When “liberals” aren’t liberal at all
By F. Paul Valone
The following column was published in the Charlotte Observer on July 1, 1997, under the title “When so-called ‘liberals’ aren’t liberal at all.”
Life is good: just enough time to stomp a few kittens before work, then it’s off to a satisfying day of bulldozing wetlands. Afterward, do a little community service by handing out “Joe Camel” T-shirts to inner city kids, and then return home to barbecue a doe-eyed endangered species. On weekends, don camouflage and run around in the woods plotting things to blow up. Yes sir, it’s good to be “right-wing” in America.
As some would tell it, that’s just another day in the life of a conservative. In the arena of American political debate, you see, anyone who dares to deviate from the pervasive liberal doctrine can expect to have not only his ideas maligned, but also his motives.
Promote a welfare system which encourages work rather than dependence, and you are “mean-spirited.” Explain that the individual right to arms was intended as a check against abuse of government, and you are “paranoid.” Have the audacity to question how Franklin Roosevelt’s welfare state affects individual liberty, and you are a fascist. (Or so I’ve been told. If you figure it out, call me).
And if you’re foolhardy enough to poke fun at the antics of those who’ve forgotten that although its nice to be nice to animals, our primary responsibility is perpetuation of our own species, expect the ever-earnest left to hold your mean-spirited, vile lack of compassion responsible for the extinction of every last creature which no longer treads the earth.
Although my dictionary defines liberal as “broad minded, tolerant; not bound by authoritarianism [or] orthodoxy,” what generally passes for “liberalism” in post 1960’s America is a narrow, intolerant dogmatism most at home in a frenzied fundamentalist mob screaming “Heretic! Death to the Infidel!”
Post ‘60’s liberalism is uniquely annoying, if not actually dangerous, because it rests on the equally annoying American tradition of Puritanism. Liberals presume they are the anointed and all who oppose them, the unwashed. Only liberals care enough.
Then, like crusading missionaries, they set out to spread the word. It’s not sufficient for them to live on bean curd and granola. You should too.
To the left, their enlightened ends justify virtually any means. In the media, for instance, where the Freedom Foundation found liberals outnumber conservatives by 11:1, they win converts by slanting news in a process which Robert Novak labeled “advocacy journalism.”
While covering the debate over semi-automatic “assault weapons,” for example, CNN repeatedly misled viewers about what was being banned by using video footage of fully automatic machine guns restricted since 1934. More recently, those who read newspapers learn that our political spectrum is anchored on one end by “right wing extremists” and, on the other, by “moderates.” The left wing, apparently, has evaporated.
In truth, by protecting the status quo most liberals have become conservative. Meanwhile, some conservatives like the 1994 Congressional freshmen have, in the tradition of liberals, increasingly favored change.
Newt Gingrich said it best: “I am a genuine revolutionary; they are the genuine reactionaries; we are going to change their world, they will do anything to stop us, they will use any tool, there is no grotesquerie, no distortion, no dishonesty, too great for them to come after us.”
The clichés “liberal” and “conservative” have become so misleading that perhaps we should discard them in favor of “collectivists” - who trust governments more than people and value individual rights less than some vaguely defined collective good - and “individualists” who believe the reverse.
Those who brand conservative viewpoints as “mean-spirited,” “homophobic,” or “paranoid” should recall that until the 1930’s, despite flaws, those mean-spirited, homophobic paranoids created and ran arguably the world’s most successful nation.
We should understand that altruism is a just and noble goal…until it is legislated; that people should be presumed responsible until they prove themselves otherwise; and that laws should enforce responsibility only when irresponsible behavior produces direct, immediate, and measurable harm to others.
That trust, together with laws which truly hold people accountable for their actions and values which recognize that some things are genuinely right and others wrong rather than merely “celebrating diversity,” comprise the conservative answer to improving the world’s strongest and freest republic.
We should reject the encroachment of decision-making through emotion instead of logic and see the world as it really is, not as we wish it to be; reject the self-loathing which values other species and societies more than our own.
The hard left is probably too far gone. But fear not, “liberals:” When you revile the motives of those who favor change, you’ll have plenty of company at the feeding trough.