Wednesday, April 4, 2012

I Was Young Once And Liberal

Definition of liberal n :  one who is liberal: as one who is open-minded or not strict in the observance of orthodox, traditional or established forms or ways.

Interestingly enough, in older dictionaries, the definition also includes:  lacking moral restraint.

Am I the only one who had a father who said words to this effect:  "It's easy to be liberal when you're young because you're doing it on someone else's dime!"  I hated it when he would say things like; it seemed so snide.  When I was old enough to begin looking at the world around me; take account of my world view; wonder about the rightness/wrongness of the world, there was more than one occasion when Dad and I simply had to end our discussions with the live and let live philosophy.  The, "we'll have to agree to disagree," rule was often invoked.  But, I'm awfully glad that he continued to spar with me and make me think.  I like to believe that my bright-eyed, optimistic, youthful exuberance for the ability to positively impact wrongs and make change, helped him maintain equilibrium in his thinking.  Maybe even keep him on his toes while we verbally squared off!  At the very least, keep him hopeful that things can always be made better.

My father was never dismissive of my thoughts simply because I was young with less life experience. He told me not to give up on anything I believed was just, right, fair, but he did show me where just wishing something was so wasn't enough to get it done.  Because he didn't treat me like an idiot or condescend, I always gave him the benefit of the doubt.  I recognized his intelligence, wisdom, and deeper experience.  Still, the 70's were a breeding ground for social upheaval and dissonance; the never trust anyone over 30 philosophy was rampant, so our points of view were vastly different on many things.  Not unlike our world today, it gave us lots and lots to discuss and argue.

I believe that my father was one of the best parents in the universe. Even more, he was a mentor.  A strong advocate.  A teacher.  A guide.  He did way more right than wrong in terms of my up-bringing.  However, the one thing I wish he had done better was teach me how challenging it can be in terms of living in the real world.  I wish he had been more open about money and finances.  I wish he had been more forthcoming about the financial struggles our family faced.  How difficult it can be to own and operate a business successfully.  I wish I understood sooner that things just don't happen without someone making sure they happen, like:  The lights and heat are on because someone paid the utility bill.  I ate regularly because someone worked to make certain we had food in the house.  I was blessed with a great education because someone made sure that tuition was paid, or that appropriate financing was secured for the tuition; financing that would have to be re-paid by a person who understood their responsibility to the contractual agreement.

I wish, instead of adopting the usual mind-set of most parents, the one that says "make sure my child always feels safe and secure," he had talked more about the need for someone, somewhere to secure that our world was orderly, our needs were met, because someone worked to pay for it all.

Because conversations like that didn't happen often, I didn't give it much thought.  The inner workings of the need to contribute and understand what heavy lifting it takes to keep your loved ones together body and soul just wasn't something I pondered.  By nature, I am a grateful person, so I always said thanks for things but you can't thank someone when you aren't even aware of the gift.  Know what I mean?

I am still very liberal in terms of my thinking when it comes to the Human condition.  But, as I've grown older and struggle, like most of us with finances and the rising cost of breathing in and out, I'm so not liberal in my thinking when it comes to money, government, or funding what so many now consider their right, their due, their fair share.  I'm just not.

And, I must admit it bugs the hell out of me because despite my best efforts of making sure, "I'll NEVER think like you do, Dad!!!"  Well, here I am.  I'm not Jimmy Dietor, but I sure the hell am Jimmy Dietor's Daughter. So, how do I say what's on my mind now without sounding like a condescending old, F**k?  I don't know...but I have to say it regardless.  So here goes:

We have done our younger generations a serious dis-service.  Our children should be part of  a discussion about our family bills.  It's all right to talk about our monthly expenses and when we're a bit strapped for cash.  It's a good thing to let our kids know when we need to tighten our budget or when we can celebrate better times with a treat for all.

We should have made basic finances, how to budget, and money management a major part of educational curriculum.  We should teach our children to get right with money and understand how it works.  We should stress how each of us needs to invest in ourselves and work toward feeling successful. 

Instead, because we've taught them to expect they should always have everything they want or need without regard how it is paid for, we have raised them to believe they have more RIGHTS than privileges. We now have people who can no longer differentiate between the two.  It's becoming increasingly problematic.  Let's be clear what is the difference:

right n:  Something to which one has a just claim; the power or privilege to which one is justly entitled.
privilege n:  A right or an immunity granted as a peculiar benefit, advantage, or favor.

A right comes to you simply because you are.  A privilege is something you earn or is given to you out of the generosity of another's purse or belief that you are worthy.  And, while in practice they do seem closely related, they are not interchangeable concepts.

As Human Beings, as Americans, we have very few RIGHTS; those we have are incredibly significant.  Read the Constitution and our Bill of Rights is spelled out.  You will not read any where in it that you have a RIGHT to a life made better or easier and paid for by others.  It simply is not there.  It's not an over sight; it's not meant to be cruel.  It's that the writers of the Constitution understood the concept of manifest destiny and embraced personal freedom to create our lives as we see fit.

We The People! We make up the government.  There's no separate entity, called The Government that has an unending privy purse ready to make your life easier.  When you say The Government should pay for something, you're actually saying, "The people of the U.S., more specifically, the Tax Paying Citizens of the U.S. should pay for my fill-in-the-blank!" It doesn't work that way.  Nor should it. 

When I hear younger people say, "I have the right to health insurance and I'm not asking anyone but the insurance companies to do their part,"  or, "I have a right to affordable education and paying for my college degree shouldn't be something with which I am burdened," I want to ask, "Really?  You don't think you should pay for these things yourself, but you think I should be required to buy it for you?" And how do you think that's going to happen? Companies are profit centered entities.  We can discuss how much profit is too much and whether they should be more service minded and caring; I probably will agree with you.  But, at the end of the day, they are profit driven businesses.  If they don't make money, they don't stay in business.  And, if they are forced, through laws, to pay for your health care, your birth control, your education, or your fill-in-the-blank to which you think you are entitled, those costs will be passed along to others in terms of hidden fees and higher premiums, higher costs and taxes.

At what point does your belief that you have a RIGHT to things for free or at no cost, justify that the price tag be passed along to the rest of us for payment ?!  Or, had you simply not considered it? If there is a bill involved, someone, some where must pay the bill.  Nothing is free.  But, you have to be open and fair enough to wonder who is expected to pay for it if you're not willing.

Recently, a friend of mine said, "If  I see someone hungry and I have enough to share, then I'll share it. The only thing over which I have any real control is myself."  For me, that's true liberal thinking at its finest.  I am liberal enough to want to help everyone in need.  But I am conservative enough to understand that I only have resources to help some and that I can only do so when I have enough to share.  My liberal way of thinking means that I search for ways to help others, but first I must meet my obligations to myself and my family.  At the same time, I'm conservative enough in my thinking to say, "My willingness to help another is my choice; I will not have it mandated through government policy that is too far-reaching and invades my personal space and life!"

I wish we would return to the days when people understood that they need to invest in themselves first before they look to others to invest in them.  Return to the days before we constantly looked for government to take care of us.

conservative n:  marked by moderation or caution.  Relating to traditional norms of taste, elegance, style, or manners.

So after trodding the earth for awhile, here's where my journey has brought me:  If I wish to be liberal in my thinking of Human Beings and  be willing to respond to need when I encounter it, I must be conservative in my views of what I can do and also what I need.  I must be conservative in my view of finances and money so I can meet my financial obligations and help those truly in need.  I must be conservative enough to believe that I have very few rights but am lucky to have privileges.  I must be conservative enough to understand that I must make my own way, and trust that if I do right by others and am liberal in my willingness to help, those good intentions and acts will be returned to me.

Go ahead Daddy....where ever you are, you can laugh.  I get it.  I'm now with you on this topic.  I am finally a liberal conservative; or maybe I'm a conservative liberal.  However you say it, you knew I'd eventually figure it out.

Namaste' Till Next Time,
Holly aka Jimmy Dietor's Daughter


joyce said...

I guess the short of it is that people don't understand that what they conceive of as their right needs to be paid for by others.

Whenever I need a life lesson, I can be sure to get it here, I think that every parent's goal is for the children to say you were the best there could be. Lately, I feel I fell short of that goal somewhere along the line.

PPLIC said...

Nice article. very interesting, thanks for sharing.

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