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I’m a Conservative, Too—Sometimes

After the last election, there’s been a near constant stream of blather about how blue staters need to reach out to red staters, liberals to conservatives, Democrats to Republicans (and no, I don’t think that those three pairs are remotely the same thing). We need to show them we care about morals, family, and the Constitution, need to focus on common ground, so the thinking goes.

Of course there is the counter stream that says “Suck up to hypocritical racists who are hell-bent on careening us into a fundamentalist theocracy? No way!”

I sympathize with both, and I think they each apply in different situations—the latter (usually) when it comes to fighting back against radical and disingenuous and dangerous policies and the former (usually) when it comes to talking to your co-worker, neighbor, or cousin whom you believe to be your political opposite.

I think, however, that the place I would want everyone to come at that conversation from isn’t first, “Let me show you how my stances on things really do line up with the values you claim to have.” True, there’s a lot of fertile ground there, in my humble opinion, and it’s awfully hard for me to keep from going there.

But there’s a first step that would allow more of these conversations to happen more fruitfully, and that’s to recognize that you don’t know someone’s stance on any given issue just because you know their stance on another one. Pick any given dividing line and the groups on either side are not going to exactly match that for any other issue. This is sometimes so hard to remember that I’ve developed a special fondness for all those groups who bring together unexpected positions and identities—Catholics for Choice, the Pink Pistols, pro-porn feminists, Log Cabin Republicans—even when I don’t agree with them. I think not embracing a package-deal ideology is usually a good sign of some thinking happening.

Here at Metroland we’re well aware that many people assume they know what our positions will be on a given issue. And although they are often right, they are often not (or often both, given that we do disagree—and the disagreements are generally not of a People’s Front of Judea vs. Judean People’s Front nature).

So here’s my part in trying to break down some stereotypes: a small sampling of my libertarian/conservative leanings.

I don’t like political correctness: Not that long ago someone I have known for many years actually scolded me for saying we needed a volunteer to “man” the gate at a local folk festival. I was so flabbergasted I didn’t even come up with a proper response. Good God, woman! That’s like the animal rights activists reportedly being upset over the town name of Fishkill. Or calling black people born in Britain or Australia “African-Americans.”

Yes, language has power, and it is worth choosing carefully. That is precisely why we should focus on good, non-euphemistic alternatives in the battles that matter.

Which leads to my least favorite bit of current political correctness: “road rage.” As currently used, road rage is nothing but a clever way to make violent maniacs who commit assault and reckless endangerment seem like they’re suffering from a disease. Puh-leeze. Give me a little personal responsibility! The term should be killed.

I do like markets and competition: Yes, we can argue back and forth over appropriate forms of regulation—I think it’s necessary some times. But I also think markets can be a force for good in some cases, and that companies who have had awful business practices or are being left behind by technology (ahem, RIAA) should stop coming to the government for handouts.

I don’t mind responsible hunting of non-endangered species: In fact, in our current state of environmentally destructive deer overpopulation, the main problem I have with deer hunting (besides drunken idiots who shoot from their cars) is that no one shoots does. Shooting bucks just leaves more food for the does who will reproduce more.

I don’t like “for your own good” laws: I know the fact that I don’t think the anti-smoking in places of employment law falls under this category will make many folk write me off, but that’s an argument I’ve already written about. I would not support an outright ban on smoking, just like I don’t support an outright ban on any drug that doesn’t cause violent behavior. I also think any adult crazy enough not to put on a seat belt or a motorcycle helmet or to eat every meal at McDonald’s should be free to suffer the consequences. I’m much more disturbed by 40-year-old drunk drivers than college students getting into bars. I would, however, posit that perhaps the non-seatbelt-or-helmet-wearing crowd should be charged, or charged more, for the police/ambulance service when they get themselves injured in an accident, so the taxpayers don’t have to pick up the bill for their foolishness.

That’s just an eensy-weensy start. (Certain libertarians in my office would like the world to know that they would go much farther much more quickly.) What positions do you take that people might not expect? What positions do you assume of people you know because you know who they voted for for president?

—Miriam Axel-Lute

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