"E Pluribus Unum"
By Nancy Salvato
My sons are both in high school and are under the common teenage misconception that they are liberals. They parrot what they hear from their teachers, their friends at school, and their father from my first marriage. They don't necessarily want to engage me in debate about my conservative beliefs. They just want to tell me I'm wrong and that I don't know of what I speak. When I provide an explanation for my observations or present facts for why something occurs in our government, they don't listen. It's almost as though they stick their fingers in their ears and hum until I'm through talking, yet neither one of them can provide any concrete evidence for their opposing beliefs when I ask them to prove why I'm incorrect.
Like many who are unhappy with the current administration, they blame our president for legislative spending even though the Executive Office doesn't create the budget. They blame our president for global warming, even though there is evidence that it is not the problem Al Gore wants us to believe. Press them hard enough and they blame our president for every ill that befalls our country. They sound very much like MoveOn.org followers, spewing their venom for all those who do not adhere to the MoveOn.org philosophy or mentality, especially conservatives. What bothers me most is that they lump conservatives into this group of people who don't care about the earth, can't enjoy shopping at Trader Joe's, and couldn't possibly appreciate wearing Birkenstock sandals.
My present husband, who to the Code Pink crowd is as conservative as they come, doesn't fit the common perception of the conservative mold. This is mostly because he's about as open as they come to meeting new people and withholding judgment about the way they live their lives (as long as they aren't hurting anyone or forcing their views on him) and the circumstances in which they might find themselves. He believes that it is their different personalities and beliefs that add to the richness and the colors of the palette in his life. On the other hand, he doesn't get along with people who are intolerant and believe the world is all about them. He has drawn the line with those who want to engage him about his beliefs, this being that if you want to argue, bring some facts to the table. Otherwise, don't waste his time "Damnit".
Frank jokes that I'm a conservative hippie. He envisions me skipping in the forest, picking mushrooms. This is because I don't fall into my boys' reality of the conservative mold either. I played guitar and wrote love songs in a former life, I am concerned about the environment, I converted to eating organic and free range meat, and while I support our president, I don't necessarily agree with him on immigration, Pell Grants, or his policy on China and the Olympics. For that matter, he rolls over too easily when he is criticized by his detractors. I question why he hasn't been more aggressive in preventing the funding of the UN without reform. Because he is a compassionate conservative, he freely distributes federal tax dollars for causes such as AIDS, and other social problems. I would rather see causes such as AIDS addressed by the private sector. In other words, I fully believe the less federal involvement in our lives, the better. I shouldn't have to hand over 1/3 of my income to be redistributed by the government.
Toby Keith, has a song out that I believe sums up my sentiments rather well. The beauty of technology is that his music is only a link away. If you click on the link under these lyrics to his song, you can listen to him sing.
[Thanks to Todd Zollman for lyrics]
Click to Listen: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QLOIhefuYro
People, who think deeply about their lives and the world, have many layers. And while we take stands on issues, it doesn't mean that the grey areas are not considered or acknowledged. One reason the Social Sciences should be emphasized in a good education is because somewhere in the curriculum, students need to learn the art of debate. If graduates of our public education programs were forced to adhere to protocol which included listening, rebutting, and citing facts, they might understand that there are other valid points of view and begin to value discussion and compromise. That is what living in a community that values individual freedoms is all about.
The founders understood that there is a balance between our individual freedoms and living among one another peacefully. As Todd Zollman reminds us in the song, being able to hear each other and agree to disagree is important. It shows respect for the individual. More importantly, if we are taught the importance of our common heritage and to value our unique system of government, if we can be reminded the value of freedom, we might begin to realize that we have more in common and that we're on the same side. This would allow us to transcend our disagreements and unite as one people.
Out of many is one.
Nancy Salvato is the President of Basics Project, a non-profit, non-partisan 501 (C) (3) research and educational project whose mission is to promote the education of the American public on the basic elements of relevant political, legal and social issues important to our country. She is the Education Editor for The New Media Journal and a staff writer, for the New Media Alliance, Inc., a non-profit (501c3) coalition of writers and grass-roots media outlets, where she contributes on matters of education policy.