A Republican friend from Mississippi State, whom I haven't seen in decades, wrote on my Facebook page recently that he reads my work, and he actually finds me quite conservative in some ways. He hoped that characterization didn't offend me. It didn't.
My friend's comment was under one of the "libtard"-type insults that many so-called conservatives use when one dares question President-elect Donald Trump.
My old friend is right. I am conservative, at least in the purest definition of the word, although not in the dumb, binary way it's used in today's politics. I honestly don't believe in too much government, and I get frustrated as hell at the inefficiency and poor work ethics of much government bureaucracy, whether Democrats or Republicans are running it.
I do believe in the social contract, however, and I know that the purest use of a shared government is to help citizens get to the point of self-sufficiency, especially when the government historically kept certain families from attaining opportunity. Stronger citizens build a stronger, safer nation.
I even supported Bill Clinton's impeachment back during Lewinsky times. Many Democrats and left-wingers believed I was a traitor for saying out loud that had a Republican done the same thing—with an intern at the office—folks on the left would have roasted him, and rightfully. (There weren't many politicians left of Clintons then promising free tuition and puppies in exchange for votes. They were the lefties.)
I'm not a sexual moralist—people have the right to make their own choices about who to love—but I do believe in honesty and integrity in public office. I've covered enough corruption to know that it often starts with liars and cheaters who don't want their affairs and true proclivities exposed. I am conservative enough to believe that if someone betrays those they supposedly love the most, none of us can trust them. It's why I won't endorse candidates if I have good evidence that they are philanderers. Philanderers tend to worry about philandering, and not getting caught, more than anything else. That's not leadership.
Besides, they are easy to blackmail. Thus, the corruption problem.
I'm the most conservative when it comes to the "with liberty and justice part for all." One of the greatest dangers of any government is when a certain group of self-anointed people decides the Constitution belongs to them, and exists to protect their speech or protests over someone else's they don't agree with, or their religious beliefs, or their personal choices. There is absolutely nothing "conservative" or small-government about using elected officials as your personal belief police.
Trump kicked protesters out of his rallies, egging on his supporters to rough them up. Trump has tweeted furiously about peaceful protests of the decidedly un-conservative ways he wants to use the federal government to afflict certain groups while comforting others. That part reminds me of the narcissistic Mayor Frank Melton running around Jackson trying to keep some young men— "Frank's boys"—out of jail, while doing his damnedest to lock up others for the same or lesser crimes.
That's not good government; that's greedy, self-focused tyranny. By the same token, Trump sends the message to all his followers that their speech and beliefs matter over others'. Real American conservatives (and liberals) know that the U.S. Constitution is there to keep government from impinging the speech most offensive to us; we don't really need it to protect that of people who believe alike. It also protects the right to talk back to speech that offends me, you or Trump, which is not censorship or some sort of war on "political correctness"; it is protected expression, and must be in order for this to be a free nation.
Donald Trump tweeted this week that people who burn the American flag should go to jail or lose their citizenship, meaning I guess they would be deported. I thought of all the Trump followers who have left angry comments on the JFP website defending the Confederate flag, saying how disgusting the American flag is, too. What if they burned one to make a point about their flag? Deported?
Look, I can't ever imagine burning the flag. But as the U.S. Supreme Court wisely affirmed years ago, Americans have the right to burn a piece of cloth to show their disenchantment with the government it represents. The fact that we can do that should we please (and as long as we're not doing it in a violent way) actually honors those in my family, such as my stepdad who served in Korea and Vietnam, who were willing to fight to the death for the rights that make us different from the nations many love to hate.
I'm also conservative about giving police carte blanche to use too much force. It is not American, at all, to profile people in order to catch a few bad guys with a wide net based on someone's skin color or ZIP code. People aren't Skittles. And it is not American to allow police, or any authority, to barge into our homes on scant suspicion or not have limits on how they can investigate crimes, or to protect the bad cops from prosecution.
It is sure not an act of patriotism to tell police they have to leave the beat and go round up people of the religion that is least in favor in this generation, or to become a deportation force for hard-working people who are here to join our proud tradition of immigrants chasing the American dream and fleeing oppression.
Many of our ancestors, at least white ones, came to the New World to escape religious oppression—often Catholics vs. Protestants, Protestants vs. Mennonites, Christian vs. Christian. In England, Catholics hid visiting priests in a secret "priest hole" should the authorities show up.
It's too easy to call America a "Christian nation" now to justify any sort of treatment of the perceived "other." It's also easy to dismiss Democrats as "libtards" or claim that being Republican means you must hate all Muslims, Jews and Mexicans. I adhor party labels, and I vote and endorse people and promises over party. But now that a would-be dictator controls the GOP and so-called conservatism in the U.S., the choices will be scant in upcoming years.
We patriots, liberal or conservative, must claim our territory and stand up for American ideals. Much is on the line.