Monday, March 19, 2012

I heart conservatives

For those of you who know me well: I have not titled this post with any sense of irony or sarcasm. I am, however, choosing a very particular meaning for the word "conservatives".

I can sympathize with political conservatives, who believe that the role of the federal government should be restricted, and that more power should be at the state level. Different states have different needs: different industries, different resources, different demographics, different mindsets. It makes sense to assert that a state government is better able to address the needs of its constituents than a large, overriding federal government trying to please everyone at once.

I can sympathize with fiscal conservatives, who believe that federal spending needs to be reduced. I am quite certain that the federal government is wasting appalling amounts of my tax money, due to inefficiency, corruption, lack of oversight, or some combination of the three. I'm also absolutely certain that the government is spending a lot of money on policies that I am strongly opposed to.

What bothers me are the so-called "religious conservatives," which seems to be just another way to say "Christian hardliners." There are reasonable and interesting ideas coming out of the right wing, but they're being drowned out and tainted by the attempts of the religious right to impose their faith on the entire nation. The fact that religious freedom is one of the founding principles of America seems to have been utterly forgotten, and it's been forgotten by the same people who seem to keep stressing a return to Constitutional values.

Your faith is not my faith. You and I may have some congruent moral values, but you cannot expect to impose all of the trappings of your faith on me. Would you expect to pass laws enforcing fasting during Lent? Three hours of silence during Good Friday? Church attendance on the Sabbath? No? Of course not. That's a violation of the division of church and state, isn't it?

So stop trying to legislate your faith-based values concerning contraception, abortion, and homosexuality. If you have to go to the Bible to defend your convictions, that's a sure bet that you're endorsing something of religious origin that has no basis in our legal code. "Because I believe it's a sin" or "because God told me so" is not a valid reason for passing laws that must regulate the behavior of this vast, multi-cultural country.

I think the political landscape of this country would be much different if the GOP could divest itself of its evangelical baggage and concentrate on real political and fiscal issues. I think we would have a much more productive debate between the two parties; I think we could spend more time addressing the hazards of the 21st century, including the side effects of a global, information-based economy on the average person's financial health, and the side effects of an ever-growing industrial population on the health of our planet.

I wish for a lot of foolish things like this.