I am distressed and dismayed by some of the vitriol I hear being thrown about today, the anniversary of the most heinous attack ever seen on our home soil. Nine years ago, a small group of Islamic radicals brought to fruition a plot to do damage to our nation. In killing the thousands of people that day, and inciting the response of a lengthy war on the Iraqis, they did that damage.
What concerns me now is the horrid amount of venom and vituperation being spewed, first at Muslims here in America, many of whom had NOTHING to do with the attacks, and at anyone who identifies themselves as "liberal" or "progressive". I have been accused of being everything from a wimp to a radical sympathizer just because I identify myself as a liberal. This bothers me.
Classically and specifically, a liberal is one who believes in the importance of liberty and equality.
Is that so bad?
What the term has become slathered with in the popular media is a position of appeasement to foreign states (and philosophies), a desire to leave our nation defenseless, and a desire to control the lives of everyone and everything. They equate it with union control of business, government control of everything else, confiscatory tax rates, and the "nanny state."
Howinhell did that happen?
I'm a progressive. I believe in progress. Progress toward a society in which we are EQUAL and FREE.
How does a government which uses laws and regulations to keep our industries and their employees safe, or rides herd over pharmaceutical purity, or monitors auto and highway safety, or wants to provide health care for our whole population equate to such control? When did a "safety net" program, like Social Security or Medicare become such an evil, according to those who are against it. How did that happen?
When did the unions which were formed to protect members who were in dangerous occupations turn into these massive bureaucracies that are strangling some businesses? I come from a coal mining family. My father joined the Navy in 1940, at the age of 16 (he lied about his age), in order to escape that profession. His father's brother had been killed the previous year, by representatives of the Pinkerton organization, in a riot which sprung up around his attempt to unionize the local mine in Alabama. It took him 10 days to die, after sixteen shots . . . in the back.
The answer, my friends, is labels.
When we label something, be it a movement, a political party, a religion, or a skin color, we begin to dehumanize the people behind that label.
In that way, a small band of radical Muslims becomes the straw man for ALL Muslims, and seems to give people the excuse to abjure all Muslims, or burn down their religious buildings even in communities where they've been for decades -- something that's recently happened in Tennessee.
A group of people who are against private ownership of arms becomes "Liberals want to take away your guns."
A young black man who identifies with certain musicians and styles becomes "a gangbanger" because he dresses in a fashion outside the experience and personal aesthetic sense of those NOT of his subculture.
A black President, who is devoutly Christian, and has been roundly criticized because of the behavior of a pastor whose church he USED to attend, becomes "Muslim" because he believes Muslims should have every right to practice their faith. In wanting to help provide health care to citizens who are NOT covered by an employer or other insurance, he becomes a "socialist".
Millions of immigrants who, granted, got to this country in illegal fashion, become somehow responsible for all the economic ills and lack of jobs we currently have in this country -- NOT the corporations who exported so many of our jobs overseas in order to provide cheaper goods to WalMart.
Mind you, Liberals engage in labeling, too.
The excesses of a firm like Goldman Sachs become a front for "Wall Street" -- an ill-defined, nebulous entity guilty of everything short of raiding our personal bank accounts.
The mistakes of BP become generalized to be "Big Oil".
Massey Energy's safety problems and disregard for their employees, and their damage to the hills of Kentucky and other mining areas becomes "Big Coal".
I submit to you that, though it's more difficult to look at things one at a time, we HAVE to start avoiding labeling each other in order to hide from reality.
People fear anything they don't understand. May I suggest we work more toward understanding those we fear, in order to move toward conversation rather than confrontation?
I am a progressive. I am of a liberal mindset. I am also a gun owner, and believe in the private ownership of handguns and arms. I believe we should NOT have gone into Iraq, but that we need to concentrate more efforts in Afghanistan. For that matter, I believe we need to go into Pakistan after Al Qaeda, but because we've labeled the Pakistanis, somehow, as aliies, we're loathe to do that. I believe marijuana should be legalized, but I also believe there should be stronger penalties for driving while intoxicated, whether alcohol, pot, or other substances. I believe we should STOP subsidizing the tobacco and oil industries.
So, how would you label me?
What label do you give yourself?