Mar 042012

imgresI cross-posted “Hate Speech at my US Post Office” to where it was selected as an “Editor’s Pick.” I described responding in alarmed kindness and signing my name. It felt kind of liberating.

It was very satisfying that a lot of “closet liberals” commented that they felt empowered. Here are some samples:

  • “Thank you for sharing this, and I have to say, you inspired me. I am a liberal amongst conservatives at my work and I usually ignore the hate-speech and brow-beating to try and get me to “see it their way.” I don’t bite, so they lose steam. I just moved to a new office and I heard my first anti-Obama joke in the new building today. I didn’t say anything. But you have just inspired me to stop being the silent liberal! I will prepare my logical retorts and be ready the next time they come around with inappropriate comments and condescending attitudes and I’ll tell ’em what’s what. Thanks again.”
  • “I did a similar thing a few years ago in a slightly less public space (the bulletin board in the break room of a large office building.) The fact that I signed my name helped other people to step forward and speak up, and the end result was that anonymous sniping was established in the office culture, for at least a few years, as a very un-cool thing.”
  • “And yes, we need to stand fast and push back against the bullying. I hope you write that column, and find there are many other people in your town who feel you speak to them and for them, too.”
  • “Too often the “other” side runs to name calling, innuendo, and outright lies to make their point. Instead of hating on someone you don’t agree with, how about talk in plain terms of what you would rather see, why and how that will help.”
  • I applaud you for speaking up and taking a stand, particularly when it may not be a popular one in your community. Hopefully, it will let other people see that they’re not alone and push them to speak up too.
  • “Living outside the U.S. for the better part of the past ten years I can tell you the rise of racism in America is extremely noticeable to those of us who do not live there, nor suffer the consequences. Name them, and shame them. That’s about all you can do.”
  • My synagogue was stricken with a swastika. We will try to set up some public education programs around it. It stinks and calls for talk, rather than anger. I say, treat it with education. Post an anti-hate poster. Set up a discussion. Write an article.
  • When Obama was about to get elected, I threw a fundraiser and posted invitations throughout my building, to attend and watch his acceptance speech. Some pinhead yuppie Libertarian spawn defaced Obama’s picture as a crude caricature of Hitler with reversed Swastikas over the invite text. A lot of folks who attended were outraged, but I told them that I wasn’t really worried about bad art. What worried me were the quiet guys with deer rifles. As much as pinheads like Rush and Newt piss me off, I still worry about the quiet guys with rifles.
  • “Liberalism is a mental disorder” is a Michael Savage saying. The author is thus likely a typical Savage fan: old white male, paranoid and resentful. Good for you for speaking up, but take care: these men are very, very angry people.

As I continue to contemplate my most recent encounter with hate, I am warmed by increasing optimism. It occurred to me that conservatism is the condition you leave and that liberalism is where you go from there. That produces a positively-trending dynamic. It can be summed up in the observation that:

”Liberals are just former conservatives who have relearned the True Meaning of Christmas.”

If you do a Google image search of “true meaning of Christmas,” you find lots of Christmas trees, mangers, and Peanuts kids. That’s level one; that’s for people who don’t look very far and don’t dig very deep.

If you’re persistent, however, you find a few images that emphasize Jesus’ expressions of love, being compassionate, doing good, teaching, serving, feeding, and healing. These are examples of, metaphorically, “opening your hand” and “giving liberally.”

There is no shame in being liberal. It is an open, joyful way of life. Liberalism was modeled, not only by Jesus, but by every person we like to admire or call “a great man.” Think Gandhi, Mother Theresa, the Buddha, Dr. King, and many others.

Liberalism is not a bad word or an embarrassment. It is not a light to be hid under a basket. Liberalism should be a light that you confidently thrust high, as an illumination in the world.


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