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Saturday, February 20, 2016

Conservatism Denied

Those on the political right like to call themselves "conservatives". Unlike the lie thrown by some liberals on that term, it is not a reference to "keeping things for myself" as opposed to "liberals" who "give things to others" (as long as the things they give belong to others), "conservative" is a reference to keeping things as they are. Liberals -- perhaps better, progressives -- wish to move on. The misnomer of "progressive" is the suggestion that "progress is good." Sorry. No such thing. Progress is simply moving forward or onward. And convervativism is the desire not to move on.

So the conservatives will nod and say, "Yeah, we want to keep things as they are." While it might be a good notion, it is not a possibility. Consider. In 1950 the average family income was $3,300, the average car cost $1,510, and the median home price was $7,354. Home price to income ratio was 2.2. Car price to income ratio was 0.45. Today ... it is not. The average family income in 2014 was $51,000, the average car cost $31,250, and the median home price was $188,900. Home price to income ratio is 3.7. Car price to income ratio is 0.61. So much for keeping things as they were. But, of course, prices are not what is in mind when we talk about conservativism. So, consider scenarios from 1950 and today. Jack pulls into the school parking lot with a shotgun in the pick up truck gun rack after going quail hunting before school. In 1950 the principal would have got out his shotgun to show jack. Today they lock down the school, call the authorities, and bring in trauma counselors. Or try another. Johnny is disruptive in class. In 1950 he is sent to the principal's office for a good paddling and likely to face another one when he gets home. Disrupting class doesn't seem like such a good idea anymore. Today they medicate Johnny and berate the teacher for being overly sensitive. How about this one? Billy gets hold of some firecrackers, loads them into a model plane, lights them and throws the plane. In 1950, the plane blows up and dad sits him down to explain safer ways to blow things up with firecrackers. Today Homeland Security is called and Billy is toted off to detention for bomb-making. One I'm quite familiar with. John is an adult working with the church youth. The kids love him. When they come to church they run to get hugs from John. In 1950, John would have been a delight, appreciated by family, friends, and youth as a mentor and caring guy. Today he would be fired and investigated for possibly molesting children. From a religious perspective, at one time immoral people were investigated and suspected; today God is doubted and questioned. In earlier days there was an external good to which we must conform and today good is defined by self-expression and no one has the right to suggest otherwise. No, it's not just prices that have changed.

The problem, then, is just what the conservatives wish to conserve. I'm pretty sure prices aren't on the list, but if it was freedom, they're too late. We've already surrendered that for the sake of safety and security and other things deemed more important. If it was family values, it's too late. They've already shifted so far that what was once considered valuable is no longer even recognizable. From a time when men would have been embarrassed that their wives had to work to today's practically mandatory two-income family, from a day when mothers took care of their children rather than day-care and nursery school, from an era when "My parents are divorced" was rare and sad to a day when "Your parents are still married?" is a surprise, from an era when the liberal democrats represented values farther right than the conservative republicans hold today, we've moved so far that "conservative" no longer has much of a meaning. Conserve what? Rather than holding ground, conservatives are mostly what Dabney called "the shadow that follows radicalism to perdition." Sure, we're behind them, but not very far. You can see it in the radical shift in views on marriage or the sudden turn to women in combat. You can see it in the lack of serious fight over abortion and the waning of Christian influence in government. Compare Democratic President Truman's 1950 Christmas Eve Address with bold references to Christ, Christmas, prayer, faith, and Christianity to today's "We all worship the same God" versions from a variety of government voices.

Conserve? Too late. It looks a lot like we're just dragging our feet as we follow the "progressives" to the fires they're stoking and hardly seem to notice that it's getting hot. It is small satisfaction to note that they're willing to jump in first since we will be right behind ... "conserving".

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