By Carol Kuczora
Ever notice that when a word is pronounced with a sneer enough times, publicly, it turns into a pejorative? That, even when it used to be a word everyone wanted to be associated with. I’m old enough to remember that that was the case with the word “liberal.” I’m still proud to be a liberal, though I never use the word anymore, precisely because it has become semantically contaminated.
I prefer to use the word “ethical.” Think about what so-called liberals care about: compassion, fairness, sustainability, avoidance of anyone’s undeserved pain or loss. And what makes something ethical? Isn’t that the same?
There’s another problem word: “conservative.” It changed its meaning in another way. It used to mean or imply resistant to change. Now, the radicals who are hell-bent on changing everything call themselves “conservative.” What do they want to change? In place of democracy, government by Big Money, removal of all national policies that were calculated to increase fairness and opportunity and reduce undeserved pain and loss. These include the graduated income tax, free education and libraries, and regulatory agencies to assure everyone’s health and safety.
The everyday people who go along with that kind of “conservatism” have a different cognitive style from, say, scientists and others who value evidence and logic. They puzzle me. Seems they are obedient to authority, and resist admitting to consciousness any evidence that contradicts preconceived notions.
It’s a real challenge to raise their consciousness. For those of us who hope to instill more compassion, farsightedness, and responsibility in such people, so that they vote, and vote accordingly, the best we can do is phrase our challenges as questions. Who is entitled to health care? education? a job? an income when too old to work? a voice in democracy? The answer, of course, is everyone. I hope they all figure that out. But that would make them “liberal.”