observations on life

Conservative values is an oxymoron

My sister shared an article from Huffington Post, in which the author concludes that democrats failing to appeal to conservative “values” is a big reason why rural Americans didn’t vote for them, generally speaking.

I have to say I agree that this is true. Democrats did not appeal to the value of maintaining the status quo. They did not appeal to the idea that we have to keep others–those who are not the same as “we” are—out of our country. Democrats did not appeal to the value of equality for some. Or the value that life only matters for fetuses, and not for living breathing people. Or the “family values” which teach that as long as we provide for ourselves and our children, and give money to the church, we don’t have to care about anybody else. Or the value of calling ourselves “Christian,” while ignoring virtually all of the teachings of Jesus Christ. What exactly are the conservative values that Democrats are supposed to appeal to? Seriously. Somebody tell me.

I’ve been searching for articles on Google regarding the effects of isolation and homogeneity in rural areas on political beliefs. I got lots of hits, but none were the exact topic I was hoping to research. There are some articles that validate the fact that rural areas are much more homogeneous than urban areas, that is, there is very little diversity of race, religion, ethnic background, etc., and that attitudes are commonly held with little variation among community members. In other words, people are very much like one another.

There were also articles about the isolating effects of rural life, not in the sense of loneliness, but in the context of little interaction outside the community (or similar communities close by.) People who live in rural areas are less likely to travel widely, move out of their area, or have any opportunity to interact with people unlike themselves. Because day to day interaction offers little information that is contrary to local customs and standards, new information about the larger world is not only lacking, but is often disregarded, since it doesn’t fit into the local world view. Maintaining the status quo is a dominant feature of small towns. And that is what conservatism is all about.

Yes, there are televisions, radios, newspapers, social media, but because only local attitudes are rewarded and promoted, anything that doesn’t fit the community narrative is suspect. This may be true in urban areas too, but urbanites have other means of understanding the larger culture—mostly by being around and interacting with people who are not all exactly the same as they are. Living with or near and interacting with people of diverse races, cultures, religions, sexual orientation, citizenship status, and so on, makes a much larger impact than watching TV. Knowing people who are different from oneself is humanizing. Understanding what motivates people and what kinds of lives and struggles they’ve had makes them real, and human, and normal. They are not “other.” They’re “us.”

Experiencing diversity through electronic media does not substitute for being face to face with actual people. The homogeneity of rural areas precludes this for the most part. If one person or one family of another race or background comes to live in a rural community, they are often welcomed as being the town “project” or simply as a new distraction. But let hundreds of Mexicans, for example, come to town to work in the meat packing plant where the union has been busted, then they are considered outlanders who have come to take over. They become the enemy, because they are “other.” The status quo is not being maintained, and to conservatives, that’s very bad.

In rural America,the idea that all those who are not just like us are illegitimate in their race, country of origin, religion, sexual orientation, politics, or whatever, makes them objects of scorn and fear. They don’t believe in what “we” in our own small town believe. Or they’re not the right color, or religion, or what have you. They aren’t like we are, so they are suspect, and being so, we are scared of them and about what having them here might mean. And fear breeds hate.

What, I ask again, are the conservative values that we are supposed to appeal to? Literally. I’m stumped.

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One thought on “Conservative values is an oxymoron

  1. On December 9, 1999, I moved from Watha, North Carolina (population 98) to Hong Kong (population a bit more than that). I bet the other 98 people in Watha would’ve never done that.

    This blog post reflects my experiences exactly.

    Liked by 1 person

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