Joe is a staunch conservative, votes red in every single election, and uses words like “libtard,” as he proudly leans against the truck with the loud and proud MAGA sticker. Joe attends a Thanksgiving feast and heaps a large serving of mashed potatoes and gravy right up next to the large serving of deep-fried turkey and looks at it in glee. He’s already loosened his belt, in preparation for a day of feasting.
Jolene, his niece, eyes the serving with a glint of humor in her eye that should scare the pants off Joe. “That’s an awfully liberal serving of food there, Joe,” she snickers, casting expert shade and side-eye in one easy go as she heaps her own plate high.
Joe looks at his plate aghast. He doesn’t want to be associated with anything that might be construed as liberal. He carefully puts back a portion of his meal for a more paltry serving of his favorite eats. He’s disappointed, but what can you do?
This clearly didn’t happen. But it could. When did liberal become an insult? Liberal is a word that means generous, enlightened, open-minded, and benevolent. These days it gets tossed around like a dirty word, thrown at people who identify as liberal as if we should be ashamed of it.
It makes no sense.
You’ve probably already guessed that I identify as a liberal-minded person. While I understand that liberals and conservatives come at the issues from different perspectives, I don’t understand this new culture of “owning the libs,” which seems to mean doing something incredibly stupid or self-destructive just to piss off the liberals. Like voting for someone whose politics will almost certainly disenfranchise you just because it will piss off and almost certainly disenfranchise someone you don’t like. It’s just a mystery.
I’ve been a conservative person, and now I’m a liberal one, so I’m in a good position to offer a critique of both sides. I understand where conservatives are coming from in so many areas, but this new attitude of speaking of the opposing side without any consideration for their humanity seems to have given rise to the MAGA Bomber and all the other recent tragedies in the news. When you take away someone’s humanity, you make room for zealots and sociopaths to target them with impunity.
There are real-life consequences to this rhetoric. Maybe we need to rethink how we’re looking at our perceived enemies. I don’t actually have a problem with people who are conservative. I do, however, have a problem with people willing to overlook racism, sexual assault, and other value issues just to get their way. Every conservative who has chosen to overlook these areas just to “win” has lost all integrity, as far as I’m concerned. That’s not winning—that’s cutting off your nose to spite your face.
It’s stranger still that so many of the people backing this hate-filled rhetoric are evangelical Christians. To condone the preaching of hate is a direct affront to the teachings of Jesus, and I should know—I’m a preacher’s daughter who’s read the Bible cover-to-cover more than once. But still, these religious groups seem willing to back more-than-questionable candidates, as if quid pro quo was a value listed in the sermon on the mount (it’s not, if you were wondering). It’s not okay to overlook huge value issues in exchange for getting something you want—or because you’ve disparaged liberalism so much that you’re terrified to identify with it, even when it better aligns with your core values.
We’ve created a divide so huge that people are afraid to stand up for their values, regardless of the actions of the party they’ve chosen to champion. This is an issue of congruence, but it’s also an issue of basic integrity. It’s fictional Joe, turning down a full plate of food because he doesn’t want to be associated with a liberal frame of mind.
But we’ve made liberalism into something it was never intended to be. Maybe we’ve done the same with conservatism when it’s been equated to identifying with party politics over the good of the country as a whole. Perhaps we need to start reevaluating our values and making sure our actions align with them, and not with a political party. Maybe we should stop participating in a quid pro quo system that disenfranchises people who aren’t like us.
And maybe we can sit over a family feast without politics being a loaded topic that can never be bridged.
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