Words have power and are the guns and ammunition of a culture war, and America is in the middle of a culture war, between those on the left, who champion “equality” imposed by the full and unlimited authority of the government, and those on the right, who champion “liberty” governed with only so much power as to ensure the liberties of the People. It’s clear that the culture war has not been going well for us on the right.
From the late 1800’s through the 1940’s, both of the major political parties in the United States (Republican and Democrats) subscribed to a “progressive” western political ideology. The word “progressive” was embraced by all, it meant “forward thinking” and “advanced“. Words and ideas that appealed to the “collective” identity of Americans. Soon these words became the prevailing wisdom, and it was just accepted that “advanced nations” should use their political and economic advantage to the benefit of their citizens. Words like “liberty“, “enumerated powers” and “limited government” were tossed aside as things from a bygone era, quaint in its ideology.
By the 100th anniversary of James Madison’s death, the last surviving Founding Father, a long line of “progressive” presidents had already pushed through drastic political and cultural changes, expanding the executive power with a complicit Congress. Exactly the sort of changes that would have James Madison spinning in his grave. By the time Franklin D. Roosevelt implemented his “New Deal“, the fabric of the American liberty and individual “Natural Rights” were already in tatters. It wasn’t until the 1950’s when the shadow of the Soviet Union and their socialist tyranny threatened the free world that the Republican Party finally realized the importance of those “quaint values from that bygone era” and began to “conserve them” from being lost forever.
“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little
temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”
– Benjamin Franklin –
The wisest of all men once warned his followers to be wary of those who come in the likeness of a sheep but are inwardly ravenous wolves. In this we see the power of words, with clear visual metaphors and the stark implications of failing to heed the warning. That is the power of words, as well as the problem that we face. The wolves are among the sheep, and the sheep have been complicit in pulling the wool over their own eyes.
Consider for a moment all of the words that the left have employed in describing themselves: “progressive“, “socialist“, “leftist“, “democratic socialist“, and finally “liberal“. While most terms the leftists have used to describe themselves have had their time, “liberal” has stuck around. Why? The other words were often too honest and quickly had too much philosophical baggage to continue on, but “liberal“? It offers the leftist something that they could never get on their own: “credibility“.
Take just a moment to research what “liberalism” means and, more importantly, its significance to the history of the American Revolution. The principles of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, freedom of property, freedom of commerce, security of privacy, secular government, and open diplomacy with foreign nations are core values to “liberalism“. They are the values for which the Founding Fathers put at risk their lives and sacred honor. They are the values Jefferson expounded upon in the Declaration of Independence. They are the values enumerated and protected by the Bill of Rights. They are the core cultural values that conservatives seek to “conserve“.
And yet conservatives, even prominent conservatives, will use the term “liberal” as though it were an insult, even as the leftists vigorously embrace the term. Why is it that the left continues to embrace the word? Because when conservatives hurl the word “liberal” as though it were an insult, it puts us on the wrong side of the values of “liberalism“.
We are in the middle of a culture war that we are losing, and we are handing out our uniforms and ammunition to our opposition, and we are surprised that things have gone so poorly? The principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are at the core of our cultural values, yet so many conservatives continuously and willingly hand the power of that word to leftists when there is nothing “liberal” about “leftism“.
Criticize Barack Obama, and you aren’t exercising your freedom to demand redress of grievances, you are “racist“. Criticize Hillary Clinton, and you aren’t exercising your freedom of political speech in an election, you are part of the “War on Women“. Speak out against gay marriage, and you aren’t for freedom of religion, you are a “homophobe“. Disagree with ObamaCare, and you aren’t arguing for freedom of the market, you are “heartless” and “don’t care about the sick poor“. Want to abolish taxation of personal livelihoods, and you aren’t for freedom of property, you are “selfish” and “only care about the rich“. Protest against gun control, and you aren’t for protecting your Second Amendment rights, you are “promoting gun violence“.
The left doesn’t make “liberal” arguments. They make authoritarian collectivist arguments. They don’t care about the rights of the individual, they only care about the hegemony of the “collective“. Not only are the leftists not “liberal“, they are totally hostile to the principles of “liberalism” espoused by Thomas Jefferson, John Locke, and the Founding Fathers of the United States.
“So it is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you
can win a hundred battles without a single loss.” – Sun Tzu
Cultures have values at their cores, which differentiate them from other cultures, and, traditionally, national borders have been drawn between people with different cultures. This idea of cultural identity is very important to nations, as it ties all members of the nation together with common values. Without these shared core values, a schism appears in society, which naturally creates cultural strife. This schism, unless dealt with, will eventually lead to the downfall of the culture and the nation.
In the United States, there has been just such a schism forming over the past century, that finds its roots in the first question of civilization: “Where does the line exist between the security of the nation and the rights of the individual, and how much, if at all, should it encroach on the basic liberties of men and women?”
This question precipitated the American Revolutionary War, and the very founding of the United States was an answer. It was the position of the Founding Fathers that the power of the state should be pushed to the far fringes of “Natural Rights“: right to life, right to liberty, and the right to property. Thomas Jefferson, among others, believed that government should exist only in so much and only as long as it protected those rights.
Thomas Jefferson was a liberal, and so are we as conservatives. Take back our word and we take back our identity. Take back our identity, and we take back our culture. Take back our culture, and we take back our nation.
“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.“
And just for the curious, the antonym of “conservative” isn’t “liberal“. It’s “radical“. Words matter. Use them carefully.
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