Liberal, Conservative… or simply us?

To the Editor:
Why do we dumb-down our ability to live and work together by divisively applying labels like “liberal” and “conservative?” These terms are not useful in determining the value of people or their ideas; using them gets squarely in the way of civic — and civil — discourse.
As an example, a “conservative” judge on the Supreme Court has just sided with “liberal” judges to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act, a “conservative” decree signed into law by the “liberal” Bill Clinton.
That judge decided that the principles upon which this nation were founded require all lawful marriages to be treated with the same dignity and respect as traditional marriages. He did so based on his conservative values, looking to the past to retain a principle so basic that he embraced what many consider a “liberal” position.
How worthless is it to use these labels to help us understand the complexity of this or any situation!
Public discourse and governance are difficult, requiring us to be intelligent and humble. People who demean those who don’t share their views are neither. They use labels as a substitute for, yes, liberal thought, which helps us understand that others will differ with us — others whose positions we must respectfully consider if we are to succeed.
But it is not just liberal thought that is in such need today; we must respect the past as we continuously reconsider its validity in the present.  How we achieve that will begin with regard for opposing views, and the humility to accept that we are neither liberal nor conservative, but collaborators in need of each other’s ideas.
Whether we succeed or fail, of this I am certain: Our futures together are identical. We can belittle each other and fail, or respect each other and have a good chance for success.

Joel Lidstrom
Caledonia, Minn.

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