“If I seem to take part in politics, it is only because politics encircles us today like the coil of a snake from which one cannot get out, no matter how much one tries. I wish therefore to wrestle with the snake.”
— Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)
Dear Planet Waves Reader:
As a longtime conservative, I am confused about what’s currently going on in Washington. Why are so many people associated with our conservative president been convicted of crimes? I thought conservatism was about following the law.
One thing that’s always confused me is the word conservative. It sounds a lot like conserve, which means “to protect from loss or harm; preserve,” or “to use carefully or sparingly, avoiding waste.”
If you study the word roots (the etymology) it’s even more interesting — “to keep, preserve, keep intact, guard,” from assimilated form of com–, here probably an intensive prefix (see com-), + servare “keep watch, maintain.” I don’t see a lot of that going on in our wasteful, so-called conservative government.
The current allegedly conservative president’s proposed budget (released two weeks ago) would drive the country another trillion dollars into debt in just one year. Important agencies such as the Secret Service are not submitting expense reports for money spent at the president’s own resorts.
I’m also confused about all the insults, likes and name-calling. Don’t conservatives follow the Bible?
In response to all of this, I am proposing a plan of action, or statement of values. We need to put the conserve back into conservative. The following is my proposed platform:
1. Be polite. Conservatives are respectful of others. They listen before they speak, and do not use profanity needlessly. A Conservative conducts oneself like the adult that they are.
2. Conserve the natural environment. There are a lot of planets as nice as the Earth, but we can’t get to any of them at the moment. So we may as well take care of the one we have, if only to make it a more pleasant place. Teddy Roosevelt loved bird sanctuaries and saw the sense in creating them. That’s true conservatism.
3. Conserve resources in all forms. That includes everything from energy to trees to money to effort, and focus them where we really want and truly need. We can cut plenty of waste out of government spending and we can start in our homes.
4. Generally, advocating a more modest way of life. There’s a difference between abundance and needless overindulgence. This is not about denying ourselves anything other than the privilege of waste. Why waste, when you can put the resources into something constructive? Gluttony is not a value. Cultured people enjoy what they have, and grow their lives consciously and within their means.
5. Respect separation of church and state. Conservatives follow the Constitution, and this provision is in the First Amendment. It’s extremely liberal of politicians to ignore this important boundary. Conservatives don’t impose their religious values onto other people. Quakers, one of the most conservative religions, does not allow its members to proselytize. We started as a Protestant nation. Every person has his or her own relationship to God and nobody has a right to impose theirs on anyone else
5. Respect for privacy and individual rights, including privacy and free speech. Rights entail responsibilities. Those who advocate a certain right must also advocate accepting the responsibility associated with it. The government must respect the privacy of its citizens — and they must respect one another’s privacy, peace and freedom of choice. A smaller, less invasive government stays out of your private life. It does not have time, resources or authority to monitor every pregnancy. Family planning is a family matter. Then, as citizens, we mind our own business.
7. Non-interventionist military policy. We need to take care of our own country before we conquer or ‘help’ any other country — or bomb it for 30 years. That might translate to shorter, more efficient wars — or no wars at all, which would conserve fuel, bullets, metal, and lives. The purpose of the military is to defend our nation, not to randomly attack other countries, or to steal their resources. Conservatives respect the property of others.
8. Audit the Federal Reserve. A conservative knows how much money he or she has; the checkbook balances at the end of the month. Your money is your power, and we need to audit the ‘federal’ bank so we know how much money we have. Of course when we do this, someone will have to explain the quarter-quadrillion-dollar hole in the books. We might want to ask an astrophysicist familiar with dark matter to be part of the audit team. Maintaining the treasury is a public trust, and those who violated this trust need to be exposed and put on trial.
9. Offer sex education to students — consistent with science. Sex education is not under the control of religion, which does not approve of sex in the first place. Family planning is essential to having functional families. Young people have a right to know about how their bodies work, and about the emotional reality associated with sex. Parents must take part in sex education, beginning with explaining where the family came from.
10. Education is money well spent. We need to invest in the future, and an effective, economical way to do that is to support education. Parents should have a diversity of options for educational philosophies available: different kinds of schools to suit different values and ideas about life. Public higher education needs to go back to majority funding by the state, remembering its primary mission, which is access to all citizens; this in turn will create a prosperous, functioning economy. We have to stop this whole business of student loans and go back to grants.
11. Redeploy military resources to peacetime civilian duties, like planting trees, helping in disaster zones and civil works projects. Put soldiers to work teaching inner city kids to read, fix cars and work computers.
12. Conservatism advocates a simpler and more natural way of life, more like that of our great-grandparents. This included running a more efficient household. Gardening, home-cooked food, home canning, respect for the land and other basics all imply a measure of self-sufficiency, as well as taking care of your neighbors.
13. Help those in need. The purpose of a society is to take care of all its members. Why bother otherwise? Conservatives respect this basic concept of what a society is for. We are a nation based on abundance, and there is plenty to go around, especially if we’re talking about food, shelter, clothing and health care. Conservatives know: “Amen I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me.”
14. Respect Life. That means not encouraging or compelling killing, or imprisoning people who are not dangerous. Conservatives must create a culture of respect for the mystery of existence.
15. Honor history. We need memorials to the original natives in every county in the country, and in many locales. We call for slave memorials in every state. Place a marker in every state capital to the many people who committed no crime and who were given the death penalty.
16. Tell the truth. Stop believing lies.
PS — This must be included in the preamble to the New Conservative Constitution: In The Federalist No. 47, James Madison wrote that “the preservation of liberty requires that the three great departments of power should be separate and distinct.” Why? Because the “accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”