Bill Maher's Liberalism: Free Speech, Free Thought, Free Faith

I'm not always a fan of Bill Maher, but here are two clips I think are just splendid, whether you label yourself a "liberal" or a "conservative":

Here Maher takes on Kathleen Parker's Washington Post editorial defending self-censorship in a world without privacy.
I would listen to a hundred horrific Cliven Bundy rants if that was the price of living in a world where I could also listen to interesting and funny people talk without a filter. Perhaps most chilling of all, Parker said that 'speaking one's mind isn't really all it's cracked up to be.' Which is quite a statement, since her job is speaking her mind. It's like the mailman telling you letters are stupid.

So let me get this straight: We should concede that there's no such thing anymore as a private conversation, so therefore remember to lawyer everything you say before you say it, and hey, speaking your mind was overrated anyway so you won't miss it. Well, I'll miss it. I'll miss it a lot. And for the record, speaking my mind is absolutely everything it's cracked up to be. ...

Does anyone really want there to be no place where we can let our hair down and not worry if the bad angel in our head occasionally grabs the mike? ...

Who wants to live in a world where the only privacy you have is inside your head? That's what life in East Germany was like. That's why we fought the Cold War, remember? So we'd never have to live in some awful limbo where you never knew who, even among your friends, was an informer.

Go to the video link for the rest. Now here's Maher again, speaking against both the misogynistic violence committed by jihadi Muslims like Boko Haram, and the reluctance of Western "liberals" to name this for what it is:

There was a Pew poll of Egypt, which is a leading Muslim country, and something like 80 or 90 percent believe that death is the proper punishment for leaving the religion.

Where it becomes dangerous is that liberals like yourself [to Arianna Huffington] do not stand up for liberalism. Liberalism means number one - mostly - equality of women. Free speech. No death threats.
Listen to the whole thing, and don't miss the discussion on Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Brandeis University at the end (beginning around 7:45).

Now I want to say a few words about -isms. Generally I try to avoid getting too much into ideological debates - "liberalism is better than conservatism" or vice versa - because I think they can be distracting. And arguing over what constitutes "real" conservatism / liberalism / you name it can quickly become a tedious waste of time. An ideology is a way of organizing your ideas and principles to help you make sense of the world, but what really matters is how you live your life.

But it's a fact that we often identify ourselves with our ideologies, be they political, religious, cultural, or otherwise. I vote Republican and most of my liberal friends consider me a "right-winger" but I have never thought of myself as a "conservative". Why? I don't know. I was raised by liberal parents, and I guess I feel my basic values haven't changed from the ones I was raised with.

What has changed, as I see it, is how the whole notion of liberalism - the liberal "brand", if you will - has morphed into something completely different from what it was in my parents' generation.

And what I see Bill Maher trying to do here is to reach out to liberals and remind them of the values that liberalism is supposed to stand for. I hope that he may be able to reach people who identify as "liberals" - the very people who need to be reached, and who may listen to someone they see as a fellow liberal when they will not listen to a "right-winger".

This being Mothers' Day, I'll just take a moment to acknowledge how much I learned from my Mom. She was a complicated woman and growing up with her was not easy; I wrote a short post about her at my personal journal. She had experienced sexism, and hated it; she had witnessed institutional racism, and hated it. She fought for the right of her darker-skinned friends to eat at the same lunch counter.

But she was never anti-American, and she was no friend of Communism. (Among my boxes of books I still have books by Soviet dissidents, from my Mom's collection.) And she had no patience with the entitlement mentality of people who thought society owed them something because of past wrongs. She believed in free access to the lunch counter - not a free lunch.

Mom was raised in a strict Baptist home in small-town Maine, and her childhood was in the pre-WWII era. She moved to the big city - Boston - as a young woman, and later moved to Connecticut and joined the Unitarian Universalist church, where she met kindred spirits, including my father. She had a lifelong distaste for religious orthodoxy and fundamentalism, but was never anti-religious and was always respectful and courteous to people whose beliefs she did not share. She judged people by their actions.

I don't consider myself a conservative, and I don't call myself a "liberal" anymore either, mainly because I don't want to get bogged down in semantics. What you call yourself is your own business. What matters is what you do.