Conserve What For Whom? – Liberate Whom From What? (Words in my brain again!)

With July Fourth coming up this week there’s a lot of talk about America – and that leads many people to start conversations about the coming election.  That got my brain going about language again and about the meanings we give to words. The way in which we define words is fascinating to me. I’ve written about different translations changing the way we think about things in past posts.  I started thinking about the words: “Liberal” and “Conservative”. I know that many will disagree with me and I’m happy to hear what you have to say.  I keep thinking about the way we used to associate the Southern Democrats with what would now be called the “Religious Right”. I remember studying about Calhoun’s “Cross of Gold” speech. He was a Democrat.

Then my brain went to thinking about the words themselves. Why do we use the words Liberal and Conservative to be THE words used to describe what the political parties are about?  These words certainly have some function; but I’ve been hearing these words used oddly.

  • The word “liberal” implies to me that one wants to “liberate” people from something. Couldn’t one say, however, that a person might want to be liberated from having the government decide how they’re going to take care of their body? I’m not speaking for or against health care. It’s the word that’s getting to me.  If they’re not hurting anyone else, why can’t people decide how they want to best take care of their bodies?
  • The word Conservative implies to me that one wants to “conserve” certain things.  In our country we speak of conserving the ideals that the founders of the country set up. These things were individual freedoms. Hopefully the things they wish to conserve are freedoms. The Republican Party was the backing for abolishing slavery and thus conserve individual freedoms as promised by the founders of our country.

These are both very decent words – if words can be said to be decent.
I couldn’t understand why a man, who was sitting at the next table in a restaurant I was dining at with a friend, said to the fellow he was with, “Are you one of those “conservative types? I don’t think we have a deal.” In the same way I couldn’t understand another man at another table, that very same evening (if you can believe this), when he said to a woman I think was his date, “I’m a very solid and real person. I can’t relate to those flaky liberals!” My heart went out to those poor words!  As I say in the title of this post: “Liberate Whom From What? – and – Conserve What For Whom?”

When I graduated from Cornell I was quite interested in politics. I’d been President of New Utrecht High School in Brooklyn during the fall semester of my senior year.  John F. Kennedy won his first election for president during fall of my Senior Year at Cornell. I was one year too young to vote. I was just 20 in during the fall of 1960. At that time the voting age was 21.   Nelson Rockefeller came up to school to speak. I shall never forget seeing him totally swerve the energy of, what looked like a thousand or more students outside on the Quad in front of the Straight! Just thinking of those days stimulates my breathing, my tear ducts and my soul.

(“The Straight” was how we referred to Willard Straight Hall, the schools big social gathering building. It’s beautifully situated next to “Libe (Library) Tower” on the magnificent Arts Quadrangle (Quad).

At any rate, I was amazed at how simple and logical what he said was. I was amazed because he was a Republican candidate and my family had always voted Democrat. My grandfather, as I may have mentioned had been to the White House to speak with FDR about handling labor relations question during the 30s. I’ve already mentioned that Secretary of Labor, Frances Perkins told me how mush she admired my granddad. I’m not saying that “The New Deal” wasn’t needed at the time it was instituted. I’m merely pointing out that I’d never even listened to a Republican before. Rockefeller spoke clearly and brilliantly. Economic conditions in 1960 were different from those in the mid 30s.  The New Deal was set up in a different time. It’s as though I’d still be taking a potent medicine – that could have side effects when not needed – for an illness that had been cured.  I was a year too young to vote in 1960. It was before the 26th Amendment was passed which changed the “Voting Age” to 18.  Being a New Yorker, I don’t like to identify with one party. I was nuts about Democrat, Harry Truman, with whom I got to spend an afternoon at Cornell in the spring of 1960 and I think I might well have voted for Nelson Rockefeller in the fall of 1960 had I been old enough to vote. I guess I’m both conservative and liberal.

I do believe I’m blessed to live in The United States and I love the July Fourth holiday!  I wish you all THE best July Fourth you’ve had yet!

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Published in: on July 1, 2012 at 11:34 pm  Leave a Comment  

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