It would surprise me, because it would seem to be a very upfront admission that you are not applying any principle at all, but merely wanting to permit those freedoms that you find amenable and forbid those you don’t like the look of. This is generally the position of liberals I meet, but it is rare to have them own it.
Nice try, Minow. So you have some debating skills after all! I have to say that being as ancient as I am – I was born in the first half of the last century – I have been called many things, but I can’t recall having been accused of being a liberal since at least the mid 70′s. But it was never just “liberal,” it was always something like “soggy liberal” or “bourgeois liberal” and was considered mildly insulting. On the other hand, I hail from a long line of Irish peasants, gypsies and horse thieves, many of whom would have been gratified to learn that one of their number would one day be promoted to such dizzy heights, even if only in your fevered imagination. So, since I’m obviously unable to attain your level of political sophistication, if you want to call me a liberal, OK I’ll be a liberal; just don’t make me wear the badge permanently.
So I’m not applying any principle at all. Maybe not. I value things like freedom, compassion, fairness, kindness and rationality; I don’t claim I always live up to these values, but if by applying a principle you mean dogmatically following some pre-ordained recipe without taking into account such values, without regard to the manifest consequences of one’s actions and without taking into account any cogent arguments there may be for not following the recipe in a particular instance, then I freely admit to not applying any principle. When I say that a case can be made for women only accommodation on public transport late at night, I don’t pretend it wouldn’t involve coercion, of course it would. I accept this and make an argument for allowing it in this case. You, on the other hand, make no argument for segregated public meetings but seem content to carry on denying the obvious.
As to whether I merely want to permit those freedoms I find amenable and to forbid those I don’t like the look of, you may well be right. It doesn’t seem like that to me, but it is always difficult to judge one’s own motives. On the other hand who are you to judge? If you find that question difficult to answer let me help you out:
When you have been thrown out of college for a year because you dared to question their connections with a racist regime (at that time apartheid South Africa) then, perhaps, just perhaps, you will be qualified to start thinking about making a tentative judgement.
When you have been severely injured at a demonstration against this racist regime, kicked by policemen as you lay helpless on the ground, attacked by some fanatic as you are stretchered to an ambulance without any of the copious number of police in attendance doing anything to stop it, and then, to cap it all charged with and convicted of “threatening behaviour,” then, you will not exactly be qualified to make such a judgement but I will be willing to consider what you say.
When you have been standing on a freezing picket line for days on end only to be confronted by idiots who found it particularly amusing to throw condoms filled with urine at you, then maybe ….
I could go on and tell you about other times when I have been concerned to permit those freedoms I find amenable and to forbid those I don’t like the look of, but, short of showing you the scars on my legs from when some racist scum threw boiling oil over them (oh, yes, that’s another occasion,) I don’t think you would believe how anyone could be quite as “liberal” as I evidently am. Perhaps you were only joking when you said it.