“Progressive”. The word is popularly considered a euphemism for “liberal”, and in 2013 “liberal” and “radical leftist” are likewise increasingly synonymous. But do liberals really have a monopoly on progress? If not, why do more reasonable persons allow this cynical conceit to endure?

An ideologically left-wing, liberal thinker helming the ship of civilization would plunge her at full speed headlong over a sheer cliff and call it “progress”, a claim that would echo all the long way down to the jagged, rocky valley floor. In the name of being “progressive”, suicide (or worse) is an elided side-effect of the liberal pill. History shows that liberalism has been no antidote to closed-mindedness, hatred, even genocide. And liberal intolerance for anything non-liberal has proven a rude awakening for many a disillusioned pilgrim lured to the land of leftism.

Those who believe liberals own progress have surely never served as a mediator, arbitrator, conciliator, negotiator, or peacemaker. The only thing liberals monopolize is liberalism. But when bridges must be built, ties forged, compromises made, and opposing sides brought together in cooperation, liberals and their liberalism do not avail.

No, liberals do not have a monopoly on progress any more than conservatives do. If anyone represents progress it is surely the moderates, those who make things happen and get things done. Those who can see the useful and useless aspects in the ideas of both ideological and political extremes, and have the temerity to safeguard the former while dispensing with the latter. Moderates are the reasonable, centrist, common sense thinkers and doers who see the big picture and work to underscore commonalities. In any ideological or political spectrum, moderates are the only ones who deserve to be called “progressive”.

In sum, my view is this: liberals are necessary to keep ideals alive; conservatives are necessary to keep liberals alive; and moderates are necessary to make things happen and get things done. Reasonable moderates aim to be as liberal as they can be and as conservative as they must be. That is no profound wisdom, rather common sense.

So the next time a self-identifying leftist casually conflates “liberal” and “progressive”, feel free to deflate that fallacy right then and there. You’d certainly be doing truth a service and moderates everywhere a favor.

A final word about “progress”, which is unthinkingly overemphasized and over-credited in modern society, as if it is some sort of remarkable achievement. Actually, progress is basic and the bare minimum. Far more helpful and salutary is elevation or exaltation – spiritual and ethical – for both the individual and society at large. Progress is the floorboard; elevation the ether.

If we are rats in a race, then progress is an understandable and sympathetic aim. But if we are human beings created in the image and likeness of the Divine, why should we settle for the starting line of progress when we might aim for the finish line of exaltation?

Something to think about.