Understanding Conservative

I’m a liberal.  I love Bernie Sanders because he stands for things I believe in: people over profits, reducing economic disparities and dealing with climate change.  And as a liberal, I tend to see a lot of degrading remarks about republicans, and conservatives.

One institution I’ve learned to dislike is the Tea Party.  The one that is using bullying tactics to  take over congress.  They want to remove social programs and engage the world in war.  Tea Partiers are certainly not the kind of people I could get along with.

Which is why it came as a shock that while visiting the Tea Party website I found that out of the 15 core beliefs, I could see myself agreeing with 7 of them.  Sure, the remaining 8 I’m flat against.  But if I share core beliefs with the Tea Party, why do I not like them so much?


We glamorize fighting in our culture, especially in our political system. Good fighting also means good defense. We fight for our ideas and are defensive of our beliefs, finding any cause we can grasp at to dislike folks who disagree with our ideas.

Yet forceful dislike of others removes an important opportunity, a chance to learn something about ourselves.  We associate people with badness, without knowing those people at all.  Like seeing more criminals in mostly black communities. Like saying corporations are evil. Or that all lawyers can’t be trusted… Or politicians.

I believe that most people just want to live long, happy lives, and make our world a little better in the process.  Many struggle, and sometimes get caught in bad paths. But how can people be villains?

If you watch the republican debates with a direct effort at NOT vilifying the candidates, but rather with a child-like wonder, a keen interest in understanding why people believe what they believe, a new awareness may surface.

It happened to me, and here is what I learned:

1 – Republicans are great tacticians.  They debate various plans and strategies to great end, especially when it comes to foreign policy and war.  War is a big deal right now, and as a person who desperately wants world peace, I have to concede that some people are on a conquest, and they need to be challenged so the harm they cause can be reduced.

2 – Republicans are slow to change.  Whether it’s personality traits, religious philosophy or good old traditional values, they don’t like it when social rules change.  Maybe it’s good to have people resistant to change.  It keeps us all honest.  We should ensure that each change is done so with good reason, and includes as many people as possible so that the we can evolve society smoothly.

3 – Republicans protect “us first.”  They see the world as having limited resources, and when others want a share, they get nervous.  And maybe they have a point.  There are others who have aggressive goals, and they are dangerous to us all.

So what lessons can we learn from these observations?  I try to put myself in a place where I have struggled with change.  When I felt fearful and concerned over resources.  A time when I prioritized my family interests over others.

“L’Incendie” by Alexandre Antigna – http://cgfa.sunsite.dk/.

I just can’t.

I love change.  I love new experiences.  I love trusting people and sharing in generous acts.  I am excited about individual rights being expanded to gender orientation and a general decline of religiosity. I’m ready to trust government to provide our basic needs like healthcare and education, and I just can’t seem to understand what it’s like to fear what I see as social progress.

And that maybe the point.  Progress is happening.  Progressive viewpoints are being validated around the world.  There has been an increasing trust of science (in the long term), and a general feeling that through modern technology the people can gain control of systems and establish public values.

Concepts like corruption and profiteering really bother me, but I see them as problems of human organization.  Bad behaviors are based in an emotional, primal, “us versus them” mentality.  They exist in all human endeavors, from companies big and small to governments and religions.

“Agnes Sampson and witches with devil” by Unknown – http://www.utexas.edu/features/archive/2004/witches.html

This kind of behavior threatens the viability of the future I want:  One of better social systems that provide a high quality of life for everyone.  How do we overcome these behaviors?

I don’t know.  But I do know we can help each other work on it.

In Republicans, all I see now is our common ground: less corruption, less obsession about money, and more care for each other.  And I hear that many Republicans want to start with us: let’s get America feeling good about life, then we’ll see what we have to share with others.  Let’s remove power from government, then add what we feel they can be trusted with.  Let’s close the borders until we can empty our prisons.  Let’s invest in climate change mitigation, but in a way that doesn’t disrupt our global economy.  Let’s spread democracy, but fight off the warmongers who rise up in conflicted communities.

They want a cautious approach to change, and I’m a little more radicle.  I see getting along as a global endeavor.  The wars we fight are are a result of many cultures prioritizing their own needs over others, and that behavior just needs to stop.

I think the world needs to grow up a bit.

We’re not in the sand box of imperial democracy and capitalism anymore.  We are in a real ecosystem that is being destroyed because we are so distracted by fighting with ourselves.

Hey fellow liberals: we have to find a way of getting everyone on our side.

Some of us are scared, and pushing too hard just makes it worse.  If we want an inclusive society, we need to accept people with conservative attitudes, and ensure they are heard.  We should keep respect for everyone’s feelings, yet promise continued change until everyone is treated fairly, and we stop destroying our planet.

The idea that we can do better, and that the process starts within is not new:

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16, The Bible (ESV)

“Verily, ALLAH does not change the condition of people until they change what is within themselves.” – Sura ar-Ra`d 13:11, Quran

“It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell.” – Buddha

“The shortest and surest way to live with honor in the world, is to be in reality what we would appear to be; and if we observe, we shall find, that all human virtues increase and strengthen themselves by the practice of them.” ~ Socrates

We must be united behind expecting the best behavior from each other and ourselves.  Without challenging the status quo, our animal-like natures will allow the most competitive and greedy of us to win.  It’s a process that worked better in the past when our tribes needed ruthless leaders to protect us from warring clans.  Today, we need to focus more on world peace.

We’re entering new era for humanity.  It will take time for some of us to get comfortable with that.  We still have powerful narratives about our past that are being challenged.  It takes time to learn, especially as adults.  But we really do have shared values: more peace, more kindness, and most of all, more harmony with our environment.

“Scola cordis. Sive aversi a deo cordis ad cumdem reductio, et instructio (1635) (14728942516)”

Maybe we should take a tip from a more conservative perspective: let’s start with us first.  Let’s work in our communities, in our neighborhoods, in our nonprofits and socially responsible businesses.  Let’s take time to share ideas and learn from each other. Maybe then, we can get better at change.  After all, we have a great deal of wisdom available to us.  More than ever before.

Among us we have visionary politicians, humble, generous CEOs, and inspiring community leaders. Let’s find them, and support them.  We all believe as Martin Luther King Jr. did when he said that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

Maybe with a little less vilification, we can find a true heart of humanity: one that we’ve dreamed of for ages… Peace.


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