{November, 1985, Adview Magazine}


Conservatives and liberals can be distinguished, at least in part, on the basis of their capacity to be thankful.


Consider the prototypical conservative, Ronald Reagan. After John Hinkley made his assassination attempt, what was Reagan's attitude? He was simply thankful that the bullet wound was not worse. He did not ask why the world was so full of evil. And he certainly did not begin a campaign for gun control. He accepted the evil done to him and was grateful for all that remained to him. In Ronald Reagan's eyes, neither John Hinkley, the world, nor the government owed him a thing.


Consider our forefathers who started the Thanksgiving tradition. They had no government guarantees and wanted none. They wanted only to have the opportunity to make their own way, free from tyranny. Their "abundant harvest" was probably not enough to satisfy any of us today. But they had enough to eat, and they were alive and free. It would not be stretching the term to say that our forefathers were also conservatives.


Even though these are only two examples, they are consistent with the conservative point of view that government should not be constantly intervening in our lives -- that it should serve primarily as a referee who keeps the game under control and not as a doting mother who keeps running onto the field to protect her "baby."


One reason for taking this point of view is that we simply cannot afford government intervention. Another reason is that government is inherently inefficient. But the uniquely conservative reason for taking this point of view is that, in seeking the assistance of government in matters that go beyond preserving public health and safety, we are implicitly renouncing the goodness of our world and ignoring our human frailty. We are saying not only that the world is not good enough for us, but we are also saying that we are good enough for the world.


Liberals focus upon all that is wrong with the world. They then assume that all that is wrong can be cured by human beings. Finally, they conclude that the cure will come from human beings in the form of government.


Conservatives focus upon all the opportunities that the world has to offer. They are aware that suffering and misfortune may fall upon them, but they are so glad to be alive that they gracefully accept suffering and misfortune as part of the price that must be paid for the opportunity to live. Above all, they are aware of their own limitations as individual human beings and are not about to trust a virtually uncontrollable group of other human beings to attempt to cure what they, as individuals, cannot cure.


Have I portrayed conservatives as the good guys and liberals as the bad guys? If so, forgive me. None of us has the right to claim exclusive ownership of the truth, especially political truth. What we do have is both the right and the obligation to share with others our perspective on the truth. If we do more of such sharing and, in the sharing, become a little more humble and a little more thankful, conservatives everywhere will be well pleased.




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We all see things in different ways. Help me to see things your way. I welcome  your questions and comments.   


    --- Jesse Shearin





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