Is it time to reclaim the "L" word?

This will probably be the last (quasi)political rant I’ll post here for a while, though that won’t stop me from posting about politics on my unofficial and life blog. But the disappointing (apparent) results of election got me to thinking this morning about the word that Kerry and every other Democrat ran away from, and the word that Bush and every other Republican (or so it seemed) wanted to hang on the Democratic opponent: liberal.

As in “he’s too liberal for America,” or “the most liberal member of congress,” or “he’s liberal and out of touch.”

How did that word become like that?

So one of the things I was thinking about while getting ready to get the election behind me and get on with my day is what is out there on the web? Is there a “liberal advocate” page of some sort? Well, consider this:

* I just did a google search for liberal; what I got was links to various “Liberal Parties” in the UK, Canada, and Australia; some links about the book What Liberal Media?; and a link to a web site called Liberal Slant, a kind of amateurish-looking site that complains about corporate-owned media but which also begins, with absolutely no sense of irony, with a place to shop at the Liberal Slant Online store.

* If you go to http://www.liberal.org, you get a message indicating that the domain name is for sale. (The person who owns this domain obviously is not aware that liberals don’t have the kind of money this person probably wants for the name.) If you go to www.liberal.com or www.liberal.net, you get web sites that have one thing or another to do with Liberal, Kansas.

* I did come across a page called Turn Left, but that page hasn’t been updated since 2001 or so.

I don’t have the answer to all of this fear with the word “liberal,” but clearly, what has happened here is that “Liberals” (like me, I might add) have somehow let this term be captured by conservatives. In the process of doing so, what used to be thought of as merely “liberal” now is more or less “right of center,” and what people think of now as “conservative” would have been described as “reactionary” just a few years ago.

Perhaps though what we need is a movement by Liberals to reclaim the term. The analogy I’m thinking of here is with the word “queer,” a term that was (and I suppose in many circles still is) a derogatory term that was recaptured as a term of empowerment, as in “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it,” and the academic field/discipline/study of “Queer Theory.”

This analogy might not work entirely, especially considering the fact that amendments and other measures to ban gay marriage passed in every state where they were advanced, including Michigan. But my point is the same. Liberals and other left-leaning people have allowed conservatives define them; I think Liberals need to re-embrace the term and define what it means once again.

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