In a recent conversation someone snidely remarked: "Maybe you should explain the differences between Conservatives and Liberals in American politics." A variety of definitions were given, ranging from the Dixiecrats to the Neocons, and all the little Independents in between. The simplest explanation described an axis, where Conservative thought appeared on the Right and Liberal to the Left. All in all, I'd call the conversation a basic primer to American Politics.
But when the conversation came to include those from outside the American borders a different picture arose; one that showed our Left as a fairly Conservative notion. When you broadened the spectrum a little wider than our basic education you see alternatives such as Communism and Socialism. From our American perspective, these ideas are either outdated or completely Evil; or simply put, they're not American. We don't have "Commie Pink-o Fags" in our Government, and even the great Ron Paul: The Republican Hope of the Internet preaches against the tenets of Socialism.
What disturbs me about this picture is that America doesn't look as free as I used to believe. In fact, we seem more similar to the "Muslim Extremists" than I initially imagined. And while pictures and imaginations lend themselves well to Academia, in reality, our Government has been at war with these ideas since the Cold War. All the Wars and Conflicts have been a part of the same battle for control. Where the Left would hand control over to the greatest number of Citizens, the Right keeps the power in the hands of the Few. It seems that America wouldn't have it any other way.
When I imagine myself on this spectrum I consider the fact that an Open Democracy would fall to the Left -- possibly the most extreme form of Liberalism that one could imagine. But upon closer inspection the images drawn on an Open map reveal clusters of nodes that connect on a multi-dimensional plane. The very concept of our ideas lying somewhere in 2-Dimensional space sounds more like a Flat Earth philosophy. It appears that the idea of an Open Democracy might not fit in the minds of the people simply because we've never thought of the world in those dimensions.
Ultimately, when asked if I'm Conservative or Liberal, I'd rather answer that I'm Open to new ideas.