By Alejandro Grattan-Dominguez
In Defense of Liberals
when it happened is still in dispute, but happen it did and thereafter
liberals suddenly were regarded as only a few steps up from child-molesters.
Yet given the definition in most dictionaries of a liberal, i.e., “generous...tolerant,
broad-minded, favoring reform or progress...,” it would seem a
most worthy thing to be.
In keeping with that definition, the liberal
movement has been responsible for a great majority of the social and
economic advancements of the past 100 years. Go back to the birth of
Social Security, the right of black soldiers to fight alongside white
ones, school integration, the War on Poverty, the Civil Rights Act of
1964, Medicare, Operation Head Start, child labor laws, banking reforms,
the fight for universal health care, the minimum wage, (which, disgracefully,
hasn’t been increased over the past seven years), environmental
safeguards, female suffrage, equal rights and protection under the law.
Courageous liberals were in the advance units of each and every one
of those noble crusades.
Today, liberals and conservatives alike
(and yes, even neo-Cons) all enjoy the benefits of those historic battles.
Still, the Far Right, while grudgingly conceding most of the above,
has fallen back on other anti-liberal arguments. They brand as “unpatriotic”
liberals who are against the war in Iraq, snorting that criticism of
the war is aiding our enemies; yet Congressional conservatives railed
again the war in Kosovo, and Trent Lott, their leader in the Senate,
went so far as to say that President Clinton was “worse than Milosovic!”
But nobody ever called those conservatives who were carping about that
As for the charge that Democrats are a
bunch of wusses who can’t be relied upon to protect us against
our enemies, the Right-Wingers forget that four of the greatest wars
(hot, cold and otherwise) presidents of the 20th century were Democrats:
FDR, Truman, Johnson and Kennedy.
Another snide accusation is that liberals
are too concerned with “fringe elements.” Yet, going all
the way back to Thomas Jefferson, liberals have believed that government
has no more noble purpose than the protection of its least fortunate
or under-represented of its citizens. The theory is that as the weakest
of them grow stronger, the more durable and dynamic the nation itself
becomes. Yet often those who fight for the poor are derided as “bleeding-heart
liberals,” those who struggle to improve the global environment
are branded “crazy tree-huggers,” those who wage war against
prejudice and discrimination labeled “anti-religious.”
Here is the contradiction: the vast majority
of those hurling the accusations profess to be Christians, and proudly
boast of their deep belief in the teachings, sanctity and example of
Jesus Christ—even while forgetting that Christ was the Ultimate
Liberal. Don’t believe it? Go back to the classic definition of
liberalism at the top of this editorial. Is there a more accurate (political)
word for the short but glorious ministry of He who gave His name to
the most powerful reform movement the world has ever known? He worked
among the poor, associated with the humblest of men, was tolerant of
every human frailty, devoted to replacing the status quo with something
more equitable, and left us with hundreds of all-forgiving quotes such
as “Let him without sin cast the first stone.”
Is there a single word which could characterize
such a compassionate attitude, such an inspiring message? I suggest
to my fellow Christians that it might be... liberal.