I have a confession to make.
In the past, I took conservatives at their word.
I think a lot of people on the other side of the aisle from where most of us at Dusk Magazine tend to find others find that liberals may be aggressive, or closed-minded, or just not care about any of their concerns or arguments or values.
I can’t speak to everyone’s attitudes, but I can speak to myself. And the fact is that, growing up in a relatively conservative town, I’ve never tended to view conservatives as screaming rednecks or bigots or science deniers. I’ve tended to look at conservatives based on what I was hearing them say, at least superficially: that they cared about a society that practiced courtesy and maintained a sense of social rules; that they were sick of what they felt as the law being ignored and trampled on; that they cared about pragmatic policy analysis and security issues.
You can see this relatively fair analysis across the media too. In South Park, the comparison between conservatives as the pragmatic thinkers to liberals as the feeling soul is codified in “A Little Bit Country, A Little Bit Rock And Roll”.
Over time, though, I became frustrated at how rarely these actual beliefs would hold up. I became frustrated at how rarely conservatives actually evinced any real conviction on these fronts.
The irony is that I have now become more passionate about advocating ideas like chivalry and courtesy than many conservatives are.
Let me be clear: Many conservatives are actually consistent on these issues. Many are decent, giving people who view themselves as truly generous and loving. And hypocrisy is an omnipresent issue. But it is clear to me that these hypocrisies aren’t just inconsistencies. They are actually emblematic of how conservativism actually works.
Conservatives like to assert that our modern era is not courteous and that the kids these days just act awfully. They will talk about chivalry and how it is dead or dying. They will complain that courtesy has died and people don’t say “thank you” or “you’re welcome” any more.
So I thought, quite logically, that conservatives would then care that it is a grotesque impoliteness to use slurs about others, or treat them as if they were part of a group.
But no! That’s “political correctness”!
So let’s look at Glaivester, a conservative, making a distinction, shall we?
He says: “The difference is that politeness is merely formal. Political correctness requires that you internalize the lie. Politeness is telling an ugly woman that she is attractive. Political correctness is encouraging her to try for a modeling job and then picketing the modeling agency if they don’t hire her”.
First of all, what kind of idiot says that courtesy is only formal behavior? Do you only open a door for someone who is carrying bags and has no free arms because there’s some formal rule that tells you to do so? Or do you do it because basic courtesy dictates it? Do we only ask someone to pass a dish at the table instead of reaching for it because that’s what tradition told us to do? Or is it because it’s actually disruptive, potentially unsanitary, and can lead to spillages and breaking when someone just reaches for something across a crowded table? Do we use the word “Please” because our parents told us to and we haven’t given it any more thought? Or do we do it because we recognize that other human beings like to be treated like autonomous beings and equals, not servants?
What Glaivester just told us is that he has no idea why someone should be polite. Like most conservatives, his traditions told him to be polite so he follows the forms unwittingly. Jesus, someone conservatives like to defend while misquoting, had lots to say about people who don’t understand why you should do a moral thing and why you shouldn’t do an immoral one. No wonder, when Glaivester’s traditions tell him that it’s okay to be racist, he is racist?
Second of all, who the hell said we told you that you have to not be actually racist?
Frankly, lots of us will tolerate at the least you not yelling slurs, or holding up signs that call black people you don’t like voodoo priests, or pretending it’s okay to call someone a “fucking faggot” or a “fucking fairy” like Sean Hannity did.
But no. Conservatives don’t just defend the thoughts behind saying slurs and being rude.
By your own standard, Glaivester (and conservatives writ large), you should shut the hell up. You should tell people who use a slur, “Hey! Don’t call someone you don’t like a kebab!” When a comedian stands up and calls women or people of color rude words, you should say that’s wrong, even if you believe it’s formal. Even if you don’t believe that it’s wrong to be racist against Arabs, at the least you shouldn’t be rude.
But of course this goes to the heart of the matter.
Conservatives so often make their position about dehumanization. Muslims are terrorists and misogynists. Gay people shouldn’t be able to adopt children because they’re just not as good at it. It’s okay to have cops follow people of color not accused of a crime because of the putative disproportion of crime committed by people of color.
There’s no way that you can dehumanize people and have political positions based on inhumanity and stereotypes without ultimately telling someone to their face something that is insulting to them.
This is something so many people on the right fail to get. They don’t understand why, in any kind of discussion group, it’s actually insulting to every Muslim in that group to call someone a “kebab”. They don’t understand why it is actually insulting to African-Americans to talk about how black culture doesn’t value education.
Because they don’t actually believe in courtesy. They believe in people shutting up and handing them things. It’s an entitlement complex, not a belief that conduct matters and that duty is real and vital.
Just think about chivalry for a moment. What’s more important: that someone pick up a tab at dinner for someone else, or respect that someone else has the ability and desire to pay? Gawain in the story of the Green Knight honored what his wife wished instead of choosing for himself. Why does chivalry mean having to treat others like they are incapable or weak?
When I open a door for someone, I do it out of the kindness of my heart, to anyone. I don’t do it because I presume that they are weaker than me or less capable.
What’s more important for your word and deed: that you bring flowers to someone on a date, or that you don’t dehumanize other people by saying ignorant things that are just not acceptable in civilized society?
If we can recognize that it’s not acceptable to hit someone weaker than you, why is it acceptable to bomb a country that is weaker than you? Think of the conservatives you know who will insist that it’s never okay to hit a woman but that it is okay to kill hundreds of thousands of people in retaliation for a few thousand dead that weren’t killed by the hundreds of thousands, as America did in the aftermath of September 11th.
The people who say that “chivalry is dead” are spitting on actual chivalry. No, the fact is that we, today, are less likely to lynch people and tear pieces off of them. We are less likely to rape women in war. We are less likely to have iron maidens and instruments of lethal torture. We have fewer inquisitions. That’s what counts.
Law and Order and Tough on Crime:
Conservatives like to pose as being the “law and order”, “tough on crime”, “lock them up and throw away the key” people.
I recognize that it’s a little unfair to bring up Donald Trump when so many conservatives can recognize that, even if they prefer him to Hillary, he isn’t really an authentic conservative or something they’re proud of. Many Republicans are holding their nose when they are going to vote just as much as many Sanders supporters and leftists are holding their nose to go vote for Hillary in swing states.
But this was Loser Donald’s appeal at the RNC, his most core call to action, and it was what was echoed by Chris Christie (the man currently going through a colossal corruption scandal based on his personal pettiness) and Rudy Giuliani.
Of course, we don’t even have to mention that Trump is just wrong about the statistics. The fact is that Republicans don’t care much about crime, not really.
They don’t care about the Geneva Conventions, or the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, or the United Nations Charter, or any of the dozens of treaties that the United States has signed that it ignores and flouts. They will tell those who bring these things up that America can’t be constrained by your mere mortal laws! They act like brazen anarchists when it is convenient, even though the Constitution makes treaties second only to the Constitution itself. If a person were to insist that they had the right to accuse their neighbor of a crime then hunt that neighbor down and kill them without any need to provide evidence, conservatives would scream. When the United States does it, somehow it is acceptable.
And remember: A treaty is a national promise. It’s national honor on the line. So if you care about what your nation says and does, you should care that it’s breaking promises. You can dislike that the promise was made, but you follow through with it.
They don’t care about sexual harassment or rape. They wanted to make excuses for Brock Turner and for boys like him. When it comes to smoking marijuana, the idea that “boys will be boys” doesn’t seem to occur to them… but when it comes to soul murder, then their excuse is “Well, some guys just don’t get what consent means!”
They don’t care about the illegal behavior of police brutality.
Consider this meme that reads, “What if I told you that George Zimmerman mentored black children, voted for a black president, and went to prom with a black girl?”
Who cares what Zimmerman did to someone besides Trayvon? Would someone not have been racist when they called one person the “n-word” if another time they gave to a black charity? And even if what Zimmerman did wasn’t racist, why would that make it okay to execute a child? Where is the moral compass?
Except when it comes to rape, sexual harassment, war crimes, police brutality, or anything else.
See, their idea of “law and order”, again, isn’t actually about laws and how they are sacrosanct.
They’re used to laws that control the ethical violations they care about (smoking marijuana) but not ones they don’t (smoking cigarettes and alcohol). They’re used to laws restricting the prerogatives of women but not those restricting the rights of men to treat women as property or as objects for sexual frustration.
Most importantly, conservatives have always been the party claiming patriotism, the party that said we should put our country first, the party that said “America, love it or leave it”.
And now many are going to vote Trump.
How much more blatantly can you put party over country?
How much more blatantly can you say that millions of American citizens don’t get to be treated like citizens because you’re scared?
The fact is that these are values that we should respect. Loyalty, a respect for the mores and opinions of a community as expressed by their laws, and courtesy can accompany being free, being personally expressive, being kind and compassionate, and honoring women and people of color.
We should hold conservatives to these lofty ideals. And if they try to back out from it, it is vital that we not let them.
They deserve better.
This article was written by Frederic Christie, a writer for dusk magazine.