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The word 'liberal'...
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fezmond



Joined: 27 Oct 2008

PostPosted: Thu Oct 04, 2012 6:51 am    Post subject: The word 'liberal'... Reply with quote

I'm not American so stick with me for a moment...

Why is this word so scary for (seemingly) half of the States? I'm from Europe where we don't consider being labelled 'liberal' as offensive, at least I've never heard anyone complain. I think our right is still probably left of your liberals but I'm not really into politics.

This is a serious question, not trolling. Just always wondered why it's thrown about as an insult. When I talk to a good friend from New Orleans, he always asks whether I'm a liberal or not and then doesn't listen to a single word that comes out of my mouth after that.
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On the other hand



Joined: 19 Apr 2003
Location: I walk along the avenue

PostPosted: Thu Oct 04, 2012 7:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, most obviously, the American political spectrum doesnt go as far left as the European one, so liberal is about as left-wing as it gets in the states. So, when an American politician insults his opponent as liberal, he pretty much means the same thing, in the context of his intended audience, as, for example, a British Tory would in denouncing his opponent as a socialist.

Another thing to consider is that the word 'liberal', in an American context, also contains elements of classical-liberalism, which in terms of social issues, means a more individualistic approach. So, in the US, a 'liberal', in addition to being pro-intervention economically, would also likely be more opposed to restrictions on pornography, and in favour of due-process for criminal suspects(Miranda Rigths etc).

And on those issues, I do not know if the Brits have any particular cause to feel smug about their supposed greater tolerance for liberalism. As far as I know, the laws regulating pornography were far more restrictive in the UK than in the US(at least from the early 60s onwards), though that may have changed(which is not neccessarily a good thing artistically, give me 1980s Mayfair over Hustler any day).

And I do not know where the UK currently stands in terms of Miranda-style laws, but I would guess that any politician who made a point of loudly championing the due-process rights of rapists and child-killers would find himself villified in language no less charitable than that ditrected against the ACLU by Americcan right-wingers.
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fezmond



Joined: 27 Oct 2008

PostPosted: Thu Oct 04, 2012 7:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the reply.

What's the ACLU?

I'm not sure that in the UK people are any more liberal than the States but they do have certain things such as the NHS which seems to create a huge division in the US whereas most people in the UK feel it's a good thing. People seem to be less insulting here with politics and labels as I honestly think the vast majority in the UK consider the whole election process as choosing the best of a bad bunch. They're all the same deep down.

Porn is weird, I'm still confused at the fact I can have sex at 16 but can't watch it or look at a dirty mag until I'm 18.

Is there still a big fear of communism in America? I hear that word a lot when talking to friends.
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On the other hand



Joined: 19 Apr 2003
Location: I walk along the avenue

PostPosted: Thu Oct 04, 2012 8:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
What's the ACLU?



The American Civil Liberties Union, essentially a group of lawyers who argue for an expansive interpretation of the Bill Of Rights, especially the free-speech and due process clauses. They are not so keen on a similar approach to the 2nd Amendment.

Quote:
I'm not sure that in the UK people are any more liberal than the States but they do have certain things such as the NHS which seems to create a huge division in the US whereas most people in the UK feel it's a good thing.


Yes, economic liberalism(in the reform, not classical sense) is obviously more popular in the UK(and almost every other industrialized country) than it is in the US.

Quote:
Is there still a big fear of communism in America? I hear that word a lot when talking to friends.


I should start off here by saying that while I follow American politics fairly closely, I am Canadian, not American.

It seems to me that fear of Communism in the US is probably mostly confined to the domestic sphere, where it gets brought up in arguments against health-care reform and higher-taxes and whatnot. In terms of foreign-policy, I would surmise that Communism now(post-Cold War) just gets mixed in with other supposed enemies of America, Islamic terrorists being the most prominent example.

I assume that people who hate North Korea and Cuba would point out that those places are Communist(barely so in the case of NK), but I cant imagine that there is much remaining dread that Communism is going to conquer the world.
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Unposter



Joined: 04 Jun 2006

PostPosted: Thu Oct 04, 2012 5:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

First of all, I should say I am an American and I do consider myself liberal. I think there are many Americans who also consider themselves liberals as well, both politicians and non-politicians.

But, to answer your question: I think Americans are for the most part a-political. "Liberal" and "Conservative" are political labels and for the most part Americans try to avoid being labeled or typecast at any cost.

I also think there is a lot more egalitarian thought in America than people realize; it is just reflected in ways that many non-Americans don't realize at first. One of the ways that this egalitarianism reflects itself is that overwelmingly most Americans consider themselves "middle class" regardless of educational or economic attainment. In the same manner, most Americans want to think of themselves in the "middle" politically, regardless of their beliefs and if you are "liberal" or if you are "conservative," you are not in the "middle."

In America, there is a strong desire to consider everyone equal and the same, even if there are a number of differences. On the one hand, we realize that there are economic, educational, political, religious and racial differences but at the same time this strong egalitarian spirit wants us to believe that we are the same and equal nonetheless.

One example is the press. In Europe, there is tendency for each newspaper to have a particular political perspective. When you read that newspaper, you expect to understand the news from a particular perspective. But, in the U.S., we expect all newspapers (and the media in general) to be objective and without political bias even though everyone knows that it doesn't happen (or cannot happen); it is our inner egalitarian voice saying that things should be equal even if they are not.

So, when you paint someone as a liberal, you are saying that they are being political, rather than being honest or sincere, and that you are different rather than the same.

For some, that is a shame. For others, it is part of life.
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caniff



Joined: 03 Feb 2004
Location: All over the map

PostPosted: Thu Oct 04, 2012 6:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Are you from the same America as me? I get your point about some of the spoon-fed crap we're supposed to ingest about "all peeps are equal", but the reality is that we're dealing with a divide and conquer strategy directed towards the unwashed on what are essentially meaningless fringe issues from up-on-high while your pockets and liberties are being raped.

But hey, whatever makes you feel good.
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Unposter



Joined: 04 Jun 2006

PostPosted: Thu Oct 04, 2012 9:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Caniff,

While I don't disagree that this is happening:

"the reality is that we're dealing with a divide and conquer strategy directed towards the unwashed on what are essentially meaningless fringe issues from up-on-high while your pockets and liberties are being raped."

The OP asked a question about why there is a sense that being labeled "liberal" is derogatory.

And, while I think you are partially right that this divide and conquor strategy is part of the reason the word "liberal" seems to be derogatory, I think there is more to it than that - as I described in my previous post.

If it were just a divide and conquor strategy than I think Americans would rise up and defend themselves and not let these people dictate our politics. I think many Americans instinctively recoil from being politically labeled, especially young people today, because they don't want to be associated with any political movement.

I think the vultures in our society understand that better than many Americans do and use it to their advantage. After all, there is a reason why we celebrate when 50% of the population actually votes in a presidential election. And, Romney was actually scared of the bottom 47% - like many of them vote or at least vote for a major political party anyway. Personally, I think that is how out of touch Romney really is. Bush wouldn't have cared because he knew they were for the most part self-disenfranchised (certainly not all).
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Steelrails



Joined: 12 Mar 2009
Location: Earth, Solar System

PostPosted: Fri Oct 05, 2012 1:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Why is the word liberal a "dirty" word?

Many Americans seem to highly value strength, decisiveness, and frankness. At times this is good. At times it has its bad points.

Some would say that the word liberal denotes someone who is weak, wishy-washy, afraid to say what they truly believe, and some other things. In the minds of "plain Americans" when they think of liberals, they think of people like Rob Reiner who want to ban smoking, but are morbidly obese. They think of people who care more about the whales than people. They think of all the stupid lectures they had to sit through in HS about overly-idealistic overly-lovey dovey stuff and roll their eyes. They think of people that if they took them out to Joe's BBQ pit for Ribs N Beer, that they'd sit their look uncomfortable, eat their ribs with a knife and fork, or not eat ribs at all and ask for a vegan salad. Order a glass of wine. And not be able to talk sports.

Now, I will say that this is in large part because of media stereotypes and the right-wing noise machine. Obviously these are such ridiculous caricatures that they can't be true about people who are actual liberals. But the thing is they aren't completely untrue either. The "typical liberal" is a composite of a bunch of various people revoloving around these issues, and the "typical liberal" strikes many Americans as perhaps well-intentioned, but also...off.

Now, I'm no great sympathizer with "liberalism" in America, but I think it gets a bad rap, and the problem is that the left-wing noise machine hasn't been as succesful in making "conservative" as much a caricature as the right-wing blowhards have been. Or Americans are just dim and for some reason we've fallen for the tarring of liberal without a similar balance for conservative.
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Unposter



Joined: 04 Jun 2006

PostPosted: Fri Oct 05, 2012 4:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Steelrails,

First of all, in the interest of fairness, you probably should have said that you are no friend of liberals in the beginning of your post but anyway...

I do think the "Liberal Noise Machine" has made a caricature of conservatives which is as you seem to say both stereotype and yet faint reflections of the truth.

The conservative caricature is a low brow "redneck" who is anti-science and/or a "bible-basher" or anyone who has been "brainwashed" by Rush Limbaugh or Fox News. A conservative is someone who thinks virginity is "cooler" than scoring - at least before marriage and only for procreation.

While I am sure there are some people who proudly carry the label "conservative" in the United States, you can probably find about just as many who proudly carry the label "liberal."

But, I am personally of the opinion that most Americans would rather not be "liberal" or "conservative," they just want to be themselves - apolitical and middle class.
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mnjetter



Joined: 21 Feb 2012
Location: Seoul, S. Korea

PostPosted: Fri Oct 05, 2012 5:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Unposter, you mean bible-thumper, not bible-basher.

To the OP, I don't think there is any insult in being called a Liberal. Conservatives throw it around like it's some sort of epithet, but then again, most Progressives (read: Liberal) feel the same thing when they call someone a Conservative. Within their own circles, nobody means or takes offense at their own descriptive terms, but they feel that they are making the biggest insult possible if they use the opposite. I could write for hours on the various stereotypes and false images held by either side against the other. But in both cases, it generally boils down to meaning "Outsider who doesn't stand for my values and who I think represents evil incarnate and the reason why my country is failing right now." Personally, I feel that it is this divisive attitude, and not the politics of either side, that is what is bringing the country to its knees, but that's a discussion for a different topic.

To get a good image of what really far-left Liberals think of Conservatives, visit the Daily Kos (dailykos.com) and read some comments. To get a good view of the opposite (which is what you originally asked about), visit Twitchy (twitchy.com) and do the same. Both spew about the same amount of vitriolic filth as the other, though from opposite ends of the political spectrum.
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bucheon bum



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Location: DC area

PostPosted: Fri Oct 05, 2012 5:38 pm    Post subject: Re: The word 'liberal'... Reply with quote

fezmond wrote:
When I talk to a good friend from New Orleans, he always asks whether I'm a liberal or not and then doesn't listen to a single word that comes out of my mouth after that.


He clearly is not from the city of New Orleans then. Very Happy I'd wager he's from a suburb since the city itself is about as "liberal"/democrat as anywhere in the USA.

Tell him to follow the spirit of his hometown more: drink up, chill, listen to the music, and enjoy life!

This is assuming he doesn't call himself liberal....

Quote:
Is there still a big fear of communism in America? I hear that word a lot when talking to friends.


Only in certain circles. We "northern elite" don't, but apparently there are people who still throw that term out along with socialism and think it has some bad and/or evil meaning to it.

Quote:
The American Civil Liberties Union, essentially a group of lawyers who argue for an expansive interpretation of the Bill Of Rights, especially the free-speech and due process clauses. They are not so keen on a similar approach to the 2nd Amendment.


I wouldn't say it is that they're less keen on the 2nd amendment, it is just that their need is a lot less when you have groups like the NRA that pour tons of resources into "defending" the 2nd amendment. I imagine if the the 4th amendment had a lobby group in its defense, the ACLU would also give less attention to that one.
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bucheon bum



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Location: DC area

PostPosted: Fri Oct 05, 2012 5:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

caniff wrote:
Are you from the same America as me? I get your point about some of the spoon-fed crap we're supposed to ingest about "all peeps are equal", but the reality is that we're dealing with a divide and conquer strategy directed towards the unwashed on what are essentially meaningless fringe issues from up-on-high while your pockets and liberties are being raped.

But hey, whatever makes you feel good.


so caniff, when are you going to stop whining and stfu and do something? you're getting tiresome. We get it. The system is rotten. Good to know.
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Unposter



Joined: 04 Jun 2006

PostPosted: Fri Oct 05, 2012 5:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

MNJetter,

Thanks. What a slip-up! Yes, I meant bible-thumper.

And, yours was a good post too, thanks!
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caniff



Joined: 03 Feb 2004
Location: All over the map

PostPosted: Fri Oct 05, 2012 6:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

bucheon bum wrote:
so caniff, when are you going to stop whining and stfu and do something? you're getting tiresome. We get it. The system is rotten. Good to know.


With a wife, teenage daughter, two cats, a mortgage payment in Seoul while carrying a house in Boston with two tenants on the third floor, being personal representative on the estates of two recently-deceased family members, working full-time, etc., my plate is loaded. Right now I unfortunately have no time to launch a crusade against what I see.

It drives me nuts that too many people think that the sytem just needs "tweaking" and I see this as a real problem, but it's fine that you want me to say no more on the subject and I'll try to appease that desire. Hopefully, you (likely having more time than I at present) will get out and make a difference.

I'm rooting for you.
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Fox



Joined: 04 Mar 2009

PostPosted: Fri Oct 05, 2012 6:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

caniff wrote:

With a wife, teenage daughter, two cats, a mortgage payment in Seoul while carrying a house in Boston with two tenants on the third floor, being personal representative on the estates of two recently-deceased family members, working full-time, etc., my plate is loaded.


That is completely reasonable. Now why can't you use the specifics of your experience to extrapolate that, in general, the people you have been, as of late, railing against likely have similarly complex personal lives that similarly restrain them?

Although they may not be as specifically informed as you are, Americans are broadly aware that there are problems with the system. Like you, however, they simply have too much going on in their day to day lives to go off to war, so to speak, against these problems. You could stand to be more charitable, and I think that is the substance of what Bucheon Bum was getting at, albeit in perhaps an overly aggressive fashion.
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