Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Politics Tutorial: Part I, the Conservative

Politics Tutorial Part I: Conservative

I am going to explain here what true conservatism means. So this will be a tutorial to provide an accurate definition of a “conservative.” I will turn my attention to liberalism and being a “liberal” in part two. I always have young people on my mind, hoping this will be of benefit to them in particular, as they have been raised and educated in very ambiguous and erroneous times, thus they have been taught simply wrong definitions and historical perspectives of both concepts, of both conservatism and liberalism. But I also have to address the very followers and “believers” of each “side” too, because I have observed that you don’t even know what it actually means to claim to be a conservative, or to claim to be a liberal. Both sides have totally lost their integrity of cause as a result, since you claim to be what you no longer remember it is in truth. A kind analogy is like this. Everyone has probably seen a little boy, let’s say a three or four year old, who one day, in imitation of his father, tells someone “I’m a man too!” We all smile, and even maybe call him “Little Man” as a nickname, but while he is a male, and he is a little boy, he is not yet a man, nor does he even know all the fullness of definition of what it is to be a “man.” Likewise I see even the party leaders calling themselves “liberal” or “conservative,” and they don’t have a clue as to what that designation and position really means, no matter how much they think they are emulating their historical predecessors. So I hope to bring a strong light of clarity to this problem. Let’s start with conservatives.

The word “conservative” comes from the verb “to conserve.” For example, the early environmentalist aka “green” movement was called “conservation.” By the way, the “politically correct” movement in speech from using the term “conservationist” to “environmentalist” was an early sign of losing comprehension of one’s own terminology and implied actions, and has been at the root of much of the problems of radicalizing the “environmentalist” movement. Ironically by changing from “conservationists” to “environmentalists,” the result boomeranged to the opposite of what they wanted. But that is a subject for another tutorial. Back in the early days of the “conservationist” movement (of which I was a part and an observer), the philosophical “sorting out” that we did was to decide whether we were “conservationists” or “preservationists.” Everyone agreed that the difference is that conservationists do “conserve,” as in “protect” or “accumulate” or “judiciously utilize” while preservationists “preserve” in the sense that they will not use what they have, but maintain it in its “original state.” Thus those who decided to work in the new area of designating historic buildings and areas and restoring them chose, correctly, the term “historic preservationists.” Historic preservationists identify and restore buildings or even neighborhoods to how they appeared at a particular meaningful time, and then they defend that restoration against change or degradation. Conservationists correctly realized that they could only rarely be “preservationists,” since the earth is, by definition, the place where humans and animals live, where progress takes place, and change happens, including the hopefully judicious and prudent use of natural resources. So here is the important point. Many people think that to be a “conservative” means to be “frozen in time.” That is not true. A conservative is a realistic who embraces change, but only while “conserving” the base on which the change would be implemented. In politics this means that a conservative is a person who protects the basis of the, in our case, American way of life and the American nation and mandate as a whole. In lifestyle a conservative is a person who protects his family and livelihood. He does not do this by sealing the family up in a bomb shelter; that would be a preservationist LOL. A conservative man or woman has as their primary purpose the protection and thriving growth of their core family, their core beliefs and their core method of making a living.

So a conservative is constantly concerned with and is constantly checking all proposed “changes” against a mental evaluation of whether that change is consistent and protective of the good foundation upon which the change is proposed. A vegetarian conservative, for example, would think carefully about what salad dressing he or she is adding to their carefully constructed salad. A vegetarian conservative understands that the nutrition and the goodness of their meal is the salad, constructed to their taste using wholesome ingredients. The “change” is the salad dressing, and a vegetarian conservative considers carefully what dressing they add to their salad, seeking only to improve upon the salad and not to harm or ruin it. So a really conservative vegetarian might cautiously add oil and vinegar, enough for flavor and moisture, but not to add calories, fat, artificial ingredients, or worst of all, a repellent taste. A kind of borderline conservative vegetarian might dump huge globs of high fat ranch dressing, making it delicious if he or she only wants to taste the dressing and not the salad ingredients LOL. They are still a conservative, even then, because they still eat the nutritious salad, valuing it, even though they just taste and calorie bombed it LOL.

This is why a political conservative is constantly checking any proposed political change, no matter how worthy that change is, against the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and also ways of handling unintentional consequences and fallout of even good changes. Suppose that the vegetarian conservative decides to add beets to the salad. Would he or she just drop the glass jar of beets into the middle of the salad? Would he or she buy a whole fresh beet, and then throw it unwashed and unpeeled right into the middle of the salad? Um, no, unless the conservative is engaging in some sort of performance art (and conservatives tend not to make statements using absurdist style performance art). No, the vegetarian conservative washes, peels and slices the right amount of beets to enhance the salad, not to “make a point” of “change for change’s sake.” Further, the vegetarian conservative makes sure that he or she has prepared sufficient beets for their whole family or all their friends and more so, has provided alternatives for those who just cannot abide the taste of beets. This is why TRUE political conservatives constantly, consistently and carefully assess any proposed change, no matter how judicious and beneficial, against the backdrop of what they are conserving, which is the United States, its freedom, its protections, its stability and its impact on families and culture, including genuine freedom of worship.

Thus a real vegetarian conservative might drive moderate conservatives or liberals crazy while they do this assessment. A real vegetarian conservative, when presented with a newly discovered “vegetable” to “try out” is likely to do a lot of thinking and research before serving it up to his or her family. A vegetarian conservative, if given a newly found vegetable, the “zork” let’s say, by a world traveling neighbor, and being told that it cures cancer, prevents pimples and removes that excess belly fat would be very, very, VERY cautious. A vegetarian conservative would carefully consider the implications of BOTH scenarios, if the zork was indeed a new miracle food, what would be the impact of that success (might kids get addicted? would it destroy the corn industry?) or the alternative that it is not true and possibly even dangerous (thus the vegetarian conservative is glad they took the time to research and think about it before biting into it and serving it to their family or friends). Meanwhile the less understanding moderate conservative or liberal might be yelling insults at the vegetarian conservative while the vegetarian conservative is pondering, since they do not understand the sober responsibility of the vegetarian conservative. They just view it as “resistance to change” and the vegetarian conservative being “frozen in the past.” While the vegetarian conservative is evaluating the zork, the moderate conservative or liberal runs out and buys ads on the TV and Internet accusing the vegetarian conservative as being “against change” and having “issues” because they won’t immediately embrace the zork.

No matter what their party or political designation, I argue that every United States President before the last century was a conservative. Even if they had kooky ideas and took risks, each President since George Washington, up until the most recent of times, had first and foremost the “conservation” of the Republic of the United States of America as the cradle of goodness and freedom. In fact, I would argue that until recently, every American was a conservative, whether they realized it or not, especially once they reached a mature age. In fact, that was a common pithy saying when I was growing up. People always joked, and also explained, that liberalism is a youthful experiment and point of view, until they grow up and have “something to protect.” A wise middle aged conservative woman once explained that to my extremely liberal ex-husband, saying “If you had something to protect, you’d be a conservative.” Somewhere along the line, I’d say in the 1960’s, having something to protect became a dirty word. The pop psychology and depressive sex and drug culture argued that protecting is “bad” and having nothing to protect is “good.” Conservatives were demonized as being “against change.” Does that sound familiar? Conservatives are not against change. Conservatives tend to be the drivers of prudent GENUINE change that also preserves all that is good and free about the base.

You need look no further than the great President Abraham Lincoln. As every student knows Abraham Lincoln fought the Civil War on the side of “preserving the Union.” Lincoln did not invade the South in order to overthrow slavery. Lincoln opposed slavery using sound conservative principles. Lincoln refused to allow the Southern states to claim “States’ rights” in order to maintain their slavery and further Lincoln refused to allow the states to secede from the Union (in other words, break away from the United States and form a separate country) in order to maintain their slavery. See, if maniac liberals went back in time and tried to advise Lincoln in the beginning of the crisis, they would leap onto the Constitution and insult it, saying that it “should never have had slavery in the first place,” and that “the United States is a bad country” and would have agitated for actions that weaken or even destroy the base of the country, rather than using the conservative solution, which IS forceful and it IS change, but it seeks to protect the Union, not destroy it, while doing a great good. Maniac liberals would have attacked the fact that the USA was formed when slavery was a dreadful but prevalent practice, they would have attacked “states rights” as a whole, just because the seceding states sought to misuse that right, rather than use sober and deep understanding of the accurate and good basis for the country, its foundation, and reinforce the return to the Union without losing rights in the course of gaining rights. Thus Lincoln succeeded in one of the greatest changes in the history of the country, the abolition of slavery, exactly by being a conservative, who said, basically “Yes, states rights, but not those rights, and yes states rights, but not at the cost of the Union, not by fracturing our country.” Maniac liberals would have wanted the entire Constitution and States rights thrown out, and thus would neither have defeated slavery nor preserved the goodness of the nature of the United States. By the way, don’t worry, when I write about liberals I will criticize maniac conservatives too!

A genuine conservative does not need to be “schooled at Yale” or attend the correct mind expanding socials to be “smart enough.” For example, our vegetarian conservative did not have to learn how to make a healthy salad by watching a cable network, or going to a Culinary Institute. Genuine conservatives are informed by both their natural intelligence and their instincts, founded on love. Liberals love too, but I will explain the difference in the second tutorial. Genuine conservatives have an ardent love of their country and the traditional family as its basis, even if neither has been particularly kind to them in their personal life. Plenty of conservatives grew up in the school of hard knocks. The difference is that they do not feel that entitles them to be victims with a chip on their shoulder. This is because they recognize that stuff happens in life, but it is not an indictment of life, or their great country, or the importance of the family. For example, our vegetarian conservative might have a bad salad at a restaurant one day, but he or she does not now condemn all salads, or all restaurants. A genuine conservative recognizes that if he or she had freedom curtailed unfairly, or they grew up in a sad family situation, that is all the more reason to “protect” and “conserve” the right of everyone else to have a different experience, a positive and fruitful experience. Now, the “how” this is accomplished is where authentic conservatism has come unraveled and warped in modern times, resulting in jingoistic knee jerk reactions by many modern so called conservatives toward genuine suffering. I deplore modern conservatives who do not seem to understand compassion. That is not how it used to be, even in times when social services were absent. True conservatives had genuine social compassion, and they used to be wise and prudent about how to achieve it. I cannot say that they have that knowledge now. This does not make liberals “correct.” It means that there is a huge gaping hole in America that both sides are worsening, not bettering. Not too long ago even self proclaimed liberals were conservatives. I sometimes think that Hubert Humphrey was the last true liberal, who was a conservative who promoted change and social justice. Ah, yes, that is my hint about the definition of a true liberal.

I hope that you find this useful.