I’m liberal in the apolitical sense of the term: “Open to new behavior or opinions and willing to discard traditional values.”

I’m also liberal in two of its political meanings: “Favoring maximum individual liberty in political and social reform,” and “Favorable to or respectful of individual rights and freedoms.”

I’m also theologically liberal: “Regarding many traditional beliefs as dispensable, invalidated by modern thought, or liable to change.”

I don’t recognize myself or my friends and family in the definitions of “liberal” that I find at self-described conservative websites: “A liberal is someone who craves an increase in government spending, power, and control.” I also don’t recognize anything that follows the words “Typical liberal…” as describing any of us.

Anyone who can’t talk to me like I’m a person, who can only see me as the representative of a group they’ve defined in their own mind, can’t be communicated with. Nothing I say will be heard as a thought that comes from a human being. It will all just sound like propaganda emanating from a bipedal loudspeaker.

Some of us volunteer to be bipedal loudspeakers for “their group’s” propaganda. I don’t.

The trick, for me, while looking at someone, is to see two things simultaneously: Any group a person wishes to be associated with, which includes the history of that group, as far as I can know it; and how the person treats others. My behavior toward that person will vary, depending on how sensitively I can manage to navigate between those two things.

Call yourself whatever you want. I don’t call myself a liberal, and I’d prefer you didn’t call me one, either. If you want to be called something in particular—liberal, conservative, queer, straight—fine with me.

If I refuse to call you that, and instead lump you in with a group that I imagine, I have distanced myself from humanity. Both my own and yours.


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