To the editor:
I share Bob Hardina’s (“On being (a) liberal,” Sept. 1) identification as a liberal, with the dictionary definition as a person “favoring progress and reform, as in politics, religion, etc. … open-minded or tolerant, characterized by generosity and willingness to give … ” (or at least I hope so). The transformation of “liberal” into something to apologize for is baffling to me and needs to be countered and never apologized for.
But ever since I first heard the 1882 Gilbert and Sullivan lyric that every child “is either a little liberal or else a little conservative,” I’ve tried to figure out what was, is, meant.
You could be liberal about some things and conservative about others: liberal about race, religion, class, conservative about the environment, for instance. Or conservative about social behavior and liberal about trade (which was much the early meaning of “liberal”, as in “free trade!”) You could want to conserve “business as usual” and want to be liberal about environmental regulations (that we don’t need them). You could even be a libertarian! It just depends what you want to protect, or not.
I’ve come to think that perhaps the clusters of liberal and conservative thought might come down to the breadth of one’s concern and sense of responsibility: that the conservative limits responsibility to those closest to self: family, own community, nation, and business, class, and race, while the liberal tries to encompasss much broader (and sometimes unachievable) regions of concern, for all people, of different class, gender, race, creed, sometimes, but not always, including the environment. Interestingly, concern for the environment used to be largely a “conservative” (and Republican) concern, but has not stood firm against the “conservatism” of industry.
I ask that we become truly conservative of the earth’s environment, and more broadly responsible to its people and other species.