Like most of my friends from the Midwest, I was brought up in a conservative household. I was raised with Judeo-Christian values. And I was encouraged by my church to always vote Republican because they were the more “Christian” option. I find that last point hilarious because if you look at the Republican party’s track record, you’ll find they consistently do the opposite of what Christ taught. But those points aside, somewhere along the way I changed my perspective on almost every political and religious issue. Someone once asked me if it was the university that indoctrinated me and turned me into a liberal. It didn’t. Actually I was still very conservative throughout five of my six years of college. For me, I think the biggest factor that made me change from a conservative to a progressive/liberal was reading world history.
Now, I don’t think it’s fair to say that conservatives are always on the wrong side of history. That’s simply not true. And I also don’t think it’s fair to say that being conservative is a bad thing. That’s also not true. Conservatism in the right context is certainly valuable in regards to remembering our roots, learning from the past, and preserving the knowledge of generations. I especially value the mindset of the depression era generation. However, when it comes to any kind of social change or progress, I haven’t been able to find any circumstances in which those who value tradition and conservative ideals have been on the right side of history. In fact, when it comes to human rights and social change, conservatives are just…wrong. Consistently. ￼
I understand that it’s a generalization to say that conservatives have been wrong about most social issues. And I’m sure there were traditional people standing up for women’s rights, civil rights, workers rights, and other forms of social change, but for the most part those who value tradition oppose these kinds of changes until they are forced to except the inevitable: the future is liberal, and change will happen whether a person wants it or not. Examples of social progress in the history of the United States will reveal just how divided this country has always been between those who oppose change and those who embrace it. Several of those examples can be cited in these articles:
Again, it’s important to note that it’s not always the case. David Harsanyi wrote a somewhat thorough rebuttal to this idea that conservatives are always wrong in his article. And many are quick to point out the hypocrisy on the left concerning tolerance and double standards. I completely understand these points, but history doesn’t lie. And those who value tradition tend to resist change. And if you’re resisting change to the point of undermining the rights or women, workers, minorities, the LGBTQ community etc. well, you’re simply wrong. Like I’ve always said, why cling to the past when you can embrace the future?
Specifically, I’m interested in where people fall in regards to human rights. Nowadays, virtually no one is supposed to women voting, but if you were a conservative in the early 20th century, you probably would’ve bought into all sorts of reasons why women shouldn’t vote from preserving the family to not breaking the tradition of letting men be the ones that make the big decisions.
Nowadays, most people would agree that workers rights are important. Child labor laws are certainly necessary. And aren’t we all grateful to have a limited number of hours in a work week and weekends off (if you’re lucky). Again the conservatives of the early 20th century opposed most of these ideas. There’s this hatred of any kind of regulation or limitation and what I consider an overvaluing of freedom. Isn’t it this word freedom that’s so often touted when opposing any kind of change? Whether that change be limiting hate speech or regulating business?
Nowadays, most people would agree that racism is a bad thing and that this country should provide equality for all. But let’s examine the civil rights movement of the 60s. Where were the liberals and where were the conservatives? Who were those opposing an end to segregation? Who were those opposing an end to miscegenation?Certainly not the liberals of that day.
And how about the issue of environmentalism? This is a surprising one to me because the word conservative would imply that a person would value the planet and its resources. But I know self described conservatives who refuse to even recycle because they don’t want to appear too liberal. What kind of logic is that? And it’s not just the environment, it’s most issues concerning science. Who are the climate change deniers? Who are the anti-vaxxers? Again I’m aware these are grand generalizations. I know plenty of people that would consider themselves conservative who value human rights, the planet, and science. But why do they make up the minority?
Now it’s important to distinguish the difference between political ideology and a person’s preferred political party. Being conservative has become associated with the Republican party while being liberal has become largely associated with Democrats. As a person who absolutely detests both political parties and would like to see an into the two party system, I’m not a fan of these associations. Personally, I don’t think we need any kind of label to know the difference between right and wrong. It’s really quite easy. Take care of people and take care of the planet. Why is this so difficult? And if your political ideology goes against this very easy concept, why would you continue to be a part of it?
2 thoughts on “Day 79: Studying History Made me Liberal”
Powerful and insightful article! Another thing progressives brought along – allowing interracial marriage.
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I have asked many people over the years to define what “A Conservative” and “A Liberal” is, I have never found a person who can. That is where your confusion is, there are no Liberals or Conservatives, those are labels attached to us by politicians to divide the country. The majority of U.S. citizens lean fiscally conservative and socially liberal. The demonstrations of the ’60s were not just for racial equality, that was merely one part, an equally large part was the anti-Vietnam demonstrations (that was the injustice spent on us who were in the Military). It’s impossible to compare the ’60s with what’s going on today. Who is who? The far left and the far right are exactly the same, they just have different methods of getting to a common goal. We need to divorce ourselves from the notion of one being “Conservative” or “Liberal”, it makes no sense. We have been duped.
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