outflanked by the realities of our post-Cold War world.

The salient point is that Buckley knew how to debate, or rather, he knew what it meant to have a debate of ideas that didn’t involve wallowing in the muck of personal diatribes. Well, perhaps that’s not entire accurate: Poor Howard K. Smith of ABC news got far more than he bargained for when Buckley and Gore Vidal exchanged insults on live television during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Vidal called Buckley a crypto-Nazi and Buckley called Vidal a “queer” and threatened to plaster his face…well, you get the idea.  

And yet, for the most part, he was, in public and apparently in private good-natured and good-humored. His weapons in the war of ideologies were words, many-layered, little-used representatives of our language strung together in graceful phrases inflected with his uniquely patrician voice. Not for him the rude, crude, simple-minded hate-mongering that passes for dialogue on today’s broadcast and Internet forums. 

The obituaries this morning seemed to rise to the occasion; Buckley might have been pleased. The Chicago Tribune wrote of Buckley’s “brilliant mind and Brobdingnagian vocabulary” and the Times  referred to him as the “Sesquipedalian Spark of (the) Right.” I’m embarrassed to say I needed help with the supersized words but I now know (or perhaps remember from an earlier encounter) that  Brobdingnagian, meaning “out-sized or colossal”, derives from Brobdingnag, the fictitious land of the giants in Gulliver’s Travels  by Jonathan Swift. Sesquipedalian refers to using long words, a trait Buckley shared with my father. Maybe that’s why I feel something has been permanently lost; some connection to a faraway and long-ago place where people could discuss, debate, disagree or argue with style and wit and then go out together for drinks.

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