President Trump’s claiming to be a nationalist has rankled many. “It’s a word that hasn’t been used too much. I think it should be brought back,” he said. The word’s use with white nationalists and, of course, the N of Nazi, does put it under a cloud. But on its own, without its dark usage, it is not a bad word, certainly not for a man who ran on an America First campaign promise; it just hangs out in some seedy neighborhoods. But I love America, and while I think America First does not always work, it is a good starting point. People who have agendas other than controversy with inflammatory comments would probably use the word patriotism instead.
But I’d like to take a play from the Trump playbook and reclaim a word, drop its connotation and stick to the dictionary definition. My word is liberal. I like policies where tax dollars are used to sponsor programs that help people – tax and spend – but that’s not how I want the word defined. It is not how Webster defines it. A liberal is one who “is open-minded or not strict in the observance of orthodox, traditional, or established forms or ways.” A liberal is someone who listens to opposing views and can be convinced to change their position, or at least sees merits in opposing views.
While my use of liberal is political, I think it’s a good word for all sorts of things. Liberal people who prefer mystery novels might try returning to the classics to see if maybe their taste in books has changed since reading their last classic, or go see a chick flick with his wife rather than limiting his movie experience to macho action movies. Liberal people try new things.
Where are the liberal Democrats? Unfortunately, Democrats have not only stopped using the word to describe their political leanings, but they have also stopped thinking as true liberals. In this, they are no different from Republicans, but at least Republicans call themselves conservatives, which does mean strict observance to traditional established ways.