This is Part 2 of a three-part series. My beliefs overlap with several liberal beliefs, so this post does not focus on those specifically. Instead, I will talk about the destructiveness of the liberal identity, and how harmful it can be when it comes to pushing for improvement and questioning movements. For future reference, all images in this post are taken from the Being Liberal Facebook page.
Part 1 of this series: Violence and Nonviolence
Part 3 of this series: System Failure
“Liberal = Good”
In liberal communities, to be liberal is thought of as good. It becomes synonymous with being smarter, better, more empathetic, more tolerant, more caring, more logical, and more open minded. Liberals like to point out that those who are college educated are more likely to be liberal. They like to talk about how liberals live longer, or have better sex. Liberals reach out to those who are questioning their faith, who are questioning their sexuality, who want to lightly defy authority, who are worried about climate change, who long for world peace, and who want to save the whales…but don’t know what to do. Liberals reach out to those people and they say, “Hey, come sit with us. It’s awesome over here.”
The main issue here is that when adopting liberalism as an identity, it pits you (the reasonable human) against the stupid, trashy hick. It’s either that or the greedy, power hungry plutocrat. And it says that you’re better, you’re superior to those fools. It sets up a dichotomy between reasonable and unreasonable, smart and stupid, kind and unkind, selfish and altruistic.
But adopting this as an identity doesn’t leave room for you to be unreasonable, stupid, and unkind when you end up compromising your own values. Because if you are, then you’re just like the hicks and the plutocrats that you so righteously shit upon. It’s your worst fucking nightmare. When you’ve bought into a dichotomy like that, it makes sense that you would want to avoid being identified with the other side at all costs. This is the root of one of the main problems of liberalism—unconscious bigotry.
Liberalism’s Unconscious Bigotry
When liberals are bigoted it’s all still related to the identity of liberalism. When most conservatives are bigoted, at least they know they’re just bigoted. But again, if you adopt liberalism as an identity, it’s frequently thought that liberals are not bigots, so when they are accused of being one, they spend a lot of time ducking names rather than taking responsibility. Liberals can be excellent at deflection.
A perfect example of deflection is seen in Ani DiFranco’s first apology when Black people got mad at her for hosting a writing retreat on a former motherfucking slave plantation.
i did not imagine or understand that the setting of a plantation would trigger such collective outrage or result in so much high velocity bitterness. i imagined instead that the setting would become a participant in the event. this was doubtless to be a gathering of progressive and engaged people, so i imagined a dialogue would emerge organically over the four days about the issue of where we were.
Translation: You minorities are bitter and filled with outrage. Not zen like me, Ani DiFranco. Instead of getting mad why don’t we try to have a nice civil dialogue about this like reasonable, progressive and engaged people?
i ask only that as we attempt to continue to confront our country’s history together […] let us not oversimplify to black and white a society that contains many many shades of grey. and let us not forget to be compassionate towards each other as we attempt to move forward and write the next pages in our history.
Translation: I, Ani DiFranco, empathize and know our pain of racism. Let’s not overanalyze this SLAVE PLANTATION, and let’s remember to be compassionate towards each other, but especially to me, Ani DeFranco.
Liberalism is a prideful identity. Many liberals often confuse caring for helping. Concern for rights often translates into paternalism which is harmful, or they write to Terry Gross or something, which is not harmful, but it does nothing. They are at risk of caring so much that they dominate the conversation. When liberals come into contact with people who are angry with them, they may believe it to be an attack on their character and get defensive, saying “How dare you say I’m sexist! I phonebanked for Hillary Clinton, what have you done?” Or they may pull an Ani DiFranco and talk about how compassionate they are, and how they have so little hate compared to the people who waste so much energy being angry. This is the power liberals have to reinforce the status quo when others critique them, by continuing to think “They are angry and irrational, but I am reasonable.” Liberals don’t like conflict; they want everyone to interact harmoniously.
Protip: Don’t create an identity based on being better than other people. You will think you are great, but you will just be so basic. And holding onto that identity locks you into being basic, until you let go.