My previous two posts dealt with two seemingly unconnected items: the difficulty of advocating liberty at all times and different forms of pacifism. But there is a common theme here, namely what I believe to be the chief tenets of liberalism (using, of course, the classical sense of the word as opposed to its modern use).
Liberalism is the recognition and defense of rights for all people, not just those who share one’s beliefs or occupy a certain plot of land. It is also the recognition that violence should be used only in self-defense of life, property, and liberty. These are the values that made America a great idea* and will make America great again.
Unfortunately, the simple ideas of peace, justice, and freedom are under assault in this country from all sides. Both major political parties’ candidates for President have been openly hostile to the ideals of classical liberalism. There are members of Congress who complain due process is too strong in this country. There are members of Congress (and both major-party presidential candidates) who want the power to sue or silence anyone who disagrees with them. Indeed, these are dangerous times for the classical liberal.
Fear, I suspect, is the major driving force behind this illiberal movement. Trump is capitalizing on fear of foreigners and terrorists. Clinton is capitalizing on fears of guns and foreigners and of Trump. Fear makes people scramble for any sense of security and the power-hungry types are all to willing to throw people in metaphorical jail (for their own safety, of course).
That is why the tenets of classical liberalism are so powerful and foster peace rather than war the way modern liberalism and conservatism do: they discourage, and indeed even resist, fear. But fear is a powerful emotion, and as we have seen, it can override everything else.
But this storm, too, shall pass. Classical liberalism may die out in America, as it did in Britain and Europe, but it shall spring up in somewhere else. And that’s the glory of it: unlike fear, which is a fleeting thing, liberalism is a steady idea, built upon a foundation of rock and not of sand. Liberalism has survives the Communists, the fascists, the monarchs, and all other forms of totalitarianism that has risen and fallen. It will survive this, too.
*I say “idea” because there are many times, even when the founding fathers ran this country, they did not live up to those ideals.