Sunday, February 19, 2006

Woman without party - the life of a closet conservative

You know a conservative when you see one. He sports the Southern accent, walks the Texas swagger, thumbs the Bible, drives a gas-gusler complete with the obligatory American flag, and he goes to the shooting range for good ol’ American fun. He isn’t very smart either, which explains why there are so few right-wingers in any elite academic institutions. How many conservatives are there at Harvard.

Well, things are not that simple. Closet conservatives do exist here. They are intelligent people, and surprisingly, they do care about the poor and the sick. The only difference about these closet conservatives is how they act when the conversation drifts towards anything political. They stay mum, avert the topic, and fidget in their seats as their friends dive into Right-bashing.

I happen to be one of these closet-conservatives. I fit none of the stereotypes. I’m a minority. I’m Ivy-League educated, and I have never been to Texas. I read. I read the NYTimes and have conversations in my head with David Brooks. I am a tree-hugger and I get physically ill at the sight of hummers. I care about the 40 million uninsured Americans, and the plight of the working poor. I was raised by two such people. I simply believe in different solutions to these problems.

I'm a conservative in the old fashion sense. Small government, conservative government spending, more control on the local level, and let the folks in Versailles, Missouri decide for themselves what to teach their kids in their schools and how to run their city politics. Having grown up under a totalitarian government, I wary of centralized power, and of the notion that that big government understands how life works in Versailles and has the people's best intention in mind.

Sadly, these beliefs leave me with no party - neither Republican nor Democrat at this point. These thoughts leave me few opportunity to have a civil, political discussion here as well.

Sadly, in our fine academic institutions, we suffer from a profound uniformity of thought. No one dares to question the supreme evil of George W. Bush. All must tout the utopian vision of universal health care. In a place filled with intelligent and diplomatic people, we somehow resort to a kindergarten style of disagreement: “if you don’t believe as I do, I will call you names.” If you are not a liberal, then you are racist, deluded, homophobic, and selfish. The result is that we no longer discuss pivotal issues of American politics. The liberals already agree with each other, and the closet conservatives are too afraid to disagree. Lost is the art of gentle persuasion, and in its place, rehash of harsh sound bites of political pundits.

The Webster’s Dictionary of the English Language (1853) defines the word “liberal” as meaning “free; open; not narrow; embracing other interests than one's own; as, liberal sentiments or views.” I beseech my dear liberal friends to embrace the original meaning of the word “liberal”. Realize that people have differences in opinions, and it’s not a reflection of character flaw or intellectual defect. Uniformity of thought is far more worse for our country than having a few right-wingers around.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Our political space has thousands of issues and hundreds of different positions on each. Our upbringing and our thought processes help each of us choose our place in this space.

Democrats and Republics represent two mere points in this vast space. And these points were chosen by career politicians to maximize their chances of winning elections - either to encourage votes or campaign contributions. It seems that they often take contradictory positions just to score political points against the other side.

It isn't surprising that many like yourself have a hard time identifying with either party. Perhaps what is more surprising is that people can identify with a singular point in such a vastly complex space.

2:28 AM  
Blogger The Tiger said...

Thing is, the original meaning of the word liberal maps to "conservative" opinions, in the North American use of the term.

But... have courage! Even among the most left-wing people (and I was once one of them), one can manage to speak one's mind without destroying friendships and sowing disaster. (I was about to say "without sowing discord", but that isn't true. :-))

5:49 AM  

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