Thursday, January 15, 2004


posted by Michael Piwonka 9:18 PM
I'm intrigued by the practice in American politics of demeaning one's ideological opposites by categorizing them as either a liberal or a conversative. When left-wing and right-wing adversaries debate the topic du jour, they can always fall back on name-calling when they run out of intelligent arguments. When all else fails, just rely on insults.

The intriguing part of calling people either a conservative or a liberal is that I can never understand what is so insulting about either term. Perhaps I just don't understand what the words mean; maybe I can't appreciate the nuances of the words.

So I did only thing I could think of: I looked them up to see exactly what they meant.

Being conservative means that you favor traditional views and values, and are generally reluctant to change. That doesn't sound so bad to me.

Being liberal means that you're not limited to or by established views. That doesn't seem so bad either.

While I can see how the two terms differ, I'm not sure that I can appreciate the emotion the terms invoke by those that use them. You'd think that calling someone one or the other would be like using a racial slur when you feel the venom with which they're used.

From my perspective, the biggest difference between using a racial slur and using liberal/conservative labels is that former invokes emotion in the target racial group(s), while the latter invokes more emotion in the person using the label than in the target. I don't think that either conservatives or liberals get very upset when they are pigeonholed as such; in fact, they're probably proud of their respective positions.

But I think that the terms have become galvanizing battle cries for each side to use against the other. They can work themselves into a frenzy by using these ultimate insults.

It's a sad commentary on the human psyche, how we have to make ourselves feel better by insulting others that don't share our views. But the funny part is that we use such innocuous terms to insult each other. Very peculiar.


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