Seing called a knee-jerk liberal in print isn’t a bad thing. Any printed response is welcome. The writer of last week’s letter in response to my column may not know that I’ve been trying hard to overcome my liberalism. In fact, I’ve been taking a crash course in conservatism via the airwaves for the past month. A billboard advertising that “Liberals Hate It” turned me into an exclusive listener of right-wing radio.

I know I’ll be accused of taking remarks out of context but this is what I’ve learned in the last few weeks:

 That a nation of immigrants doesn’t want any more.

 The anti-torture bill passed by the senate is the “Al Quaeda Bill of Rights.”

 It’s OK to make “Ching Chong” sounds when talking about Asian-Americans.

 That blacks who were taken here as slaves fared better, in the long run, than those who were left behind in West Africa. (Angry African-American callers didn’t care for the tortured logic of that one).

 That even a bakery can be described as “liberal,” if it sells gluten-free products.

 That Christians are some kind of oppressed minority in this country.

 John Lennon’s lasting legacy is a drug-crazed culture.

Well, you get the picture. It was refreshing to hear a different slant for a change but listening exclusively to conservative radio began to wear me down. It wasn’t the ideas that bothered me as much as the mean-spirited tone.

Tone is everything when it comes to communication. “Have a nice day” could constitute fighting words if said a certain way. The radio hosts I listened to sounded hate-filled. Many of us are tired of lack of civility in communication, be it commentators, national leaders, or our own village council.

It’s also become tiresome to affix the labels “conservative” and “liberal” to every viewpoint. These arguments quickly descend into each side accusing the other of getting their facts wrong. I’m not even comfortable with the Democrat and Republican labels, as these parties have become almost indistinguishable in their positions. When you see our leaders take the ax to Medicaid, Medicare and student loans, you know they aren’t serving the interests of the poor and middle class.

As for the “liberal” obsession to legislate safety, I liked it better in Ireland. They don’t design their public attractions to be “fool-proof.” If you’re injured or killed through your own carelessness, there’s no one to sue.

So, as a reformed liberal and Democrat, I’m trying to take a common sense approach to the problems facing Forest Park. Hiring a disbarred attorney to assist in our water project made no sense then and less sense now ” especially with the Feds investigating the Melrose Park water project. Ignoring allegations of police brutality also doesn’t make sense. Building a parking structure ” that sounds sensible.

As for a smoking ban in Forest Park, I don’t personally care if we want to continue serving as the “ashtray of the western suburbs,” as one resident put it. I just think remaining a haven for smokers is a shortsighted approach to a significant problem. As for me, no amount of secondhand smoke would ever drive me to those “sleepy” establishments in Oak Park.

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.