For a long time, conservatives have erected a false opposition between themselves and liberals.
Until the current polarization of our country, “liberal” was a compliment. The word comes from the Latin liber, free, and liberalis, genenerous. “Liberal” is the set of attitudes consistent with freedom.
The free are generous in charity, alert to threats against liberty, and able politically, diplomatically, and militarily to defend freedom. This defense includes constructing not just appropriate borders, but also internal institutions and educational systems adequate to appreciate, diagnose, correct, and propagate these liberal values.
True liberalism requires a delicate balance.
The Roman Republic, which bequeathed us this liberal heritage, subverted itself by forgetting the strength it confers. The Roman Empire crumbled because it put too much stress on expanding its borders, pampered its ruling elite, and undermined the healthy competition between its government’s constituent parts. The American Empire, too, is in danger of neglecting these principles so dear to our country’s founders.
We also honor liberal values outside politics. The Hebrew Bible sets aside a ten percent surplus for the needy. Jesus of Nazareth praised ready forgiveness and exemplified care for the unfortunate. He made charity the key to his kingdom. Among the Qur’ān’s injunctions, zakat or charity and festive sharing with the community, far outweighs Jihad.
Instead of dismissing liberalism, conservative politicians, religious leaders, and pundits should acknowledge how conservative it is to preserve these liberal values derived from our religious and political traditions.