Understanding Conservatism in the Age of the Pandemic

What motivates any young person to choose a specific career… say, as in medicine, law enforcement, or the arts?  Is there something inherent in our DNA, determining one’s personality, that moves us through life affecting the choices we make?  Might it be a natural tendency to be expressive, compassionate or forceful?  Is it an unconscious, guiding force that sets the tone for the balance of our lives?  Perhaps, that tone can be, at its essence, also one of either a conservative or liberal (progressive) disposition, more so a natural force from within than an external conscious choice.  Start by asking yourself if you gravitate towards risk or stability?  Are we but a needle in a compass?

Conservatism is at its core a desire for the world, all things, to remain as they are, to preserve and conserve a way of life, or to return to a way that once was and is now gone.  It’s often referred to as “traditional,”  a way of life passed on from generation to generation.  When that chain of tradition is broken, Conservatism dictates that the connection must be restored. “Make America Great Again” can only be embraced by Conservatives.  To do so requires a belief that something has been lost.  But what?  Return to what?  Just what was lost?

If, for example,  you believe that Christian, European purity is the foundation of the American dream, then you would easily be threatened by a movement to embrace peoples of color, different religions, or an expanded social morality.  This is the extreme form of Conservatism that reveals itself as White Supremacy and American Nationalism.  “They will not replace us” says it all.  As peoples of color grow in numbers, they threaten to upset the balance of power that exists in our democracy by virtue of the voting process.  This is what is meant by “replace us.”  The fear is that they will determine the future of the nation and the chain of “tradition” will be broken and remain so.  Consequently, the GOP, a party of conservatism, seeks to control the vote by suppressing voter turnout among traditionally Democratic party voters and restore the center of power to White, heterosexual Christians fearing the extinction of their old way of life, in many ways such as the loss of individualism to herd mentality; a turn away from Jesus, their savior (a paradox to the former); the burden on the economy of the welfare state; the shackling of the Men in Blue who minimize the crawl of religious and racial infection with unchecked authority and ultimately; and the destruction of the American family as they knew it, a God-fearing, law-abiding unit, the foundation of our strength as Americans. That’s just too much change for the conservative mind to wrap itself around.

As legislation is considered to be more inclusive, conservatives naturally oppose it.  As science reveals patterns of change that indicate the unsustainability of our approach to the environment, conservatives work to deny science and defeat all attempts to change the inevitable perilous outcome.  And so on and so on until now… we reach the Covid pandemic, a non-partisan fact exterminating Americans at a record pace.

At first it came for the old folks in the nursing homes and everyone else said, “Ah, that’s not me.  Nothing has to change.  I can keep on living the way I am now.” Then after a brief lockdown, businesses suffered and the GOP governors relented and opened up too early, flooding churches, the bars, the beaches and parks with large crowds passing the infection along, and the younger crowd said, “That’s not me. It’s only killing older people.”  How wrong they were.  And as the pandemic rolled merrily along, it began to reach deeper for victims into children of school age, enabled by GOP politicians who fear defying Trump, while believing that restoring the economy must be done by restoring the old norms. Just look at what happened!  In liberal New York strict guidelines were enforced and the curve was flattened. In the last few days they reached a total of 0 infections and 0 deaths, while Red Southern states, led by the GOP, have reached record highs in both infections and deaths, filled their hospitals and ICU beds, and moved refrigerator trucks in to supplement morgue capacity, overflowing with the dead.  And what do they propose to do about school age children?… Send them back to school without a comprehensive plan. Who’s nuts, them or us that allow it?

Look at the map.  It started with the Southern states, like Florida, Texas and Arizona, but has spread to Georgia, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, The Carolinas, Virginia, Alabama and beyond, conservative “Red” states, GOP governed states, resistant to change.  Wearing a mask is too much change.  Avoiding large public gatherings is too much change.  Maintaining social distancing is too much change.  So they go about their lives as they were before, without regard for themselves and others.  They foolishly, unknowingly and carelessly are spreading the infection, killing their friends, family and strangers alike.  And their governors won’t go against them.  They need the votes.  How many deaths will it take before we can see how that shakes out?

There’s an old saying, “change or die.”  All things change over time.  We call this growth.  When growth stops, all things die.  When we choose to stop changing, to stop growing, we are choosing to die.  That is what is happening now, quite literally.