Before you read this post, read Why I Like Liberals.
Like I said in the previous post, I lean conservative, but I’m not an “across the board” conservative, and am by no means an ultra-right-winger. Of course, a lot depends on how you define your terms, and what you’re talking about. “Liberal” and “conservative” are relative terms. Today’s conservative may have been yesterday’s liberals. But, for the sake of this post, I’ll refer to conservatives as those people would you think of as contemporary conservatives—you know, those people who listen to Country music, own guns, attend evangelical churches, and watch Fox News. For the most part, I’m not one of those people.
Rooted in History
One of the first things I like about conservatives—whether politically, religious, or socially—is that they are rooted in history. Where liberals tend to be free and untethered from historical attitudes (though not unaware or uninfluenced, necessarily), conservatives tend to have a greater sense of obligation to the past. This is certainly true when it comes to issues of American Government. Conservatives are typically strict constructionists when it comes to interpreting the Constitution, and liberals tend to see it as a “living document,” open to changing interpretations. If we’re talking theology, conservatives will tend to take the Bible more literally, whereas liberal Christians often tend toward metaphorical readings.
One of the problems with this is that conservatives often don’t realize that their views of history may not necessarily be historical in themselves, but may have their roots in the 1950’s, or the enlightenment, or some other point in history. Still, it is the tension between conservative roots and liberal ideals that keep us from being stuck in a rut on one hand, or meandering about like a ship without a rudder on the other.
The song from the movie Fiddler On The Roof (and the whole play) makes this point well. Similar to being rooted in history, conservatives tend to like tradition, if for no other reason that it’s traditional. Unconventional behavior is neither understood nor appreciated. Liberals (always speaking in general terms) are more open to the unconventional, the avant garde, and often find tradition too confining. This, I think, goes along with the tendency to be more creative, as I mentioned in the last post. However, there is a lot to be said for tradition, the passing down of stories and ceremony and customs that teach us history, but also attitudes and respect for the past.
Conservatives are generous
Contrary to what many believe, studies have shown that conservatives generally donate more to charities than liberals, and are more likely to volunteer their time. That’s all.
Here, let’s just say that conservatives and liberals will tend to hold to different standards of morality, and this tension has gone on for centuries. Conservatives, generally, are like parents who say things like, “If your friends jumped off a cliff, would you jump off too?” Liberals, like many children, are prone to say things like, “Why not?” A whole lot of “why not” thinking would send the world to hell in a handbasket. Conservatives act as moral brakes, or as the red warning lights on the dashboard that tell us to change the oil before we fry our engines. Sometimes they are right, and sometimes they are wrong. But, like liberal challenging the conservative status quo, conservatives challenge those who would cross the line into potentially dangerous territory. Not that extremists on either side will listen, because they seldom do. But, for those of us who are not extremists (the majority in the middle of the bell curve), the questions and challenges assist us in our thinking through the issues.
Conservatives tend to be hard-working, decent, salt-of-the-earth kind of people. Often their attitudes seem quaint, or even out of step with contemporary society, and they may have little or no respect for liberal ideas. But, there’s a lot of wisdom in folk tales and lessons learned through experience. New is not necessarily better than old, we need the constant reminders of that from conservatives.