Every once in awhile, it’s good practice to examine your own personal beliefs and amend them as needed. For example, I like to examine, through my writing, why it is I consider myself a liberal. Much of it has to do with the fact that I cannot stand the alternative – becoming a conservative.
My aversion to conservative principles is not because I myself despise conservative beliefs. In fact, it’s far from that – I consider myself a Christian, hate taxes personally, believe that every person deserves a place within the free market (and deserves a chance to advance within that market if they are able to do so), that there is an inalienable right to own a weapon, and so forth.
Though those principles would ordinarily classify me as “conservative” by most, what makes me liberal instead is how I came to hold those beliefs, and how I choose to apply them in my own life as well as the lives of others.
I choose to be a Christian and recognize that not everyone in this country is going to make that choice – it’s my right to determine my own beliefs, and I must allow everyone else to have that same right as well if I am to expect everyone else to respect my own choices. Dictating my personal beliefs through codified law, therefore, would be a violation of the rights of everyone else who didn’t agree with my views, which are based on belief rather than admissible facts.
I hate taxes, but recognize them as a vital part of life, as being part of the government’s revenue needed to ensure society keeps moving forward. Without part of my income going towards taxes, businesses would be unable to use interstate highways, fire and crime protection would be a luxury afforded only to those who could pay for it, those without high-paying jobs and no insurance would be without help, and so on. Taxes are a dreaded part of life – but they provide the very things we all take advantage of in society, from public parks to vital life services.
Though I support a free market and reject most forms of socialism (with the exception being those services that are necessary for a functioning society to have), I do believe that an unregulated economy is dangerous to support. A market should be free from most constraints, but when it starts to work at the expense of the people, when it exploits those workers whose backs support it, it becomes predacious, harmful to the lives of most and beneficial to the ruling elite.
People have a right to defend themselves, but if a weapon is destructive in society, or if it could possibly destroy society itself, it warrants restrictions. Assault weapons were rightly restricted under this definition, seen as potentially destructive if placed in the wrong hands (much like a nuclear weapon would be, albeit in an extreme example of what I’m trying to get across here).
There is a belief prevalent among “liberal haters” that all liberals are godless sexual deviants who are pro-abortion and anti-gun. While such people could be characterized as liberal, a liberal can also be someone who celebrates their religious beliefs openly, who conceals their sexual identity in public, who is personally pro-life, and may even own a weapon or two themselves. What differentiates a liberal from a conservative is more than personal preference – in my experience, a person’s ideology is based more upon how far they want to enforce their own beliefs onto others against their will.
A “liberal” who wants to enforce a godless state is not a liberal. A “liberal” who wants to force women into having abortions (something that I’ve never encountered) is not a liberal. A “liberal” who wants to deny a person gun ownership no matter the circumstance is not a liberal.
But a person who wants to allow others to pursue their own life’s ambitions, who sees the merits of CHOICE in religion, sexuality, health decisions, and even whether to own a weapon or not, and who wants to preserve these rights for others is, in my mind, acting liberally. A person who sees the merits in SOME regulations (such as the marketplace, gun ownership, etc.) is also acting as a liberal, so long as these regulations don’t stifle a person’s livelihood. And support of government programs, if they act to help disadvantaged Americans to realize their potential, to help them pull their own bootstraps up if they are having trouble doing so, well, I consider a person who holds such views to be a liberal, too.
These are beliefs I can support, beliefs I can stand behind. Because, in the end, these are beliefs that help the average American, help benefit our country as a whole, and move our nation forward as we venture into the next century.
This is why I am proud to call myself a liberal.