01 August 2012

Poking the conservatives.

For a while there I had a blind spot where I’d provoke conservatives. Not deliberately. Never meant to. I just seemed to do it a lot. Maybe it was ’cause I was swinging to the other extreme as a recovering conservative. I think we all tend to assume that just because we’ve grown past something, others have kept up. But every time I took a poke at some of my immature knee-jerk behavior, it poked other people who still practice this behavior. Only to them it wasn’t immature or knee-jerk: It was good, and right, and righteous, and God-fearing.

Yeah, I know, they’re sheep gone astray.

(See what I mean?)

Naturally, talking about angry conservatives will draw out some conservatives who object, ’cause they’re not angry. Or at least anger isn’t the basis for their reactions. They’re concerned—really really concerned—about the future of our country, and civic morality, and all that. And I should take their concerns more seriously than I do. Because when I don’t, that makes them so angry concerned.

They seem to make this error in logic on a ridiculously regular basis:

I am not P.
I am only Q.
(Except P = Q.)

Back in October 2009 there was this Louisiana justice of the peace who wouldn’t grant a marriage license to an interracial couple. He actually insisted, “I’m not racist. I just don’t believe that blacks and whites should marry.” Um… if you don’t believe blacks and whites should marry one another, race being your sole reason for denying them marriage, that’s racism, you’re a racist, period. You might be a nice racist, or a friendly one, or a well-meaning one, and think you’re not because you don’t hate other races, or because you don’t have a problem with different races living near you, or working for you, or running for office. Your only form of racism is that you don’t believe in race-mixing, and that’s all. But that’s enough to make you a racist. Sorry.

Now, I have never been a racist. I have been a homophobe; I’m trying not to be. I have been a nationalist, a conspiracy theorist, a social Darwinist, and have dabbled with fascism. And while all this sounds like I went absolutely beyond the pale—well, listen to the following definitions, and you’ll see far too many conservative friends, or even yourself, depicted below.

Racist. I find it amusing how many people claim they’re not racists, yet can’t stop using the president’s middle name, Hussein, in order to remind us how he’s of Arabic descent—and to remind us of some national distrust we’re supposed to have of Arabs.

And of course there’s the national distrust we’re supposed to have of Mexicans. Or anybody who speaks Spanish when they’re “supposed” to be speaking English. Because English is the national language, or ought to be—because English is the majority language—because the majority in America happens to be white and of Anglo descent. The demographics are changing? Well then, my racist friends suggest, let’s stop them from changing. How? Um… well, they can’t think of anything that doesn’t sound a little Final Solution-ish, but something. They recommend, at the very least, a Berlin-style wall along the Mexican border, and making English official, and getting rid of free trade in North America. And we’ll see how that goes.

Nationalist. This’d be those folks who assume the United States of America is better than every other country at every single thing. Stats? Who needs stats? This isn’t based on stats. This is based on patriotism. This is based on love of country. If you love America, it is automatically #1. If you suggest it’s not, in any way shape or form, you don’t love America, and might be a Communist (sorry, that one’s left over from my Cold War upbringing)—you might be a traitor, and be happy if the terrorists win.

So healthcare: It’s #1. In the world. End of discussion. No, they know little to nothing about other countries’ healthcare systems… but they’ve heard rumors of the giant waiting lists in Canada’s Medicare system. (Yet somehow they forget the giant waiting lists their own HMOs routinely put them on.) But Canada’s system doesn’t matter: We have the best healthcare in the world. When rich foreigners want healthcare, where do they come for treatment? America. (And when poor Americans want healthcare, where do they go for treatment and meds? Mexico. Seems “best” doesn’t include “affordable.”)

Conspiracy theorist. My conspiracy theorist friends insist they’re not conspiracy theorists. But according to them, the Democrats “are lying about their plans for our nation.” They’re “trying to undermine our freedoms.” They “want to take over the health care industry and turn America into European-style socialism.” They’re “secretly putting into every law their plans for making all our decisions for us.” Secrets? Lies? Mmm; sounds like a conspiracy. And sounds like you have a theory about that conspiracy.

Hollywood is another example. It’s not six or seven different media conglomerates in competition with one another, hiring hundreds of different production companies to make movies and TV and music and books. Instead it’s “the media,” which is monolithically out to do something that tears apart the moral and social framework of our society.

You know, I do agree the media has one destructive goal in common: It’s to sell us something disposable and useless, and charge us as much money as possible for it. Somehow my conspiracy theorist friends miss that one, and assume it’s something liberal instead of something as conservative as base capitalism. But they got their own blind spots.

Social Darwinism is of course the assumption that if you’re poor it’s your own bloody fault, and if you’re rich it’s because you deserve to be. And while we all know exceptions—good God-fearing people whose investments inexplicably went belly-up, or scum who won the lottery—social Darwinists retool their thinking of such people to fit their philosophy. Take away the inherited or married-into wealth of most of the socialites you see on reality television, and you’d finally see them for the boors and louts they are, but put money in their hands and they’re role models. And a good person who is poor will seldom be respected—solely because of the poverty.

Fascism is of course giving up freedoms for the greater good—forgetting that the freedoms are the greater good. So you can have free speech, but don’t burn the flag. You can pray before government functions, but never let a Hindu lead prayer. Small business is the backbone of the economy, but don’t open a shop that sells medical cannabis in my county. Terrorists need to be caught, but once caught, imprison them in Cuba and never ever put them on trial.

When you chip away at rights in order to maintain social standards—when you take away freedom of speech, press, petition, assembly, attorney, habeas corpus, travel, self-defense, private property, religion, and life—that’s fascism. Not government regulating the heck out of healthcare; that’s socialism. Get your -isms straight.

In critiquing such behaviors I sometimes get accused of knocking down conservatism. Not really. My politics still have a lot of conservatism mixed in. I was, after all, raised that way. I haven’t tossed all of it out and embraced liberalism. I’m trying, on a case-by-case, merit-by-merit basis, to throw out the junk that doesn’t conform to God. I don’t try to marry my religion to my political beliefs. One is supposed to be the slave, not the partner, of the other. Sadly, not every Christian gets that, and has made Christianity, not politics, the slave.

Of course the arch-conservative bits had to go, and hopefully I’ll never pick up the arch-liberal beliefs. Arch-anything is a jealous god. It demands sacrifices and makes people expendable. It makes scapegoats and victims, fosters hatred and fear, and is the opposite of what God stands for. Chase it and it drags you down.

Traditional values are not to be blindly adopted. Some traditions, as Jesus proved with the Pharisees, are wrong, and are not based on love but on defending the status quo. Progress does not mean the status quo plus more stuff and better toys. It means more people who want to stop sinning and love their neighbors.

Both Democrats and Republicans honestly do want the best for our country. Problem is, they think their personal desires, and what’s best for the country, is the same thing. So both of them are wrong about how we’re to get it: Through following Jesus.

At the same time, I can’t demand we make following Jesus to be mandatory, or pre-emptively declaring our country a Christian nation when it’s so clearly full of hypocrites. Only Jesus gets to do that, and he hasn’t. This being the case, we have to love our neighbors anyway, and not interfere with their religions (or irreligion) or freedoms. We can share Jesus, but never demand others pay him homage.

I love the United States, but in some things we’re not #1 and should be. Admitting that problem is the first step in solving that problem and becoming #1. Our best citizens are usually the ones who came here to become citizens, and I don’t care what language they speak. Americans can adapt.

Unregulated capitalism is an evil god worthy of scorn and destruction. Its worshipers are our biggest problem. Almost all the evils of our society are powered by that one. Stop gasping in awe of its majesty, and put a bit in its mouth and take a lash to its back. It is our tool, not our master.

…Okay, this is awfully manifesto-like. That wasn’t my goal. It’s just to show you the direction my political thinking has been evolving. As you can see, some statements will have conservatives cheering, and some will make ’em think I lost my mind.

Not every statement fits together into a neatly packaged system that we call “conservatism” or “liberalism” or “socialism” or “libertarianism” or “green,” whatever that means. Might not even fit into Christianity, much as I’d like to think they do. But that’s my ultimate goal.