Charity on November 17th, 2006

Sometimes I have to stop and reevaluate my thinking when someone I thought I didn’t like says something I totally agree with.

That happened yesterday when I read this article about John McCain’s speech to a GOP organization about what the Republican Party needs to do moving forward after lat week’s defeat.

From the article, McCain said,

“We lost our principles and our majority. And there is no way to recover our majority without recovering our principles first.”

The article continues,

“Americans had elected us to change government, and they rejected us because they believed government had changed us,” he said in a speech in which he cited Reagan, Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt. “We must spend the next two years reacquainting the public and ourselves with the reason we came to office in the first place: to serve a cause greater than our self-interest.”

After a dozen years of GOP rule on Capitol Hill, McCain said voters felt Republicans cared more about protecting their incumbency than they did about staying true to core conservative principles such as limited government, fiscal discipline, a strong defense, low taxes, free trade and family values. He urged a return to those tenets.

“Do the right thing, and the politics will take care of itself,” McCain said.

I think McCain is right about the need for the GOP to return to the values that got them elected and he seems to have a good grasp of why the GOP lost.

The problem is that I never really thought of McCain as a conservative. Some of that could have been due to what other conservatives have said about McCain and his compromises with the Democrats, or the campaign against him by the Bush Team in 2000, but the biggest reason I never liked McCain was that my maternal grandmother, who lived in Arizona before she died of brain cancer a couple of years ago, always voted for him.

That woman was a die-hard big-government welfare-stater. She thought that the government should provide everything, or at least that is how she talked. My mother - who is a Republican - and her would get into huge political arguments all of the time. She hated Republicans, yet she always voted for McCain.

I automatically wrote McCain off after that.

It’s funny how people do things like that. I never really took the time to look closely at McCain, but I figured that if my grandmother liked him, then I shouldn’t.

I’m not saying that I am suddenly on the McCain bandwagon. I have just been more aware lately of how we tend to fight against each other based on this preconceived notion that people on different sides of the political spectrum are enemies. And that anyone, or any idea, that our enemy likes must be bad.

That was one of the themes of the book Crunchy Con, since the crunchy-con philosophy contains some tenants that are normally associated with liberals and are often rejected for that reason alone by mainstream conservatives without having given the idea any thought.

It is interesting to see how I do that myself.

When I first met my husband, which was at the place we both worked, we had to share a cubicle. I didn’t know him well then and I had no idea he was a conservative. Actually, I thought he was a liberal. The reason: he drank organic tea from the Onion River Co-op (this was pre-City Market days, even).

How funny! Bob is one of the most conservative guys I know.

And just this morning, I made him some organic oatmeal with organic sunflower seeds. I had mine with some chopped up locally grown apples and sweetened with local maple syrup. And a cup of organic tea.

I think many of our problems would be much closer to a solution if we stopped labeling each other and took the time to listen.

I am not the only one thinking this, obviously. As I said, Rod Dreher talks about it in the book Crunchy Con. Ivan Jacobs brought this up in the comments of this blog just yesterday.

The change to this way of thinking starts when each one of us becomes aware of whether our opinions are based on thoughtful reflection or a knee-jerk response, such as my not liking McCain because my grandmother voted for him. And then, of course, following up those realizations by taking the time to listen and thoughtfully reflect.

15 Responses to “The Rush to Judgment”

  1. McCain has the 3rd most conservative voting record as of last year(I can’t remember specifically where I’ve read this, but it’s been several sources). His moderate con job was just something for the election. And don’t forget he was one of the ones involved in the Keating S&L scandal.

    When listing the things cons need to return to, the thing that strikes me the most is if they just got away from this ‘family values’ crap, they would appeal to many many more people. It stinks that somehow the socially conservative aspect has to be a part of the equation because it really has nothing to do with the other tenets. It’s based on fiction, intolerance, fear of the unknown, and anti-intellectualism. It makes us look dumb.If they could keep the god garbage out of it, and do something about the corporate welfare they so blatantly love while knocking down people welfare, they might actually have a chance at appealing to mainstream voters. If not, they’re going to continue to become a regional party of the south(which is fine by me).

  2. How funny. I was just reading your latest post on your blog, which by the way was awesome.

    Family Values does not just mean gay marriage, you know. And the reality is that a couple of the Democrats that won this last election did so because they were able to get some of the religious vote, or so I have read.

    You said, “It’s based on fiction, intolerance, fear of the unknown, and anti-intellectualism.”

    You are going to have to explain that. Unless you are talking solely about gay marriage, in which case I already know why you are saying that.

    To me, family values means valuing family. Valuing marriage - not keeping it between a man and a woman, but praising it for its value, instead of letting it get lost in our lust-driven, thrill-seeking society. Valuing time with our kids, instead of just buying them off with the latest now toy. Caring about what our kids are learning from a sex-crazed, materialistic pop culture.

    We have Republican politicians who are greedy, corrupt, and sexually immoral. That is why they are not the family values party. I do not value those things for my family, nor do most people. This goes way beyond gay marriage.

    I am not saying that these things should be legislated, but there was a time when politicians presented an image of a morality. Now they all seem caught up in one scandal after another. Republicans need to hold themselves to a higher standard if they want to recapture the “values” label.

    That’s how I see it anyway.

  3. McCain isn’t a conservative. I worked for him in 2000 and it so clear he is pandering to the Religious Right just so he can gear up for 2008. Ask him if he ever read Kirk or Weaver or Nisbet and I bet he wouldn’t even know who they are.

  4. And the only voting record that counts is the one put out by the American Conservative Union. Not even Heritage comes close.

  5. Well, Charity…

    I wish that when the GOP talks of ‘family values’, that they meant what you said. Sadly, they don’t.. the way it’s used, it’s a code word for regulating behavior, whether it be gay-bashing, restricting abortion, regulating what we can read/watch, ridiculous unrealistic ‘abstinence only’ sex-ed, whatever.

    The point is that ‘family values’ as used by the righty blowhards represents a narrow-minded, regressive, right-wing Christian worldview (which is what I meant by anti-intellectual and fictional).

    To go further, in regards to valuing families…it should be a no-brainer, we should value families, but we should also value people that aren’t in families, they are no less important. But once again, the definition of family by these people is pretty narrow minded. Is my monogamous relationship of three years with my partner Jenni a ‘family’? I would think so, but when we talk about valuing ‘marriage’, it devalues what her and I have. I don’t feel the government should be doing anything special regading ‘marriage’ as if it were somehow superior to other relationships. And what makes it worse is the fact that the ones who go on and on about preserving marriage and such come from the states with the highest divorce rates. You might even remember the term first came about over the Murphy Brown character deciding to raise a child on her own… that’s a family too, last time I checked.

    I wholeheartedly agree about protecting kids from rampant consumerism. That shouldn’t be a left or right kind of issue. So I guess what I’m saying is the ‘family values’ term as it currently is is useless, because of how it has been defined in the public sphere. FOr the most part, your definition is what I could get along with.

    As far as Christians jumping over to Democrats, there was a small jump of evangelicals over to the Dems. There is a growing rift in the evangelical community about how, by getting in bed with the GOP on hot-button issues like abortion and gay marriage, which only affect a small number of people, the larger, universal Christian issues such as helping the poor and stewardship of the earth have been brushed aside. And I think you’re going to see more evangelicals come over to the Democrats. I think we(the left - I’m not a Dem) should work with them on common ground issues, but I will strongly fight any attempts at legislating private behavior, religion in school, or the dumbing down of scientific standards.

    Which article did you like? You talking about my ‘two political realities one?

  6. Yeah, the two political realities one.

    I hate to say this because I know you and I are not going to agree on this, but I think that when it comes to having children, a two-parent married family is far and away best for society. I am not saying that single parents should be shunned, but the benefits of a stable family on a person’s upbringing are well documented. Anecdotally, as someone who was raised by a single-mother and was a single-mother raising two boys, the negatives of not having another parent in the house are plentiful.

    I am not saying that your relationship is not real, or important, or valid, or valued. I am also not saying that the government should necessarily regulate relationships, but marriage has a great value to a stable and civilized society. And that matters to people.

    And it really matters to most conservative people.

    If you look at the Contract with America, for example, it was supportive of family values but does not once mention “gay marriage” or “abortion.” The word marriage is only used when referring to eliminating the “marriage penalty” on the income taxes.

    Family-related provisions of the Contract included:

    -Child support enforcement
    -tax incentives for adoption
    -strengthening rights of parents in their children’s education
    -stronger child pornography laws
    -an elderly dependent care tax credit
    -A S500 per child tax credit
    -repeal of the marriage tax penalty

    Family values are important to conservatives, so I doubt that will go away anything soon. What that phrase means is a different story.

  7. “I hate to say this because I know you and I are not going to agree on this, but I think that when it comes to having children, a two-parent married family is far and away best for society.”

    “I am also not saying that the government should necessarily regulate relationships, but marriage has a great value to a stable and civilized society.”

    I’m not entirely sure what you are saying here, but as far as I can figure out you are suggesting that the gov’t should support or encourage marriage as it strengthens our society… This seems like a pretty slippery slope for a semi-libertarian like yourself to stick to… After all, how big a step is it from “gov’t should encourage/support certain types of family structures because they strengthen our society” to “gov’t should encourage/support certain types of education, religion, dietary habits, etc… because they strengthen our society”…

    I’m not saying that a distinction cannot be made, but you’re drawing pretty fine lines in continuously shifting sands at that point…

  8. Actually, I wasn’t necessarily saying that the government should. I was trying to explain to JD Ryan that “family values” is not always code for opposition to gay marriage (in fact I don’t think it was when McCain said it, but I don’t know) and explain why conservative platforms include family and marriage issues.

    The family is the basic foundation of society. It is important to preserve. That is a conservative value. It always will be part of any conservative platform.

    What that looks like will not always be the same. The 1994 Republicans focused on tax incentives for married people with children. Obviously, in recent years the focus has been gay marriage. I personally think they would do better to get back to taxes and empowering parents’ rights, especially in education.

    I am definitely libertarian-leaning when it comes to the role of government, but I am conservative to the core. If our government is going to continue to cater to families where the parent or parents are working, with child care credits and subsidies and extending public education to include younger ages, then I will support politicians who support tax credits for families where one parent stays home.

  9. Hi J.D.:

    Glancing back at your previous blog…having been to a Planned Parenthood seminar and having taught (obviously non-religious) abstinence education three times in a Vermont high school, there is some wonderful, medically credible abstinence education curriculums out there. So often, I find the left use it as an issue that they can try to pull left wing heartstrings with and portray it as some evil mindwashing. The abstinence ed that I have worked with makes a medical case for abstinence and goes through the skills and goal setting necessary to postpone sexual activity. The later kids engage in sex, the more options are available to them in other areas of life. I know one abstinence educator that would ask the class how many of the students would like to be married someday –and most would raise their hands. The question then becomes what can prepare teens the best for a stable marriage.

    The abstinence ed. I did also focused on S.T.D.s. At this point, about 1 out of 4 sexually active teens has an STD. In VT, there have been very few AIDs cases among teens but it is more Chlamydia (which dinimishes fertility each time you get it) and HPV (which is the leading cause to cervical cancer). I know a student I taught when she was a little girl now without a womb (in her 20s) which is what happens when the cancer from HPV spreads. Condoms do not prevent HPV and thus cervical cancer — which is a bigger deal in Vermont than AIDs. Obviously, those shots the teen girls are getting to prevent pregnancy are not doing a things for theses STDs our VT girls are getting.

    Good abstinence ed. is not about condemning but providing mechanisms for teens to make the safest choice for their future.

    Having a bit of experience in this area, I can tell you that I believe the adults have more of an issue with abstinence ed. than the teens do. Take a bunch of baby boomer adults that are the educators and social workers from those 60s and 70s when they had a handful of STDs comparitively…it is a hard sell for them.

    J.D., that is part of my soap box on that issue.

    On the bigger picture: conservaphobia is real in Vermont. It is real among Dems, Progs. and moderate Republicans. Labels, as Charity has mentioned, limit. Conservaphobia is a reactionary movement that prevents people from truly listening with their hearts to honest dialog.

  10. Ok…

    Charity:The family is the basic foundation of society. It is important to preserve.

    Too often, unfortunately ‘preserving the family’ includes opposition to gay marriage.And another thing forgotten is that marriage as we know it(based in romantic love)is still a pretty new concept. Most marriages used to be arranged, and love had very little to do with it. I guess my point is that families, by all accounts, are something that has been a human norm for a long time. I don’t think there is any real danger of them disappearing all of a sudden.

    See, I’m kind of opposed to a tax code that encourages people to have more children. As someone child-free, I fail to see why there should be given some advantage. I’m the one that gets asked to work late because I don’t have to get home for the kids. I fully agree that children shouldn’t grow up hungry, but rewarding having children with a tax cut seems unfair to me. Those who make a conscious choice not to have children are putting less of a burden on the environment, too.

    As one who got a much bigger tax refund after my divorce, I can attest firsthand that the tax marriage penalty is unfair. As far as ’strengthening parents rights in their children’s education’, could you be more specific? I have a big problem when parents don’t want their children learning important things necessary to a well rounded education, such as the theory of evolution or an unbiased teaching of American history that shows the nasty stuff we did as well as the good.

  11. JD, I only have a second to respond. Actually, I only came online to print off our library list because we have 25 books checked out and I want to make sure we get them all back.

    My point being, I will respond to the rest later, but I just wanted to say this: the evolution/creation issue in education is a red herring. Most kids learn a pittance about science through high school. When I was in college, I was appalled at the lack of scientific knowledge of my peers. And you can get through college with only one science class, which can be Intro to Geology, aka “rocks for jocks.”

    The fact is, the vast majority of Americans do not use evolution, nor do they care to learn it because they just aren’t into science, and they function just fine.

    It is a non-issue used on both sides to keep people angry and fighting for “their side.”

    Unfortunately, for someone like me who has chosen an alternative education method because the public schools failed my children, I resent this being used as a means to block a legitimate educational choice such as homeschooling.

    I have very strong feelings about educational freedom. The public school system had my children and they did not serve their needs. I worked with the school more than most parents do. I was there every day. It is just not a good fit for some kids. Most, I would argue.

    I should have the right to educate my kids in the way that will allow them to thrive. It shouldn’t be up to the government. Period.

    What I was taking about in my previous comment was school choice, though. School choice, charter schools, magnet schools, and any other experimental schools that parents want to try with their kids when the public schools aren’t working for them.

    And homeschooling without reporting to a government agency should be a constitutional right, protected by the Fourth Amendment. (I doubt that policy will be adopted by any political party ever, I know that.)

  12. I don’t have much of an opinion on homeschooling; I’ve sometimes thought that if I do have a kid someday that I might do it.But since you brought it up, I have to ask, in regards to ‘reporting to a government agency’ (and I ask not as a wiseass, but because I really don’t know)… What ensures that homeschool children are getting a good education? Is there some sort of test or something? I know several people that homeschool(my partner Jenni teaches one of their kids music once a week), some are smart, but I know some that are, let’s say, of questionable intelligence. And I can only imagine what their kid must (or must not) be learning. I’ve always wondered about that, because I do hear a lot about how lots of homeschooled kids do as well as or better than ones in public schools. But some parents are idiots, I’m sure you can think of a few. Is it just ‘too bad’ if their child is homeschooled by someone like that , and reaches adulthood not really knowing anything? Let me once again say, I’m not bashing homeschooling, just digging for info with a bit of devil’s advocate thrown in for good measure.

    That said, I did a fine job in public school (as well as private), I think there’s a lot of factors, sometimes it’s the kids, sometimes it’s the schools. I am not in favor of vouchers, both because I don’t want my tax dollars gong to religious schools and I also think that some on the extreme end of the right would love to use vouchers to help destroy the public school system.

    Understanding evolution and other aspects of science are very important, we lag way behind other countries in that aspect. Sure, may people don’t ‘use’ evolution, but the same could be said about algebra, physics, European history, or a number of other things. Your argument almost makes it sound like you’re justifying the fact that a lot of Americans don’t really know much about anything, and it’s okay. I couldn’t disagree more.If I only were taught things that I would ‘use’, I woulda been done with school in about 4 years. People should have a good understanding of the natural world. Maybe if more people did, the planet would be in better shape. And people need to know the difference between fact and superstition.

    And to get back on what I said about the child-tax thing, I would almost think that a true conservative opinion would agree with me on that one.

  13. I just can’t keep my yap shut tonight.. You said, regarding evolution:

    It is a non-issue used on both sides to keep people angry and fighting for “their side.”

    Hardly… when people try to put creationism into science class More recently under the guise of ‘intelligent design’), that’s not a red herring; it’s wrong. It’s not science. So, yes,their picking a fight, but it’s the wrong fight to pick.

  14. In Vermont, the parents have to submit an enrollment, which has to include the information about the child, a form filled out by a physician saying whether or not the kid has disabilities (and if so, how the parent will accommodate them), a curriculum covering the areas of study required by the state, and if one or both parents have a different last name than the child, you must provide legal documents proving you have the custody to make educational decisions for that child. In years following the first year, you must also submit an assessment of the previous year. That can be a portfolio of the child’s work with a parent’s report of what was covered, an assessment by a VT licensed teacher, or a standardized test with a parent’s report.

    The new law that just took effect says that after three years of acceptable enrollments, you can omit the curriculum, except for the year the child turns 12, so they can make sure you have transitioned into a middle school curriculum. The trade off was that they now require more detail in the assessment. So, it’s arguably less paperwork, but they still get as much or more information.

    Homeschool is regulated state by state. In some states there is no requirement. In others, it is just a matter of telling them you are homeschooling.

    The way I look at it, there are stupid kids and stupid parents regardless of the educational setting. Homeschooling is A LOT of work. I don’t see why anyone would want to do it if they were not committed to doing the best for their children.

    About the other thing, I am not saying that it is not important to learn things that you will never use. I just don’t think that evolution is covered in the detail (in high school) that people make it sound that it is. That’s why the issue is really a non-issue. Yeah, in the few schools where people are trying to get a mention of intelligent design (or even a book placed in the school library), it might matter, but then that issue is used in places like Vermont to drum up fear of Christmas trees in school. (The fundies are taking over the schools!!!! Quick!! Out with all pagan evergreen symbols that might remind the students of a Christian holiday!)

    Ugh! I have so much more to say, but my kids are climbing the walls. I have to go.

  15. When we homeschooled, I opted to have our child use the regulard standardized test (STAMFORDS) that are used by public and private schools.

    J.D., which intelligent design authors have you read?

    As I have mentioned before, I have taught in the public schools, done a bit of home schooling and now our children are in private school. The assumption that public school is an automatically more credible education is false. Inclusion in VT meant that we had to have all children in regular classes. I had no problem with teaching learning disabled children with everyone else…but the “EBD” children (Emotionally or Behaviorally Disturbed) could have many issues and not necessarily have the emotional skills to be appropriate in a classroom.

    While I did not feel like I succeeded at my attempt of homeschooling, I know a friend that went to engineering school with homeschoolers who were fabulous at independent study skills.

    There are some left wingers out there that do not want lose the control of being able to influence the minds of the next generation since the education environment is very left wing. (I never joined the teacher’s union despite the peer pressure to do so.)

    Some of those left wingers have never spent time outside of their self-righteous liberal circle.