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I’m a Liberal and I’m Not Afraid to Say It

Lisa Zheutlin

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[ot-caption title=”Liberal. (via beingliberal.org)”]

As a 17 year-old, social-media-using girl on the cusp of voting in the 2016 presidential elections, it is hard not to become involved in politics. Facebook, social media platform turned baby boomer Bible, is a hotbed of political opinion, beckoning you to respond and get trapped in a comment thread of opposing views. With social media dominating everyday life, how do we, as teenagers, overcome these pressures to conform to social norms and make our own decisions regarding the future of our country? [spacer height=”10px” id=”2″]

For those who know me, it is evident that I am very interested in politics. I am a liberal, and for some students at this school, that word carries with it a negative connotation, causing me to be slightly careful about how I showcase my political opinions. But why should I be? Why should I be reluctant to broadcast my alliance with a group whose foundation is rooted in, among other things, the acceptance of women and minorities? This could be due to the pressures to follow the crowd, where at this school the crowd is conservative. But, I think it goes beyond this innate desire to belong, and my trepidation is instead rooted in the word liberal’s negative association.  This springs from the lack of understanding regarding the true definition of the word “liberal.” Just as the word “feminism,” for example, has struggled to break down the preconceptions of its own definition, “liberal” is in a similar situation.  Quite possibly the reason one hesitates to use the label “liberal” is to avoid the inevitable long discussion in which she must explain what the word liberal really means, which is the openness to new opinions and straying from traditional values. When interpreting this definition, the latter part is what is so divisive, as conservatives pride themselves in their traditional ways. But when taking into account the “liberal” idea that we should be open to change, it would seem that most people would be open to this, if not in the realm of politics, then at least in their personal lives. New schools, new homes, new jobs all require an individual to embrace change, yet why are we so resistant to it politically? [spacer height=”10px” id=”2″]

Gun control, gay rights, and women’s rights, for example, also involve welcoming change, yet are much more contentious topics. And yes, there can be self-proclaimed conservatives who support gay and women’s rights, but then how does said conservative endorse a Republican presidential candidate, all of whom do not believe in the legalization of gay marriage and all of whom support defunding Planned Parenthood? Can one really be pro-gay rights but support an anti-gay rights candidate? First off, the Supreme Court has ruled that gay marriage is legal, so let’s stop trying to take away the rights of the gay community, and instead endorse the “liberal agenda” of promoting marriage equality. [spacer height=”10px” id=”2″]

As for defunding Planned Parenthood on the basis that it is an organization that provides abortions and supports a woman’s right to choose, let’s remember what Planned Parenthood also does. The federal government provides millions of dollars to this organization annually to allow Planned Parenthood to provide sexually transmitted disease testing, screening for cervical and breast cancer, and access to contraception. According to USA Today, “[Planned Parenthood] is barred by federal law from using taxpayer money to pay for abortions.” This means that not one cent from a pro-life taxpayer will be going towards abortions, which Planned Parenthood only uses three percent of its resources for anyway. So yes, liberals stand with Planned Parenthood, and I think many others would, too, if they realized that 50 percent of its resources are used to prevent diseases and save lives. [spacer height=”10px” id=”2″]

Then, there is the erroneous combination of liberalism and feminism into one big hate package. In an article titled “Conservatives are the Real Women’s Rights Advocates,” the following claims about liberalism and feminism are made: “Conservatives treat ‘women’s rights’ differently…that men and women should treat one another with respect, not with the utter contempt that feminists have for men…Because one thing you often notice about feminists is how cold and unlovable that they are…Because liberalism is a materialistic ideology that is based solely on the acquisition of power and wealth.” Where to begin with these misinformed statements? First, feminism does not imply liberalism and vice versa. And most importantly, feminists do not have “utter contempt” for men; the definition of a feminist is someone who believes that women and men should have the same opportunities. Next, the claim that feminists are “cold and unlovable” is offensive and this generalization is baseless, to say the least. And the accusation that “liberalism…is based solely on the acquisition of power and wealth” is just incorrect. No evidence will be found to back the claim that liberalism is based in greed, considering that liberals believe in higher taxes on the rich and the idea of the social safety net, which is based on helping those who, for example, cannot afford medical care. And no, this is not going to create a socialist, welfare state in which the low-income bracket becomes lazy and overly dependent on the government.  When taking all of these points into consideration, of course I feel that “liberal” should have a positive connotation and yes, I pride myself in the liberal defense of gays, women, and minorities. [spacer height=”10px” id=”2″]

Now, you may object and say that my malleable teenage mind is going to blindly follow my parents’ political views, just as Gallup’s poll indicated that 71 percent of teens say their political ideology is about the same as their parents’ views. But consider this: those other 29 percent of teens are actually capable of forming their own opinions on politics, despite parental influence. What I feel is really the case in my age group is a teen registering with his or her family’s political party, but actually identifying with the views of another: a classic case of the uninformed voter. What may be worse, yet more common, than the uninformed voter is the misinformed voter, brainwashed by social media zealots who post fallacious political jargon for the world to see. But am I really qualified to be making these statements? What makes me, a mere junior in high school, resistant to this pervasive political propaganda? The truthful answer is that I am not. But I do tend to surround myself with a liberal newsfeed, so to speak, and I am not above defriending someone who posts a supportive statement for a certain candidate leading the conservative movement. This is not to say that I am only engaged with like-minded individuals, as I will watch the Republican debates when they are on, though more as a reassurance of my leftist position.  Regardless, it is vital for every voting and non-voting individual to look at both sides to discover which party their ideology matches up with the most. [spacer height=”10px” id=”2″]

So, after this, what can we do to lessen the political divide in our country? It is hard to say, and this year of elections appears to be the most divisive, as social media does not seem to help unite the two sides of the spectrum.  But, it is important to note that in the contentious state our country is in right now, individuals from both parties are guilty of having tunnel vision and refusing to see the other side.  What is essential, though, is to be able to see the other side and understand its views. Before one joins or disavows a party and endorses a candidate, it is, quite frankly, essential to learn what that party supports, and every individual needs to do this on their own, even though the desire to follow the crowd can become overwhelming. Once this is done, as I have learned, why not embrace it? I am a liberal. I support a woman’s right to choose, I support marriage equality, I support universal health care, and I support gun control. So, I repeat: I am a liberal, and I am most certainly not afraid to say it. [spacer height=”20px”]

Sources: USA Today, News-Basics, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, Quora, BallotPedia, Washington Post [spacer height=”5px” id=”3″]

Photo Source: beingliberal.org

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I’m a Liberal and I’m Not Afraid to Say It