despite the fact that I am not one.
I know I’m venturing into dangerous territory, the no-mans-land between opposing trenches.
I am conservative, and cautious, sometimes fearful, repressed, yet sometimes driven. People like me keep the world from spinning out of control or at least we like to think we do. We live within our means. We save for the future. We plan for the worst. We are captivated by a steep moral code that puts boundaries around our lives. Boundaries make us and others around us feel safer. We’re fairly predictable. Politically, we demand fiscal sanity; recognition of what is real. We analyze the data, find trends and, unless we anticipate something huge happening to reverse the momentum, we generally expect trends to continue.
But there’s another side, buried deep inside of me, that cries out to be creative. It is an irrepressible force that bursts out of its cave from time to time with a defiant roar. That creative urge demands that I sheer off the constraints, think unthinkable thoughts, and believe the unbelievable, that insoluble problems can be solved simply, damn the data. A liberal thought might be something like there is plenty of money to go around to feed the hungry, clothe and house the poor from government coffers that can somehow be magically filled simply by printing more money or redistributing it from the rich. It is an urge that tells me mankind is basically good, that despite the endless trail of failed utopian societies that depended on people to be unselfish, love others more than themselves and share without restraint, utopia is possible and deserves to be attempted yet again.
Fortunately, my primary self reasserts and I usually come to my senses. I realize that communes where all property is held in common never survive long, not in a pure form. Almost nobody loves others better than or even equal to themselves even if there have been one or even a few exceptions. And though I try to be otherwise, that includes me almost all the time. That’s why I recognize that personal ownership of property is essential. Without personal ownership, we typically slide into sloth and “poor greed”. That is, the back side of the greed coin most people attribute only to the wealthy, which is “driven greed”. In the end, greed is a problem everywhere. It is not limited by class.
Consider two unlikely questions together. “Why do I like liberals?” and “How often do arch-conservatives excoriate liberals as the cause of moral corruption and America’s destruction?” “Rome is falling because of the damned liberals.” If you hang around Republicans the refrain is familiar. These two questions together remind me of another odd couplet. “Why do I love my wife?” And “How many jokes are there about men who can’t ask for directions, won’t put the toilet seat down and women who refuse to think logically.” Why do I love my wife even if she drives me nuts? Maybe it’s because I need her so desperately. In the balance between the yin and the yang of our profound but natural differences, something magical happens. Two halves make a whole. Take away either half and you have . . . a hole.
If we were a culture made up only of conservative accountants, who would plant the beans to be harvested, much less counted? (That is NOT to say that only liberals are productive, LOL.) Or, more accurately, who would dream the big dreams, take the leaps of faith, think outside the steep walls, invest their life savings on an impulse that has less than a 1% chance of success, yet ends up surprising everyone with cold fusion? Those are liberal, throw caution to the wind, faith-driven impulses. When I was young, my avowed liberal private sax teacher often said I must play with abandon to be any good as a jazz musician. There is something liberating in being liberal that allows people to abandon reason, take illogical leaps of faith, and come up with something totally unexpected, fresh, new and good. It is the ultimate expression of faith.
Isn’t it a bit ironic then, that faith in God, is generally thought of as more natural to the politically conservative side of the aisle while atheism is associated with the educated liberal elite?
Of course, the argument favoring the flip side of the yin/yang equation is equally important and, if you are basically conservative, I don’t need to elaborate. If you’re not, well, you just don’t get it, do you?
That conservative/liberal dichotomy helps explain to me why the art community seems to be disproportionately full of liberals. I love art. There is nothing that validates me more than when I feel creative. I love creativity, whether I observe it in the scientific laboratory, in the tinkerer’s back yard, the artist’s easel or an inspired jazz improvisational performance.
If I love creativity, how can I help but love and need creative people? Many if not most happen to have a wide liberal streak running through them. There’s an old cliché that I think applies equally in love, politics and life. “Can’t live with ‘em and can’t live without ‘em.
And so it is; I like liberals.