January 6, 2012
“A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” ~ Greek proverb
I saw this posted on a reader’s page (thanks, Rita!) and I realized it perfectly summed up why I am a Liberal. Conservatives like to paint liberals as lazy, greedy people intent on taking away their freedoms and money. That’s bullshit. That’s not what being a Liberal is about. Being a Liberal is about making sure everyone gets a fair shake. Being a Liberal is about sharing with everybody our good fortune or relying on others when our fortunes are bad. Being Liberal is about pulling together, not just when a disaster strikes a community but when it strikes the individual in their everyday life.
I support unemployment insurance and food stamps, even though I don’t use them myself. As an adult, I never have and would rather walk into traffic than do so. That doesn’t mean I would refuse the option to others or begrudge the taxes that pay for it. How dare I condemn others to starvation or homelessness because it benefits me, personally? What kind of monster thinks that way?
But being a Liberal is about more than shared risk, something conservatives only understand when the risk belongs to someone else. Being a Liberal is also about equality, a truly foreign concept for social conservatives.
I don’t condemn racism because I’m a minority. I may be a Hispanic Jew but I’m so generically white I could tell you I’m Italian, Irish or Swedish and you’d never think to question it. I don’t condemn it because I’ve never uttered a racial slur. I have and still do. I have my own prejudices[i], everyone does. The difference for me? I don’t allow them to dictate my actions. I acknowledge them and deal with it. They’ll probably never go away but that doesn’t mean I have to give in to them. I dream of a world where people are equal because they know better than to discriminate on something as silly as color.
I don’t support religious freedom because I’m religious. I’m an atheist; I think they’re all silly. But just as I wouldn’t force someone to adhere to my beliefs (or lack thereof), so, too, would I keep someone from promoting their particular religion over everyone else’s against their will.
I don’t support gay rights because I’m gay. I support them because I have friends who are and children who may one day grow up to be. As I recently told a reader, I fight for a world where my children can be who they are without being condemned by those who have no right to do so.
Do you plant the tree for yourself or for others?
Me? I plant the tree whose shade I know I shall never sit in.
I believe we all can and that’s why I believe that America can be great once more.
That’s why I am a Liberal.
[i] I hate Canadians. No, I don’t.