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How Did We Get Here? (And How Do We Get Out?)

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[C]onservatism is the negation of ideology: it is a state of mind, a type of character, a way of looking at the civil social order.
The attitude we call conservatism is sustained by a body of sentiments, rather than by a system of ideological dogmata. 

Mere unthinking negative opposition to the current of events, clutching in despair at what we still retain, will not suffice in this age. A conservatism of instinct must be reinforced by a conservatism of thought and imagination.

So what happened?

How did society move from a point where those principles stood as longstanding anchors in the foundation of conservative political philosophy to so much bitterness, often-times hysterical nonsense, combined with knee-jerk opposition and willful obstruction today?

It's disheartening; it's frustrating; it's at times enraging ... but mostly it's all so pointless.

I'll admit at the outset: I'm an unabashed progressive/liberal. The perspective from which I view political discourse nowadays is framed by those strong leanings. I'm certain that my own biases and beliefs contribute to my consternation about conservative behavior and ideology.

I don't always understand the motivations of right-wing arguments. Too often, my first instinct is to ridicule what I see as so much inane, thoughtless fear-mongering and narrow-minded rancor serving no purpose. Not helpful, I admit.

The competing visions and beliefs frame all that we do--and don't do. Each choice, each decision, and each perspective leads to its own set of outcomes--not always the "best" ones, either. Our behaviors and ideologies are the primary factors creating the very problems we're trying to solve--the ones we must solve if our own ambitions (and hopes for bequeathing a peaceful and prosperous world to our children) are to be honored.

We may view ourselves as belonging to certain groups with what we perceive to be clear boundaries and conditions for inclusion. But in the end, we each share an arguably common set of ambitions: peaceful existence; some measure of prosperity; a healthy dose of happiness for ourselves and our families, guided always by the hope that there's one better opportunity--at least one better tomorrow--just around the corner.

But the realities are different. We cannot solve common problems if we can't agree first on the facts; the nature of the problems; or whether we even have problems to begin with. The truth is we do have any number of challenges ahead. Ideologies afford no protection from those realities. Mouthing the talking points without bothering to understand is a waste of time and breath.

As citizens, we owe it to ourselves, our families, our communities, and our nation, to understand not so much the nuts and bolts of policy, but what drives each political camp, and where we all wind up when decisions are made.

Who "wins"? Who does not? It's important to understand the answers to those inquiries.

Change is upon us. The partisan philosophies liberals and conservatives each defend so vigorously must now take a back seat to practical, cooperative problem-solving.

We have some unpleasant issues to accept and address--not the least among them a distressed middle class, a warming planet, and energy-supply restraints.

From United States Capitol Building, The National Mall, Washington, DC
United States Capitol Building, The National Mall, Washington, DC
(image by Jeffrey)

The embarrassment we call Congress, and a cowardly media, deserve some thoughtful and constructive tweaking as well.

Dealing with these and other national challenges to the best of our collective abilities, regardless of the beliefs we cling to in an abstract environment where outcomes never matter, is the task at hand. Sooner would be better.

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Looking Left and Right: Inspiring Different Ideas, Envisioning Better Tomorrows Rich Turcotte is a retired attorney, former financial advisor, and now a writer. Through his work, he hopes to encourage a new level of civility and (more...)

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Acting on and adhering to principles can be an adm... by Richard Turcotte on Saturday, Jan 18, 2014 at 3:52:52 PM
I agree that "conservatism is the negation of ideo... by Charles Roll on Wednesday, Jan 22, 2014 at 12:18:25 AM
Good questions.  You might find the answer i... by Mark A. Goldman on Sunday, Jan 19, 2014 at 9:57:27 AM
I find an odd dissonance between the Right's advo... by molly cruz on Sunday, Jan 19, 2014 at 12:02:29 PM
The answer is not that hard, and the implementatio... by E. J. N. on Sunday, Jan 19, 2014 at 1:48:26 PM
" [C]onservatism is the negation of ideology: it... by Derryl Hermanutz on Sunday, Jan 19, 2014 at 3:36:31 PM
Yeah, me too. ... by Charles Roll on Sunday, Jan 19, 2014 at 10:38:48 PM
Interesting observations, Derryl. Thanks for shar... by Richard Turcotte on Monday, Jan 20, 2014 at 5:53:58 AM
I think America needs to slow down and start givi... by Michael Dewey on Sunday, Jan 19, 2014 at 3:46:00 PM
We became this way because we are using an a 340 ... by Mark Whittington on Sunday, Jan 19, 2014 at 7:21:02 PM
Thanks for the comments, Mark. No question that re... by Richard Turcotte on Monday, Jan 20, 2014 at 6:03:45 AM
"..It is not just a coincidence that tax cuts f... by Lance Brofman on Sunday, Jan 19, 2014 at 8:13:18 PM
DANG, Lance, if you're going to post good links,&n... by Jill Herendeen on Monday, Jan 20, 2014 at 8:14:17 AM
Many political arguments break down to a differenc... by Vernon Huffman on Monday, Jan 20, 2014 at 2:42:12 PM