Commentary: The Trappings of Conservatism | KERA News

Commentary: The Trappings of Conservatism

Dallas, TX –

Does the name Jacob Marley ring a bell? He was a conservative investment banker, but more on him in a moment.

As our presidential primaries continue to cull more candidates, Mitt Romney being the latest causality, I am becoming increasingly troubled with a term that is being bantered about on the air waves. Specifically, I am intrigued with what "conservative" denotes. Not long ago I thought it referred to an individual who was thoughtful, reflective, and slow to anger, fiscally responsible, fair, and trustworthy. Conversely, the term "liberal" was reserved for a gregarious person full of joy and laughter, generous with resources, fiscally astute, willing to share insights and mentorship - someone along the lines of that Samaritan fellow we often use for a model when convenient.

The recent turbulence in defining who, or what, a conservative is has become troublesome. It appears that John McCain is not a "real" conservative to many because of his views on immigration, fiscal policy, and his attempts to bring about campaign finance reform. To others, Mike Huckabee is considered the torchbearer of the Conservative faith reflected in his stance on ownership of firearms, school vouchers, and a mentality that only the Chosen are those who espouse Reagan Republicanism. I've come to believe those engage in all this rhetorical theater are arguing and debating over the wrong word. The term that should be discussed is selfishness.

In the early 1960s, James Coleman, a sociology professor at the University of Chicago, and later Johns Hopkins, authored a report at the behest of a novice politician, John F. Kennedy. The research inquiry was: What will it take to bind the wounds of a nation in steeped in turmoil, hate, frustration, and deeply divided? Coleman offered that the only way societal dysfunction could be quelled was with communal mentality that embraced commonality of purpose. My success depends on your success. Your welfare is my welfare. We are interdependent. Interdependence and selflessness is the only way a society can survive.

During the last two decades it appears our national direction has been guided by self preservationist terms such as national interest, personal responsibility, less government, lower taxes, and the all accouterments that will insure the continuation and preservation of that which is mine, regardless it's impact on you. A conversation that broaches the notion of communal interdependence is one I do not hear. If we continue to disregard our collective interdependence, the folly that now exits will be exacerbated and eventually, we all will lose.

Wouldn't it make sense for true conservatives to lead by example and return their impending economic stimulus check back to the Internal Revenue Service with "Thanks, but No Thanks" imprinted on the envelope? Or is the trough too inviting for all, "liberal" and "conservative"?

Recall Jacob Marley? He was 50 percent owner of the fictional investment bank of Marley and Scrooge. We recall Jacob only one time per year and it is within the confines of his brief, reflective, and repentant conversation with his partner, Ebenezer, that catches our ear. If we are true to Charles Dickens' intent of self-reflection, portrayed by a humbled, penitent, and subsequently redeemed Ebenezer Scrooge, we all would do well to become as liberal as possible, as soon as possible.

Mel Hays is a North Texas-area school teacher who lives in McKinney.

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