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Will the Real American Liberal Please Stand Up

For those of you that inexplicably have an insatiable need to boil everything down to a couple of simple alternatives, this column’s for you. If you must throw names like “liberal” about as if it’s a naughty word, have fun with this one. In the 50’s and early 60’s, it was one of TV’s most popular game shows. Bud Collyer was the host in 1956, then Gary Moore. It ran on and off until 2002. To Tell the Truth had a panel of four celebrities who questioned three contestants. One of the contestants was obligated to tell the truth while the other two could lie and fabricate stories to their heart’s content. It was sort of the precursor to the modern political campaign. The object was to select the person telling the truth.

Let’s play a version of the game where you’re the panel and a friend of mine is the contestant. I’ll describe the man; you tell me whether he’s a liberal or a conservative. Shall we begin?

Clue #1: He drinks Savignon Blanc, eats arugula, drinks espresso, is highly educated, well read, has traveled the world and is an expansive thinker. Sounds suspicious already. Liberal or conservative?

Clue #2: The man has always had a rebellious streak. A number of years ago, he actually took up arms against those he considered his oppressors and fought for his freedom and his country’s independence. The “coalition forces” he opposed included Great Britain and the United States. Liberal or conservative?

Clue #3: The man is the creator of a program intended to help poor families, mostly Hispanic, get their feet on the ground and build better and more stable lives in a major American city. Liberal or conservative?

Clue #4: My friend started a program whereby many of these Hispanic families receive free food. He believes it’s hard enough for them to earn a living and providing free food can be done in a cost effective fashion. Liberal or conservative?

Clue #5: This man has worked with creative approaches to ridding previously a gang infested neighborhood of violence, drugs and gang influence. He does this even though he doesn’t live in the neighborhood. He does it because he believes it’s the right thing to do. Liberal or conservative?

The Answer: I don’t have a damn clue. Either does he. You’re the one that insists on labeling everyone and everything as either conservative or liberal. I’m trying to figure you out. I understand my friend.

The friend of whom I speak would by most of his outward appearances be considered extremely conservative. He is financially “very” comfortable, a most Republican trait. He took up arms as a young man to create a new nation that today is called Israel. To this day he is a registered lobbyist representing the interests of the Israeli government in the United States congress. Once again, it doesn’t get much more “conservative” than that does it?

A few years ago, my friend invested in an apartment complex in a largely Hispanic area of a major city. It was overrun with gangs, drug dealers and everything else associated with the uglier side of humanity. His goal was to improve the economic value of his investment. A rather conservative concept, don’t you agree?

He then tackled the problems one at a time. He used an incredibly creative and non-confrontatory method to successfully rid the complex of the gangs and their influence. An amazing result was that young, struggling, working families began to rent in his buildings. Income (a largely Republican concept) went up.

He went to local grocery stores and worked out arrangements so that breads, vegetables and other foods that were reaching their “expiration” dates were donated to the residents of his buildings. Occupancy increased and income went up. A liberal idea or conservative?

Step by step, using creativity, hard work and empathy, he improved a neighborhood, his own financial position, the lives of many others and took a giant step toward making the world a better place. Liberal or conservative?

Here’s the point. I don’t know whether my friend is a liberal or conservative. Either does he. But those who insist on painting the world in vivid contrasts of black and white are doing no one favors, especially themselves. Look at the issues. Get past the surface, skip the crap, don’t be suckered by rhetoric or those who try and paint reality as a place where good and evil live on opposite sides of reality. There is good and there is evil all around us. Stop falling for the sucker game of dividing everything into good and evil or liberal and conservative. Talk less – listen more – and think it all the way through.

Oh, by the way, did I mention there’s a Presidential election coming up soon.

One Response

  1. […] first night of Passover.  This year we had the honor of being guests of some very dear friends (about whom I’ve written before).  One of the customs associated with the Seder is to invite the homeless or needy to show charity […]

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