By saying loudly and clearly what many politicians are afraid to say, George Clooney has struck a blow against demonization in politics.
In the 1960s major politicians would proudly proclaim themselves to be liberals. Since at least the 1980s "liberalism" has become a dirty word, thanks in part to the efforts of President Ronald Reagan who accused Jimmy Carter of being a "liberal." Before becoming president, Carter had never been regarded as anything other than a moderate-to slightly conservative Democrat. Even as president, Carter was challenged by Ted Kennedy and the liberal wing of the Democratic Party for the 1980 Democratic nomination.
So charged has the "liberal" label become and so on the defensive have liberals and their policies become, anyone not considered conservative enough has become became fair game for this charge. This pejorative use of what used to be a respectable political label continues to this day.
Clooney deserves praise for standing up for what he believes and for standing up for those less brave or well positioned to stand up for themselves.
A note of caution: as liberals try to redress the balance, they should be careful. Strong tough disagreement is one thing. Seeing conservatives--or those merely not liberal enough--as the root of all evil is quite another. As liberals stand up for themselves in the fight against demonization, they need to avoid the temptation of self-righteousness that will only deepen the polarization that already exists.
Does Clooney give in to this temptation? He's on the edge. All things considered, however, Clooney has said something that needs to be said. And he's right on target in deconstructing why many Democrats in Congress went along with the Iraq war, and using this as a prime example of the harm demonization can do to democratic politics. We congratulate him.
Published on Monday, March 13, 2006 by the Huffington Post
I Am a Liberal. There, I Said It!
by George Clooney
I am a liberal. And I make no apologies for it. Hell, I'm proud of it.
Too many people run away from the label. They whisper it like you'd whisper "I'm a Nazi." Like it's a dirty word. But turn away from saying "I'm a liberal" and it's like you're turning away from saying that blacks should be allowed to sit in the front of the bus, that women should be able to vote and get paid the same as a man, that McCarthy was wrong, that Vietnam was a mistake. And that Saddam Hussein had no ties to al-Qaeda and had nothing to do with 9/11.
This is an incredibly polarized time (wonder how that happened?). But I find that, more and more, people are trying to find things we can agree on. And, for me, one of the things we absolutely need to agree on is the idea that we're all allowed to question authority. We have to agree that it's not unpatriotic to hold our leaders accountable and to speak out. That's one of the things that drew me to making a film about Murrow. When you hear Murrow say, "We mustn't confuse dissent with disloyalty" and "We can't defend freedom at home by deserting it at home," it's like he's commenting on today's headlines.
The fear of being criticized can be paralyzing. Just look at the way so many Democrats caved in the run up to the war. In 2003, a lot of us were saying, where is the link between Saddam and bin Laden? What does Iraq have to do with 9/11? We knew it was bullshit. Which is why it drives me crazy to hear all these Democrats saying, "We were misled." It makes me want to shout, "[Expletive deleted] you, you weren't misled. You were afraid of being called unpatriotic."
Bottom line: it's not merely our right to question our government, it's our duty. Whatever the consequences. We can't demand freedom of speech then turn around and say, "but please don't say bad things about us." You gotta be a grown-up and take your hits.
I am a liberal. Fire away.
© 2006 The Huffington Post