Recomprehending Conservativism - thursday 2008-10-02 2149 last modified 2008-10-03 2051
Categories: Road, Current Events
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For the first couple decades of my life, I would have proudly identified myself as a conservative, faith-based Republican. As things turned out, I've since decided labels are a detrimental thing to bring into conversations about the state of the union and world. It would be pretty far from reality to say anything about conservatism and Republicanism and me in the same breath. Still, I want to have a nuanced, unsimplified view of what I was more or less blindly following in my youth (as young people are wont to do, in any arena) instead of the common caricatures embedded in our wider social conventions. As I don't wish to bring my own labels to the table, I definitely don't want to pigeonhole others based on their own self-identification or what I may dangerously simplify them into based on meager data. Which, again, I think we are wont to do, if only to make it easier for ourselves to comprehend our world. Relationships are rarely easy, though, and "oversimplify" is dangerously close to "dehumanize."

My travels across the country this summer and fall have brought me through the bluest of blue and the reddest of red states, that colorful simplification for electoral voting that masks so much else. I have talked to and hung out with people holding unlikely but not inconsistent combinations of views and policies; shades of opinions versus the black and white (or red and blue) of our current American political world.

I don't want to be able to describe where I am with one overloaded word, I don't want to easily pin down someone else. There's too much going on to be dismissive of The Other, too much that needs to get better than can be pulled off by just one select people grouping.

Only I don't know where to start. Because the one thing that strikes me as a large obstacle in this quest to understand the self-labeled right wing is that conservatism strives for simplification. All too often I've heard someone with some type of self-described conservative stance claim that nuance was not their strong point. I think I need to start digging there. Why are nuance and shades of gray seemingly inconsistent with a conservative outlook? I am more than willing to have this voiced and explained or even to have my framing questioned; I'm looking for a way into comprehension.

Also, can anybody recommend online communities for conservatives or liberals (or, dare I hope, for something less rigidly defined) that don't rely on phrases like "drinking the Kool-Aid" or behave as if their opinions are impregnable and true to all but the moronic? I've looked, but I've not found, and that makes me a bit sad. It would be nice to talk about issues without devolving into schoolyard alliances and rote party lines.

Related but not directly so, an out of context snippet from Alfred, Lord Tennyson's Ulysses: "Come, my friends, / 'Tis not too late to seek a newer world."

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