Conservative Tolerance

One principle of conservatism is “affection for the proliferating intricacy of long-established social institutions and modes of life”, according to the dean of conservatism, Russell Kirk. If this is actually a conservative principle, then today’s conservatives have either abandoned it, or there is an element of racism amongst them.

Looking at what many conservatives say, we find support for things like “English-only” plans, in which immigrants are not allowed to use the language they are most comfortable with. New immigrants have always been ghettoized into being with “their own kind”, since we don’t want to be around them. Is it any surprise, then, that they retain their native language? As with all immigrant groups, it is later generations that speak English as a first language, and not because someone said they must, but because they grew up with it. For most first generation Americans, it is very hard to get comfortable with their new language. If we imagine immigrating to China, where the language has absolutely nothing in common with English, we can appreciate the difficulty, particularly if we work long hours.

We find dislike of the whole idea of multiculturalism among conservatives, and support for the notion that everyone must blend in to a sort of American smoothie. This is one element behind the current hatred of immigrants, which is, incidentally, nothing new on the American landscape. Only today’s immigrants are much more likely to have darker skin than past immigrants, who came mostly from Europe, so there’s probably more racism involved.

I feel sorry for those who are unable to experience the great joys of multicultural experience. That is one of the greatest benefits of living in a place like San Francisco, where some seventy languages are spoken, and there is a huge variety of food, music, and art surrounding us every day of the week. Being stranded in the great Anglo monoculture looks like poverty to me, no matter how much money you have. It’s why costal snobs speak of “flyover land”. And I know, because I lived in flyover land for much of my life, and for much of that time never realized how culturally poor I was. Sometimes visitors to SF even feel threatened by something like a stroll through Chinatown, where almost everyone is Chinese-American, while I, alongside them, find the experience wonderfully freeing.

But that’s not really what I want to say. What I want to say is that conservatism appears, according to what they are saying, to be utterly heartless, and I know that’s not true.

Why do people dislike someone they have never met? The question gives the answer: they don’t know anyone of that culture or race. It’s pretty hard to hate someone, some normal person, no matter what his racial or cultural background, if you meet and come to know him, when you share jokes, and find commonalities, and learn to care for each other’s loved ones. When you do, particularly when you come to know lots of people of differing backgrounds, you come to realize that people are pretty much the same the world over.

So now a question arises. Are today’s conservatives so tied to their abstract principles that they can’t see the human suffering behind what they propose?

Published in: on 2011/04/10 at 5:57 pm  Leave a Comment  
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