I, conservative

The ether has been filled with evermore vitriol this year as L’Affaire Russe continues to play forward, backed up by more hand-wringing of major political parties in the lead-up to the U.S. Midterms, all set against a looming global trade war and potential shooting wars in North Korea and Iran (I know, I know, but hey, Bolton).

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Bolton: “You show me a person that’s slightly darker than me, is foreign AND maybe non-Western, doesn’t like mustaches, is Muslim, likes peace (or living freely), is Iranian, actually tips their barber/stylist, likes puppies, plays horseshoes, is Iranian, and/or wants a chance at greater prosperity for all, and I’ll show you someone who I can be hostile against.”

All of this has been moved forward by Pres. Donald Trump.

Stop spitting at your screen and smashing your plump fists into the keys, Chairborne Commandos. I didn’t say he caused it, I said he moved it forward.

It was caused by hyperpartisanship. The kind that looks at anything outside the immediate bubble and screams “OUTSIDER!”

The action started picking up years ago, when cable television started running nonstop programming and then was left with the problem of how to fill all that space with “news.” While there are outlets who tried to take on the challenge, over time the focus groups, ultra capitalists and you, the consumer, won out. Also, so did the social psychologists they hired to push programming, but that’s another story. I’ll push that one out in September, and you’ll know exactly why when I do.

There’s something at play in the workings of mass media, and it’s not entirely the fault of mass media. Granted, the owners and operators of mass media outlets (including today’s top-ranked websites and blogs) are all pushing to remain kings and queens of their own mountains. The first problem is that this is Bullshit Mountain. The second problem is that when shareholders demand quarterly (and even monthly) increases, certain sacrifices have to be made over time. Longstanding professionals get let go in an attempt to lower the “Wages and Compensation” line in the budget, replaced by new faces fresh out of J-school. With fewer professionals to deliver professional news, that 24-hour space still needs to get filled with some type of programming.

In comes the panel discussions, and here comes the partisans.

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Pictured: Every cable news “Panel of Experts” in the last 20 years.

The notion of “RINO” or Republican-in-name-only, had been out there for quite some time. It’s left-leaning parallel, DINO, had also existed, but because Democrats were already the party of the big tent prone to less (but not no) ad hominems, it never really stuck. They’ve got other problems.

The rise of the cable news panel discussion and guest appearances by paid “subject matter experts” followed the decrease in overseas reporting, in-depth general reporting (the kind of stuff that follows a slow-breaking, but wide-reaching event) and investigative journalism. And worse, it brought with it the early trappings of our new cultural problem: Everything is caused by Someone Else.  This was also known as “Everyone’s a RINO/DINO but ME!” which was the public-facing symptom of a cancer eating away at the hearts of the political machinery: purity tests that make people self-select out of the greater population of Americans in order to wear Democratic Blue or Republican Red. It is every bit as ridiculous as the namesake of the featured image, and only a fraction as hilarious (#funnyweird, not #funnyhaha).

Or, as I view it, the Divide and Conquer strategy was playing out through ratings-chasing national media outlets.

When parties get into power, they have a tendency to lose sight of what they promised – this is a feature, not a bug. They also have a tendency to begin to fracture. To their credit, Republicans are better at unity in the face of adversity than Democrats, mainly because hate and fear are great unifiers. But, each party has their problems, their problematic celebrities, their scandals and so forth.

At the risk of being accused of making some type of “Both Sides Are Bad,” argument, that’s not what this is about. When there’s a national strategy that works, anyone’s going to do it.

For the record, modern Republicans are so much fucking worse than the other parties (exception: Greens). Yes, they have pulled us in this direction faster than Democrats have. Democrats were mostly along for what they’ve reported as a “mostly enjoyable ride, man.”

The cultural space we now inhabit is one where our national unity still holds, but is showing cracks. Long-time alliances are stressed, the Boltons of the world are calling for more wars that they absolutely will not fight in, and a whole lot of motherfuckers out there are actively pushing policy that doesn’t help anyone – in fact, it actively hurts our own countrymen and women.

When I bring this up, when I say it’s time to attempt to see what got us here, I’m met with cries of “RINO,” ooga-boogas of “socialist!” and sneers of “Liberal.”

Weird, since I’ve never identified or formally associated as a Republican OR a Democrat (or any other party). I have voted without fail in every major and minor election of my adult life, for men and women who identified as Democrats, Independents, Libertarians and Republicans. I’ve never voted party lines, and hold myself to the duty of picking the best person who can take the interests of their constituents forward the best, on behalf of the greatest good. I’m with George Washington on this one:

“However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.” – GW, USA’s Dad.

I’ve also never been a socialist. I’ve read some of their works because I wanted to see what was being said. I’ve also read some of the criticisms. I haven’t liked the notion of someone else interpreting things for me since I was a kid growing up Catholic. That certainly stayed with me through my time in the Army, when referencing official language printed in varied field manuals got me into just as much trouble as it got me out of. I’ve read more on capitalism than socialism, but also read on other economic theory and flavors therein (like the Austrian model, barf). I hold numerous degrees with great emphasis in economics, and invest liberally in local businesses I determine to be meeting great market needs (while also being strictly structured).

And, I’ve never really been a liberal. I mean, I’ll wear the label as a badge of honor, because that’s how you get past someone calling you something they think is a bad name. The thing is, I was raised by Catholics – the original social justice warriors (the other major Christian denomination that could call themselves that being the Methodists). While I grew to disagree the Catholic stance regarding “Pro-Life” issues, I still respect it’s consistency: Not just Anti-Abortion, but Anti-Abortion, Anti-(unjust) War, Anti-Capital Punishment, Anti-Poverty, Anti-Homelessness, Anti-Euthanasia. Catholics – or at least the doctrine and the best practitioners of it – see all life, from conception to natural death, as sacred. There’s none of this pick-and-choose shit that you see in so many Evangelicals. But I digress.

I’ve never considered myself to be any more liberal than conservative. I often felt the notion of “Selecting In,” also resulted in “Selecting Out.” I don’t think that’s been more true than today, when the parties, their figureheads and jesters are all pushing more divisive rhetoric.

I was raised religious and grew away from it because I understand that spirituality is important even as I grow tired of seeing the powers-that-be utilize religion as a system of control over others and their personal liberty. I was raised by and around veterans and became one myself. I was raised to understand that literacy and education are the cornerstones of freedom – that you won’t be able to question the authority that legislates away your liberty if you don’t know how to ask a question in the first place. I was raised to appreciate the hard work of business owners, and developed my own view of how that plays out in competitive markets, and in-between consumers, workforce, special interests and politicians. I was raised to acknowledge that the Statue of Liberty, given us by the French in an historic celebration of two nations’ newfound freedom, also represented the freedom for all to choose life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – and to choose to live here in the land of opportunity.

I was raised to say the pledge of Allegiance.

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, One Nation (under god), Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for All.”

I put a strike-through for the “under god” part because: 1) It wasn’t in the original several versions; 2) It was added during the McCarthyite Commie Scares of the 50s; and 3) If your god is such a wanker that he/she needs you to pledge allegiance to it publicly, then abandon it posthaste. Regardless, the Pledge still can mean something, but only EVER if it’s voluntarily made. You don’t get to force people to say the Pledge or stand for the National Anthem any more than you get to force them into taking the Oath of Service. BTW, I also did that, in case you forgot. I wasn’t raised to do it. But, when I grew up and became a man I realized and understood that it was my duty to do so.

I was raised to understand that the land we live on, and that surrounds us, is worth keeping clean. It’s worth protecting in the way Teddy Roosevelt inspired us to protect it. In the same way, some things don’t deserve protection – America’s corporate class, for example. Uncle Teddy is rolling in his grave, and you better watch the fuck out if he gains enough steam to become the Teddy Tornado. The spirit of monopoly-busting is due for a resurgence, and it’s going to be fueled on all the personal data the Great Vampire Squid has sucked from your life.

I was taught that taxes are the fees we pay to have a functioning society, complete with defense, education, first response, infrastructure, sanitation and more. I was raised in a community that was active in its own destiny – it never sat out for activities, business or events. In doing so I saw how communities and organizations prospered – by the work of their own people getting out of their houses and down to the city square or other public places. Although I was raised in the agricultural Heartland, it was with a maritime ideal in place: A rising tide lifts all ships. You know, kinda like the New Deal. The idea that if everyone puts in a fair input, then everyone gets a fair output. Beyond that, people are still on their own to compete as much as they like, to chase whatever dreams may come. But nobody gets left behind because as Americans, goddamnit, we’re all in this together.

And through it all – the jobs I held; the schools, towns, bases, and countries I lived; deployments I served; and progressions in business, community and life – I never really changed, but I did grow. My views became more detailed and allowed for more nuance, because that’s what growth means. Yet, the people I grew up near or around suddenly decided that it was time to start calling me “Liberal,” “Progressive,” “Democrat” and “COMMIE SOCIALIST!”

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How the world perceives people who do that shit.

The last ad hominem one is my favorite, if only because it’s rooted in an absolutely terrified worldview that can’t stand to read anything. It can and will only repeat what the Snake Oilers are selling today.

Truth is, I haven’t changed. You have. My parents may have been Republican while I was growing up, but they never really talked about it too much. Given where we lived and the topics that came up, I would guess in those places and times they would have identified that way, for better or worse. Left to my own devices and life, I probably would have turned out that way as well.

After all, I haven’t shifted views. But I’m still not a Republican. It was the party who changed, and the platform. I have not moved away from my roots, this acorn has grown into an oak. While at the same time, the parties (and partisans) have withered from a great forest to a salt marsh.

I have not abandoned my past in favor of some manipulative present in search of the idealistic and “party pure” future. I have embraced my past, and the history that shaped it. I would have easily been called a conservative on certain things, if that word, or the word liberal, weren’t so goddamn politicized. Even still, most of the people who proudly proclaim their conservatism have followed the Grand Old Party’s march to the philosophical right in favor of the loudest carnival barkers screeching the most politically incorrect farces.

So, feel free to push me away even further. I’m willing to stand and fight as much as I’m willing to sit and chat. My parents taught me to embrace both, when the time was right (but mostly sit and chat). Just as I did when it was time to leave the Catholic Church and set out on my own, I’ve done my due diligence and taken notes on everything that could be of value. In the political philosophical sphere, that means all the way left at Daily Kos and back to the hardline right at Breitbart. Those, and the mega-wealth of information that exists in-between. The outlets, the periodicals, the outside views (that’s non-domestic media, for the uninitiated) and the histories. As much reading, as much analysis and as many conversations as I can fit into what little time I have left after family, work, personal enrichment, and community involvement.

As a final test, I identified what was important to me in relation to my nation and the world we live in. Done in the lead-up to the last presidential election, I had cemented my views (complete with the research and citations to go along with all) well before the parties formally adopted their respective platforms on the last march to the White House. I did this because I needed to know that what I was reading wasn’t going to influence the ideas I had come to on my own, as a free American. I did it because I didn’t want the platforms to color (or poison) my own views, one way or another.

So when I read the formal platform narratives adopted by Democrats and the Republicans during their respective National Conventions, I was startled. I was also angry, because I knew that most of you miserable motherfucks out there weren’t going to bother reading the same.

I mean it. If you’re the type to say out loud (or say in your brain) “I am a Liberal,” or “I am a Conservative,” then my question is: Do you know what that means in the context of today’s landscape? Or are you just repeating something someone told you? Do yourself a favor and read your party’s official narrative. Then, read the other one for the sake of your own objectivity.

To say the least, one of them was full of baseless fear-mongering, and one was chock full of aspirational language (probably too aspirational, if I’m writing with total candor). One of those is absolutely better for America, but it would be better if both of them (I’m looking at you, Fear Mongers), started coming back to the table with an eye toward compromise and the notion that we’re all in this together.

Because that’s what United is supposed to mean. Even if we come from different places and have different ideas, we’re all Americans, united under the national banner of the greatest democratic experiment of all time.

Let’s start acting like it, and stop with the bullshit, the purity tests and the calls-to-anger. Or don’t, but don’t be surprised when you’re the only one left holding onto the tatters of what you thought was your party. Well, you and our president, who’s been an active member of at least two parties…

When we finally clear ourselves of these nonsensical notions – that we are our enemy, Americans to be fought by Americans – we will we get back to the notion of Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for All. And then, we’ll have proven that this great experiment was worth it all along, despite our many failings along the way.

If the party of conservatives, the “Real American Patriots” I keep hearing so much about – if they decide not to come to the table, then their actual intentions will to the forefront after all this time, with great finality. That, friends of Publius, is when the public will get to learn that modern conservative went so far to the right on purpose, by design, because that’s where it’s safest for the scoundrels to dictate from. And it’s time that the rest of us – liberals, moderates, conservatives, watched with anxiety as they pull themselves off the cliff of their own design.

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