Saturday, July 21, 2007

On Why Being Conservative Is Best

But seriously, why am I conservative? Because I have to be something. It's just a label, and one not as clear as being a vegetarian, or a man, or an American. These are essentially states of being. Calls to mind all that high school stuff about abstract and concrete nouns. I won't bore you ... as if I could ... I'm fascinating. Vegetarian is a simple behavior -- that which eats but does not eat meat fulfills the requirement. A man must be an adult human possessed of an XY chromosome. But it can be more complicated. Hermaphrodites. Castrati. "Transsexuals". A code of conduct. Interpretation and opinion may cloud the issue. An American must be a native or naturalized citizen. A legal status. But what of someone brought here illegally as an infant, raised here, possessing every cultural trait and sensibility of a citizen? Perhaps unknowingly provided with false papers? Not an American citizen, certainly -- but American in every other sense of the word. Complicated.

I suppose there are diagnostic criteria for being a conservative. As there would be for being a liberal. But these are mutable things. The conservatives of the Civil War era were pro-slavery, or at least anti-emancipation. The term liberal has no meaning in this context, but the radicals were the emancipationists. Later conservatives were the big business men. There are subtleties here, but we need not go into them. The same goes for liberal -- such history we might look at some other time.

Obviously, at their best, both are right. Self-reliance is important, and so is generosity. Preserving the best of the past is good, as is improving the future. I imagine this is what the so-called moderates think of themselves. Who could be against such things? That's the heart of it. We define ourselves not so much by what we're for, as what we oppose. Since we're all for both self-reliance and for generosity, these can stand only for ideals. What's the reality?

We are not all equal, but we should be equal under the law. The ideal of "created equal" must be tempered by the reality of the manifest inequalities of character and talent. I think then that there are minimal standards that must be applied without exception to everyone attempting to be, say, a fireman ... er, fire fighter. If a woman cannot carry the required weight down a ladder, she does not qualify. Since most women cannot match a man's upper body strength, hardly any women would qualify. If they can't do the job, they shouldn't have it. That is a conservative position. The liberal position says that standards should be lowered for women. I don't get it. What does it have to do with fairness? It's not fair that they were born women? Sounds kind of sexist, to me.

University admissions. Seats are limited, and only those who demonstrate the required skills should be admitted. It has nothing to do with race. A lot, probably, to do with culture. Your culture doesn't emphasis study? That's just a shame, isn't it. Study then, and get the skills. Don't punish someone who did study because you want his place. That's called theft ... well, not technically. Technically, it's called affirmative action. Am I wrong? I could be. To test it, we might imagine someone who is short and uncoordinated demanding to be in the NBA. Oh, demanding this on the basis of their race. Sounds sort of crazy, don't it. If you can't perform at the required level, play basketball in the park. If you can't perform at the required level, go to community college. Maybe you'll get good enough to join the big leagues. If you earn it, you should get it. That's my position. It's conservative. Liberals would have the non-qualified take the place of the qualified. Am I unfair? You'd have to demonstrate where. I don't see it.

I think murderers should be executed. Maybe not always, but mostly. It seems like justice, to me. No, innocent people should not be executed. Gee, great point. And if we have a confession, and the crime is on film, caught live in front of a huge audience of reliable witnesses? Ladies and Gentlemen, I am about to commit the cold blooded murder that I have been cold-bloodedly planning for a long time now. Bang. There. You just saw me commit murder. Lots of them in fact. Of all these school children and pregnant women. I did it, um, with that bomb that just went 'bang'. Well? It is a liberal position that there should be no executions. Can't agree.

Is a "hate crime" worse than some other heinous crime of violence? I say no. I don't care about the murderer's heart. Murder because of racism, or because of sexual sadism -- the victim is just as dead, just as brutally. Do I lack imagination, or sensitivity, or historical awareness? No, you're the stupid one. It doesn't really matter to me why the monster picks one victim over another. Yes, it would be terrible to be a member of a hated group. I am one. So are you. We're all hated. So? Some are more hated than others? That's why we have laws -- to discourage certain actions. Do we need to have laws about the motives of unlawful actions? Seems redundant. In any case, we shouldn't punish people for what they think.

School vouchers, or government public school monopoly. Low taxes or high taxes. Private enterprise or government bureaucracy. Airport profiling, or blue-haired grannies being strip-searched. Marriage as Western Civilization has defined it for the past two and a half millennia, or "gay" "marriage". Birth or abortion. Conscience or moral relativism. United States or United Nations.

Obviously such things merit discussion, and require the expected qualifiers. But you and I are not petty. We get it. We respect each other's intelligence. Neither of us is the stupid one. We understand that only fools are immoderate, but we understand that when we do have beliefs, they should be based on a sincere evaluation of realty as we perceive it. If we don't agree, it's not so much that we don't understand, as that our core beliefs are different. That's the heart of the matter. So often, we define ourselves as much by what we are not, as otherwise.

The problem with discussions on such things is the emotion. We blurt out absolute statements, expecting our passion to convey our appreciation of the subtleties. All we get back is judgment or argument. The point is that I may say I'm conservative, and I may seem conservative, but what I really am is a guy who understands the world through the light of his experience and his aspirations. Life has shown itself to be what it is. My heart yearns for it to be a certain way. The union of these two have brought me to the place I stand and the position I hold. How can this be wrong? Well, it can be. Is it? Only a serious, a sincere discussion would determine the matter. And even then it wouldn't be determined.

Life is too complex for labels. Alas, labels are the only way you and I can communicate. We can't make eye contact.

Maybe that's a good thing. Someone was just telling me I have the prettiest eyes. I wouldn't want you to fall in love with me. ... I don't think I would. ... Drop me a line. We'll talk.


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