When I first started thinking about “what I believe,” what sort of well considered life wisdom I could pass along to my kids, even though I don’t have any, the cynical philosophy I’ve spent years developing made it difficult. A cynic doesn’t really believe in anything. But I wanted to change. I wanted to believe in something! People who believe in something seem happier–more purposeful somehow.
I wasn’t born a cynic. I remember believing in my parents, in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. Also in my teachers, the good ole’ USA—and God—just like I was taught to! And I had no reason to question these beliefs, at least not for a while.
But the idyllic life I’d been living came to a halt on a cold and snowy December evening–December 24th, 1967 to be exact. That was the night I discovered that Santa Claus and my dad were one in the same.
As for my belief in God and Country, that lasted a while longer. Admittedly as a kid I wasn’t that interested in religion. It was a pain in the ass to attend church. Literally! The hard wood pews made it uncomfortable to sit still for any length of time, and guilt and deathly images being hurled from the pulpit made it hard to feel good about the life I was living—enhanced, I suppose, by the discovery that I was born a sinner.
I decided the solution was to try to become perfect—just like Jesus. So I started watching cable T.V., and lo and behold discovered Jimmy Swaggart. The guy seemed really passionate about God—you could see it in way he jumped up and down on stage, and the tears that would stream down his face! But then he got busted for hanging out with a prostitute…or something like that. Can’t say I blame him.
Eventually I lost my belief in God, or at least the idea that I was taught growing up, and perhaps more importantly, the belief in myself. Or, more likely, I never really had it to begin with—that’s why I needed all these other things to believe in.
But then it occurred to me while writing this, that there is at least one thing I still believe in. But for some reason it’s gotten a bad name these days. It’s almost become akin to how being labeled a “communist” was back when Edward R. Murrow was running this thing. In fact, you may even hear it referred to as the “L” word, and spoken about in hushed terms. But I’m going to say it loud and say it proud–I’m a LIBERAL!
And maybe it’s just me, but when I see what my dictionary defines liberal as, I don’t think it’s anything to be ashamed of. A liberal’s described as favoring progress and reform, such as in politics and religion; as open-minded and tolerant; characterized by generosity and a willingness to give in large amounts. It also defines liberal as “Not strict or literal,” so I guess I can see why the “strict-literalists” might feel left out. But then again, it doesn’t have to be that way—I take liberalism literally! In fact, you might even say I’m strict about it! That’s what I believe.