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I’m not a conservative. At least I don’t think I am. I do hang out with people who are conservative—they are thoughtful at times and very fun to be around. They try to tell me that I’m really a conservative. Maybe? I don’t know… I love liberation theology, Rage Against the Machine, Jacque Ellul, the Indigo Girls, and I tend to believe government protects us from corporate greed. On the other hand, there are some things about the conservative movement that I can appreciate. So in the spirit of trying to see the world from a different perspective, let me show the conservatives some love.
On many issues it seems as if conservatives and liberals should be able to find common ground. Protecting the environment? Sounds conservative to me. Beyond the basic linguistic connection, conservatism seems as though it should appreciate organic community based agriculture. That’s what conservatism is based on, right? Local power that addresses the needs that are unique to each community. More than once I’ve made the mistake of thinking that people who shop at the farmer’s market in my town are all liberals. “Obama? No, yes, no…? I’ll take some tomatoes.”
Pro-life? Makes sense to me. I’m radically pro-life, which means that I believe it extends to social and cultural patterns, racial injustice, the eradication of any form of oppression that does not allow for human flourishing. True conservatism holds that issues of race, culture, and gender should not determine our identity or our status. We can not and should not be deprived of our rights as human beings based upon gender, religion, culture, or sexual orientation. There is an excellent conservative argument to be made for gay marriage, for example. I made it once in class. There was a very conservative student in the back row who fought me on everything. One day I made the conservative case for gay marriage, to which the student astonishingly replied, “You know, I can’t believe it, but I think I agree with you.”
At times conservatives can express appreciation for diversity in ways that liberals are just incapable of. Most of my liberal friends are beer snobs, for example, mocking me for picking a less than stellar ale. My conservative friends? Don’t give a shit what I drink. Oh, and they’re not afraid to use the word shit either, which maybe is why some people mistake me for a conservative. Liberals also tend toward groupthink on the importance of schooling. Notice I used the word “schooling” and not “education”—there’s a difference that conservatives tend to understand much quicker than liberals. The liberal solution to everything seems to be more and more schooling. I happen to think we need less. Let’s dial it back; lets ‘s get back to apprenticeship programs and small businesses. Let’s allow teachers to educate and make sure that every school district has the resources they need to educate in ways that meet the actual needs of their communities. A cookie cutter approach does not work—a valid point often made by those of the conservative persuasion.
Then there’s gun control. (Recently, a hot topic on this very blog) Look, I’m not a fan of guns, I happen to believe that automatic weapons are unnecessary, and that while the 2nd amendment made sense when our defense depended on militias, now that we have a standing army it seems a bit outdated. Nevertheless, I’m willing to grant that there are rural communities in which gun ownership makes sense. There are places where guns are part of the culture in a good way—hunting, for example. I don’t like guns, I don’t want my kids shooting guns, but I’m not opposed to hunting. In fact, I think there’s something beautiful about hunting when it’s done right. Guns in Chicago? Los Angeles? Or any urban area for that matter? Doesn’t make as much sense. Why can’t communities be free to decide if guns will be part of the culture? Why are we beholden to a one size fits all approach to guns and gun control because of the cultural relic known as the 2nd amendment? I know most hunters believe in gun control—they don’t want just any moron getting their hands on a gun. Yet, the issue remains a polarizing one because we can’t even have a conversation—we’re all too busy retreating to our ideological bunkers to throw our little “truthiness” grenades. Believe it or not, I actually agree with gun right activists when they say that guns aren’t the problem. Only most conservatives remain liberals when it comes to the real problem—the failed war on drugs. What if we took an ultra conservative approach to the issue of drugs in this country? More than one conservative has advocated for the legalization of all drugs—not just pot. Most of the illegal guns in urban areas are purchased with drug money. What if the market for drugs was opened up? Anyone seen the end of the second season of Fargo? The corporatization of crime syndicates?
As I said at the beginning of this piece—I am not a conservative. But that doesn’t mean I can’t acknowledge when conservatives make good points. What we need are more thoughtful conservatives and liberals willing to break free from entrenched ideology in order to seek solutions to problems. Or we need cheap cigars…good conversation always happens when I open up a pack of cheap cigars.