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Monday, July 12, 2010

"I Want my Word Back" revisited


A number of years ago, I wrote this article about my feelings vis-a-vis my being an unabashed Liberal but still supporting Israel. These feelings are even stronger now than they were then, so I'm reprinting my own article:

On Election Day in the United States I started thinking about the evolution of the word "liberal". When I was younger (during the Vietnam War era), it meant that you cared about people who were persecuted. It meant you supported women's rights and Gay rights and Black equality, like the overthrow of the racist apartheid laws of South Africa and the equally racist Jim Crow laws of the southern US states.

But most of all, it meant that you supported Israel, that Phoenix of a country that bloomed and blossomed from the ashes of the Holocaust, that defended itself several times, David-like, against the Goliaths of 20-plus Arab countries backed by Soviet weapons.

Now, people use the word "liberal" to describe the people who call anything done by the most democratic countries in the world "imperialistic" and who approve of anything done by "third world" countries. And the two countries they criticize the most are the United States and Israel. These are the two countries in the world that are the most democratic, that are the most concerned about liberal causes (even when we had an ultra-conservative president, by US standards, like George W. Bush).

In the US and in Israel, women have the most rights, have the most open to them as far as jobs, lifestyles and reproductive choices, among other things. In the US and Israel, the biggest fights for Gays are Gay marriages in the US and Gay rights parades in Israel. Keep in mind that while these are important fights and important benchmarks of liberalism and tolerance, this is nothing like what women and Gays are fighting for in Muslim countries (assuming they are fighting at all). In Muslim countries, Gays are killed for nothing more than being Gay. In Muslim countries, women are killed for nothing more than trying to assert themselves.

Keep in mind also that the US and Israel probably have the two most diverse populations ethnically. In both of these countries, Blacks work side by side with Caucasians, Asians, mixed-race people and any other combination you can find. In both of these countries, native-born citizens work side by side with immigrants from a variety of countries. I remember when I was young, people would ask you where your family came from, because outside of Native Americans, everyone in the US came from immigrant stock. This pattern exists also in Israel. Israel takes in people from any country and is very careful to protect everyone's religious and social freedom.

Muslim countries, on the other hand, are populated by largely monolithic people. Though their populations are far larger than Israel's, it is extremely rare to find non-Muslims in most of these countries.

So, who decided that progressiveness demands loving oppressive regimes that murder civilians with regularity, especially when they murder civilians of a country that only wants to live in peace with them on a tiny strip of land far smaller than almost every one of their 20-plus countries? Who decided that it was noble to support countries that tyrannize women, Gays, Blacks, Christians and Jews, Asians, Indians, and "fill in your own example here"? And who decided that people who do this are "liberal"? I certainly didn't.

I want my word back. The word "liberal" used to mean something noble, something ethical. The word "liberal" used to represent all that was decent and altruistic in this world. When did it become synonymous with people who hate? When was it co-opted by lovers of murderers, haters of Jews, supporters of totalitarian, terrorist regimes? When did the haters of the world steal my word? When did phony liberals decide that the ideology of oppression versus freedom was more important than the ethics of liberty and tolerance versus domination, cruelty, tyranny, repression, and subjugation?

And when will they realize that the world we all should want, the world we all should strive for, is the world of the US and Israel? It is the world of people who were oppressed, people who were tyrannized, but who are making a new, broadminded world order, accepting others who were also oppressed for their beliefs or skin color or national origin or gender or sexual orientation, where all have the opportunity to live a good life in good homes, with schools, jobs, etc., and not in the squalor that Shari'a-inspired regimes keep their people, in order to keep them from knowing the truth.

I understand why Palestinian people hate. This is all they are taught from the womb. I understand why people raised in these societies hate. What I don't understand is why people brought up in the civilized world - who see how far liberalism and liberal thought and liberal philosophy have taken the US and Israel, how wonderfully different this world is thanks to the democratic revolution - embrace hate and call it "liberal".

Cheshvan 19, 5767 / 10 November 06