November 15, 2002

A defense of U.S. liberals

Have you ever read words that made your blood boil? In an attempt to "thoughtfully explain" his views, John Lovejoy has written such words, all the while displaying an utter lack of reflective capacity. Let us examine his views.

He claims that "liberals," secluded "in college campuses or…affluent areas like Manhattan or Beverly Hills," have lost touch with the people. Yet few will contest that Republicans, the conservatives, are the party of the affluent, while the Democrats, the liberals, are the party of the disadvantaged. As a liberal whose family has worked its way to a kind of comfort from dire poverty over a course of 10 years after immigrating to the United States, I have witnessed the transformation in many who have made the journey. Working up from humble beginnings, many of our family friends switched parties when it became clear that Republicans were better able to protect their interests. Conservatives are interested in maintaining the status quo, and in protecting their own interests. "Liberals want to reform people into disregarding their own interests," claims Mr. Lovejoy, proving my point.

The mistake Lovejoy makes is declaring that Democrats are in fact liberals. I would claim that the real differences between Democrats and Republicans have eroded, leaving two parties interested in self-perpetuation, money, and power—in short, their own interests. The traditional meaning of liberal "open-minded"—means that people such as myself attempt to be informed citizens, not conforming to a rigid dogma or party platform.

As part of my duty to inform myself, I read the Constitution of the United States of America. My family and I had to read it in order to pass the citizenship tests, yet Mr. Lovejoy seems to have only a dim recollection of its contents.

The entire point of the specific rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights and other parts of our "highest law of the land" is to protect the interests of the few against the many. The founding fathers were well aware of the tyranny of the majority, and most Americans today are also. We do not claim that it is a good thing for women in certain Middle Eastern countries to be kept subservient and uneducated because "the people" in these countries want it to be so.

Mr. Lovejoy claims that we "want a government that is willing to sacrifice some innocent people in other countries" in order to protect ourselves, and that gives us and not "criminals and thugs the benefit of the doubt." But I would point out the sections of the constitution that demand equal protection of the laws to all individuals. Granted, innocents in the Middle East are not citizens of the United States, but how dare we speak of acting in the name of freedom as we deny others the freedoms we grant ourselves? As far as criminals and thugs go, they too are guaranteed certain rights.

Liberals do not want to make people "[disregard] their own interests." We want to make people respect the interests of others, because this is what democracy demands. If we claim to stand for the principles of democracy, we must respect not only the interests of U.S. citizens, but interests of the world community and foreign nations.

While an American invasion of Iraq would put us into an advantageous position to take control of Iraqi oil reserves, this should not necessarily be done. In pursuing their interests in oil and economic (and political) opportunity, our conservative leaders have ignored the interests of those in the Middle East who would prefer not to be invaded and made economically subservient by America. In this way, liberals are justified in demanding that these leaders "stop imperialist American aggression."

Conservatives claim that what distinguishes them from liberals is that they care about people, and want to empower them to help themselves. To conservatives, this means ignoring the "down on their luck" minority in order to perpetuate the status quo and protect the interests of the more affluent minority. The tragedy is that the affluent minority shares certain interests, such as the desire to disregard the rights of those who may threaten us, with the vocal and certainly not liberal majority. By showing an almost cavalier contempt for the rights and interests of minorities, both in America and abroad, conservatives have insured that the affluent and self-centered majority will trust them with real power. Yet they guarantee that nowhere in the world will the people whose interests they've snubbed using their superior power ever take them seriously in their vacant promises of freedom.