An open letter to my Conservative friends

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Over the last few weeks, there’s been a lot of tension between ideologies that people for some reason tend to view as “one or the other.”

The spate of violence in our country has fueled a lot of simmering arguments about gun control, police militarization, race, and other things. I think these arguments at their core are healthy. I read something this morning that really put it into focus for me — there was a meme that read: “Things are not getting worse, they’re getting uncovered.” I think we’re at a growth point in our evolution as a country, and it’s scary and painful. But, worthwhile, like any growth point.

The thing that has left me unsettled and made me want to write this is that I feel like the rhetoric has taken some frightening turns. I’ve overheard friends on numerous occasions make allusions to things like “revolution” and “civil war,” numerous calls to “take our country back,” even to go as far as to make thinly veiled threats like “they’re going to wish they had guns when we decide we’ve had enough.” Maybe they’re meant figuratively, but the context is usually somewhat aggressive and violent, and it’s always angry, and sometimes from people who are nothing but kind and loving to me to my face and in every other context, but almost militant in their dislike for “liberal America.” I tend to hear them mostly from conservatives. Maybe I’m right, maybe I’m wrong.

I’m not going to lie — I sway pretty liberal. I don’t own and probably will never own a gun; I’m in favor of gay marriage, equal rights, women’s options to have an abortion if they choose, single payer health care, investing more in education and infrastructure; and maybe a little less in defense and corporate subsidies. That said, I also believe in personal responsibility, entrepreneurship, and constitutional freedoms. I believe you should be able to purchase guns, just not any gun you want in the world — much like I have the right to drive a car, but I don’t have the right to drive an IHRA funny car to work. Maybe I’m right, maybe I’m not. But that’s how I feel and I think fact supports my opinion.

I think that many of our financial ills (underemployment, lack of funds for infrastructure, etc.) can be directly traced to the lack of investment from the wealthy in our community, either in the form of good paying jobs and/or tax revenue.  The system has been gamed over the course of 40 years, and the seeds are growing now. I think that fact supports that opinion. Maybe I’m right, maybe I’m not.

But, I’m not writing this to accent our differences. I’m writing this to reinforce our similarities. And get personal about how the “us vs. them” mindset is affecting everyone. The fact is that we’re not “liberals” or “conservatives” — we’re humans. All of us love our families, even if it’s complicated. All of us want to have a roof over our head and food on our table.  All of us are upset by injustice. All of us have a way that we see the world that “works,” and we get frustrated and angry when it isn’t going the way we think it’s supposed to.

Here’s where it gets personal: When you, my friend of the Conservative persuasion, talk about “revolution” and “taking our country back” or warn about the “civil war” that’s coming, you’re talking about revolting again ME. When you talk about “rising up” and “taking the country back” — you’re rising up and taking it it back from ME.

Maybe I’m misunderstanding the tenor of these statements and you mean them in more of an intellectual way. But, if you are fantasizing about armed rebellion in some way — whenever you may fantasize about armed rebellion, you’re doing it against ME.

I know you don’t mean it that way. I know that you don’t intend to rise up violently against me personally. But maybe if you thought about it that way, it might temper your language a little.

I think and believe we can work together and find compromise. I feel that defining what is a personal choice and what really undermines the fabric of our country and world will be a big help.  But here’s what I want you to do: Whenever the ideas like those spring up, think of me. I’m a teacher. I have two daughters whom I love more profoundly and selflessly than I thought I could. I’m not special by any means, but I have hopes and dreams and one of them is peace. My personal “liberal agenda” is to eat good food, have fun doing things I enjoy, make memories with the people I love, help when and where I can, and do something of lasting meaning in the world. I want the same for you, even if they’re not things I particularly like. I am not armed, and even if shit hits the fan I probably still won’t be. That’s not the world I want to live in. If it makes me a target, so be it.

So, when you say “civil war,” think of me. Think of putting a bullet in my chest, or slitting my throat, or whatever image works best for you. Own that for a second. How do you feel? Do you feel like you’ve defended the nation from a threat? Or do you feel like you’ve killed a defenseless, innocent person? Because here’s the thing — there’s a groundswell of that language and thought. And you can’t control it once there’s a flood. If you don’t agree with me, tell me why I’m wrong.  Be ready to listen to what I have to say, too. But TALK TO ME.  Not a “liberal moron.” ME. A human being.

This is a two-way street. I’m listening to your frustrations too. I’m trying to be honest with myself and own when we’re full of shit too. Because there is no ideology that isn’t partially full of shit. But only partially. So let’s find the pieces that are good, be painfully honest with ourselves about the parts that aren’t, find places we can agree to disagree, and make this work. I have complete faith that we can.

Do you?

Mostly, I’m working really hard to move beyond labels and the destructive idea that there are sides. I am who I am, I believe in the things I believe. But I’m also willing to compromise, really and truly. I’m willing to try and see things from someone else’s perspective — for example, as uncomfortable as guns make me, I’m still willing to go out to a shooting range with someone so I can see first hand what it’s like. Facts are uncomfortable because they don’t give a shit about our feelings. Let’s face them anyway. But let’s do it together. The alternative being thrown around is not acceptable.

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About Daryl Bean 1 Article
Daryl Bean is a teacher and musician who lives in downtown Howell with his two daughters.

19 Comments

  1. Daryl, as I am as far to the Right as you are to the Left there is a center point that I believe we all can live in peace.
    We as a country have to find that point.
    United we stand and divided we Fall.
    I wish I had the ansewers tix what is happening in country but I dont, what I can and will do is make an effort to stop spreading the hatred trough social media.
    I hope others will do the same.

  2. Mr. Bean, yes it was 240 years ago, but the guys with guns and a willingness to use them in defense of liberty might still be able to teach you a thing or two:

    I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.

    John Adams, letter to Abigail Adams, 1780

    A fondness for power is implanted, in most men, and it is natural to abuse it, when acquired.

    Alexander Hamilton, The Farmer Refuted, February 23, 1775

    Here sir, the people govern.

    Alexander Hamilton, speech to the New York Ratifying Convention, June 17, 1788

    Arbitrary power is most easily established on the ruins of liberty abused to licentiousness.

    George Washington, Circular to the States, May 9, 1753

    Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism.

    George Washington, Farewell Address, September 19, 1796

    But a Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.

    John Adams, letter to Abigail Adams, July 17, 1775

  3. All of your stated liberal agenda – eat good food, make memories, have a good time, etc. – is quite obviously about you personally, not America as a place or conceptual ideal. Your ability to do those selfish things have come at a cost you don’t seem to understand, including a REVOLUTIONary war against aristocratic, elitist British thugs. There is no guarantee that your liberal, lazy, self-centered existence is forever protected by a single Revolution 240 years ago. There might come a day when you have to fight hard for your careless dreamy lifestyle. When the time comes, I suggest you line up with the Socialist Army of Fools – you got all the words down pat, they’ll probably make you a General.

      • Nah. The guy just wants to eat, drink, and play the flute. Totally fine, but I think he’s lost connection with the reality that people died in wars so he could enjoy those pleasures. Pacifism seems attractive when you are 240 years from the violent revolution and already have a large measure of safety and comfort. Trouble is that corruption in the two main political parties has driven a lot of wealth, safety, and comfort into the hands of the few. Strife, getting closer to revolution, is the natural result. History is ugly when it comes to times of great change. It’s happening…not gonna resolve itself with a chat and a cuddle.

        • As I state below, you don’t know me at all so you don’t really know what I want. I would totally agree that corruption is rampant and it’s less a question of Democrat vs. Republican or liberal vs. conservative than it is oligarchy. So, if that’s the case and I presume neither of us is a multi-billionaire – aren’t we on the same team, really?

          • Pretty good chance we have a much in common. That said, I found your letter to be passive aggression (underhanded insults of people who identify as conservative) sprinkled with political correctness (attempting to tell others what the rules of discourse should be). Oligarchy seems pretty close to what’s going on, but it’s a fractured oligarchy whereby the two political parties gerrymander their own kingdoms of concentrated power. For example, Detroit is a bastion of Democrat corruption, and similarly Livingston County is a bastion of Republican corruption. The demographics – Detroit poorer and LC relatively richer – cloud that reality. Democrat corruption in Detroit led to a more rapid bankrupting of the citizens because they were/are poorer, but the same dynamic is playing out in Livingston County – again, due to the concentration of power within a single party/gang. If everyone really dug deeply into each localities power structure (the actual people pulling most of the strings), they might see there’s really little difference. Take away the fact that the folks in Livingston County are able to absorb more corruption without going completely bankrupt, and you would see the same dynamic at play. If allowed to play out completely, America would become just a collection of various municipalities, 50% of which are totally dominated and abused by Republicans, and 50% dominated and abused by Democrats. It doesn’t require a conspiracy between the two parties, it arises organically as a form of cooperative gerrymandering and natural movement of people toward people they identify with.

            That said, it’s reached a point where enough people see that party platforms of both parties are just veneers – not that they don’t believe their platforms, but just that the ideals are extremely secondary (at best) to the maintenance of the power of the gang which is the main goal. It’s a dangerous situation, and what’s playing out in the streets (mostly urban areas, but it could spread out) is basically a third gang trying to take advantage of the failures and lack of credibility of the respective Dem and Republican gangs. The 3rd gang is not organized and never will be because they can’t gerrymander and lobby their way into controlling a particular area – all they can do to hope to make a difference is scare the hell out of the failing entrenched gangs.

            The Dallas situation shows how chaotic it’s become, as most accounts show that their police forces are pretty well trained, restrained, and respectable. But it obviously doesn’t seem that way to some people, and the peaceful attempts at change get infiltrated by the violent and deranged.

            Anyway, you are a fish out of water in Livingston County – might have to head down to Ann Arbor if you want to align with your gang. Don’t wait for Wally.

    • Clearly, you’re very passionate about this. And make no mistake, I love this country as well, and if there were a real, demonstrable and credible threat to it then I’d defend it. My grandfather was a proud WW2 veteran, and I’m proud of him and his service in a time of clear need.

      You missed my point, I think. My point is that I see a lot of people worked themselves up into a furor and muttering about the need to “take over” and using inflammatory language to create this dire need for “civil war”, when in reality all of us, democrat or republican, liberal or conservative, have been pitted against each other by forces that would rather distract us than have us come together.

      So, I guess the question isn’t if I’d pass muster in the Revolutionary Army – thats a whole different time and set of circumstances. The question is whether or not our inability to talk to each other and deal with our differences in an adult fashion is setting the stage for unnecessary tragedy. Words and thoughts are powerful things, and hard to control once they get out of hand.

      • Failed system in the country. Combination of crony-capitalism and crony-socialism, depending where you are. Liv Cty is more of the crony-capitalism problem. Those are the things which have spun out of control. Racism is still a big problem, but it’s not what’s driving the trend toward more chaos and less order – issue is income and wealth inequality. Wouldn’t be an issue if it were based on outcomes of true capitalism, but it’s an outcome based on crony-capitalism practiced by Republicans and Dems AND crony socialism practiced primarily by Dems. Worry isn’t going to help….and neither political party will acknowledge how corrupted they’ve become.

        All you can do, General, is grab your flute, riff on Yankee Doodle Dandy for a bit, get a bag of popcorn and watch what happens when all the main institutions of a society have lost credibility with the people.

        Founding Fathers were geniuses. Country now run by corrupt and foolish leaders.

    • And also, you’d find most conversations don’t involve name calling and insults. I’m a hard working, responsible member of society. I pay my taxes. I take care of my children, I pay my bills, and give back to the community. So, with all due respect, you have no right to judge me or my lifestyle because you know nothing about me.

  4. Amen and Blessed Be.
    I do own guns, which makes me a bit different in persuasion.
    Let’s get someone to come out to something they’re not familiar with (say…. a solstice celebration? little late for summer, but) or get together and snag a beverage.
    More listening/discussing. Less closing of the ears, more opening of them.

    • Good excuse for a beverage, but I don’t guess you are one of the gun owners that are worrying people. It’s the people at the bottom of the economy who see no future for themselves and want to go out with a bang. Crazy thing is that there seems to be a trend with the shooters being ex-military. People want to dismiss them as mentally ill, which is obviously true to some degree. To some degree too it’s just a comforting cover story. The FBI has long been predicting that ex-military are one of the biggest threats of violence/unrest in the country. Starting to look like they were right.

      Problem is it’s a self-reinforcing problem…police too trigger happy on some incidents…people start shooting police…police get even more nervous and questionable trigger pulling goes even higher…etc.

      Part of solution is to reduce what police get involved in – if it’s not stealing or violence of some type, keep police out of it. Separate traffic cops into a separate force, from serious offense cops. If a traffic cop has contact with a serious criminal, turn it over to the serious offense force.

      Pay for it all by waving the white flag on the failed drug war.

      Problem today is just like the Dallas Chief said…asking cops to wear too many hats. Need a friendly traffic cop force, and the serious offense force would have minimal contact with the normal law abiding public.

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