I used to do a daily hit on CNN during the build-up to the Iraq invasion. The producer wanted to call me a Libertarian, because they already had a Republican and a Democrat. At the time, I thought a Libertarian was a Republican who smoked pot. I wasn’t a Republican and I hadn’t gotten high since college. So they labeled me independent. Which too, is a worthless title. No one is independent. Alliances and shared ideas are the cornerstone to any mature human being and functioning society.
I will admit to have becoming an irony of sorts however. Most people get more conservative as they age. Me? I’ve never been more liberal in my life.
Why? Because everyday for the last 24 years, I had to prepare for a radio show. And in the process, I have sharpened my critical-thinking skills demonstrably. I’m not particularly smarter, but I can recognize intelligence and separate bullshit better than most. And as a seasoned comedian, I can eviscerate any populist cracker like they were a drunk heckler.
So I am a liberal who eschews government waste and cronyism. I’ve paid millions in taxes, and I want to live in a society that stands more for social and economic justice than it does for flags and patriotic baseball games.
Liberals fight and die in wars. We care about nuance, and apply them to complicated issues such as abortion, religion and affirmative action. We are also ridiculously weak in defending the aforementioned positions. Why? Because we believe confrontation is anathema to being liberal. But it’s not. Applying the Socratic principle to your defense of liberalism doesn’t make you a bad person, it makes you more empathetic to your beliefs.
I once believed I was a fiscal conservative and a social liberal. I espoused the notion that the government was inherently wrong; that virtue would miraculously appear were we to pull back its draconian presence. I was seriously wrong. The idea that the poor can pull themselves up by their bootstraps assumes they have boots. (A clumsy paraphrase of a 1968 speech by the Rev Martin Luther King JR.)
We are the government.
The government can be the hand by which we reach out to those in need and not only assist them, but fill them with hope and inspiration. Which of course means that when we refuse to participate in government, it becomes what we are not. Today, our leaders are consumed by fear and directed by self-loathing theocrats, using God the way a bully uses his fists to demand obedience.
But despite recent events, I am an optimist. I find inspiration in Judeo-Christian values, and I’m an atheist. I believe in in the individual, from Jesus to Gandhi, to that young man in Tiananmen Square, and I’m a liberal. Today, we possess an ability to inspire millions through a message of strength through justice, and remind those in power that they only hold the power that, We the People, grant them.
Individually, we can do great things.
Together, we can change the world.