Proud to be a "liberal"

Letter to the editor

Posted: Tuesday, November 08, 2005

I get very tired of people on television calling each other "liberal," or "conservative," as if one has to go to one extreme or another. Underlying all of this is the false assumption of "my way or no way."

What is a "liberal?" The term comes from the Latin root of "liber" to free, to be free. From this same root come the terms "liberation," "liberal arts" and "liberty."

A liberal is one who feels free to think freely without fear or intimidation. In modern terms, we might say, it is a person who questions some basic assumptions or "thinks outside of the box." A responsible liberal is one who looks the past and present and asks questions about the assumptions people make. A liberal is one who openly considers other beliefs, other forms of government, other languages and cultures and asks, "What can we learn from others, and then asks, "what can we learn?" "How should we change our lives?"

It appears that some people who call themselves "conservatives," really are saying, "We don't want change. We benefit from the system now. We want to preserve things, just as they are. We are afraid to question things, because then we would have to think for ourselves." In the past what were considered "liberal" ideas in economics and government, (like the American Revolution against England) are now called "conservative views."

In the U.S. today there is a debate over a new Supreme Court justice, whether the person should be a "liberal" or "conservative." As a liberal, I want a liberal judge - that is a person who looks carefully at our Constitution, our legal history, the rights of all people - with a free and open mind. I don't want someone who is so locked into one particular position or another that he or she is not open to questions or challenges. I remember a sign I saw years ago saying, "My mind is made up. Don't confuse me with facts." I'm sorry, but I just can't accept that.

I am a liberal who thinks that if we are to survive, find justice and respect for all peoples in a changing world, we need to have open minds. If I had my way, people would not divide the world into "liberals" and "conservatives," but into another division between people with open minds, willing to question, willing to find new solutions to new problems, and those who are afraid to question things and prefer to live with a closed mind.

Wally Olson


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