What does it mean to be liberal? I am only curious because I see so many opinions here and at Kos from people who are liberals, and in many ways they conflict. I’ll tell you what it means to me. First I want to tell you a story:
WWII: My family were mostly Marxists, intellectuals, working people, with one or two hard core Stalinists. One family member ran off with a SS soldier – but that’s another story. My great uncle, a decorated soldier from WWI, who was severely shell shocked by the experience and was a drifter who stayed with various family members at different times or else in the park, was picked up by the Nazi’s and never heard from again. My father was conscripted into and later managed to desert from the army. There was a lot of hunger and a lot of hiding. At the end of it all the Russians were the first to arrive. After months of hiding in the basements because of the bombing the soldiers finally came. My father (17 at the time) was pinned against the wall with a gun to his head, while the rest of the family had to hand over everything they owned. Then there was looting and rape throughout the city. When the Americans finally came they were generous and civilized. (Well, they paid for their sex with food, anyway.) My father became staunchly pro American after this, even marrying one. He gave up his Communist roots and became a liberal.
I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s in a carefree age (where I was), and for the life of me I never understood what he meant by feeling a collective guilt for what happened at the time. I’d sit up with him until late into the night arguing that he was not to blame for the murder, mayhem and misery caused by the Nazi’s – he barely survived himself. He tried to explain to me that when the society you are in devalues the life of a group of people, in hindsight there is much guilt and shame for the things you didn’t do. Even though this war doesn’t affect my neighbors, I think I finally get it. After all I contribute to this war, albeit unwillingly.
So, in a nutshell, to me being liberal means to value people above all else.