I look at what is happening in this country, the sharply-drawn ideological lines, the unbending stance of both liberals and conservatives, and I seriously wonder how much longer we can survive as one nation. Before anyone freaks out at that, let me say that I am absolutely not advocating any type of secession craziness (besides, if I did, it would be that the progs go and create their utopia and send us a note, probably by carrier pigeon and written with flower dye, about how successful they’ve been in being the first people in the history of the world to make Marxism work–even Marx said, toward the end of his life, that it was a bogus proposition), and I am not advocating any type of seditious action (libs seem to think that any anti-BO commentary is either racist or seditiously “unpatriotic”–both of which are inane bubble-headed statements. You have to laugh at libs calling anyone “unpatriotic,” anyway.). But I am wondering, very often lately, how we can continue when we clearly have two completely opposing ideas about what America is and what America should be moving toward.
Looking at some of the primary, even fundamental, principles and where each “side” stands is enlightening, even alarming. Naturally, I’m going to delineate along general divides, recognizing as I do that there are people who are moderate on many, if not all, of these issues. The problem right now is that the people in power have one set of principles, while the people, We the People, have another. How this plays out will determine our future as a country.
The Constitution of the United States of America is a relatively brief document and establishes our government structure. So far, so good. But where the difference lies is in how each side views this document. Conservatives (again and throughout, I speak generally) view it as a document that establishes our government structure, that assigns certain powers to each of the three branches of our government, and that says exactly what it means. Liberals view it as a dated document, stuck in its historical moment, and therefore open to interpretation, a “living” document that can and should be ignored in view of their enlightened worldview.
This plays out in very interesting ways. Take “separation of church and state.” This does not appear in our Constitution; in fact, the Constitution mentions religion exactly twice. Once in Article VI where it states,
“but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States” (this being one of the reasons that I honestly don’t care if BO is a Muslim as many claim or that Romney is a Mormon), and once in the Bill of Rights, where it states:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
Conservatives read this and they understand it to mean that the government cannot establish a religion by law (as in a State religion, such as the C of E) and that freedom to express one’s religion, to worship as one pleases, to adhere to any religion one chooses is a protected right granted by the Constitution. Without getting into all of the legal cases that have since dictated the treatment of religion in this country, it is clear to conservatives that religion is something that the Founders deemed a personal right and not a governmental dictate.
Liberals read this and they understand it to mean that the government can indeed limit individual freedom of religion (lately if that religion is Christian and expressed by white people) based on “separation of church and state” (which you can see is not in the Constitution, but actually is based on a court decision made in 1878 and in other decisions since).
Aside: I was watching a CNN show on Latinos in America, and in that show, one of the students that they were covering (she’s an illegal immigrant who is a top student but cannot apply for financial aid for college because of this, and is thus, of course, being oppressed by the system. Why she doesn’t just go to one of the colleges in the ten states that offer tuition awards to illegal immigrants is beyond me. Anyway, one of the students they were covering) was shown in a classroom, standing at the front of the class and holding a poster board with the word (are you sitting down, this is pretty shocking) “God” on it. Yes, you read that right, a student was in a public school holding up a poster board with the word “God” on it. Now, they didn’t say what she was presenting or how it related to God, but you can safely assume one of two things: either she was giving a speech on atheism (approved in public schools) or she was allowed to express her religious beliefs in the Christian God (likely Catholic, right?) because she is a minority. And an illegal immigrant, to boot.
Just like we never hear the NAACP or ACLU squawking about references to God when black or brown athletes or entertainers (actors or musicians) thank God in their acceptance speeches or dare to point upward after a good shot, pitch, hit, or run nor at the end of a concert, we will never hear them treading on the rights of illegal immigrants to bandy God about the classroom. (I love the bandying of God, by the way, and I say, go, go, go! But let me bandy God about, too, k?) Personally, I see this as fundamentally racist: those poor minorities are so naive, so ignorant, that they believe in God; we can’t really blame them, though, because they are obviously intellectually inferior to we enlightened liberals. Or perhaps it’s simply political expediency? If they started banning God for minorities as they do for white people, they’d jump the democrat ship faster than you can say “one nation under God.” [end of aside rant]
Both sides read the Constitution to their own benefit, of course, but what is happening with this fundamental separation of understanding of the document (and it’s not just over religion, of course) seems to be dividing us on a massive scale. Conservatives want to maintain the constitutional republic that is laid out in the Constitution, while liberals want to interpret it (somewhat freely) as suits their ideological and social agenda.
Role of Government
This one is simpler. For conservatives, the role of the federal government should be limited in scope; the feds should stick to the powers granted them by the Constitution. For liberals, the government is the answer to everything and should be granted powers not only not provided for by the Constitution but expressly prohibited by it (see above on the “living” Constitution argument that liberals use to slick this one by).
The government, for conservatives, is the necessary evil (not capitalism or the free market) and needs to be reigned. The government, for liberals, is the answer to every possible problem from poverty to personal responsibility. Liberals literally expect the government to take care of them; conservatives expect the government to ensure that we can take care of ourselves.
This one is rather broad and includes Big Business, Profit/Wealth, Free Market, Supply and Demand, and Keeping Business “Honest.” Here’s a biggie. Conservatives very much support, value, and are proud of our capitalist system. While we know it’s not perfect, it’s certainly been pretty good to us as a nation, providing us both power and wealth that has long been unparalleled the world over. It is also at the heart of our country’s appeal to people around the world who come to America in search of the American Dream. This is the country where you can literally “make it” from proverbial rags to riches in one generation. This is the country where you have opportunity, where dreams are made, where wealth is possible. Do people exploit the system? Sure. Do people get greedy and outright steal or engage in unethical practices? Sure. Is there any country on this planet, at any time in history, that is not tarnished by greed, thievery, and unethical practices? Nope. Not one. Ever. So I’ll take our greed over the greed of totalitarian governments, tyrants, and dictators any day of any week.
Liberals, however, see “capitalism” and “profit” not as the shining beacon of hope and dreams the world over but as the very evil they loathe most and want most to destroy (oooh, maybe it’s a weird liberal plot to solve our illegal immigration problem? Once they tear us down, we’ll not have any problems with people flocking here in droves. Heck, we’ll all be sneaking into Mexico for a better quality of life.). They lump all people who make millions or billions of dollars into one demonized group (um, well, they don’t actually. Only those who make their money in “evil” enterprises such as insurance or oil. Entertainment, manufacturing (as long as it’s union approved), technology, and politics–except for conservative millionaires–are A-OK in their view.). This is, to my mind, so wrong-headed and crazy that I can’t even begin to understand it.
This brings us back to both the Constitution and the role of government, of course. Liberals want to cherry pick some of the wealthiest citizens and tax them to pay for all of their entitlement programs (more on this next), but it doesn’t work that way. The wealthiest people are also the ones who run the major corporations and businesses in this country, so you slap a high tax on those businesses, they simply pass the increase on to the consumer. Light bulb moment for the libs! If that’s the case, let’s simply let the government take over everything, then we won’t have to pay for it. Huh?
So the very system that allowed many liberals to advance themselves financially and politically (would BO really have made it to the presidency in any other country? Would Bill Gates really become a multi-billionaire anywhere else? Would Michael Moore?), they now seek to destroy. They’ve climbed the ladder of capitalist success, and now they want to pull it up behind them and stop anyone else from doing so. Lovely. So big-hearted and compassionate, right?
And that brings us nicely to social policy. Conservatives want social policy to be inclusive, not divisive. Conservatives understand that continuing policies that underscore and depend on a person’s ethnicity, gender, and religious belief is actually detrimental to those very groups, stripping them of their rights and perpetuating social injustice. Liberals want social policy that continues to emphasize these attributes because it strips people of their rights and perpetuates social injustice. How else do they keep their base? How else do they maintain control? So we have entitlement program after entitlement program that is, on the surface, aimed at equality but that in actuality perpetuates poverty, dependence, and hostility/unrest.
Liberals want to take this still further and turn our economic system on its head to “spread the wealth around.” They want to empower minorities and give them wealth they have not earned, and this is a big problem for conservatives, who very much believe in the individual and in the right of people to keep their own money, particularly businesses because this money then goes to job creation, etc. Liberals hate the individual and think that “collectives” are grand. It takes a village and all that claptrap. Conservatives understand that the government’s role is not to be our parent doling out our allowance and setting the rules of the “house.” Liberals want government to dictate everything from how to raise your children (the healthcare reform famously includes government workers literally coming to your house and advising you on how to raise your children) to how much you should earn.
Conservatives, contrary to popular liberal opinion, are not war-mongers and imperialists. We hate war (which is why we are historically the last to enter any war from the two World Wars to Vietnam right up to the wars in the Middle East), we don’t want an empire on which the sun never sets (which is why we leave once the mission is accomplished and don’t, as the Soviet Union and other conquering nations do, set them up as “states” in our union). Conservatives, however, do understand that diplomacy alone cannot work, that American exceptionalism is not a malevolent force, and that we need not only a strong diplomatic approach but a strong military to back up our fancy words. Liberals want peace at any cost (as Reagan says, even at the price of surrender); they make it clear that they dislike, even hate, our country’s power and (former?) wealth and that they want to step down as a world power. Give someone else a chance (maybe one of their heroes like Chavez or Ahmadinejad?). Conservatives believe in speaking softly and carrying a big stick; liberals believe in handing out hugs and cookies and hoping this buys favor.
Another Fuzzy aside: I’m not convinced that BO actually intends to step down as leader of the free world, but it is clear to me that his strategy is to give that appearance. And he’s the master of appearance, the master of deception; his ability to say one thing with absolute conviction (like that he supports small businesses or that he guarantees transparency or that free healthcare for all won’t add “one dime” to the deficit or any of a million lies he’s told) and to do the complete opposite seems boundless. Given the liberals twisted idolatry of the world’s and history’s most heinous criminals and disdainers of human rights, they probably will support his dangerous agenda when they figure it out.
Where Do We Go From Here?
I don’t see how these completely incompatible positions can possibly be reconciled. How do you keep a capitalist system under a Marxist one? How do you grow the federal government and limit its powers? How do you pave the way to true social equality while continuing to highlight and perpetuate it? How do you keep a constitutional republic and subvert it? How do you retain our status in the world and step down from leadership? Is the ideological divide too great? Have we become entrenched on opposing sides? And if so, what do we do now? Where do we go from here?