conservative (adjective): disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditional ones, and to limit change
That will be the working definition I use for conservative for this post. Often there is a confusion, and I am certainly guilty of carelessly contributing to the problem, because too often “conservative” is used as a synonym for views of one particular political party (usually American Republicans, though individuals manage to twist it into a plethora of other species).
Basically, saying someone is “conservative” is not so much a laundry list of issue-by-issue stances as much as it is a statement of attitude or overall intent. For example, I am a pro-choice conservative, because I don’t want things to change in the abortion department (at least from how things were when I was growing up… I think we should undo the thoughtless progressive regulations placed on abortion by “conservatives” of late).
Of course, it is also conservative to want to return to 1950’s conditions, when abortion was banned… or actually just driven underground and made more dangerous for the mother. Plenty of abortion happened, you just had more women dying from it. Wanting a return to that tradition (you know, “the good ole days”) is also conservative.
Conservatism is sort of all about perspective, and they say yesterday’s liberal is tomorrow’s conservative… though since so little is actually changing, I can’t imagine today’s liberals growing up and needing to defend any of their policies, since they’ll still be fighting to have them passed into law (well… not fighting, but asking politely and then being shocked when dismissed).
For me, conservatism has its roots in religion. Religion says that certain rules came down to us from gods, that these rules are perfect and unchanging. This is the ultimate conservatism, even given the fact that people manage to interpret the same religion a thousand different ways (this is largely a function of the imperfect nature of religion, which is as flawed as anything else man has ever created).
To me, conservatism only makes sense if you firmly believe that everything we have now or at some point in the past was perfect. Conservatism only makes sense if you don’t believe progress is possible.
One thing I pick up very quickly when talking to conservatives is that they don’t seem stupid or ignorant, they just seem like enormous pussies. We’re talking huge, gigantic, you-could-drive-their-SUV-through-it pussies. Conservatives are so unbelievably bland, boring and utterly afraid of risk. I’m surprised they risk opening the front door in the morning.
This comes through a lot in their media and rhetoric. Fear is a major driving factor. Fear of X means we have to take your freedoms for a bit, but don’t worry, you’ll feel safer. But the biggest fear of conservatives has a name: change.
Caveat: While I don’t have to define what change is here, I should point out I mean real change, not campaign slogans from the other conservative party, the Democrats.
For example, let’s look at gay marriage. The argument against gay marriage, once religion is stripped away, essentially boils down to “if it ain’t broken for me, don’t fix it.” The system is working for all of these straight people, so why should we risk screwing up a good thing and allowing fags and dykes the right to be legally recognized as a couple?
I mean sure, it’s self-centered and incredibly ignorant to think that, but there’s pseudo-reasoning involved here that is important to grasp. Conservatives seem to be acknowledging they’re too dumb to foresee the implications of an action, so since the world isn’t on fire … we must be doing everything right.
I don’t make this assumption based on my thoughts on the matter, but on conversations that invariably lead to this:
“So what possible problem would occur if gay marriage was legalized?”
“Well… I reckon people will want to marry their iPod.”
The old conservative crutch: the slippery slope. You know, because society is just one frivolous law repeal away from complete and utter chaos. My wife says that in Judaism, these rules are called “fences.” Silly little rules are put up and have you flirting with crossing over them, while the real danger is much further away.
But you know what, I’ll bite. Suppose you could marry your iPod, what then? Honestly, what horrible thing will occur if you could marry your iPod? You can already go to facebook, make an account for your iPod, friend it, and then set your status to married. I mean sure, the entire internet would crash and cause planes to fall from the sky… but you can do it.
Suppose planes do fall from the sky, couldn’t we just go back? Sometimes we try something that clearly doesn’t work. Prohibition wasn’t truly the end of legal alcohol sales, and I had to go back almost a century to even come up with an example of something that didn’t work out and had to be undone.
Ultimately, I think conservatives are too afraid too try, except on particular issues. Many conservative women I know support abortion rights. Gay conservatives I’ve talked to all support gay marriage. Atheist conservatives don’t see much need for the Christian litmus test the bulk of the conservative party upholds.
But I have to wonder… are these people really so deluded as to think Republicans as a whole will do anything but dismiss any and all of these nuanced conservative-lite views?
Atheism is itself a fundamental rejection of conservatism. It is no small coincidence that atheism was born out of the same ideology and in the same intellectual circles as modern liberalism. It’s a shame, really, that the conservative media machine has managed to paint Democrats as socialist, because if most conservatives realized how unbelievably Democrat they were, the Republican party would simply die. There’s really very little discernible difference between Dems and Reps economically, though Republicans are the bigger whore when it comes to for corporate and wealthy interests (emphasis on bigger, not only).
Maybe one day Republicans will realize they are just Democrats and the door will open for a new, truly liberal party. You know, a party that actually mentions major issues, like real socialized medicine, dismantling of the military, legalizing narcotics, limiting government’s intrusion on people… you know, the stuff no one is ever mentioning because those would all be changes from the status quo. Shange is what liberalism is: change in the pursuit of progress.
Ultimately, if you’re an atheist and you vote like a conservative, congratulations: you’re voting against your own interests. You are living proof of the flaw in democracy. This is an inevitability when ignorance is not stamped out, especially in a nation where education has been moved to the back seat, then to the trunk, and appears to be poised to be dragged behind the country on a rope.
Honestly, being an Atheist conservative who holds “conservative” views that occasionally flirt with liberalism makes you a Democrat. Voting Republican in that situation would be as foolish as being a liberal and voting Democrat.
And them’s the facts.