Liberal Not a Four-Letter Word
by Sherry Dana
Republicans and the Tea Party try to equate Liberals with Socialists, Communists, and other bête noirs of the Cold War Era. Not satisfied with re-interpreting the Constitution, they are re-writing the Merriam Webster Dictionary. In their effort to demonize liberalism, they try to alter its meaning.
I am a liberal and proud of it! I will not let Republicans and the Tea Party redefine who I am and what I believe in. My dictionary defines “liberal” as, “generous, bountiful; not narrow in opinion or judgment; tolerant.” These are values I hold dear and I believe to be values on which our form of government is based.
George Washington wrote in 1790 to the Roman Catholics of the United States, “As Mankind becomes more liberal, they will be more apt to allow that all those who conduct themselves as worthy members of the community are equally entitled to the protections of civil government. I hope ever to see America among the foremost nations of justice and liberality.” To the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, he wrote , “The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for giving to Mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation... It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights.” George Washington would have been shocked to learn he was a liberal.
In 1960, John F. Kennedy said, “What do our opponents mean when they apply to us the label ‘Liberal’? If by a liberal they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people - their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, their civil liberties…if that is what they mean by a ‘liberal’ then I am proud to be a liberal.” John Kennedy did not consider “Do unto others…” a negative philosophy.
I’m also proud to be a Progressive. My dictionary’s definition of “progressive” includes, “a person believing in moderate political change and social improvement by government action.” Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican, would have been outraged at being vilified for his progressive ideas on food safety and national parks.
Liberals and Progressives fought to free the slaves, help women obtain the vote, end child labor, and enact civil rights laws. Right here in Williamson County, we have heroes such as Jessie Daniel Ames (1883-1972), who organized the Georgetown Equal Suffrage League. For the 1918 election, she directed an eleventh-hour Williamson County voter drive that registered over 3,000 first-time women voters in just seventeen days. In 1930, she formed the Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching.
We have a history in this country and in Williamson County of standing up for what is right and changing what is wrong. I plan to stand by my convictions, regardless of the cost, and to work hard for the election of Democratic and, yes, Progressive and Liberal, candidates in the upcoming election. And I will continue to be a proud Liberal. Try as they might, the extremists cannot make that into a four-letter word.