I am liberal and here’s what that means.

I am a liberal and I keep an open mind.

I am not a fan of labels and tags. I have always believed they (labels and tags) are boxes created to limit human ingenuity. I also think they are the reason we have all these problems associated with race, immigration, and gender inequality. For example, when someone is labeled as a black African immediately what comes to mind are all the stereotypes which are associated with black Africans (usually the bad ones). When someone calls me a Swazi, African or any of those things my heart sinks. But if someone calls me a liberal I smile. It is the only label that makes me smile.

To be a liberal is to be free and unlimited. It is to be open to all the ideas on earth and exercising your reason and rationality over all these ideas. It is a quest to view the world in the many inexhaustible lenses that it provides. It is a lifelong endeavor to be outside the normal because that is where human ingenuity lies, outside the normal — the zone for the misfits. Above labels or tags, it is a mindset that at best seeks to cherish the human spirit because the human spirit is neither black or white, neither Latino or African. It is just a spirit that we all share and nobody is sure of its origins — everything is guesswork.

Let me put this into perspective. To be a liberal is not to be a Democrat in America or a Lib in Australia, that’s beside it. And surely to be a liberal is not to be an LGBT person or to deny the existence of a deity because, though slightly true, it would be incomplete. It is believed that liberals fight for social justice, equal rights, economic justice yet still I find this definition insubstantial. It is more than that. In my own case, it is more than standing with girls or openly expressing that I am feminist. At the heart of being a liberal, I believe, is the endeavor to cherish the human spirit in infinite ways.

"At the heart of being a liberal, I believe, is the endeavor to cherish the human spirit in infinite ways."

To be a liberal means to embrace certain core values and one of these core values which I l believe is paramount to the rest is keeping an open mind. I believe all the other liberal values like lifelong learning, openness to change, embracing diversity to mention just a few emanate from the single value of keeping an open mind. Keeping an open mind is simply the idea of being receptive to diverse opinions, ideas and practices you don’t hold, the ability to see the merits of the unfamiliar, and finally, the exercise of reason and rationality to decide which opinions, ideas, and practices deserve to be adopted or discarded.

Growing up in Swaziland, having lived in more than three countries, and having friends scattered all over the world, practically, being a liberal has taken many shapes and forms. At home, it has meant having to explain why I never stick to one church or lately, why I no longer pray like I used to. With some of my friends in Swaziland, it has meant constant arguments about how a relationship should look like (having one girlfriend, being equal in a relationship, and both parties taking equal responsibility for the relationship as opposed to the popular notion that boys should be more responsible and that women should be kept in the kitchen) and my friends criticizing me for being too soft on women.

Where I currently live and study — in Ghana, being a liberal has meant losing friends and being scorned for deciding that church was no longer my thing. It has meant someone asking me if I listen to the spirit when I did dreadlocks for one weekend as if the church spirit was greater than the human spirit. More interestingly, being a liberal in Ghana has meant having to explain myself over and over again that I believe in the universe and its forces and that I do not ascribe to any specific god whether Christian, Islam or Buddhist god.

Don’t get me wrong, being liberal does not mean being at loggerheads with everyone around though it is a big part of the experience. There are many friends and individuals who have appreciated my being and showed unrelenting support for whatever I have tried in my life — with my parents being my number one supporters. Sometimes, I have had people sneaking up on me either in person or via some random Facebook post and message and thanked me for being me and I appreciate that. These few cases have made me appreciate who I am even more and understanding that my liberal views are touching lives.

Talking about touching lives, if you were thinking of becoming a liberal or you are still not sure here is a note for you: Know that the minute you assume unconventional views you will always be faced with opposition and judgement, that’s the price you have to pay for being liberal and trust me, it’s worth it. You have to stand for whatever you believe, allow new facts and information transform your beliefs. Be ready to go an extra mile when asked to explain your beliefs and views — it takes time for people to understand new things. Be a liberal. Be a misfit. Cherish the human spirit in infinite ways.

"The mind is like a parachute. It works best when it's open" - Dalai Lama

First appeared @https://sihlemagagula.wordpress.com/

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