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Breaking the Code...Maybe

John W. Pinkerton


Well, this is my third attempt. 

I've been trying to discern and define the differences between liberals and conservatives for a couple of years now.  A liberal friend recently told me that he was conducting a study to see where liberals and conservatives actually agreed.  I laughed and wished him good luck.  I've written essays on the subject but ultimately rejected each because they seemed to be based on weak premises.

One essay attempted to find similarities issue by issue.  For example, one issue was national defense.  The conservatives seem to want the biggest, baddest armed forces on earth---damn the cost.  On the other hand, liberals want an armed force which is politically correct---damn the cost.  That search for unity didn't work out too well on this particular issue or any other major issue.  I finally filed this essay away under N for “Nope.”

At one time I thought perhaps the differences could be traced to the differences in their emotional temperaments.  I've observed that liberals seem to be
more excitable as witnessed by the past Presidential election.  You would have thought that the conservatives had shot their dog.  Although I still believe liberals tend to be a little more emotional than conservatives, I didn't find this explanation for their view of the world very satisfactory.  This essay degenerated into simply slapping liberals around---entirely not my intention: I have “friends” in this group and didn't really want to damage them psychologically---they're a sensitive lot.  I just didn't see much productive resulting from  my  disquisition

---another essay filed under “N.”

I'm still not sure I've cracked the code, but, perhaps, I've found a small seam...maybe. 

Conservatives seem to be a practical lot who plod through life one step at a time.  Preferring not to step in horse manure, they seem not to have blinders on when they view the world.  I regret to say that I suspect many don't think very highly of mankind in general.  It's not likely their attitude will lead to a Utopian world, and that doesn't seem to be a common goal among these folks.   They feel that their fellow men and women are a pesky, unreliable lot which means they are hard, if not impossible, to herd.  Many conservatives are libertarians which means they don't try to make people “behave” the way they think they should.  They seem to prefer free-range humans.

On the other hand, liberals believe that mankind is manageable.  In fact, they believe that men and
women are perfectible.  They believe if they put their shoulders to the grindstone of humanity, Utopia can be achieved.   I'm reminded of John Kerry's remark that Russian's intrusion into Ukrainian territory was behavior more appropriate for the 19th Century.  What? Does this mean man is not perfected yet?  He has a pretty rosy view of man, but it's the liberal view, and they're sticking to it. 

Liberals see governments, all levels, as the instrument to push man to perfection.  Conservatives basically say, “Give folks their head and let's see what happen.”

I don't object to the liberals' rosy view of mankind.  Good luck with that.  It's their arrogance with which I have a little problem.  They seem to believe that conservatives are an ignorant, simple-minded, racist group who have no idea what they are doing. By this point in our national history, even liberals surely must admit they tend to be a little arrogant.  I mean, after all, they want to perfect man.  They're the ones who want to achieve Utopia.  On the other hand, conservatives prefer to take  humans as they are---seeking their own destinies and view Utopia as a quaint concept.

In summary, liberals believe Utopia is obtainable; whereas, conservatives just want to show up and see what happens---no Utopian dreams.

I am reminded of a lifetime friend who worked with alcoholics in group therapy.  He told me of all the books he had read on alcoholism and different approaches to remediating their addictions.  He was very enthusiastic.  I saw him again a few years later and asked how the group therapy was coming along.  His response did not shock me: “You can't do a damned thing with a bunch of drunks.”  If he wasn't before, he was at this point a conservative.

I once accused a couple of liberals of being do-gooders always trying to save the world.  They responded with, “What's wrong with that?”  My response was, “The world doesn't need to be saved, damn it.”

Oh, well.  It’s hard to get too mad at liberals; after all, they want to save the world.