Everybody's a Conservative

Everybody’s a Conservative

“The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper name.” ~Confucius

In most matters, most of the time, we are all creatures of habit and routine. We eat the same breakfast day after day. We take the same route to work. We listen to a certain kind of music and read certain kinds of books or magazines; we have our favorite café and preferred vacation spot. Whether right or left of center, people tend to keep the same job and live with the same partner for years and years.

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Political labels aside, in many ways I am deeply conservative, resistant to change. It really disturbs me every time I see a house or building torn down. In my only trip abroad, it struck me how in Paris you could see a 16th century building next to an 18th century building next to a 20th century one. Over there they preserve and restore. Not everybody in the world keeps their economy going by constantly tearing things down and building anew. Or worse, by putting in a parking lot.

The bulldozed trees bother me the most. Officially, they plant more trees to make up for the ones they topple, but I don’t see those trees. Where do they put them? I doubt the critters have a map, either.

If there’s a buck to be made by tearing down a mountain or polluting a river, it will happen. It’s not conservatives doing that, however. By definition, they want to conserve the natural base of our existence. Who decided that the word refers to amassing money?

Then there’s technology. I’m not an early adopter—quite the contrary. I believe we’re already beset by too many techno-toys with too many bells and whistles. Everything that used to be simple now has a learning curve. They’re pushing us into becoming totally dependent on technology before they get the bugs out. Not until half the country is in self-driving cars will I get into one. I hope the Singularity never arrives.

Conservatives like to keep traditions. One tradition I miss is civility and   bipartisanship in the Senate. It started to go away in 1994 until today politicians are like two armies at war. The Founding Fathers warned us about the dangers of factionalism, and now we’ve got it in spades.

I’m also conservative enough to miss the days when we had highly respected Supreme Court justices like Louis Brandeis, Earl Warren, Thurgood Marshall, and William Brennan, and the SCOTUS was not owned by either political party.

Among many traditions I want to conserve is Social Security, now 82 years old. You would think that was long enough to turn it into a hallowed institution but no—conservative impersonators are still trying to privatize it so the financiers who brought us the Great Depression and the Great Recession can play stock market games, gambling away our nest-eggs.

Conservatives are supposed to be realists. If you know that there are likely to be just as many abortions whether they are legal or illegal, then you would prefer them to be performed under safer conditions. Conservatives look for facts. They know that a small percent of people prefer the same sex from an early age. Since conservatives like social stability, they would support gay marriage. Pretend-conservatives want to punish people for being different.

Fundamentalist religion wasn’t much in evidence when and where I was raised in the Upper Midwest, a region with a strongly German and Scandinavian background. A certain version of Christianity may define conservatism for many in the South and a few Border States, but not for the rest of the country.  I think the conservative (and Constitutional) position here is to keep religious belief as a private, protected right.

For 220 years the 2nd Amendment was interpreted to mean that cities and states could regulate gun ownership. But after a couple of Supreme Court decisions, in the last ten years it’s been anything goes, and we have mass shootings every time you turn around. I’d bring back the older, more conservative reading that held for most of my life and the life of the Republic.

Peace is a conservative ideal. True conservatives don’t want to see everything blown to smithereens and so they support diplomacy and conflict resolution, the Geneva Conventions, UN peacekeeping. Meanwhile, faux conservatives would intimidate other nations, send special forces, put military bases in yet another country (70 so far). They love generals and the military-industrial complex, the whole War System. They think that’s what patriotism and the flag are all about.

It’s obvious that destroying is the opposite of conserving. If you’re really a conservative, you’re against military buildups as well as war. Instead of billions in public funds wasted on war weapons that will either destroy people or soon become scrap metal themselves, you would rather restore bridges, schools, parks, the electric grid, and roads, expand national health, send more people to college.

The political labels are twisted. A lot of people called liberals are really conservative, and a lot of people called conservatives are—well, I don’t know what they are. They put their faith in the Almighty Dollar, authority figures, guns, and the superiority of native-born white Americans. What’s conservative about any of that?