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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Rise of the Conservative Liberal

Because I focus mainly on religion, it may appear that I do not often delve into the world of politics. However, I have for a long time been politically aware, and I do not see a sharp divide between religion and politics, as in the past the rulers of countries have frequently been both priests and kings. I come from a rather politically active background, in fact, as my blessed mother was for many years a town selectman and then a state legislator, while my father was the chairman of our town's board of education and taught psychology at a university. We were raised on causes, most of which I share with my mother, who was widely respected by people of all stripes and political parties, as she was extraordinarily fair and balanced on a wide variety of issues. On some issues she butted heads with fervent religionists, which may have been a seed from which my own fervor has sprung.

In any event, while my mother was an old-fashioned Republican - in other words, the classy kind of yesteryear, as opposed to the creepy kind of today - I first registered as an Independent, then a Republican and finally a Green. When I left our state, I was shocked to discover what "Republican" meant elsewhere. I won't even go into describing my early take on the major political parties, lest I be deemed an "elitist." I do not live like an elitist, nor was I raised in wealth. My comfort zone is solidly middle class, although that referred not to our family income but to the way we presented ourselves. We didn't hire people to make sure our homes appeared middle class; we did the work ourselves, and from a young age I spent many hours painting, wallpapering, sanding, stuccoing, shingling, refinishing furniture and so on. We did all this work on a shoestring budget over a period of many years until we lived in what seems to me in retrospect to be mansions. Obviously, my homes were not mansions, but they were really beautiful. The last one I lived in with my family was a Colonial begun in the early 18th century with four acres of rolling hills and woods, and several large barns that entertained us for years. We were surrounded by gorgeous, healthy nature, including numerous pets such as dogs, cats, chickens, goats, horses, squirrels, wild birds, hamsters, turtles and fish. Our house and yard were always filled with critters of some sort of another.

Anyway, I digress, but you get some idea of my childhood. It was not completely ideal, and there were some serious troubles, but in comparison to the horrors that pass for life all over this planet, it was pretty good. Like my mother, who had such a strong sense of civic duty, at times I attempted to improve life around me. At other times, I was a mess and a scalliwag. But I did receive strong political impetus, most of which could be termed "bleeding heart liberal," although it would also seem paradoxical. For example, my mother held human life as essentially sacred and was the founder of a couple of non-profit organizations designed to assist people who were "retarded and handicapped," as we called them back then, by providing them with skills training and other assistance. My mother also found merit in the concept of "good death" or euthanasia, per the dictionary definition of "a quiet, painless death." This position seems to be a paradox but is not when considered in depth. Naturally, even though such "death with dignity" is a longstanding tradition around the world, mom took heat for her stance, which was based in part at least on her long and close observation of suffering.

I too constantly find myself in a seemingly paradoxical position, which caused me to coin the term "Conservative Liberal," with tongue planted firmly in cheek. I am fervently pro-environment and even helped get the Green Party ballot status in California back in 1992. Yet, I am also against gun control for the most part. Not that I would encourage anyone to run around with a gun, and I don't believe that automatic weapons should be made readily available to the public. But I also know too well the history of the world, including the neverending tendency toward tyranny. I suppose if I were to consider myself politically aligned, it would be with the American "Founding Fathers," the original minutemen and militias, the heroes of the American Revolution, et al. I do not concur with them in everything, obviously, as we are nonetheless over two centuries apart. But, as a youth I concluded that the Founding Fathers - as I understood them from my schooling - were classy and highly respected individuals, and I wanted to emulate them, such that I did in fact go on to major in Classics, Greek Civilization, because many of them were thus educated. Indeed, that type of education was considered de rigeur back then. I am not otherwise particularly knowledgeable about the Founding Fathers, but my impression of Thomas Jefferson, for instance, is that he and I would likely see eye to eye on many subjects. The issue of slavery is, of course, a sticking point that doubtlessly would have made me nauseated as it does today, and it is certainly not my place to make any apologies for the FF's for that bizarre aberration, anymore than I can explain its presence in my beloved ancient Greece.

I am also pro-choice, with reservations, but I am not against capital punishment in clear-cut cases in which innocents have been murdered. I generally have no problem with a life sentence, but I can understand the rage and indignation that would find the death penalty satisfying. It is highly tempting to simply fry the likes of Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, et al, ad nauseam. I frankly find the stance of "Compassionate Conservatives" who fret about "the unborn" but who have no problem "pulling the switch" to be paradoxical if not hypocritical. So, it's okay to compel an unwanted and unloved person into this world, and when they grow up and commit crimes, then it's okay to kill them? Obviously, not everyone who is unloved or unwanted is going to become a criminal warranting the death penalty, but children who are loved and wanted generally do not grow up to become torturers and killers.

In any case, I do not in reality wear any label when it comes to politics, as I analyze one issue at a time. I attempt to weigh everything that comes into my scope. For instance, whereas once I may have thought that the idea of an "illegal alien" was preposterous, as no human being is "illegal," after many years witnessing the effects of what is clearly bad behavior, as opposed to desperation, in too many instances, I have moderated that position. Of course, no human being is illegal, but there must be social mores and common sense and decency. Anarchy may sound like fun to the youngsters but would we be able to function if everyone decided that they just didn't want to, say, stop at red lights? I've thought about that phenomenon. For all the scofflaws and criminals on this planet, few are ready to recklessly run red lights. Now, why is that? For self-preservation? Most of us do it, I would assume, because it's the right thing to do. Obeying traffic lights could serve as a metaphor for society as a whole.

I do not believe all laws are just and should be followed; for example, the draconian drug laws are frankly immoral. There are clearly victimless crimes that do not warrant a person's life being destroyed by being locked away in prison. In the case of immigration, however, I do believe that a legal process of entry is merited. I would love for the entire world to be so desirable as is the U.S., such that people didn't need to be flocking here for an improvement in their lives. So, perhaps instead of expecting the beautiful Lady Liberty to throw open her, ahem, arms, how about everybody attempting to improve the rest of the world?

There are many other planks in the Conservative Liberal platform.


Sydney said...

Well, if it's a paradox, then it must be true. I take great pleasure in announcing my status as a Conservative Liberal, not a Liberal Conservative. Priorities, baby. Priorities.
Ah, that AND growing up. It's changed my perspective. Thanks for this personal glimpse.

Anonymous said...

You just may be a libertarian. Libertarianism is for anyone who does not want to push other people around and refuses to be pushed around himself - or herself. It is based on the philosophical premise of self-ownership. I recommend that you not limit yourself to the old left-right (liberal-conservative) spectrum. There are more choices, libertarianism being one of them. Find out by taking "The World's Smallest Political Quiz." You will find it at the web site of The Advocates for Self-Government (

Anonymous said...

Well said are those truths of our shared reality. Its high time we reject these false categories, falsely imposed choices around who we are and can be, choices determined by state/religion/royalty and their oppositions. I've always identified with Radical Traditionalist "label" for myself. These days I'm often ruminating on what truly sets humanity apart from one another. Seeing the thinking-empathetic-inclusive-oriented folks being completely fed up with this ancient problem of arrogant-isolating-idealogue-sociopaths and their sheeple minions. Some postulate two kinds of humans. I don't know if it ultimately matters. One's relationship with the earth is a good indicator. Works for me. Question all labels! See the effects of any political/religious policy as it plays out on the ground with real lives. We're all complex beings incredibly unique within an infinite spectrum of perspectives. Thanks for raising the dialogue level once again.

Acharya S said...

To Dave - Hey thanks, but I've known about Libertarianism for many years. Some aspects of it are fine by me, and of course I encourage others to educate themselves as to what that label means. Obviously, from my essay I am not "label-able," since I've been a liberal who takes conservative stances, as well as an Independent, Republican and a Green. I've voted for candidates across the board, including from obscure parties such as Peace & Freedom, etc. I do not "limit myself to the old left-right" at all! In fact, that was the point of my essay and the very tongue-in-cheek terminology "Conservative Liberal." Nevertheless, I'm sure others will enjoy taking the quiz you recommend.

Anonymous said...

Beautifully stated! I've described my political outlook in much the same way and have incidentally registered affiliation with the Green Party for several years now. It makes sense that a true Conservative would want to conserve the priceless heritage of Nature and equally guard traditions of human freedom, so hard-won over the centuries. The classical "Bethamite" Liberal recognizes that to the extent that any human lives are diminished by material and educational poverty, all human beings are diminished --- for the world is one place.

Arevette Avon said...

I don't think there is any political party which I can fully assent to. There's just not enough choices.

Acharya S said...

BTW, folks, David Bergland, who suggested I "just may be a libertarian," was the Libertarian Presidential Candidate in 1984 and posted a respectable showing. He's also the author of Libertarianism in One Lesson, which has sold 150,000 copies.

Unknown said...

Please consider that libertarians tend to believe in having little of no government to control business.This line of belief primarily believes in only free market economy and no government controls. This approach has not worked out very well obviously and this conservative position on economics is a are you libertarian conservatives still a big fan of such libertarian values?