Language matters, especially in politics and especially today
I have taught writing, rhetoric, research methodology, literature, and critical thinking classes at universities in both America and abroad. As someone with a deep understanding of the importance of language and how it shapes our thinking and thus the way we see the world and everything in it, I would argue that words matter, now more than ever given today’s highly politicized climate.
In the interest of transparency, I am what some call a “leftist.” The GOP, a political party composed mostly of self-described “conservatives,” refers to someone like me as “liberal” (when they are being kind) but also uses the descriptor “libtard” when they aren’t.
I have long argued that those of us on the left need to be more “muscular” in our messaging and more aggressive in our pushback against those who want to present us in a negative light.
“Progressives” and “Progressivism” are far more accurate labels — if we must use them and we probably do — to describe who we are and what we advocate.
Calling ourselves progressives allows us to differentiate ourselves from our political opponents, the “Regressives,” a group of backward-thinking individuals who want to undo progress and political gains of all sorts. “Regressivism” is certainly not conservative in almost any significant sense because it wants to deconstruct, to roll back hard-won victories for environmental protections, for example. Regressives don’t want to conserve clean air and water. They want to go back to the bad old days when no one did anything about those who polluted. That is not conserving. That is destroying. And they want to put the health of the public at risk.
Regressives also like to misrepresent what progressives stand for and what values we hold dear. I want to push back against that today.
The following is a list of things progressives believe in. These beliefs are illustrative of our core values.
First, progressives believe in globalism and multiculturalism. We understand that all people, regardless of the language they speak, the color of their skin, the country they come from, the religion they practice, or their socio-economic status, are our brothers and sisters because we are all human beings. We all feel pain and experience happiness and are doing our best to make good lives for ourselves and our families. Because of this shared humanity, it behooves us to love and respect one another.
Second, we believe that sharing is a good thing. Thus, millionaires and billionaires need to be encouraged to share their wealth with those who have less. The government has a role to play in this redistribution. Progressives are not advocating taking all the money away from the rich. We appreciate that many wealthy people worked hard and used their brains and bodies to get where they are. But the world will be a happier and heathier place — for all of us, including the well-to-do — if we can close the gap between the rich and poor.
Third, we believe that government was created to safeguard its citizens. That’s why countries have militaries. But it is equally important that governments keep their nations and citizens strong and safe by making affordable health care accessible to all. After all, how strong can a country be if it’s filled with sick people who can’t see a doctor when they need to?
Fourth, we believe the world is a beautiful place that we should cherish. Therefore, we need to take care of the planet by polluting less and taking action to make sure that we are living sustainably so that future generations can enjoy the wonderful home we all inhabit. Just think about it: If we make the place unlivable, it won’t really matter how much money we have in the bank.
This, of course, just scratches the surface of what progressives believe. Do any of these beliefs seem radical to you? Do they seem hateful or “unChristian?”
I would bet, if you’re being honest with yourself, that these are the sorts of values your parents wanted to instill in you to ensure that you grew up to be decent, kind and good.
Troy Headrick is a writer, artist, educator and political activist who currently manages a writing and learning center at Palo Alto College.