Tuesday, August 27, 2019
During this election season, politicians left and right are campaigning tough. Since our primary elections, things have heated up even more with the runoffs. We see the signs and the ads everywhere—television, social media, along our daily commutes. In all the bedlam, there seems to be one consistent thing with some of the candidates: the phrase, "the true conservative candidate."
Politicians have replayed that phrase like a broken record. So I asked myself, "What does that mean?" What does a true conservative or a true liberal mean? What values and policies would be considered such? That's what most of us vote for: the values of the candidate, and the policies they hope to introduce and implement.
If you consider yourself a conservative in our country, people may assume you're a Christian, a patriot and not liberal in the slightest. In Mississippi, people assume everyone is a church-going Christian, or at least most hope so. But the truth is the status of "Christian" does not always equate to conservative. As far as patriotism goes, conservatives believe that liberals are anti-patriot and anti-freedom; however, that depends on what one defines as patriotism, and liberals and conservatives have no problem practicing the freedom of speech in this current political climate. James Baldwin wrote in "Notes of a Native Son," "I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually." Can we agree that views like Baldwin's are a form of patriotism?
If you consider yourself a liberal in our country, people may assume you're tolerant, open-minded and service-minded, but I can argue that there are many people here in our great state that are these things in ways of mission work or wanting a new flag, and yet they are conservative. It is true, however, that many conservatives are not as tolerant to particular views because of beliefs like evangelical dogmatism. When it comes to issues of orphaned children, homelessness, sickness or disability, and senior citizens, conservatives are all for supporting those who need help, but only up to a particular point. That point tends to be "help those who help themselves."
Either way that you lean, when it comes to politics, there is much bickering and fighting that I personally believe is unnecessary, similar to two young siblings fighting over who gets to eat first even though they're both going to eat anyway. The majority of the issues boil down to what conservative Christians would call "the root of all evil": money. It is about how money is distributed in our country and our communities. It is about free trade versus fair trade. Free trade means little to no regulation, build your business and keep on growing. Fair trade means some regulation to ensure fair treatment, payment and conditions. There's fault in both of these: In free trade, there's room for corruption and greediness. In fair trade, there's room for unsustainable economic growth based on the market's dependability. There is a true medium where people make living wage, and our government agencies ensure that, along with a business valuing its products at a competitive price.
Then we have the largest of debates: to tax or not to tax. It is completely ignorant to not tax at all or have incredibly high taxes on any party. Our country is a corporation. It needs an income, and our taxes are based off what we produce here, whether it is products or jobs. We, like any business or household, should budget to keep ourselves out of debt. How we get there can strike another debate, but I'm not going there.
The purpose here is to get away from conservatism versus liberalism. We are all American or want to become tax-paying Americans. We all want wealth and good health for our families and our communities. We all want the freedom to do as we please so long as we are not harming our fellow man. We all want opportunities and strive to be in a level playing field to grow and thrive. We want good health care, banks, homes, food, children, spouses, neighbors and simply a good life. I believe we all want and deserve it, so we should work together to make it there.
We need to get rid of all the rigmarole of lame politics on both sides. We both are tolerant to our own views yet intolerant to the views of the other side. We both feel we are patriots and fight for freedom, and yet we seem to step on the economic or personal freedoms of others using the same freedom we are stepping on. We are, in principle, hypocrites in our politics of belief and morals when it comes from one side to the other. Conservatives want religious freedoms, but some of them protest and picket those who don't believe in their religion. Liberals hail freedom of speech but find it convenient to try and tune out and censor speech from the right, even when it is not hate speech.
Mississippi, let's be better to each other. Let's be fairer. Let's be honest. Let's be open. Let's still hold true to our personal values and allow others to live based on theirs. Let's really look at the policies—I mean actually read the bills proposed and put into law—so that we can hold our lawmakers accountable based on what they say versus what they do. Let's come together to show America that we can be tolerant, that we can have economic freedom, that we love one another and that we do not have to be last in all the positive categories.
D.J. Baker, native of Edmond, Okla., is a passionate gardener and farmer working to improve the access and quality of local food. He is the food consultant of Esculent, a small consulting business centered around food. He loves good food, community and education.