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The fight for Liberalism

author: connor macneil | contributor 

Credit: Andrew Reeves via flickr

“America and Canada do not need to be made great: they need to be kept great. ”

Liberalism is facing the greatest threat of our generation. Now when I say Liberalism, I don’t mean the Liberal Party of Canada, I mean the ideology of Liberalism. The core principles of a Liberal ideology are a belief in the freedom of individuals, the equality of all peoples, and co-operation. These principles are summarised nicely in the motto of the French revolution in English it is “Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity.” These ideals are all explicit targets of the Trump administration and populist movements throughout the west.

For decades liberalism has essentially been the unquestioned foundation of all our political systems. Even leaders who are typically seen as highly conservative have been at their hearts liberal, with a belief in freedom and equality fundamental to their policy goals. Now, how exactly people are to be treated equally and given freedom was more of the question up for debate. To Ronald Reagan and Margret Thatcher, equality was treating all people equally regardless of their personal circumstance or socioeconomic class. To Pierre Trudeau, equality meant providing social welfare programs for those who were at a disadvantage and to even out the distribution of wealth throughout the provinces via increased equalization payments. The details were different but the core ideals were the same.

We now face a new breed of political ideology. People like Kelly Leitch advocate essentially forcing all Canadians to hold the same set of ideals, to her freedom is of little importance. Kevin O’Leary says he wants to outlaw unions and have “anybody who remains a union member thrown in jail,” essentially criminalizing freedom of association and assembly. Trump wants to build a wall limiting the movement of citizens, reduce freedom of the press and eliminate any notion that people of different faiths, genders, and sexual orientations should be treated with equality by the state. We have mainstream political leaders who are not in any way liberals for the first time since the rise of fascism and communism in the early 20th century.

Now, to some people this a great thing; to those political radicals who wish to control the public and enforce their systems of morality on the people, to those who want the strong to oppress the weak without any regulation, this downfall of Liberalism is a great thing.

To most Canadians and citizens of all other western nations, I think this is something we need to stand against together. While we may be able to agree that the way we’ve been doing things up until now is not perfect, it is certainly better than the alternative, where the government mandates public opinion through values tests rather than allowing for free public discourse, and does nothing to help those who are the worst off in society.

If we want to fight this, those who are in the middle politically need to band together. Brad Wall, a former opponent of the liberal’s refugee policy, has come out strongly against Trump’s Muslim ban; people like Mitt Romney and John McCain have been some of Trump’s most vocal critics. This rise of political extremism does not have to tear us apart. To those who value the guiding principles of our nations of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and the equality of all people, we need to speak out in favour of these principles more loudly than ever.

To many, the very idea we should question the value of democracy or the importance of freedom of speech simply has not been an issue. We have been raised with these ideas as fundamental to our understanding of how a society should exist. Like with many things, I fear that these are concepts that we may not really appreciate until we no longer have them.

Canada and America are two of the greatest nations on Earth, but unlike Trump and Leitch, I don’t believe they’re great simply because we’re the ones that live here. Our nations are great because people can freely speak their mind on issues that they care about; our nations are great because they provide help to those who are in need; our nations are great because no matter your skin colour or religious belief or gender identity or sexual orientation, you are worth equally as much as a person. America and Canada do not need to be made great – they need to be kept great.

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