|February 1, 2006|
Thoughts on Being a Liberal
BuzzFlash Note: We received this beautiful essay shortly before Alito was confirmed and finally found a moment to share it with you.
Since it looks again as if the far right is going to impose their will on the U.S. (Alito), I've been thinking about my personal outlook, my philosophy, if maybe I'm out of step because I can't find a way to find common ground with people who support Bush and the so-called conservative agenda. On my kitchen window ledge, just above the sink, I have a small but vigorous vine growing. This vine seems to symbolize much of my personal belief as well as the liberal agenda and its very possible outcome. Because of the vine, I can't bring myself to believe I'm wrong for what I believe and how I live my life. Not only that, as long as this vine thrives, I have a daily reminder that being a liberal is the right thing for me, and a philosophy worth fighting for.
Why does this vine represent so much? I'll tell you: last year I went to a local flea market to buy flowers for Mother's Day. The vendor had a huge variety of hanging baskets, and I bought 3. As I turned around and started across the parking lot, I noticed one leaf of what we've always called Wandering Jew lying on the pavement. The leaf was a little damaged - someone had stepped on it, and who knows how long it had lain there with no water? Without much thought, I picked it up and took it home with me. I stuck it in a cup of water and put it on the kitchen window. Over most of the summer, the leaf didn't die, but it didn't do anything else either. But one day I checked and there were roots on the stem. It made me happy that I had given the darn thing another chance. Right after that, new leaves began forming below the old leaf, which by the way, was still alive. Toward the end of summer, I planted my fragile little survivor, which was now 6 or 8 inches long and bearing 5 or 6 leaves, into a long metal planter and fertilized it. As more leaves grew, I noticed that the original leaf I had picked up was finally withering. I also noticed that where the stem had laid down on the dirt, I had a new stem with new leaves starting. The leaf I picked up in the spring has been reborn into this lively beautiful plant, which now has several long stems and countless leaves. By this Mother's Day, it will rival the hanging pots the vendor was selling last year.
Each time I look at this vine, I am reminded that a tiny act of kindness that I did was gratefully accepted and allowed growth. I gave that leaf a little bit of help and changed its life. The plant will contribute as it can, mainly with its beauty, but also with its job: the air in my house will be a little fresher because green things purify the air as they breathe. Isn't helping others, leveling the playing field, creating opportunity a huge part of the liberal agenda? Had I been a far right type of person, I likely would not have stooped to picking up a leaf, let alone put it in water and allow it a second chance. I'm not talking about liberal and conservative differences. I know Democrats and Republicans who would pick up that leaf, who contribute to the common good, who lend a helping hand to those who need it. I'm talking about the very far right who are determined to turn our country into a flesh market, where there is no first chance, no second chance. I'm talking about people who see our children as cannon fodder, who see American citizens as fuel for corporate profit, and who are so hellbent on being first, being powerful, that they no longer resemble human beings, but some ravenous corruption of flesh and soul.
The vine on my window reminds me of a larger picture. The people in this country in need, the hungry, the sick, the poor, the homeless are like the leaf I picked up. They have to get some attention immediately or they might not get a second chance. And they can't depend on the hope that some kind soul will take them in hand and help them through a rough spot. The far right pretend that personal charity and religious charity will span the gap left when they finish dismantling the social programs created by the liberal agenda. We had personal and religious charity when we had kings and if you read any history, you know that life for the common person was miserable and harsh. If we truly want to alleviate suffering and want in our country, we need social programs that can pick up every leaf, to try for a second chance. We need to back away from the selfishness and pettiness and blindness of the far right and understand that bad things happen to good people every day of the year. We need to remember that most Americans are only a step or two away from the abyss of want, and make sure that the money we pay in taxes goes in part to break the fall.
I don't expect all who read this to have a change of heart and become a liberal. The best ideal of liberal thought is free-thinking. Liberals open windows, open doors and give all others the choice of entering. The far right drop the house on us and become hateful when we crawl away, battered but unable to accept their brutal attempts to change our hearts and our minds. The day I picked up the leaf, I didn't know if it would live or die. I did what I could and the result is a small but unforgettable reminder of why I want to remain a liberal, why I want to fight for this philosophy.
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