"LIberal" has many meanings and is a proud designation...

When did the word “Liberal” become an insult?

“Liberal” comes from the Latin root “liber” meaning “free.”  Liberty has the same root.  On-line dictionaries suggest such definitions as “favorable to progress or reform in politics or religion; not limited by established, traditional, orthodox, authoritarian views, dogmas, attitudes.”  Some synonyms are “enlightened, tolerant, flexible, catholic, rational, humane, unbiased, unbigoted, unprejudiced, intelligent, magnanimous, generous, benevolent, expansive, altruistic, advanced, open-minded.”

I thought those were admirable characteristics…until I spoke on the phone with two distant relatives in Colorado.  One is from my side, the other from my husband’s side.  They have never met.

Both have fairly hissed at me, “I suppose you are a Liberal?”   My reply at the time was “I don’t like labels and I try not to put people into boxes.”  But time has revealed the divisions and differences in people.  Based on the definitions and synonyms I have listed, I hope I succeed at being a Liberal! 

One of these relatives is the widow of an Air Force officer, who retired after 30 years, then took employment selling equipment to the Air Force.   The other relative is divorced from an abuser and now disabled due to an auto accident.

Both live on government benefits.

Both are hostile to government.

The military retirement allows the widow to live “high on the hog,” as my grandfather would say.  In addition to her widow’s pension, she has medical benefits, PX benefits, and lower car insurance rates.  She has a new four bedroom home in an “exclusive” (her word) neighborhood and travels abroad and in the US.  She also has property in Minnesota.  She was a high school guidance counselor, so she also has her own retirement from the state of Colorado.

The other woman is in a wheel chair and lives with her daughter.  Prior to a car accident, she was laid off from an air line, then took work delivering early morning news papers, and during the day, pizzas, until the accident made that work impossible.

Two very different situations and two very different life styles, but they hold similar views. 

Both are hostile to “liberals.”  Both are hostile to Obama: the one who lives on disability calls him “a communist who wants to take from the rich and give to the poor.”  The widow calls him “a socialist” and nearly foams at the mouth with rage over the thought of single payer health care.  Her expressed view is “I do not want to pay for people who don’t take care of themselves.”

This attitude leaves me puzzled as she drinks daily.   Both have their health care provided by the government.   Why are they entitled while railing against “entitlements”?

I do not want to pay for war.  The Military-Industrial Complex that President/General Eisenhower warned against has allowed the widow to “live high on the hog.”  She does not object to bombs that kill children, but objects to health care for all that might keep sick children alive.  How does one believe a child with a brain tumor is guilty of not taking care of herself?   

The disabled woman talks like a John Bircher.  The founder of the John Birch Society was the father of the billionaire Koch others who spend billions to undermine the Affordable Care Act, Social Security, the minimum wage, and anything that benefits the middle class workers.  

My head spins as I try to understand how those who use tax-payer paid benefits wish to deny them to other people.  These views seem to be irrational, dim-witted, mean-spirited, and selfish.  "Do unto others."  Nope.  More "I've got mine."

Rational, enlightened, humane, generous--- if I can live up to those standards most of the time, I am proud to be a Liberal