September 29, 2004
Conservatives would have us all believe that liberals are out to destroy our nation. A popular conservative refrain is that two types of people live in the United States: Americans and liberals. That might be funny except that it's a grotesque distortion of American history. The fact is that every single significant movement advocating an expansion of American liberty and freedom has been initiated by liberals and violently opposed by conservatives.
The Abolitionist movement, led by unapologetic liberals like William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips and Frederick Douglass, was viciously opposed by conservatives in both the North and the South and many abolitionists were murdered or imprisoned.
The Reconstruction of the South following the Civil War was perhaps the boldest liberal experiment in American history, but it was crushed by southern whites who called themselves "The Conservatives" and who formed neat little terrorist clubs like the Ku Klux Klan.
The Woman's Rights Convention of 1848 and the subsequent woman's suffrage movement were spearheaded by the indomitable liberal Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Conservatives cried out from the pulpits and the halls of Congress against this dangerous attack on "traditional family values." Courageous American women would have to endure 72 years of brutal harassment by conservatives before they finally won the right to vote.
The noble effort to reform labor laws and protect the working class people was led by a diverse group of liberals from Jane Addams to Eugene Debs who were fought every step of the way by conservatives, even when it came to child labor reform!
The modernization of education in America can be attributed to the work of the liberal philosopher John Dewey. The protection of our elderly through Social Security was the contribution of our greatest liberal president, Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Finally, during the Civil Rights movement of the 20th century brave liberal Americans, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., gave their lives in the fight for equal rights for black Americans. It's no surprise that the leading opposition to the Civil Rights movement came from southern conservatives.
Today many good people are being hoodwinked into embracing the conservative agenda because of the new mantra that conservatives are more patriotic and more Christian than liberals. Of course they are neither.
The conservative philosophy is not patriotic because it seeks to squelch political dissent and it mocks cultural diversity - the two most important aspects of both our history and our unique American democracy. Conservatism cannot be Christian because it embraces all sorts of violence including the death penalty, unrestricted sale of firearms, destructive exploitation of our environment and preemptive military invasions against defenseless nations.
Conservatives do make a big deal out of their support for the "unborn," but this is a safe position because it doesn't cost them a dime. It's when people are actually born into this world that conservatives lose their compassion. Conservatives lead the fights against tax measures and legislation to fund education and human resources, but they happily support measures to put more people in prison and build more bombs.
Conservatives have always thrived on fear; fear of change, fear of the future, and especially fear of those who are different. They react to this fear by picking on other people; newly freed slaves, women seeking equal rights, immigrant laborers seeking better pay and now gay Americans who are simply asking for the most basic of all rights - the right to love and to be loved.
Anyone who picks on those less fortunate, or different, are narrow-minded bullies and as we all learned in grade school, bullies are cowards.
So if you want to be on the wrong side of American history and the wrong side of humanity, go ahead and call yourself a conservative. As for me, I believe that America will rediscover its great liberal tradition and once again strive to become a progressive, creative nation that stands as a beacon of hope for "the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free."