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The latest Conservative definition of a Liberal is a godless, utopian, bed-wetting, hair-twisting, vicious, elitist, spendthrift, lazy, immoral, irrational creature otherwise known as a moonbat.

Conservatives of all eras share the characteristic of being phenomenally wrong--and are famous for projecting--so this definition is not helpful to understanding Liberals, but only the Conservative mind.

What then IS Liberalism?

We have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.
- George Orwell

My understanding of Liberalism comes from growing up in an America formed of Liberty and Justice for All. Maybe a recap of the term "Liberal" is redundant and Americans are in sync as to the meaning and historical record of the great philosophy of freedom. But with all the social distortion caused by the right-wing media it may help to review.

It is factually true that America is a Liberal nation, formed of principles of the Enlightenment. If you believe in individual rights and liberty than you are Liberal.

Liberalism is a break from Kings and aristocracy.

"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."
American Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776

Liberalism is an ideology, philosophical view, and political tradition which holds that liberty is the primary political value.

The Right-Wing is Counting on our Ignorance

Liberalism is the belief in liberty and individual rights. This ancient belief stands in sharp relief against the conservative forces of bondage through authoritarian aristocratic social systems.

These two major ideas--aristocratic authoritarian rule vs. individual equality of rights and liberty--compose the backdrop of the great struggle of humanity for the past several hundred centuries of recorded history.

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Humanity lived happily or unhappily under hierarchical rule throughout most of its existence. The tribal Chieftains' word was law.

But as communities grew larger the leaders became anonymous, and strong social structures emerged to keep society in place. Class systems and bondage did the work. Slavery is one of the original anonymous-hierarchy structures, women-as-property was another. Pagan temple religions served well for their time. The shadow of human subjugation is long.

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Western Civilization began with the ancient Greeks and flowered under the Roman Republic. The Greeks developed the city-state citizen--a distinction reserved for adult males, true, but still the concept of theoretical equality was established.

Early Rome extended citizenship to its vanquished, another Liberal concept (decried by conservatives of that time) which gave rise to a harmonious "melting-pot" culture that brought to its citizens a standard of living unmatched until the eve of the Industrial Revolution. Roman conservatives colluded to douse the flame of liberty in favor of greed, and set in motion events that destroyed Western Civilization.

After decimation of the human spirit by Roman brutality and religious tyranny,
Conservatism had a nice long run a period fondly remembered as the Dark Ages. The Renaissance represented a reflowering of Western Civilization as the minds of men such as di Vinci, Michangelo and Galileo escaped the bounds of rigid social control.

In other words: Conservatives deflower, Liberals reflower.

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Following the Renaissance were the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment, commonly taken as the time from which Liberal academic thought was begun.

About 300 years ago, social revolutions began that ended aristocratic control. America rebelled against British King George. Europe followed suit, nation by nation. But the Ancien Régime did not die pleasantly, and its echoes have not gone from this world.

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Political ideologies such as Communism, Conservatism and Fascism are attempts to destroy the concept of human rights and individual liberty. Yet Liberalism has defeated all of these: the spirit of humanity unbound has proven strongest in both peace and war.

Modern attempts to restore hierarchical aristocratic rule must disguise themselves and hide their true nature. Conservatives do succeed in snatching power--by stealth and the short memory of the human race--but they cannot govern, so Conservative rule can only be maintained by tyranny and oppression.

"While there is a lower class I am in it; while there is a criminal element I am of it; while there is a soul in prison, I am not free."
- Eugene Debs

The Progressive movement is a furtherance of Liberal ideals

Progressive ideas take the ideas of social justice and commonwealth that Liberalism represents, and adapt modern means to carry these ideals forward in the modern age.

The history of Liberalism is of progress. The advent of Liberal ideals has ushered in a new era of light upon our darkened planet. At every step there have been a corrupt priesthood, scheming merchants, lying leaders and soulless warmongers pulling us back toward the dark infancy of humankind. Fear is their currency, blood is their offering.

They have failed because human liberty, freedom of thought and individual expression are irrepressible: Liberalism is only the word we use to describe it. If we do lose the word "Liberal" to confusion, to fear, to differentiation, still the ideal of Liberty will remain because it exists in the heart of mankind.

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Originally posted to J Royce on Mon Sep 04, 2006 at 09:52 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I know this is ancient history (16+ / 0-)

    But too many Americans have seem to have forgotten it.

  •  You are so right (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    onanyes, J Royce, WAJJAR, java4every1

    The right wing does count on the ignorance of people.  Fab diary.

  •  a brief list (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    splashy, bwintx, J Royce, WAJJAR, java4every1

    of conservative "common sense" wisdom of the past:

    1. some races of people are inferior to others; hence the need for segregation
    1. social security is bad

    3)medicare/medicaid is bad; it is socialized medicine

    1. homosexuality is evil
    1. tolerance of religious pluralism is bad
    1. women shouldn't be fully equal to men; (remember women didn't even get sufferage until 1920!!!!

    When liberals saw 9-11, we wondered how we could make the country safe. When conservatives saw 9-11, they saw an investment opportunity.

    by onanyes on Mon Sep 04, 2006 at 09:59:43 AM PDT

  •  Conservatives are different (7+ / 0-)

    The Conservatives believe some people are "better" than others. Christians are "better" than other religions, rich people are "better" than poor people. It is the basis of aristocracy.

    It is what America fought against to create a more perfect Union.

    Turns out, the difficulty of Liberalism is not in declaring one's own rights of self-determination and liberty, but in allowing others to have it.

  •  Again and Again (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    J Royce

    As it may be ancient history/present one thing is for certain history always repeats it's self.  They have been wrong befor. There wrong today.

  •  Great diary. Thanks for this. (6+ / 0-)

    I strongly prefer the term 'liberal' to the term 'progressive'. I think it has deeper meaning and a richer tradition (something for which I'm always a sucker).

    I'm a liberal myself. I'm even a progressive, I think.

    But since progressivism is a complete subset of liberalism, we'll have to re-create a liberal context in our country before we can even hope to see results from marketing progressive ideas.

    "...hope is not the equivalent of optimism. Its opposite is not pessimism but despair. So I'm always hopeful." William Sloane Coffin

    by mxwing on Mon Sep 04, 2006 at 11:31:02 AM PDT

    •  I was doing my call list the other day (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mxwing, splashy, java4every1

      and one woman identified herself as a liberal. Thats a first for me, most people will tell you they are undecided and of those who tell you they are Democrats, few have claimed to be Liberals in previous years.

      As a progressive who self identifies as somewhere to the left of Robert Whul's wife, the term Liberal just doesn't do it for me. Its not tough enough. I want Republicans to hear we are coming and start throwing their papers in the fireplace and running for the border.

      Live Free or Die (-8.88 -9.49) IMPEACH THEN TRY FOR WAR CRIMES

      by rktect on Mon Sep 04, 2006 at 12:59:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I completely understand that sentiment. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        rktect, J Royce

        I'd love to see them scurry back to their spider holes.   However, we need the tide of people-power to wash them out of office, first. If we want to continue building this movement, we need to employ the thin edge of the ideological wedge, so we can't afford to be too tough in our terminology.

        Yet.

        "...hope is not the equivalent of optimism. Its opposite is not pessimism but despair. So I'm always hopeful." William Sloane Coffin

        by mxwing on Mon Sep 04, 2006 at 02:11:44 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  About Liberalism (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    walkshills, Nulwee

    I understand the urge to harshly confront the Conservatives. I have done my share of it, and I'm not sure whether it is the right thing or not. Some of that, yes, but also strong ideas and ideals.

    Liberalism has traditionally been about doing the odd thing. Liberalism is the more humane way, a new and unexpected approach that makes no sense by the old rules. At one time, freeing slaves to create a free society was dismissed as hopelessly foolish sentimentality. A Civil War era preacher could have piled quote upon quote from the Old Testament Bible that justified slavery, indeed made it righteous.

    Liberalism is what WORKS on this earth. It has been very much a trial and error process.

    It is not a coincidence that most places humans would choose to live are liberal. If we remember that, and work for that, I think another approach than political enmity may be a better solution.

  •  stating the definition (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    splashy, ichibon, J Royce

    I'd answer the "are you a liberal?" question with:

    If by liberal, you mean I care about protecting the health, safety and well-being of my fellow-citizens and I care about using the best evidence to solve problems---then yes, I am a liberal!

  •  Thanks for helping me know how to clarify (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    splashy, J Royce, java4every1

    Now I have a new spiel:

    Q: "Are you a Liberal?"

    A: "By Liberal, do you mean 'Librul' as in 'slovenly slob with loose morals and a slippery work ethic' or do you mean 'Liberal' as in all-American, Founding Father, anti-Old World Authoritarian/Aristocratic/Royalist and True Believer in Democracy, The Constitution, and The Bill of Rights?"

    Yes! Yes!! YES!!

  •  Political and Economic (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    walkshills, J Royce, java4every1

    the conservative forces of bondage through authoritarian aristocratic social systems.

    I would you consider political and economic authoritarian aristocratic systems, as well.

  •  The ideals of the founders (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mxwing, splashy, J Royce

    Its necessary to be fundamentally liberal to be a patriotic American. To reject liberalism is to reject the Constitution. So it's subversive and un-American to reject basic liberalism.  And ironically both big government and welfare entitlements are properly conservative ideas. go figure

  •  Great diary, (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    splashy, J Royce, java4every1

    I would love to hear Democrats defend Liberalism with some of your points on the talk shows, rather than try to run from the label, to try to make people aware that the American revolution was about liberal's attempting to get rid of a conservative run government. I think that if most self-described conservatives really did understand what liberalism is, they would join us.

    "Religion is excellent stuff for keeping common people quiet." Napoleon Bonaparte

    by ichibon on Mon Sep 04, 2006 at 11:42:57 PM PDT

  •  Love this (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    J Royce, java4every1

    I have been declaring myself to be a liberal for quite some time now. I figure that if we declare it openly and without shame, because there is nothing to be ashamed of, it will eventually go the other way and the conservatives won't own the definition any more.

    It is funny how they seem to consider a more liberal government in other countries to be a good thing. I have even heard that from some Republicans. Strange...

  •  The concept of an (0+ / 0-)

    authoritarian, conservative government in control of a military with the ability to destroy the earth is very sobering. One may say that we are being far too "liberal" in affording the wingnut right such an accomodation.

    "I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies; for the hardest victory is over self." --Aristotle

    by java4every1 on Tue Sep 05, 2006 at 06:55:00 AM PDT

  •  Wonderful diary, thanks!! Soemthing came to me.. (0+ / 0-)

    I am glad I found this!

    The inexorable march of liberty and justice for all over time is plain to see.  The current forces set against that are trying their hardest to quash it once again.  I feel they would rather destroy the world than see the collapse of their medieval ideologies.  We now have the tools to do this so I do not hold great hope for the future, but perhaps a fire may be the best way to start again, for barring the cracking of the planet (unlikely), life will go on.

    As I write this, I am reminded about some TV anthology series I saw long ago.  It may have been the Twilight Zone or Outer Limits, the new series episodes; it may be something else, seen years, perhaps a couple of decades ago.  

    In it, a man is awakened from cold sleep many years later; excited at what civilization has evolved to, how it overcame the wars.  He is shocked to see that civilization looks like a simple agrarian community now.  His world, his dreams, his civilization is gone.

    He is told that he was awakened because the people need his help to program a old planetary defense system that still exists.  This is to destroy an incoming missile on a multi-decade orbit through the solar system from a war ended long ago that will destroy them if not stopped.  He starts programming the equipment, but develops suspicions and doubts.  Before he launches the missile he finds out the truth; that this is no missile, but the leaders of that long ago era returning to earth in their survival ark to restart/take over [their] civilization.  These are the same leaders that started the wars and bought the strife--they survived (I think) via either being frozen or time dilation effects of high speed travel; something like that!

    He feels he cannot do it and they beg him to launch the missile; but they will not force him.  It is his choice in the end.  These leaders they do not want back.  Earth has become, on the surface, simpler in living, but everyone is LIVING, is TOGETHER, is HAPPY and is finding FULLFILLMENT.  It is the path mankind needed to survive, that it has sought, to move forward to the future.  

    Anyway, he is a man of that era, and he has great conflict about pushing the button—these were his leaders, after all.  He would be killing them and ending his hopes of his civilization coming back.  Finally, he decides, is convinced, to do it and they are shot out of the sky, their old ways, their "evil" will not come back to re-infect the earth.  The man regrets it in some ways, for he sees the Earth now, knows it is a good place to live, but he knows that they will not travel to the stars.  They have given up on technology, mostly.

    The final twist is the woman who was his guide into this new world shows him that mankind does travel to the stars now, with their minds.  New gifts, abilities have come to the fore with mankind’s new path.  She touches him and through her he is hurtling through space, his dreams rekindled!  The end.

    Well, this was years ago, I only saw this once, but that's the gist.  It just came to me as I read your diary and was thinking about what may come.  

    Thanks for the Diary.

  •  we should be all liberals now (0+ / 0-)

    Our democratic system of government was designed not just to preserve and safeguard our freedoms from the actions of man's darker nature.

    Insisting otherwise would be the conservative frame or narrative.

    Our system of government also appeals to freedom for a higher purpose. But the motivation behind this appeal is not simply altruistic--our system of government seeks the betterment of man because the function of democracy requires it.

    That would also be the liberal frame of narrative and why "It is factually true that America is a Liberal nation".

    The Republicans and conservatives currently illustrate the point that any system or party not aimed at higher principles eventually degenerates to the lowest common denominator within the particular tribe.

    Ingenious as our Constitution is with its internal checks and balances, if its call to man's better nature goes unheard and man does not act on his better nature--the assumptions and beliefs that are the very foundation of our democracy--all go away.

    Excellent diary you've got here.

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