I still clearly remember sitting in Civics class in Junior High School with a very young Mr. Woodland teaching us about Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives. He explained how the liberal Democrats were the party of change, with new and better ways of doing government, while the Republicans were conservative old men (and women) who were stuck in their ways and opposed any change. I was young and impressionable, and I certainly didn’t want to be one of those old, conservative Republicans! An objective teacher he was not.
My college roommate my freshman year was a very active member of the Young Republicans. I was still quite naive about Republicans and Democrats in general, still impressionable and easily influenced by anyone who knew more than I did, by anyone who made a strong case for their political views. Despite Mr. Woodland, I had registered as a Republican when I turned 18, and my views had decidedly become more conservative by the time I got to college, so my roommate’s views were not incompatible with the direction I was moving.
Thirty-some years of running my own businesses confirmed my Republican conservative viewpoint for the most part. I even became active in local politics as a Republican and served two terms on Perkasie Borough Council. I am still a registered Republican. But as I’ve grown older, the more problems I’ve had reconciling my political views with both Christianity and my observations of the real world. The last nearly four years has made it even more difficult to align my political views with either Republicans or Democrats, with either conservatives or liberals.
Basically, we all want pretty much the same things in life. We want freedom. We want the opportunity to become prosperous. We don’t want to suffer or see our fellow human beings suffering. We want good health, for both ourselves and our children. We want to be safe, locally and nationally. The question is how we achieve those goals. Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, clearly have different paths even though their goals are similar.
Yesterday I saw a post making the rounds on Facebook entitled, “I’m a Liberal.” It was attributed to Ron Howard, famous Hollywood actor and director, but upon a little research I discovered it wasn’t written by him at all, but instead by a prolific author currently living in the state of Washington, Lori Gallagher Witt. The Facebook post attributing it to Howard dated it in January of this year, but Lori actually wrote and published it in January 2018 (the original article is easy to find on her Facebook profile if you search for it).
I exchanged several short messages with her yesterday and she gave me permission to publish her original post here, with correct attribution, of course. Surprisingly, to me, at least, is that her original post isn’t too much different from the version being circulated on Facebook, although the Facebook version added paragraphs on gun control and women’s rights that were not in her original. To my knowledge, no one knows who originally stole her article and published it under Howard’s name — it almost certainly was not Ron Howard.
Anyway, I was so impressed with the article, it made me rethink some of my values and consider just how conservative or liberal I am. I don’t have the answer to that yet, except to say that I’m clearly not totally in either camp. I think there is a middle ground, but for myself I’m still working on finding exactly where that middle ground is. It’s definitely a little more to the left than I previously believed it to be. I can’t find a lot wrong with how she defines what being a liberal means to her.
Here is her original post, “I’m a Liberal.”
January 7, 2018
An open letter to friends and family who are/were shocked to discover I’m a liberal…
I’m a liberal, I’ve always been a liberal, but that doesn’t mean what a lot of you apparently think it does.
Some of you suspected. Some of you were shocked. Many of you have known me for years, even the majority of my life. We either steadfastly avoided political topics, or I carefully steered conversations away from the more incendiary subjects in the name of keeping the peace. “I’m a liberal” isn’t really something you broadcast in social circles where “the liberals” can’t be said without wrinkling one’s nose.
But then the 2016 election happened, and staying quiet wasn’t an option anymore. Since then, I’ve received no shortage of emails and comments from people who were shocked, horrified, disappointed, disgusted, or otherwise displeased to realize I am *wrinkles nose* a liberal. Yep. I’m one of those bleeding heart commies who hates anyone who’s white, straight, or conservative, and who wants the government to dictate everything you do while taking your money and giving it to people who don’t work.
Or am I?
Let’s break it down, shall we? Because quite frankly, I’m getting a little tired of being told what I believe and what I stand for. Spoiler alert: Not every liberal is the same, though the majority of liberals I know think along roughly these same lines.
- I believe a country should take care of its weakest members. A country cannot call itself civilized when its children, disabled, sick, and elderly are neglected. Period.
- I believe healthcare is a right, not a privilege. Somehow that’s interpreted as “I believe Obamacare is the end-all, be-all.” This is not the case. I’m fully aware that the ACA has problems, that a national healthcare system would require everyone to chip in, and that it’s impossible to create one that is devoid of flaws, but I have yet to hear an argument against it that makes “let people die because they can’t afford healthcare” a better alternative. I believe healthcare should be far cheaper than it is, and that everyone should have access to it. And no, I’m not opposed to paying higher taxes in the name of making that happen.
- I believe education should be affordable and accessible to everyone. It doesn’t necessarily have to be free (though it works in other countries so I’m mystified as to why it can’t work in the US), but at the end of the day, there is no excuse for students graduating college saddled with five- or six-figure debt.
- I don’t believe your money should be taken from you and given to people who don’t want to work. I have literally never encountered anyone who believes this. Ever. I just have a massive moral problem with a society where a handful of people can possess the majority of the wealth while there are people literally starving to death, freezing to death, or dying because they can’t afford to go to the doctor. Fair wages, lower housing costs, universal healthcare, affordable education, and the wealthy actually paying their share would go a long way toward alleviating this. Somehow believing that makes me a communist.
- I don’t throw around “I’m willing to pay higher taxes” lightly. I’m self-employed, so I already pay a shitload of taxes. If I’m suggesting something that involves paying more, that means increasing my already eye-watering tax bill. I’m fine with paying my share as long as it’s actually going to something besides lining corporate pockets or bombing other countries while Americans die without healthcare.
- I believe companies should be required to pay their employees a decent, livable wage. Somehow this is always interpreted as me wanting burger flippers to be able to afford a penthouse apartment and a Mercedes. What it actually means is that no one should have to work three full-time jobs just to keep their head above water. Restaurant servers should not have to rely on tips, multibillion dollar companies should not have employees on food stamps, workers shouldn’t have to work themselves into the ground just to barely make ends meet, and minimum wage should be enough for someone to work 40 hours and live.
- I am not anti-Christian. I have no desire to stop Christians from being Christians, to close churches, to ban the Bible, to forbid prayer in school, etc. (BTW, prayer in school is NOT illegal; compulsory prayer in school is – and should be – illegal) All I ask is that Christians recognize my right to live according to my beliefs. When I get pissed off that a politician is trying to legislate Scripture into law, I’m not “offended by Christianity” — I’m offended that you’re trying to force me to live by your religion’s rules. You know how you get really upset at the thought of Muslims imposing Sharia [law] on you? That’s how I feel about Christians trying to impose biblical law on me. Be a Christian. Do your thing. Just don’t force it on me or mine.
- I don’t believe LGBT people should have more rights than you. I just believe we should have the same rights as you.
- I don’t believe illegal immigrants should come to America and have the world at their feet, especially since THIS ISN’T WHAT THEY DO (spoiler: undocumented immigrants are ineligible for all those programs they’re supposed to be abusing, and if they’re “stealing” your job it’s because your employer is hiring illegally). I’m not opposed to deporting people who are here illegally, but I believe there are far more humane ways to handle undocumented immigration than our current practices (i.e., detaining children, splitting up families, ending DACA, etc.).
- I believe we should take in refugees, or at the very least not turn them away without due consideration. Turning thousands of people away because a terrorist might slip through is inhumane, especially when we consider what has happened historically to refugees who were turned away (see: MS St. Louis). If we’re so opposed to taking in refugees, maybe we should consider not causing them to become refugees in the first place. Because we’re fooling ourselves if we think that somewhere in the chain of events leading to these people becoming refugees, there isn’t a line describing something the US did.
- I don’t believe the government should regulate everything, but since greed is such a driving force in our country, we NEED regulations to prevent cut corners, environmental destruction, tainted food/water, unsafe materials in consumable goods or medical equipment, etc. It’s not that I want the government’s hands in everything — I just don’t trust people trying to make money to ensure that their products/practices/etc. are actually SAFE. Is the government devoid of shadiness? Of course not. But with those regulations in place, consumers have recourse if they’re harmed and companies are liable for medical bills, environmental cleanup, etc. Just kind of seems like common sense when the alternative to government regulation is letting companies bring their bottom line into the equation.
- I believe our current administration is fascist. Not because I dislike them or because I’m butthurt over an election, but because I’ve spent too many years reading and learning about the Third Reich to miss the similarities. Not because any administration I dislike must be Nazis, but because things are actually mirroring authoritarian and fascist regimes of the past.
- I believe the systemic racism and misogyny in our society is much worse than many people think, and desperately needs to be addressed. Which means those with privilege — white, straight, male, economic, etc — need to start listening, even if you don’t like what you’re hearing, so we can start dismantling everything that’s causing people to be marginalized.
- I believe in so-called political correctness. Not because everyone is a delicate snowflake, but because as Maya Angelou put it, when we know better, we do better. When someone tells you that a term or phrase is more accurate/less hurtful than the one you’re using, you now know better. So why not do better? How does it hurt you to NOT hurt another person? Your refusal to adjust your vocabulary in the name of not being an asshole kind of makes YOU the snowflake.
- I believe in funding sustainable energy, including offering education to people currently working in coal or oil so they can change jobs. There are too many sustainable options available for us to continue with coal and oil. Sorry, billionaires. Maybe try investing in something else.
I think that about covers it. Bottom line is that I’m a liberal because I think we should take care of each other. That doesn’t mean you should work 80 hours a week so your lazy neighbor can get all your money. It just means I don’t believe there is any scenario in which preventable suffering is an acceptable outcome as long as money is saved.
So, I’m a liberal.
©2018 Lori Gallagher Witt. Feel free to share, but please give me credit, and if you add or change anything, please note accordingly.