Defining American Conservatism


It’s
interesting to me to look up the definition of ‘conservative.’ I would have
expected one definition at least to be ‘someone
who conserves
.’ But alas, that explanation fails the current list and I
find instead:

Adjective: Believing in or supporting tenets of the
political right
: “The Conservative authoritarians who were more
inclined to violence.”
Noun: A member of a Conservative Party.
Wouldn’t
one at least expect a throw-away to those
who care about the planet
, or possibly those who seek to maintain
(conserve)—at least in the American context–our freedoms, willingness to welcome the poor and disadvantaged of the
world
and possible support for the
upward mobility for which all citizens strive
?
Nary a word in that
context.

So,
given that the word itself has been hijacked, let’s take a look at the
scorecard under its current (and woefully political) definition. The ‘political
right’ in the dictionary definition rather neatly…
Scrapped all hope of
environmental sensitivity, opting instead to plunder the earth’s fossil-fuel
resources, when known alternatives were available, thereby melting billion
year-old glacial polar caps; how
conservative of them
Put at risk
world-wide potable water resources by agricultural diversion, fracking,
industrial waste and a complete ignorance of conservation—the sole remaining synonym
for conservative.
Removed the tools
from all those federally created
toolboxes that once governed the oversight of water and air pollution, banking
and commerce, as well as the maintenance of our vital national infrastructure.
Where’s my wrench when a wrenching
situation occurs?
Introduced (by every
available means) fear, loathing and mistrust into a society that was built and
thrived upon personal safety, respect for law and the reliability of strangers
as its default positions.
…I’ve
left out a bunch and all (or most) of that reworking of a perfectly honest and
understandable word occurred during the past five decades. Tag it on the ‘Great
Communicator’ for starters, but it was aided and abetted by both parties with
equal disdain.
But we
Americans will be okay, because we’re at our best with our backs against the wall
and they are not yet there. Dangerously close perhaps, but not yet in our Butch
Cassidy moment.
The Statue of Liberty,
a gift from The People of France,
says it best:
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses,
yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse
of your teeming shore,
Send these, the
homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside
the golden door
.”
That’s the ‘golden
door’ we once proudly opened and will reopen one day again.
In the
meantime, all we have is language and
our ability to use it in quiet conversation with those who have other opinions.
In the breakdown of the individual or
society, language is always the first victim.”
Writer Gore Vidal nailed the
concept pretty well, as he was a man who cared a great deal about how ideas
were expressed:
“As societies grow decadent, the language grows decadent,
too. Words are used to disguise, not to illuminate, action: you liberate
a city by
destroying it. Words are to confuse, so that at election
time people will
solemnly vote against their own interests.”

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