Tuesday, July 9, 2013

"What I Said I Would Write Yesterday"

My Elementary School teacher, Miss Hatfield, was memorable for her evocative pronouncements.  When she noticed a student peering at their neighbor’s work, she’d call out,

“Paddle your own canoe!”

When a student showed off in front of their classmates, she observed,

“Smarty had a party, and nobody came to it.”

And when you got the answer to a math problem but it was not accompanied by a proof of how you got there, she’d say,

“I’m from Missouri.  I need to be shown.”

That last one was my first definition of what it meant to be a conservative.

Conservatives, the “Missouri” analogy explained, will not accept something simply on your “say so.”  They need evidence.  They need proof.

Forgive me if I’m stereotyping, but from then and thereafter, conservatives were, in my mind, characterized as being cautious, deliberative, level-headed, common-sensical, conscientious, responsible and thoughtful people who, before accepting a reality, needed to turn it over in their minds, and, based on the evidence before them, simmered in the context of habit and history, they would then – finally – make up their minds. 

They’d been shown, and after careful consideration, and possibly an excruciating period of time…

They decided.

Not meaning to hurt feelings, and with the open acknowledgment of my limited understanding, derived more from their representations in the media that from personal experience, I must nonetheless assert…

These are not the conservatives that I recognize today.  

This is me, patting myself on the back before I start.  When President Obama was a candidate in 2008, one of his, to some, naïve proposals was that he would commit to a free and open dialogue with the people around the world, whose fundamental opinions and beliefs differed radically with our own.  His supporters applauded this approach.

My modest proposal is,

We do the same thing here at home.

The following questions, not all of them my own, are admittedly provocative, but hopefully not unfair.  They relate to some core issues on which, though I may not have disagreed with the historical conservatives – especially in the method they employed to think about them – I disagree with the conservatives who are around today. 

This entire experiment may blow up in my face.  But at least I’m trying.  And to be honest, it’s not much of a face.  I’m lying.  I’m cute for my age.


Questions for Today’s Conservatives:

Why is it that, at times of crisis, such as during the Cold War and after the attack on September 11th, conservatives, normally the “Champions of the Constitution”, are so readily accepting of the necessity for setting the provisions and protections of the Constitution aside?

This one’s a “call-back” from a 2008 Republican primary debate, though I am unaware that anything in this area has changed.

Does being conservative necessarily mean being anti-science, and if it doesn’t, why did all the Republican candidates raise their hands when asked to do so if they did not believe in evolution?

This one’s a “call-back” from a 2012 Republican primary debate.

What is the conservative’s practical answer to what to do about people who become seriously ill and have no or inadequate health coverage?  (Or a person whose privatized Social Security investments go south, and they have nothing to live on when they retire?)

Why is it, when conservatives are looking for money for their campaigns they solicit the richest people they know, but when they need money for the country, they go directly to the poor?

Why are conservatives so insistent that we do everything we can to prevent terrorist violence but are equally insistent that we do nothing whatsoever to prevent gun violence?  (Except for buying more guns, which is an answer only for gun manufacturers.)

Given that conservatives believe that lowering taxes on the wealthy will improve the economy, where is their historical evidence demonstrating that this strategy has been successful, and how do they explain those occasions when the economy improved when the tax rate was higher?

Understanding that from Revolutionary times the South was predominantly Republican, then after the emancipation of the slaves courtesy of Republican president Lincoln, the South became predominantly Democratic, then, after the Democratic president Johnson secured the freed slaves civil rights and the voting rights, the South switched back to being predominantly Republican, why would I be wrong in assuming that race had something to do with the affiliational flip-flops by the Southern electorate?

Would conservatives feel the same way about cutting “Entitlements” if they abandoned the word “Entitlements” and replaced it with the words “financial assistance to the poor, the needy, the old, disabled veterans and children”?

Eight questions.  And lest you believe I am picking on conservatives, you should know that I direct similar probing queries at liberals (who rarely enjoy them and consider me a conservative), such as, “What is wrong with applying the descriptive ‘illegal’ to people who have entered this country illegally?” and “Why is it an axiomatic ‘given’ that employers are responsible for the health care of their employees?”

Who knows?  Maybe I just want to be aggravating.

Or maybe I’m just trying to understand.


Keith said...

I haven't finished reading the post, but: "Does being conservative necessarily mean being anti-science, and if it doesn’t, why did all the Republican candidates raise their hands when asked to do so if they did not believe in evolution?"

It was only three out of ten candidates. Did you mean does/didn't instead of doesn't/did?


Canda said...

Earl, you're a thoughtful man, and asking honest questions, but no politicians on the left or right are interested in doing the same. It's all about finger-pointing and blame, and getting the votes.

No politician wants to ask any of their constituents to make any personal sacrifice, and thus we have the mess we're in.

Keith said...

I'm not the optimal "conservative" to answer these questions, but I'm bored at work.

I've voted both Republican and Democrat for some elections, but never for President. In retrospect, I think Clinton was a very good president, except for making Fannie Mae start taking subprime mortgages.

Anyway, I'll respond to the questions from a personal perspective on some, but an analytical perspective on others (when I don't prescribe to those beliefs).

1. (analytical) I think most people like to feel like they're part of something special. So, they want the terrorist attacks to be a turning point in history. This will be an unpopular viewpoint, but only 3500 people died. More innocent people die from drunk driving in a year, so why don't we spend $2 trillion on that? It would save more lives.

2. anti-evolution: only 3 of the 10 candidates said they don't believe in evolution. I'm not surprised by that number.

3. (personal) Health costs and retirement? - family. There's a reason that lower-income cultures have several generations of family living in the same place. I'm not so sure that the amount of money spent on health care is worth the service. In this country if I get an infection I have to pay someone to give me permission to take penicillin without breaking the law. Ugh.

4. (analytical) Money sources - it's the most effective way.

5. (analytical) Terrorist violence vs domestic violence - religion.

6. (analytical/personal) Taxes on wealthy - it's just rationalizing a stance. In the end, threatening to put someone in prison if they don't give you their money is unethical.

7. (personal) South's chosen party - I don't think you can attribute one thought process to millions of people. Some are racists, some aren't. You'd have to ask the ones that changed parties, but they're probably all dead.

8. (analytical) Entitlements - believe it or not, Democrats and Republican have the same thought process when it comes to this - People don't like freeloaders. Republicans say "how dare the poor reap the benefits of the rich by taking money and not putting in the work". Democrats say "how dare the rich not pay the same tax percentage (after all the tax breaks) as middle and lower income families". (personal) I think if we all came to terms with freeloaders we would be a lot more successful.

Keith said...

It's too bad no one else who votes Republican (on occasion) responded. My answers certainly aren't typical (or even that well thought out).