Friday, October 14, 2011
A Manifesto: Why I am a Conservative
Claiming to be a conservative makes you a target, in some ways. By claiming that label you are vilified by some, and misunderstood by others who use the word to describe themselves. In both cases, the person doesn’t understand the meaning of the word, really, not historically. In some ways I could also call myself a liberal, and would of course be misunderstood. People tend to confuse these words with ideological positions on certain issues today rather than what they really stand for.
By conservative, I mean I value the past and believe we should be slow to enact new policies just for the sake of change and so-called “progress.” That doesn’t mean I want to go back to any time in the past. I love history, but from a distant. There is no ideal time before now that I would want to live in. I’ve lived long enough to know that. Were the ‘60s good, when I was growing up and understanding the world and everyone was questioning the status quo with abandon and without a solid world view? The ‘70s, when Christians were getting lost in political causes? The ‘80s, when we became so materialistic? The ‘50s, when African Americans were finally making their voices heard and experiencing retaliation?
Chesterton said that conservatism was the democracy of the dead. Reagan once said, quoting someone else I think, that conservatism was the worship of dead liberal. I like that. The great minds of the past have something to say to us, and what they say is change, but do it slowly. Respect the values that have gotten us here. Dance with the one who brought you, so to speak.
And some of those values are old. I value the physical world God created—a value that goes back to Genesis. I don’t value it and want us to clean up pollution and toxins because I worship mother earth or want people to diminish. I do it because it’s God’s world, our children will have to live in it, and we have raped the world and poisoned it.
I value absolute truth and clear right and wrong. Morality is not as fuzzy and gray as people want to make it.
I value human beings, because we are all in the image of God. Abortion makes absolutely no sense to me. I experienced infertility and wanted more children, for one thing, but the concept of purposefully killing one’s child is, forgive the pun, inconceivable.
I value people having freedom to believe, express, associate, gather, and print whatever they feel is right and for the good of the community. That is not what is happening today with freedoms, but it should be. True conservatism is not focused on the individual, but on the res publica, the community, because true conservatives know that we live with others and need each other, past, present, and future.
I value our human bodies, so abuse with drugs, sex, food, is wrong. Dualism is a scourge on our bodies and souls. Obesity is a problem of this progressive age, not the past. It comes from government fiddling with the food supply, making us eat more corn products, which we should not. Government programs have done some good things—I would point to the G.I. bill as probably the best of them, since it rewarded men and women who were willing to give their lives for their country with a college education. Some environmental policies have been useful. But most of them have only made the problems worse, only given short-term good results with long-term bad unintended consequences. I would point to ethanol (again with the corn) and cash for clunkers and Solyndra.
True conservatives eschew conspicuous consumption, because most of it is debt-based anyway. True conservatives are tight with their money; they don’t drink Starbucks, paying four dollars for a cup of coffee that costs five cents at home.
I value our ability to make money by our own efforts, by making wise and sometimes sacrificial decisions about education, where we live, and what we want to do. I do not believe the government owes me anything, but it is hard not to fall for that when we have to give the government so much of our money. I have so many people in my family living on social security that I feel like I am supporting them! I never got a dime of Pell Grant or student loans when I was an undergrad or graduate student (two masters programs). (I did take one out for my doomed doctoral work, and regret it). Too many people on the dole or social security, and I count some family members in this, mostly use the money to buy cigs and beer and play the lottery.
I value civil debate, where raised voices do not count for arguments, where calumny, no matter how funny, does not count for logic. I also value truth in a debate, not made up stuff that has no relevance, such as animals are “gay” or lots of other civilizations in history have had same-sex marriage.
I value that marriage has been, for all time, between a man and a woman, and with due respect to some fine human beings, they don't get to redefine thousands of years of civilization.
It’s hard for conservatives like me not to be scolds, because we see so much that flies in the face of true conservative values, even among those who also call themselves conservatives. The tax code should be fair and just, and it shouldn’t make it possibility for ultra rich to avoid their responsibility for living in this country—neither should it let 50% of the population off the hook for taxes. It should not penalize people who saved for their families.
The federal government should not tell us how to eat. How’s that working out for everybody?
There is an African-American man from New York who was running, I think, for Congress there, whose campaign slogan is “The rent is too damn high.” I would say, “The federal government is too damn big, and intrusive, and nosy. All our economic problems can be traced to the government trying to solve a problem we would be better off solving at the state or personal level. We often hear, “You can’t legislate morality,” but the government tries to do it all the time. I don’t count abortion in this, because it’s an equal protection issue. The best government is limited government, and government as close to the people as possible.
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