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What are Conservatives Conserving?

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Many conservatives argue that the Constitution is not a living document. Stick to the original words, they say. Don't toy around with the intent or meaning.

Swell, I say. Let's do the same with the term conservative. And if we are going to be precise about what a conservative is, a venerable old Webster's dictionary is a good place to start:

"One who wishes to preserve traditions or institutions and resists innovation or change."

All I want to know is which side it is that modern conservatives are conserving. What institutions are they preserving? Whose traditions are they upholding? Or are they merely very stubborn and centuries later still resisting original American innovation and change?

For example, with George Washington, there were those who wanted him to be king. Who needed democracy? Who needed an elected president subject to law? Who needed a Congress to tell King George when he could go to war or who he could throw into a torture chamber and forget? Which side again is it that conservatives are conserving?

Or take the Constitution prohibiting religious oaths as necessary for holding political office. Certain colonies required political candidates to swear allegiance to the official state religion. The founding fathers said no, there must be separation of church and state, and a person's religious beliefs were their own private matters. Now which traditional values are conservatives conserving?

How about slavery? Radical Republicans and abolitionists used the Bible to condemn slavery. They said all men are really created equally as stated in the Declaration of Independence. No, they're not, responded conservative white males. The Bible supports slavery. As the Rev. Alexander Campbell said "There is not one verse in the Bible inhibiting slavery, but many regulating it. It is not then, we conclude, immoral." Some men are more equal than others. They are meant to rule. That's the way God made it and to go against it is to rebel against God's law. Whose side?

The Holy Book said men are to be masters of women. Why would the little lady need to worry her pretty little head about voting? God knows what would happen if some cold-hearted calculating witch ever got into power. A woman's place is in the home and not the White House. Whose views are being conserved?

Consider the Robber Barons. Freedom meant getting all you could for free at government and public expense. Take all you can and buy the best government possible. Screw the poor. God does. Why not us? Which conservative ethics are valued?

Look at the great depression. One side held that the government should help the common folk. Government could do more collectively than people could do as individuals or groups. No, said the other side. Dog eat dog is the rule in this world of survival of the fittest. Let each fend alone. During Katrina, whose traditions were being upheld?

Which traditional values were expressed by those using the Bible to support segregation? Are they the same values aimed at gays? Are the values expressed now toward Mexicans here in the United States the same values vented on Mexicans south of the border when we invaded?

Just whose values are conservatives honoring when they claim to be the heirs to the civil rights movement which but a few decades ago they condemned as anti-American, un-Christian, communist agitation?

Could be that they are doing their damnedest to confirm the tradition of Jesus who said

"Yes, woes to you, Pharisees, and you religious leaders-hypocrites! For you build monuments to the prophets killed by your fathers and lay flowers on the graves of the godly men they destroyed, and say, 'We certainly would never have acted as our fathers did.'"

"In saying that, you are accusing yourselves of being the sons of wicked men. And you are following in their steps, filling up the full measure of their evil. Snakes! Son of vipers! How shall you escape the judgment of hell?"

Maybe conservatives are merely trying to prove Mark Twain correct:

"The radical of one century is the conservative of the next. The radical invents the views. When he has worn them out the conservative adopts them."

Or, perhaps it is as simple as John Stuart Mill claimed:

"Although it is not true that all conservatives are stupid people, it is true that most stupid people are conservative."
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B. 1952, GA, USA. D. To Be Determined. Beloved husband, father, grandfather, lover, confidant and friend of many from bikers to Zen masters; American writer and speaker, known for his criticism of Mammon's unholy trinity of big business, big (more...)
 

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