OK

I don't generally write terribly political diaries because others do it so much better than I do. I write diaries about Itzl and Xoco, Big Sarge and the other wildlife in my yard, and practical survival diaries.

I am actively political, I just don't usually write about it.

But I've seen some patterns and picked up on some ideas I want to share, to see if I'm wrong.

I want to be wrong.

Let's start with what I believe, politically speaking, so it can be compared and contrasted with my observations and such. I consider my beliefs to be very conservative. They aren't liberal or libertarian.  

1) Government needs participation and vigilance.
2)  Businesses need government regulation and oversight to prevent fraud.
3) Government has an inescapable duty to care for its sick, educate its young, provide for its needy and disabled, and to protect its citizens so as to maximize each person's freedom to live in dignity and achieve their potential.
4) Liberty and authority reside within the community, not the individual. Communities have both the freedom and the obligation to govern themselves, to invest in the collective good (through taxes, both federal and local), to favor or punish those who enhance or threaten the community, and to contribute to the collective national betterment.
5) Taxes are essential for a well-run society, based on the services and laws of government described above.
6) Wealthy people are not exempt from investing in our society.
7) People at all levels of society contribute to its operation and welfare, through service, paying taxes, participating in government. Public service is a duty and an honor.
8) Human rights, civic rights must be protected, when society does better, so do the people within it, and when the people within a society do well, all of society benefits.
9) Individuals should balance their personal needs and desires against the greater good of their community and nation, and may occasionally make sacrifices for the betterment of society.
10) Everyone should fill their cornucopia and when they've filled it and it overflows, they have a duty to use that overflow positively for their community and mankind.
I like the concept of the cornucopia.  Everyone gets to decide what fills their cornucopia, and when it's full, they are at their maximum comfort level. Anything that accrues to them beyond that is overflow.  I'm not at all against people filling their cornucopias, and I'll do my best to help them fill up. I think people have a right to keep what they need from what they earn. When they amass more than they need, more than they can reasonably use, more than they'll need in several lifetimes, I don't see any reason why they should then hoard it. It's wasted resources at that point.  

There's a reason almost every society has stories about misers and hoarders and what happens to them - the lesson of A Christmas Carol is that personal joy and a better society come from spreading the excess of one's wealth around.

It's a lesson a growing part of our society has forgotten.

Now that you know where I'm coming from, let's move on to talk about what I'm seeing as the beliefs of the "conservative" Republicans are. Conservative is in quotes, because they may call themselves conservative, but they don't fit the definition.

1) BIG government BAD. That sometimes morphs into ALL government BAD.
2) Taxes are BAD.
3) Liberals are BAD, actually everyone not "one of us" is BAD, especially women, gays, and colored people.
4) Wealth and status are ordained by God
5) Wealthy white people are the victims of rapacious, thieving government, women, gays, and colored people.
6) Freedom is a zero sum game.
7) Status equals liberty.
8) God wants the wealthy white men to control America
9) Wealth is wasted on technology (except guns and maybe iPods), libraries, education, health care, the poor, the needy, the infrastructure
10) The wealthy who believe their excess should be invested in the common good are inviting revolt from the underclasses (and that's everyone but them).
I live in the reddest state in America.  I hear these things, am sometimes subjected to these attitudes (but usually I see it happen to others more than I personally experience it - it's good to be old, female, and fat but not too fat and therefore practically invisible), and for some weird reason, people talk to me. Or at me.  And they tell me things they'd never tell a therapist or a BFF.

My ex is a "conservative" Republican, a teabagger of the worst sort. He's not just a Tea Party person, he's drunk the kool-ade and dived into the deep end. I still talk to him because he's the father of my kids and before he went all teabagger, we made an agreement to share certain expensive home and garden repair and maintenance tools. Until I can afford to buy replacements, we still talk.

I've had a harder and harder time talking to him.  It seems as if, except for exchanging recipes and gardening tips, we speak completely different languages. I've spent a lot of time talking to him and to others like him (and they are everywhere around here) to learn what they mean, and what I've learned makes my heart cry.

Take the word liberty.  We all use it.  But it doesn't mean the same to me as it does to my ex and his ilk.

To me, liberty means

freedom from despotic or arbitrary control and the positive enjoyment of various social, political, and economic powers, rights, and privileges.
My ex and his friends define it as
the power to do as one pleases.
What he doesn't say, and what he really means, is different from that. It took me a lot of questioning and digging and stepping on toes (my ex was told more than once to keep me under control - something beyond his ability since we're not married any more). What he (they) really means is that they want the ability to exploit, control, abuse, beat, torture, rape and even kill those under their control with impunity and without any repercussions beyond having to replace that person.

They won't state it that baldly, but that's what they mean when they say they want liberty.

I gathered that from the negative - what they meant when they claimed they'd lost their liberty.  When I asked them what liberty they'd lost, specifically, a single example , it would be something like "control of the wife" or "forced to pay minimum wage" and other, darker things.

Their anger against taxes isn't about the services they receive, it's the fact that others - particularly women, gays, and all those colored people - also get them.  Freedom is a zero-sum game to them. anytime someone else gets something, it means they've lost it.  It's been personally taken away from them.  Food stamps means there's less food for them, not that there's more food for the hungry.  They don't care about the hungry.

When I've pushed some of them about minimum wage and fair and living wages, they usually immediately go into a tirade about welfare and how the poor deserve to be poor and should be grateful they are allowed to live - and then they amend it with "in America" after a pause - probably because they've realized I'm not "one of them".

They feel, somehow, that receiving an honest wage is stealing from the wealthy.

Really.

I haven't quite figured this one out yet as a stand-alone, but if you place it with their definition of "liberty", it fits. You don't pay the people you control, they must appease you with service and gratitude and whatever it may be that is asked of them.  It's not slavery simply because they don't feel as if they should provide anything to their underlings - not shelter, food, clothes, anything.  Slaves get fed and housed and clothed - maybe not well, but they are still expected to receive these things. WHat we are is perhaps closer to "supplicants" - people who have to beg for the opportunity to provide them with some service or other, and if they're pleased, maybe the "supplicant" will be tossed a little something. These people don't see that they owe anything to anyone else. Everything is owed to them because that's what their definition of liberty is.

Loss of liberty, the thing they fear the most, is actually a loss of status in their hierarchy of wealth and privilege. The higher their status, the more liberty they have with the property, rights, and lives of other people. Losing their liberty is the loss of this absolute dominion over others. Losing their liberty means their status is low enough that they can be held accountable for the laws they broke when they had a higher status. They fear being held accountable.

The wealthier they are, the fewer laws they have to obey. There are no societal or legal consequences for what they do.

Their wealth isn't just money, it's a symbol of their status, revealed by their ostentatious homes and clothes and cars, and their dedicated pursuit of pleasure - lavish parties, gambling, sex, and blood sports. When the wealthy are 'caught" in one of those, the reason it's so easy for the "conservative" republican to forgive them and forget about it is because they see it as the wealthier person's right to engage in such behaviors - because they have a higher status bought by that wealth.  That higher status exempts them from the laws of lesser people.

The "conservative" Republicans actually seem (around here) to be in awe and to enjoy that the wealthy do these horrific things because it proves to them that status matters. And as good little believers, if they hoard their money, trample on the rights of others, abuse them, exploit them and take what they want, they'll achieve those ranks, too.

The "conservative" Republican wealthy don't want to invest in our society because that means we might consider ourselves equals.  Our education, being well fed, being well housed, having leisure time not devoted to their interests all takes away from their definition of what it means to have liberty. Universal literacy, libraries, a truly free press all threaten their concept of liberty.

Ownership is a code word for being above the law, or perhaps, better, being the law and the law enforcer and the interpreter of the law all rolled into one.

It brings new and horrific meaning to Bush's desire to make America an "ownership society".

What the "conservative" Republicans want is the unquestioned, unfettered right to turn their fellow citizens into supplicants and subjects, people to whom they owe nothing, and from whom they can take everything, including their lives. They want us begging for scraps of food, for their leftovers, for their discards.  They want us homeless and destitute so we will do anything for the meanest little scraps.

Their unremitting and unapologetic brutality - Rush Limbaugh's utter certainty that he can get away with saying and doing the things he does without consequences  - is based in this attitude of ownership and status.  He's at or near the top (or thinks he is) and that means all the rest of us are his to use and abuse as he please.

Others are not as open about it.

The pattern I see is the one that built and led to the Civil War.  Perhaps that's why they all seem to bring up the Civil War so often.  They've been telling us they want all of American to be run like the Antebellum South, with businesses run like the southern plantations once were. They won't own us (onership means wasting resources like food and clothes and shelter on us), but they will keep us as far down as they can, uneducated and hungry.

They've been telling us, taunting us with this, and we've been in denial because  - because it's so far beyond what we believe that we can't believe they really mean it.

They do.

Look around.

There are Americans who celebrate rampant inequality.  Torture and extrajudicial killings are condoned, even encouraged.  Our police are getting paramilitary training and powers that are completely out of line with their contracted duty to serve and protect us.  Segregation is happening - not just black and white, but white and browns, white men and all women, white men and gays... The rights and privileges of women, gays and people of all colors but white are under constant assault. Our government - currently under control by the "conservative" Republicans  - is withdrawing or trying to withdraw investments in education, infrastructure, health care, public services, and innovation.

They believe, they truly believe, that any investment in the common good will encourage the "underclass" (that's all of us who are not "one of them") to revolt.

I believe our job, as Americans, is to raise everyone of us up, to better the lot of everyone so we can all enjoy the fruits of that betterment.

The "conservative" Republicans believe the only real role of government is to deprive the lower classes of any ability or means of rising up against their betters.

That scares me, because I am an old, fat, disabled minority woman - practically the lowest of the low in their worldview. Maybe that's why they feel so comfortable talking to me.  I have, in their mind, no power.

That's where they want us to be.

Knowing this, I am thinking of ways to reframe it so it defeats them and helps all of us.  I can't do it alone, so I'm reading, listening, observing, talking to others, like-minded or not. Now's not the time to be picky.

I won't let them turn America into the worst of the Antebellum South.

We're Americans, not supplicants, not drudges. Proud, free, brave, strong.  We must defeat this "ownership" and "liberty" nonsense.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.