Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Until recently I didn’t think Conservaphobia was a real phenomenon. But, after reading a Friday Gazette op-ed, I’m flummoxed.  Now I don’t know whether to repent or go into hiding.

I’m a conservative. For the sake of political correctness and personal safety I should be saying that in hushed tones, but I just can’t help myself. I’ve been a conservative since the days of Jimmy Carter and I intend to be planted in the ground someday as a conservative.

Far be it from me to critique the work of experts. They apparently know more about a guy like me than I know about myself. If some academic expert, with impeccable credentials, says that I’m a mass of “fear, intolerance of ambiguity, need for certainty or structure in life, or overreaction to threats” who am I to criticize?

Some experts think that being conservative is dangerous. In one paragraph we’re just garden variety conservatives. In the next we’ve become “right wing authoritarians,” or RWA’s. They’ve even developed RWA scales so they can pigeon hole us.

I can hardly wait for the op-ed about RWA leaders. I’m guessing they’re going to exhume Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. The psycho-babble will be fascinating.

It might be time to make Emporia a model for more sweeping solutions to its conservative problem. We could start with pilot programs. We could allocate space in one of our empty storefronts for a twelve step program to help desperate conservatives shake the oppressive shackles of their political philosophy. I might attend, more than likely under compulsion. I can see myself sheepishly breaking the ice: “Hi, I’m Phil and I’m a conservative.” I can almost hear the gasps from the other miscreants assembled as they respond in unison, “Hi, Phil.”

Twelve step programs might be a bit too gentle to solve the problem. If they fail, as many will (we conservatives are a highly resistant lot), escalation would be in order. We could have latter day Robspierres roaming the streets to ferret out offenders. All of Emporia would be a conservative free zone¸ protected by Committees for Public Safety. Anyone caught skulking around with a copy of “God and Man at Yale” or C.S. Lewis’s “The Abolition of Man” would be dragged, kicking and screaming, to an interrogation room. There¸ skilled interrogators with names like Lakshmi, Sonari, or Kai, would ask the important questions in gentle, new age tones. “Have you had any conservative thoughts recently?” “What do you know about the work of Edmund Burke?”  “Have you ever subscribed to the political philosophy of Ronald Reagan?” “Are there any other conservatives lurking around in your neighborhood?”   The interrogations would always end with this reminder – “Thoughtcrime does not entail death: thoughtcrime is death.” (see “1984,” Book 1, Chapter 2)

The interrogations won’t be enough to cause the hard core conservatives to recant. In those cases, lobotomies would become the preferred option. The Committee for Public Safety could hire Nurse Ratched to oversee the operation.

When all is said and done I think that a lot of detractors possess some of the same personality traits they accuse conservatives of holding exclusively. I’ve met more than a few Progressives in my lifetime who “consider themselves more upstanding and moral than others.” I’ve even met some who “hold numerous hypocrisies and double standards.” But I’m not ready to declare that there’s a malady called Progressive Personality Disorder. If they want to be better than everyone else, I say let ém.

If the truth be known, most conservatives believe in a “transcendent order” and have an abiding “affection for the proliferating variety and mystery of human existence, as opposed to the narrowing uniformity, egalitarianism, and utilitarian aims of most radical systems.”  (“The Conservative Mind, From Burke to Eliot” – page 8).

I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point. I’ll close with a couple of gentle reminders, one from the poetry of Robert Burns and one paraphrasing Holy Writ.

In his “To a Louse,” Burns wrote about noticing a woman of high estate sitting in front of him in church. He saw that she had all the trappings of class and distinction. She was dressed to the nines. What she couldn’t see was what Burns could -  a louse crawling across her hat. The poem ends with the following observation:

“And would some Power the small gift give us
To see ourselves as others see us!
It would from many a blunder free us,
And foolish notion:
What airs in dress and gait would leave us,
And even devotion!”

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus reminded his listeners they would do well to remove the logs in their own eyes before they tried to remove the specks in their brothers.’ It was good advice 2,000 years ago. It’s good advice today.

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