Liberal Contradictions

Liberals (those on the moderate left) and liberal positions are often weakened by their internal contradictions. Liberals often fail to take a meaningful stand on issues. In trying to appeal to everyone, they appeal to nobody. The right does not suffer from this problem. They usually make a point, make it proudly, and are indifferent to who they offend. This may make them assholes, but it also makes them far superior at winning arguments.

Take as a first example gay (more properly LGBTQIA, but gay for brevity) rights. It is almost an article of faith that gays do not choose to be gay, but are born this way. Gayness is genetic. From this it follows that we mustn’t discriminate against gays, in much the same way that we can’t discriminate based on sex or race. This is a rather weak claim. What if it were found that mass murderers are born that way? Should we tolerate their murderous rampages as we would tolerate differences in sex, race, or sexual orientation? One hopes not. Without even going that far, what if one wants to simply examine the interesting claim that homosexuality could be partly a choice? Is even asking this question anti-gay? Perhaps so, if the argument is framed this way (and it often is).

What ever happened to the stronger claim? Gays have a right to exercise sexuality in whatever way they see fit (as constrained by other social norms of decency applicable equally to heterosexuals). Who cares if they chose to be gay? Heck, it’s a great choice. It’s nice having gays around. Who are they harming, anyway? What does it matter? Perhaps it offends religious values. The proper response if a religion chooses to discriminate against gays is to fight that religion. This type of argument puts gay rights front and center. It actively states the position, rather than trying to limp into it via genetic predetermination. Why don’t liberals make this stronger claim?

Take as another example anti-war positions. A common liberal position is to claim, simultaneously, to be a patriot and to be against the war (whichever war is at issue). “Peace is Patriotic” is an often seen protest sign that sums it up nicely. This contradictory statement is actively used by war supporters to dilute the anti-war content to nothing. A patriot is one who supports his or her country. If this country is at war, and if at times of war it is most important to focus efforts in support of the war and leave other differences for later, then support of country means support of the war. It’s at best a weak retort that the true patriot loves his or her country as it ideally ought to be, and in resisting the war, is actually supporting this (non-existent) ideal country.

What is the stronger claim? If the war is opposed for sound reasons, and if patriotism requires one to support the war, then shouldn’t it be patriotism that is rejected along with the war? A deeper analysis would point to nationalist rhetoric and its tendency to encourage wars in the first place. A consistent anti-war position would need to place humanist values above nationalist values, at least for the war in question, if not for all wars. Why don’t liberals make this stronger claim?

There is no good answer proposed in this essay as to why liberals don’t make the stronger claims. This author generally assumes that people are somewhat reasonable and act in ways that make sense to them, to the extent that they bother to think about it. If this is true, then perhaps the liberal can be viewed as an embodiment of contradictions that exist in society. Perhaps the liberal is for the most part supportive of dominant belief systems, but wishes to reform some of their excesses. In the background is a nagging suspicion that these excesses are intrinsic to the belief systems themselves, and that removing the excesses requires not reform but a wholesale dismantling of the belief system. Thus the liberal fluctuates between two unattainable poles: maintaining but reforming the system, or dismantling it completely.

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