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Please, explain conservatism to me

Updated: 
June 11, 2017 - 12:05am

I’m confused about conservatives. I see pettiness rather than principle. George Will, in the June 4 WHT, complained that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting was too costly for the United States, and anyway, no one would miss them (including Big Bird fans) if they were eliminated. Mr. Will rates Public Radio and TV as mere “entertainment,” ignores that it is listener supported and only partially government subsidized, and acknowledges that it’s not that costly anyway. Maybe I don’t understand conservatism.

Conservatives seem to have a certain rigidity. The Heritage Foundation states that human nature is a constant, and moral truths are permanent. “Moral relativism” is bad; as if there is one way to solve every problem. Conservatives have little tolerance for nuance or compromise. They trumpet “liberty” as the highest ideal but they don’t object to laws requiring them to drive on the right side of the road, an obvious restriction of their liberty. Conservatives see freedom and property as closely linked. Economic leveling, they maintain, is not economic progress. The rich should get richer and therefore the poor should get poorer. Conservatives want to conserve their money rather than invest their money in their fellow citizens. Conservatives hate taxes even if taxes pay for their airline safety, their automotive safety, their bridge safety, their food and water and breathable air safety, and even Public Radio.

Many, not only those who live in the South, have fond memories of the Confederacy. They fly the Confederate flag as a protest against the powers of the federal government. They ignore that the Civil War was about slavery, not just about some theory of states’ rights. They seem eager to provoke a fight, whether against people at their rallies with alternative opinions, or against other nations with whom the U.S. may disagree. Beating up protesters is fun for them. They are often also Holocaust deniers and as such, they fail to see that intolerant words can lead to intolerant actions. I wonder if they became conservative because they were intolerant.

Conservatives seek to privatize most everything. We have already privatized our armed forces - hiring “contractors” to do some of the distasteful things that soldiers used to do. Our taxes still pay for that, but there is a middleman who takes a profit from it. Privatizing our prisons have made our prison population the largest in all the world, and the business of private imprisonment has become grossly lucrative. That’s supposed to be a good thing? They want to eliminate Medicare and Medicaid because it’s “government insurance,” but offer no viable replacement. Who knew medical insurance was so complicated?

They support the Constitution and the Bible as if they are both dead documents, written long ago by perfect persons who knew everything there was and what was to be, allowing for no growth, change or development. Both documents supported slavery. The fact that both documents have undergone revision and explication to keep them alive is ignored.

Oh yes, “choice.” As human beings we are capable of loving and of procreating and of choosing one or the other, or both. But because the Bible says the Lord was not pleased that Onan practiced birth control, the conservative movement is against birth control. This confuses me. Conservatives are eager to repeal Roe v. Wade, to outlaw abortion. But why would they condemn birth control, an excellent way to prevent abortion? With their loud support for family values, why would conservatives be hostile to women’s health care — including family planning and so much more (to better prepare to have babies when families are ready) — especially for poor families? They’re certainly not eager to spend tax dollars to care for and raise those unwanted babies (many then become unwanted children, and then become unwanted adults). Maybe that’s why rich conservatives don’t want to pay taxes but prefer poor people to pay.

Listen, I know that not every conservative is personally rigid in all their beliefs, and some actually are sensible people. But in these politically charged times, their elected representatives are usually taking the hardest and meanest lines as they make decisions that will affect all our lives. They buy in to extreme perspectives and fail to distance themselves from plainly bigoted, anti-women, hostile-to-the-poor, hostile-to-science spokespersons. They do the conservative movement no good, and do harm to America.

I don’t understand modern conservatives. Am I mixing up “conservative” with “Republican” or with “Trumpist?” Maybe someone can explain.

Barry Blum, MD, is a resident of Kailua-Kona

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