Many writers on conservatism make assertions about what liberals believe that are patently false. Moreover, they also claim certain universal characteristics as strictly conservative. It’s irritating.
The Future of Conservatism, a compilation of short chapters by eleven writers on conservatism by Charles W. Dunn, provides numerous examples. Here are some of the “social issues” they write about, always while claiming the precipitous decline of American moral values because of liberals.
The conservative position on abortion is absolute and unchallengeable, and they assume that the liberal position is the polar opposite. It is not. I think I’m safe in saying that thinking liberals view abortion as social failure. The fewer abortions, the better. But it should be noted that many conservatives seem to believe that contraception is equally evil. Worse, they seem to believe that we should prevent all unmarried people from having sex. The goal of stopping sex is the sheerest sort of folly, something that hasn’t happened in the entire scope of history and pre-history, then they compound this folly by disallowing the primary way to prevent pregnancy. What liberals believe is that it is fruitless to oppose something that is a primary human drive. When an unwanted pregnancy does occur, liberals believe that it’s nobody’s business but the people involved, and fundamentalist ranting is counterproductive. That said, the fact remains that liberals believe abortion should be minimized.
The issue of school prayer is a stupid one, for several reasons. The primary one is that the US is not a religious republic. There is no official religion. It’s in our founding documents, for good reason. Because of that, insistence on a mandatory Christian school prayer can only be insulting to virtually all non-Christians, who make up about a quarter of the population. Conservatives who believe in mandatory Christian prayer need to read the Constitution, and investigate our country’s religious demographics.
Much ranting is made over “pornography” by priggish folks, mostly conservatives, who simply can’t bear the sight of a female breast, let alone any other uncovered human anatomy. In this day of the Internet, photos and videos of every sort of sexuality are readily available to any adult who is online, and online sexuality is the single most common Internet search. Needless to say, such searches are well represented among even the most prudish conservatives, so raving about the decline of morals because of pornography is pure hypocrisy. Moreover, the self-appointed guardians of our morals have proven again and again that they are unable to even define what pornography consists of, not to mention that many people insist that they like pornography, meaning sexual images, and it’s no one’s business if they do.
Conservatives assume that use of illegal drugs is a conservative issue. It is not; it is a social issue. Liberals and conservatives alike are dismayed that so many harmful and dangerous drugs are so widely available and so readily accepted, particularly by the naive young. Liberals too are dismayed when there is a drug death, or violence because of drug dealers. Conservatism has nothing to do with it.
The issue of sexual deviancy is a broadly misunderstood issue, because conservatives believe the term exclusively refers to homosexuality. Conservatives are inclined to view homosexuality as a deviancy, and one that is a choice that one can make or not. This is another case in which facts make no difference to them. The incidence of homosexuality in humans is about 5%, which means there are roughly 350-million homosexuals, well more than the population of the United States. Not one of these 350-million has ever claimed to have chosen to be homosexual. Not a single conservative who makes these false statements has ever claimed that he or she himself could simply decide to become homosexual. It is ignorance about homosexuality that makes conservatives think it’s a conservative issue.
Of the vulgarization of mass entertainment, another issue that conservatives claim, I cannot judge, for two reasons. While I am in perfect agreement with those who think American films and TV shows are the absolute pits, I’m not at all sure there was a time in our past when we had better taste. In addition, it is not swear words that make a film worth more or less; violence is a better measure, one at which we excel. Nor am I willing to set myself up as arbitrator of what popular taste should be. Neither should conservatives.
There is more, of course, but conservatives err in most cases, first by assuming that these are conservative beliefs, and second because they simply don’t have their facts right.