Come back with me to my classroom. Average American high school. Classes have finished for the day. I’m just tidying up, shuffling papers, chipping bubblegum off the desks – teacher stuff, when one of my students comes flying through door, breathless and distraught. “Somebody just told me that you’re a conservative!” Her eyes bugged out in disbelief, hoping I would deny the accusation and set her world right again. I mean, I taught honors English and modern dance. She was used to me pouring tea and reciting poetry, perfecting her plies. It was a public school. How could I be conservative?!?
A couple of years later one of my students wrote her college application essay about me, and my being a conservative and how disturbing that was. I was nice, smart, well read – not at all what she had expected from a right-wing nut job. She didn’t put it that way – the essay was really quite complementary, but that’s where it came from – complete amazement.
And then this week I have had some interesting conversations (euphemism) with ex-students who have found my conservatism downright offensive and I decided that this week I’d write about why my politics are what they are. I am a conservative for a reason.
Several reasons, actually.
For one thing, I am a practical person. There is only so much time in this life and I refuse to spend it spinning my wheels. If any given procedure is more trouble than it’s worth I refuse to do it. I’m not going to wash my kitchen floor before 20 people come to dinner. I’ll wait until they’re done milling helpfully around my tiny kitchen and the dishes are done – then it’s worth scrubbing. Conservatives are practical. We do want to help people, but it seems silly to send the money to Washington where they run it through a half dozen agencies, each siphoning off a portion, before they send what little is left out to a few who need it and mostly to a lot of folks who don’t. That offends every ounce of the common sense I’ve learned to live my live by. Who is better off for it? Mostly the folks in Washington. The poor are still with us.
Secondly I’m conservative because I like freedom. I am an artistic person; I have a great need to express myself – through art, dance, and of course, writing. I want the freedom to continue to do so. I don’t want to be forced into hiding my religious beliefs, or my political opinions. I don’t want to have to hide what I really think about anything. I believe in the power of language and that if we take care with our language we should be able to say anything to anyone. I believe in telling the truth. Liberalism does not.
Which gets me to the point of Truth. This is the basic difference between my thinking and liberal thinking. I am very sure that there is such a thing as Absolute Truth. Not everything we think of as true is absolute; I’ll grant that, but outside of time and space Absolute Truth is alive and well, as solid and immutable as granite. It is the anchor to all thought. It is not always pretty, it just IS – like God and His “I am that I am.” As mere humans we cannot seriously think that we can rearrange the great truths of human history and have reality jump right in line with our wild imaginings. Human nature is what it is; we can pretend until we’re blue in the face that all people are basically sweethearts, that decisions no longer have consequences, or that all planets revolve in subservient reverie at our feet, but none of that will ever be true.
Conservatives know history. We know that FDR made the Great Depression much worse with his Keynesian bail-out policies; we know the rest of the world recovered from the Depression years before we did. We know that Calvin Coolidge cut the government in half and not only did the country recover, it flourished. We know that the progressive income tax, the federal reserve, the 17th Amendment have all robbed us of our freedom and our money. We know that no socialist nation in the world is a financially successful place, that no socialized medical system provides anywhere near what we’ve been used to. Conservatives believe in truth, therefore we learn things, we know things. We know enough history and economics to see patterns and we know enough to be able to tell what is good and what is evil.
Which brings me to another point: evil. It is real. Evil people aren’t sick; they’re bad. I didn’t say that sick people are evil; evil people are bad. There’s a difference. Evil people have evil ideas and their incarnation is horror personified. Only conservatives really face that fact. We look back on the “progressive” 20th century and see before us the 200 million people who were murdered by their own progressive, leftist governments. No thank you.
Not only is evil real, so is justice and our need for it. I love that TV ad where the little kids get tricked or lied to and they have a fit – they know instinctively that they’ve been mistreated. They want justice. It is abnormal to look at gross injustice and not feel infuriated. A few weeks ago a judge sentenced a high school teacher to a mere 30 days in jail after he seduced (statutory rape) a 14-year-old girl, who then committed suicide. A forty-year-old Muslim raped his 8-year-old “wife” to death. Nothing happened to him; no charges filed. Conservatives don’t stand for that kind of nonsense. We believe that evil should be punished.
In the fall of 2000, shortly after 9/11 I was having a discussion with an honors English class and I found myself surrounded by young minds who thought that the hijackers were completely within their rights to fly planes into our buildings and kill our people because they believed they were doing right. Oh. My. Gosh. They got a lecture that day. These beautiful young people had been so trained to be “culturally diverse” that their natural outrage was completely stunted. Those were real people jumping out of the World Trade Center that day, our people, and the students weren’t moved at all. I was stunned. Conservatives can call a spider a spider and kill it when they need to. I guess that gets us back to practicality.
And practicality brings up capitalism. I am conservative because I want things to work. I want people to have jobs they can live comfortable on, jobs they enjoy. I want kids to have a great education. I want research and development, innovation, and creativity. None of that happens with socialism. What was the last great invention to come out of Sweden, or Greece? What nation achieved the highest standard of living the world has ever seen? Wasn’t North Korea. The reality is that there are economic laws that function just as surely as scientific laws. If I drop a pomegranate, it will fall. Gravity. If government gets out of the way, the economy always flourishes. If the government gets involved in private business then the only way business can survive is to get in bed with government and you have the mess we’re in now. It happens that way as surely as the mango drops. Why pretend otherwise?
Pretend is the key here. This isn’t a fairytale. It’s life or death. Which brings me to my final point –
I’m a conservative because God is a conservative. “Jesus Christ, the same, yesterday, today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8). God is immutable; His characteristics don’t change. He has, throughout history, occasionally changed the way He deals with man, but the essentials have always been the same. “Abraham believed and it was credited to him as righteousness.” (Genesis, and quoted again in Romans, Galations, and James, all written about 2500 years later.) and He is not like Allah, who at the beginning of the Koran urged love and kindness, occasionally, and then by the end is all kill-kill-kill. Always, from the time Adam and Eve left the garden until today the issue has been to believe in the Messiah and you would be rewarded with eternal life. Always. That kind of rock bottom consistency is what we need in an evil world. We need no social experimentation – God knows what will work and what won’t; He designed us. Let’s stick with that. Wendell Barry ends one of his poems in Sabbaths with this stanza,
For all His creatures were His pleasures
And their whole pleasure was to be
What He made them; they sought no gain
Or growth beyond their proper measures,
Nor longed for change or novelty.
The only new thing could be pain.
That’s why I’m a conservative. How can a thinking person be anything else?