Over the past several years, and even more since the most recent election campaign, we have seen many protests by “The Left” – people who call themselves “liberal”. Many of these protests have devolved into violence.
These protests, such as the one at Berkeley the other day, protesting a speech by Milo Yiannopoulos, turned into a riot, complete with protesters smashing windows, setting fires, and physically assaulting people who simply wanted to hear a lecture. Anti-Trump protests and rallies involved breaking windows of banks and businesses, setting cars on fire, attacking Trump supporters with pepper spray, and more.
We have seen numerous instances where anti-Israel demonstrators have shouted down speakers, assaulted Jews on campuses when they set up displays or tables to talk positively about Israel, and physically threatened or committed violence, usually without consequences from the Universities.
What strikes me most about this phenomenon, other than the fact that those rioting to suppress the rights of people to express their views freely or to listen freely to those views, is that the definitions of “Conservative” and “Liberal” have flip-flopped.
To me, “liberalism” has traditionally been characterized by an openness to new ideas, to exchange of thought, to dialogue, and an acceptance of the fact that different people think differently, and how wonderful it is that we can talk and work out our differences.
“Conservatism”, for me, has been the concept that change should come more slowly and carefully. It is a tradition of preserving values and rights, and a willingness to change IF change can be shown to be beneficial. It generally carries a connotation of acceptance of people based on ability, contribution, and ignores race, ethnicity, religion, and gender as irrelevant – if you work hard, you can achieve anything.
For reference, I am pasting the Merriam-Webster definitions of “Liberal” and “Conservative” below. Generally, as you can see, my own perceptions match with the dictionary definitions.
Definition of conservative
2a : of or relating to a philosophy of conservatism b capitalized : of or constituting a political party professing the principles of conservatism: such as (1) : of or constituting a party of the United Kingdom advocating support of established institutions (2) : progressive conservative
3a : tending or disposed to maintain existing views, conditions, or institutions : traditional<conservative policies>b : marked by moderation or caution <a conservative estimate>c : marked by or relating to traditional norms of taste, elegance, style, or manners <a conservative suit> <a conservative architectural style>
Definition of liberal
1a : of, relating to, or based on the liberal arts <liberal education>b archaic : of or befitting a man of free birth
2a : marked by generosity : openhanded <a liberal giver>b : given or provided in a generous and openhanded way <a liberal meal>c : ample, full
3: obsolete :
lacking moral restraint : licentious
4: not literal or strict : loose <a liberal translation>
5: broad-minded; especially : not bound by authoritarianism, orthodoxy, or traditional forms
6a : of, favoring, or based upon the principles of liberalism
What is interesting in all this is that, while “Liberalism” is supposed to be the realm of the tolerant, what we’re seeing is an absolute hatred and intolerance for any views different from these “liberals”. It is, in reality, the most “Illiberal” behavior possible, with “liberals” using violence to suppress the free speech of others, and justifying that violence by saying things like “well, it’s hate speech, so it’s our responsibility to stamp it out”.
The problem with this view is, obviously, that free speech is free speech, and in this country, we all have to right to freely express our views.
We also have the right to protest those views, just as many thousands of people show up to protest every KKK rally or event. We, as a nation, do not like bigotry, racism, inequality, or discrimination.
But, when, instead of peacefully protesting, or engaging in dialogue to try to reach a consensus, we violently suppress the speech of others, how is that “liberal” behavior?
We are not required to like what others say. We are not required to listen to what they say. We ARE required to allow them the freedom to say it.
Our concept of “liberalism” has turned into a concept of self-righteousness, coupled with a fanatic intolerance and disregard for the rights of others. It has devolved into a complete unwillingness to even listen to what others have to say, or to honestly consider that the views of others might just have some rational basis or be honestly held without malice. With the new “liberals”, it’s all about “my way or the highway”.
That is an amazing transformation in a country that has gone to war several times to protect the freedoms of its citizens and the citizens of other countries.
“Liberals” screech that we, as a society, are intolerant, privileged, racists and sexists, and they have some higher moral authority and the right to “stick it to us”.
I think those who are now out in force, in the streets and on campuses around the country, who believe it’s their right to violently prevent people from exercising their rights to free speech, are in for a very rude awakening. In a way, it is amusing, since the new “liberals” are the ones out there suppressing different perspectives, while they accuse “conservatives” of doing that. But the reality is, the “liberals” are the ones rioting, not the “conservatives”.
There are many millions of people who completely reject this new “liberal” philosophy, and my perception is that they are reaching the breaking point. That does not bode well for the “new liberals”.
As a society, we will not tolerate intolerance, and the “new liberals” are the epitome of that. They have evolved into exactly what they claim “Conservatives” are – intolerant, resistant to dialogue and change, and suppressive and dismissive of anything that does not fit their narrative or differs from their narrow perspectives.
This country was not founded on the principles that “Only I can speak. If you say something I don’t like, I will kill you.” It was founded on the principle that EVERYONE has the right to freedom of expression and speech, not matter how odious the rest of us may find the content. “Liberals” would do well to remember that.