What are Conservatives Conserving?

I must be a real middle of the road sort of fellow. I think the far Right and the Far Left are both peopled by fools. I’m glad that to some degree they are forcing each other toward a healthy middle but I fear we have created a culture in which “compromise” has become a dirty word. Our advertisers certainly like to push their products with promises that we can have it all with no compromise. It is most certainly a bald-faced lie but apparently they are hitting on a profitable theme.

I’m thinking at the moment of political conservatives and wondering what it is they want to conserve. They speak, of course, in fine political cliches such as freedom and independence. These are the values, we are told, that made America great. I do agree that we are better off with a government that has severe limitations. Nearly every day the international news reminds us of the damage that is done when too much power is in too few hands.

The difficulty, of course, lies in determining where to draw the lines of limitations. It doesn’t take too long a look at the discussions in America which led to the Constitution were in very large measure a series of searches for compromises. Surely compromise is as fundamental an American value as are freedom and independence. We’ve let our marketers and advertisers cause us to forget. Shame on them.

When the head of the National Rifle Association says, “The only thing that stops bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” and then concludes we need armed guards in every school, I see that what he wants to conserve is the wild west of the 19th century. Even if we could, do we really want to conserve that violent era?

Among other problems I have with such a view — aside from my distaste for the idea that humans beings are as primitive as the jungle and must live by the law of the jungle — is that, despite all the John Wayne movies to the contrary, the days of rule-by-violence were very limited in America and the places where it held sway were almost entirely sparsely populated and out of the reach of the rule of law.

And I find myself wondering how a child can feel secure when, to get to her classroom, she must pass a guard with a gun, a daily reminder that in fact her school is a dangerous place. That is not security.

Time and again I see the same mentality: Yesterday we had our golden years and we must get back to those times, even though they have been gone for more than a century. We must and will move ahead and groups like the NRA only make progress more difficult. They are simply not in touch with today’s reality.


About mthayes42

I am a retired pastor, interested in the Bible, cross-cultural ministries, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and the current and past history of western civilization.
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