Thursday, March 15, 2012

Who is the True Conservative? What is Conservatism?

One thing you count on is that on Friday nights, about 80% of the Sisters will be watching TV, many of them watching Washington Week. I have fallen into this habit myself. Often, I will excuse myself from a party to watch Washington Week with my housemates.

Lately, this news hour review of world and national events has been covering the Republican, presidential race. I am not adept at negotiating the waters of politics and faith, but I’m amused at the recent focus on conservatism and who qualifies as a real conservative. What exactly does conservatism look like? Does it come in a variety of flavors like Baskin Robbins ice cream? Are there different shades of conservatism? Can people agree on a single definition of conservatism?

Yesterday, I was asked my opinion on the selection of carpet for a hall way. On the table there must have been fifty swatches of different colors, patterns, and variegations. Most of us couldn’t decide and finally picked a swatch matching our personal preferences. We all knew the small swatch would look different depending on hall size, wall color and lighting. I think this is a lot like conservatism with regard to politics. We only get “swatches” from each candidate, and we know that what we hear will look much different in the broader scheme of the present political arena.  

I regret Andrew Rooney isn’t alive to do a Sixty Minutes clip on conservatism. He might muse out loud  about whether Republicans have a monopoly on conservatism, or whether a Democrat, Libertarian, or Independent might be conservative on some issues. Maybe, what we are looking for is not whether someone fits one of the above categories, but the ability of politicians, as well as all of us, to listen to the merits of every perspective. Could we benefit from Benedict’s advice when he asks us to do the following: “They should each try to be the first to show respect to the other, supporting with the greatest patience one another’s weaknesses of body and behavior ... ”
If we did that, could we stop the ways labeling one another prevents good things from getting done?

Signed – S. Trisherooney, OSB

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