Monday, January 24, 2005

Talk Dirty to Me

It's the ultimate, the word that transcends argument, the epitaph that settles the dust and defines the sides. Its use closes doors, alienates friends, cements stereotypes, creates mistrust, provides resentment a safe harbor, shifts focus, and blows smoke.

Language is powerful. Never believe otherwise.

Books, film, theatre, conversation, blogs, newspapers, magazines, comedy clubs, television, radio, and music tap that power. The tiny crunch of grit resounding through the cavernous library underscores it. We seek, need, crave the power of language in order to put a human fingerprint on the chaos of the universe.

What word could possibly wield that much power?



I felt that reaction from here. You know exactly what I mean. I have your attention, whether praise or rebuttal are in your future. The very volatility of the word is intoxicating. We are circling the fires, flames flickering on our faces, leaning in to see the battle with hearts tensed, jaws tight.

Yet, if I asked you to define the word liberal, I wonder what you would say?

I give you, circlers of fires, the definition of liberal:

adj 1: showing or characterized by broad-mindedness; "a broad political stance"; "generous and broad sympathies"; "a liberal newspaper"; "tolerant of his opponent's opinions" [syn: broad, large-minded, tolerant] 2: having political or social views favoring reform and progress 3: tolerant of change; not bound by authoritarianism, orthodoxy, or tradition [ant: conservative] 4: given or giving freely; "was a big tipper"; "the bounteous goodness of God"; "bountiful compliments"; "a freehanded host"; "a handsome allowance"; "Saturday's child is loving and giving"; "a liberal backer of the arts"; "a munificent gift"; "her fond and openhanded grandfather" [syn: big, bighearted, bounteous, bountiful, freehanded, handsome, giving, openhanded] 5: not literal; "a loose interpretation of what she had been told"; "a free translation of the poem" [syn: free, loose] n 1: a person who favors a political philosophy of progress and reform and the protection of civil liberties [syn: progressive] [ant: conservative] 2: a person who favors an economic theory of laissez-faire and self-regulating markets. Source: WordNet ® 2.0, © 2003 Princeton University

Several words stand out here: tolerance, reform, giving, and protection.

Tolerance implies acceptance, a lack of judgment on others who are different. This does not imply a lack of respect for the law. It does indicate a lessening of hierarchy, i.e. class, race, haves/have nots. It is the base of seeing human society growing in a constant rate of improvement due to the offering of more opportunity to more people. It does not subscribe to the theory that protecting ones personal wealth by creating barriers to others betters society.

Reform means rooting out barriers that impede opportunity so growth continues.

Giving means searching out need and supplying it for the good of the community.

Protection means caring for all within the community. We do this because we understand that we cannot grow and improve if we do not nurture.

Conservatives hate these ideals, which don't gel with their philosophy of protecting ones own class.

Conservatives identify with "the privileged", the strong, the "ins", the "haves". Conservative whites favor their own kind and try to keep racial minorities "in their place", and out of the jobs and neighborhoods that they would like to conserve for their own kind. Conservatives who have been in America a generation or two strive to keep (newer) "immigrants" out. Conservative males strive to keep women in their place. Conservative adults strive to keep a tight grip on their children (as well as everybody else's). Conservatives heterosexuals don't want homosexuals to gain any ground to catch up with them. Conservative Christians want their religion to be as close to the "official" religion of
America as they can get away with. Healthy Conservatives don't want "their taxes" spent to pay for the health care of the sick. Conservatives who are not oppressed by "officers of the law" could care less about the criminal behavior of police and prison guards against victims powerless to defend themselves, and already presumed the guilty party in any contest between
themselves and their guards. -- Liberals Like Christ

See what I mean about language and power? That's an astonishing bit of accusatory writing. So is this:

"The vile person shall be no more called liberal, nor the churl said to be bountiful. For the vile person will speak villainy, and his heart will work iniquity, to practice hypocrisy, and to utter error against the LORD, to make empty the soul of the hungry, and he will cause the drink of the thirsty to fail. The instruments also of the churl are evil: he deviseth wicked devices to destroy the poor with lying words, even when the needy speaketh right. But the liberal deviseth liberal things; and by liberal things shall he stand." Isaiah 32:5-8

"The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself. Proverbs 11:25


I believe we have it from a higher source than Rush Limbaugh that liberal is NOT a dirty word.


At January 25, 2005 2:40 PM, Blogger R said...

This is my response to those who find the word liberal offensive.
Great Post by the way!

At January 26, 2005 1:48 PM, Blogger frstlymil said...

Brava. That was beautifully done. Absolutely beautiful.

At January 30, 2005 5:05 PM, Blogger R said...

I totally agree with everything you just said on my blog. Except the Johnny Depp part. I will wrestle you off a cliff for him. I mean... I would. uh hmm.

At January 30, 2005 6:26 PM, Blogger ~Betsy said...

As usual, Jet, an excellent piece which touches the very soul of how I've been feeling. It's as if one must wash one's mouth with soap after saying That Word.

We are people first and foremost, which the labels don't convey. Remember the blue state/red state map showing the actual percentage of votes for the candidates using blends of blue and red for each state? The whole country was purple, varying shades and hues, but completely purple.

I wish we could get back to simply disagreeing with instead of hating each other. This course we're on is destructive. There's much work ahead, but I think we Dems and liberals are ready to meet in the middle.

Are THEY? Doesn't look like it so far.

At February 01, 2005 12:26 PM, Blogger DJW said...

This post answered a lot for me, because I was curious as to what a "liberal" was in 2005. I have some comments.

As to the dictionary definition - the word "tolerance" jumped out at me. I do not believe that liberals today are tolerant, particularly when in comes to the free exchange of political ideas and free speech. Liberals today are tolerant of political speech as long as it is agreeable with them. No where is this more apparent today then college campuses - if you don't believe me, please consult Recently, the President of Harvard was lambasted for saying that females may have an innate disadvantage in the areas of science and math.

Personally, I am conservative, but I believe in free speech for all. Many so-called "tolerant" liberals result to name-calling - in that all conservatives are dumb, ignorant, religious nutjobs, etc. I was listening to a talk show hosted by Lionel this weekend - a liberal talk show host. A guy called in who was obviously a liberal who disagreed with Lionel. Lionel started making fun of him, talking in a Southern accent, calling the guy a redneck, etc. Rhonda's blog talks about conservatives all marrying their first cousins and making fun of their intelligence - ignoring that large numbers of intellectuals who are conservatives.

Now, I don't pretend that conservatives do not also engage in name-calling. But, it's not right or useful to the dialogue for either side to do it. And, it is not very "tolerant". If liberals are truly "tolerant" then they should also tolerate and fight for the expression of views by conservatives.

I also object to the characterization of conservatives in this post, because, like most attempts to characterize a particular group, it overly generalizes. I do not believe that most conservatives want racial minorities or women to "stay in their place". Women make up the conservative base as well as men. I think most conservatives believe in equal opportunity for all - at least I do. But, I strongly believe that the way out of poverty is through education, not government handouts. Government handouts help people in the short term to get a start (which I do not oppose) but if they are not coupled with education and a drive to succeed, then a dependent class develops. I think that liberals have fostered this dependent class, because it supports their power. Economic well-being can never come solely through government assistance.

Yet, when racial minorities and women are raised to prominent positions by conservatives, based on merit, conservatives don't get any credit. Colin Powell, Condeleeza Rice, Alberto Gonzalez, Karen Hughes, Margaret Spellings - these are people who have real power in this society today - in a conservative administration. You can oppose affirmative action on philosophical grounds, without being a bigot. I want everyone to succeed, but I know that success comes from within, not from the government.

I do not mind my taxes being spent to help others with health care, education, etc., but I do not believe that taking more money will solve any problem. Money in government creates bureaucracy that is ultimately not responsive to the people.

I am a Christian, but I do not want my religion forced upon anyone. Yet, I also do not want to be discriminated against because of my religious views.

As for immigration, your President, whom you loathe so much, wants to expand immigration opportunities - not restrict them. Your President, whom you loathe so much, has greatly expanded spending on education and Medicare. He has not vetoed a single spending bill. A lot of conservatives are genuinely upset with his fiscal policies. Yet, he does not get a lick of credit for his "liberal" policies.

As for "giving", I, like many other conservatives give to benefit others. Yet, I prefer to give to charitable, nonprofit organizations rather than to the government with its waste and inefficiency.

At February 01, 2005 4:43 PM, Blogger Jet said...

Thanks for the comments, everyone. I posted my reply to DJW on his blog, if anyone is interested.

At February 05, 2005 1:53 PM, Blogger Charone said...

Exactly. I got so tired after the election of people bad-mouthing liberals. I was fixing to punch the next person who told me "liberals are out of touch." To me, "conservative" is a dirty word.


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