True meaning of liberalism

Oscar Abello

Someone once asked me, “Are you a liberal?”

My gut response is to say yes, but instead I responded, “Well, liberal means something different to me than it might mean to you.”

Liberal doesn’t mean I want to kill babies. Liberal doesn’t mean I want homosexuals to have full marital rights. Liberal doesn’t mean I want to tax the clothes off your back and give them to the poor.

All liberal means is that I realize some things just aren’t working in our country, and I think we should change them.

Liberal means I think government has evolved past a simple guardian of rights and into a possible cure for the ills of society.

Government doesn’t have to be the only cure – for that would be socialist – but in a country this filthy rich, it is embarrassing to find parents living on the street, kids going days without real food and no foreseeable aid to such families.

Yes, it will cost money, and I realize some citizens will be forever upset, but as former Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “Taxes are the price we pay for civilized society.”

Liberal doesn’t mean I have no religion. On the contrary, I promise you my faith is just as strong as the next person’s.

I wear a cross around my neck. It’s not just any cross either; it’s a cross brandishing the symbol of the Augustinians. St. Augustine would tell you that faith is not something to throw around, as some conservatives do; conversion is an internal change, not an external force.

That is why, as a liberal, I understand that my faith isn’t shared by everyone, and so I do not pursue laws based on my faith.

Furthermore, I also realize that God has his own means of justice. He doesn’t need me to enforce it.

In fact, the last time God was physically on earth, he was appalled by the people enforcing his laws.

They were called Pharisees back then.

So instead of seeking to do God’s justice, as a liberal, in my laws I seek to do humanity’s justice, because it is only humanity’s laws that we are fit to enforce.

So what exactly are humanity’s laws? What are the injustices that we are fit to correct?

It is an injustice to me that even one child goes hungry in our country.

It is an injustice to me that same child might be a straight-A student in high school who can’t afford a good four-year college.

It is an injustice to me that the child’s parents, who work four jobs between them, might struggle to pay for some unforeseen medical bills.

It is an injustice to me that when those parents retire, they might not have a social security check coming in the mail.

These injustices may sound material and worldly, but that is the nature of democracy. We live in a democracy, not a theocracy. Your belief in God is protected under our government, but God does not reign above it.

If this sounds disturbing to you, then I apologize, but you have been fooled.

We should not be so proud to say that God is on our side; instead we should humbly pray that we are on God’s side, as Lincoln said.

We are approaching a dangerous mix of faith and politics, one that is bringing politics to a personal level, leading to the deep partisanship that is now found in American culture.

Conservatism has been seized by a religious force that, though noble in purpose, is reckless in deed. This recklessness has painted liberalism as “Doom for America,” the evil and amoral force that will lead to our ultimate demise. Somehow this narrow view of conservatism has taken hold in a substantial portion of Americans.

This narrow view is not wrong by any means, but the constant proselytizing of others to this view is not right.

Of the 51 percent who voted for President Bush, 70 percent still believe Iraq had a connection to the Sept. 11 attacks, when in fact the opposite is known to be true.

Fully two-thirds of Americans support the Assault Weapons Ban, yet conservatives allowed it to expire earlier this year.

Even after the barrage of information during the campaign this year about all the other problems America has, still one in four Americans believe Iraq to be America’s top priority.

Iraq is not to be trivialized, and it is a mess we have to clean up; it’s the rest of the picture that is disturbing.

Consider this: Only one in 20 Americans list healthcare as the top priority for our government. Only one in 50 list either education or poverty as the top priority.

Christ once said, “Why do you look at the splinter in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your eye?” There are problems here in America that need to be solved.

Government must be a solution, says liberalism. Surely it doesn’t have to be the only solution, but as John F. Kennedy once said, “If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.”

Patriotism isn’t just waving a flag and blindly supporting the president in all his actions; it is also raising a point and openly questioning government where it may have gone wrong, and being open to new solutions.

Faith isn’t just praying for God’s guidance; it is also acting for the good of humanity, as Christ did when he died on the cross. If you truly love this country, if you truly have faith in it and in God, then don’t limit yourself to the narrow view presented by the few, and instead look around and see the truth of the many.

Liberalism does not have to be your philosophy, but keep in mind that liberalism will not lead to your ultimate demise, as some would have you to believe. Nor am I implying that conservatism is evil.

Choose one or choose none; just be sure to know all sides before you make your decision. Ignorance and apathy to politics will lead to our demise. Choose or do not choose.

The time is now to find your way; which is better God only knows.