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Ashamed of Half My Country.

1 August 2016

I often think about a conversation I once had with my sister, Aimee. She’s always been liberal leaning towards socialist, and I was, at the time, very conservative*. Despite what the left thinks, privileged people on both the left and the right are generally concerned with and troubled by the plight of people less fortunate. But they have different ideas about how to resolve it. My sister’s comment was that “Liberals and conservatives resolve their cognitive dissonances in different ways.”

That’s true, I think. Painting with a very broad brush, the liberal approach to accepting privilege is guilt, while the conservative approach is entitlement. Liberals feel that they don’t deserve their privileges and thus must either eschew them or work to provide them for others less benefitted. Conservatives feel that they do deserve their privileges, because they’ve worked hard for them, and thus want to make a world where everyone’s hard work will enable them the same access to privilege.

I’m not going to argue about which vision is more accurate or better or whatever. I used to fall squarely into the conservative camp, but I’ve come to see too many instances where hard work avails nothing. And my own research has demonstrated that clandestine biases are more powerful than they seem. Nevertheless, I haven’t swung entirely into the guilt-ridden liberal penitent camp either.

It used to be that the major parties lined up fairly well with these visions, and the country would pendulum back and forth between them with predictable periodicity, gradually trending a little further left, as most wealthy countries do. As a result, there have been many major social gains for the left in the past few decades, culminating in real progress toward comprehensive freedom. Marriage equality, for example, has extended massive rights and privileges to groups formerly proscribed from them.

Lately though, the parties have drifted in a way that cannot be described on an axis. The GOP has embraced an openly xenophobic agenda, and an isolationist one, and a bigoted one. This is not conservative. If social conservatives were dismayed by hedonism, they would embrace the recognition of family structures among those they consider hedonistic. Instead, they are merely angry at others enjoying their own privileges.

Conservatism has always, heretofore, embraced the immigrant experience. The idea that anyone can come to America, and work for their own fortune. The Melting Pot is the conservative ideal: that people of all the world can come assimilate to American culture and thrive. Liberals, today, by and large reject the Melting Pot metaphor, preferring a multi-cultural ideal of many traditions co-existing peacefully. Both visions are defensible. What is indefensible is sealing the borders.

There is blame to go around here. It is unsurprising that a leftward lurch has a backlash. It is unsurprising that a mendacious media which hyper-saturates us with violence and terror – which are, in fact, quite rare – foments isolationism in some. It is unsurprising that decades of political rhetoric where every opponent is caricatured as a violent fascist or conspiratorial communist has left us vulnerable to the rise of a candidate who is actually a fascist.

But the chief blame of any bad act lies on the shoulders of the person who commits it. The GOP has nominated the foulest political figure in American history. They and those who vote for him are the ones who bear the brunt of responsibility should his bleak vision of America, and the ghastly consequences of his leadership, take hold.

I have a lot of difficulty with Hillary Clinton’s fiscal and economic policies. I think many of her visions are too expensive and too mollycoddling of the electorate. Though I find her social policy to be basically appropriate, and actually more conservative than the GOP’s in many ways: embracing of the immigrant, pro marriage, etc.. As a person with a lot of conservative positions, pulling the ballot lever for Hillary Clinton will be chalky, I suspect.

But that’s the lever I will pull, and I’ll do so without the first shadow of reconsideration. We face, right now, the greatest threat to America since the Civil War. We have, simultaneously, among the most qualified and least qualified candidates ever put forth for the position of President. And among the most capable, and least capable.

Hillary Clinton will be a faithful steward of this nation and its laws, even if I am not entirely thrilled by the direction she’ll point the ship. But Trump? He doesn’t know how to steer, but he’s determined to run aground regardless.

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* I’ve always been pretty conservative economically, and I remain more conservative than most of my academic colleagues today. Which is a little like saying that I’m not as dry as Death Valley.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Aimee permalink
    1 August 2016 10:19

    Nice post. And thanks for the name-drop – it makes
    Me happy that you remember so many of our conversations. Probably better than I do 😉

  2. Karl permalink
    2 August 2016 01:19

    The country I was born in was filled with hatred and bigotry. As it turned out in the end, the hatred and bigotry were entirely justified. The end of apartheid led to a massive crime wave, including the killing and rape of tens of thousands of whites. 1 in 3 women are raped every year. The leader is a polygamist rapist who is involved in massive corruption scandals, and has sold most of the country’s wealth to foreigners. The leader of one of the opposition parties literally called for the extermination of the whites. There are heavy discriminatory laws passed that limit white ownership and employment. Despite black rule for over 20 years, whites are still blamed for everything. Our culture is regularly denigrated, our heroes have feces thrown on their statues, and even our spoken language is being attacked as evil.

    The whites who stayed in South Africa mostly vote for an old anti-apartheid campaigner, Helen Zille, who continues to advocate against corruption, for expanded education, and for a civic understanding of nationhood. She is regularly demonized as a fascist and a racist. Liberals still don’t understand why. It is because civic nationalism is only believed by whites and a handful of token PoCs. Tribalism and racism are omnipresent everywhere except in the West, where we whites are the only ones stupid enough to believe them to be evil. No matter what we whites do, no matter how much we sell ourselves out, we will always be hated by PoCs.

    I understand terrible things have happened to whites when we gave up power in Algeria, the Congo, Gaza, Lebanon, Chechnya, Kosovo, Rhodesia, and Angola. Why we would want the same thing to happen in America and in Western Europe in incomprehensible. As America and Europe devolve into Third World countries, liberal concerns about the environment, police brutality, income inequality, and civil rights will melt away with society. I have seen it with my own eyes, and do not wish it upon any other country.

    I apologize sincerely for my poor English. It is not my first language.

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