Redefining liberalism: It’s not a dirty word.

Nathan Lawrence

I continue to be baffled by the fact that the right-leaning politicians and analysts seem to believe that “liberal” is somehow a dirty word. Terms like “liberal” and “conservative” are simply meaningless epithets, aren’t they?

I thought so too, until I began chatting over Facebook with a very right-leaning friend who doesn’t believe in evolution. No matter how hard I tried to convince her to read various studies or books, from Bully for Brontosaurus to the more technical, she would hear none of it. The problem, it seemed, wasn’t that I was presenting poor evidence or failing to evangelize my perspective, but that she simply didn’t want to hear what I had to say.

To me, this is the defining difference between liberalism and conservatism.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines conservatism as “The inclination, especially in politics, to maintain the existing or traditional order,” while it defines liberalism as the individual movements it is associated with.

However, I don’t have any qualms with making the inference that, if conservatism is halting progress, liberalism is pushing things forward.

There are examples of this form of liberalism triumphing over the ways of the past dotted throughout our history. While the conservative “old light” ministers clung to their passive and procedure-based services, liberally-influenced ministers throughout the United States created a different, more passionate method of service that would fundamentally alter man’s relationship with God.

While conservative politicians attempted to keep the status quo in order during the Civil Rights movement in the mid-20th century, the liberal ideology of equality for everyone pushed through and eventually became the standard which everyone now accepts as a natural and logical position.

The list of positive things that came from the departure from the “traditional order” goes on and on.

So the question is this: Why is “liberal” a dirty word? What makes being liberal so bad that it deserves to be held in contempt by a side whenever it is said? What is so bad about wanting to change from the preexisting conditions to something new and different?

The reason is simple: While we liberals try to move forward, the conservatives want to stay in the same place. We are enemies, not just by individual issues, but by core philosophy itself.

By using the word “liberal” in such a sense, the pundits and politicians are not only attacking the issues we stand for, but our core beliefs. As long as we let them continue to attack our beliefs while we attack only their ideas, we can never win.

It’s time we launched an attack on what it means to be “conservative.” It’s time to remind people that being conservative isn’t edgy or exciting. Being conservative is being old-fashioned. There is no such thing as being a conservative maverick. There can’t be. Mavericks go against the establishment; conservatives uphold it.

Being conservative is keeping things the same. We don’t need the same. There are people across the country who don’t have the rights they deserve because they are of a different race, sexual orientation, gender or religion than the single identity which the current status quo supports.

The playing field is not level. The rules are not fair. We need change, and that’s not going to come from people who want to “maintain the existing or traditional order.”