Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Card-carrying Neo-Con

A new political buzzword has emerged in American politics in recent years, and since its emergence it has been used almost exclusively in a derogetory or slanderous manner against the people it supposedly describes. I didn't know, nor did I really care what this new buzzword meant — until it started being used to describe me.

'Neo-con,' an abbreviation for 'neo-conservative,' doesn't exactly give much explanation in and of itself, and the fact that it is usually prefaced with adjectives like 'crazy,' 'radical,' or 'rabid' doesn't provide many clues as to its definition.

So, I set out to find the definition myself. In doing so, I found that the definition depends heavily on who answers the question 'what is a neo-con?'

I got several different answers, and a few of my favorites included:

-A liberal that has been mugged by reality
-Someone that cares a lot about morals
-Someone that goes to war for Israel
-Someone that goes to war for oil
-Someone that goes to war
-'Neo-con' is a compound word, 'con' meaning 'conservative' and 'neo' meaning 'Jewish'

The first and last answers greatly entertained me, and the ones in the middle seemed only to be descriptions, albeit woefully over-generalized ones, of what neo-cons do, not what they are.

As far as the 'Jewish' remark, it certainly explains people like David Horowitz, Bill Kristol, and Paul Wolfowitz — but doesn't really do much for President Bush, Donald Rumsfeld and Condi Rice.

Thus, I honed in on the coyly tongue-in-cheek (is that redundant?) idea that neo-cons are former liberals that had been 'mugged by reality.' That is to say, they were liberals until they saw the intellectual gap between their goals and the means they were using to achieve them. In other words, their intellectual honesty would not allow them, in good conscience, to continue on that political path because they knew it wasn't leading them where they wanted to go.

Personally, I like to consider the 'neo-conservative' movement to be one that advocates liberal ideals through conservative means.

As absolutely crazy as it may sound, many of the ideals that I hold are generally thought of as liberal — but liberal in the classic sense of liberty, not liberal as in the redistribution on wealth, socialization of services, or abortion on demand.

During a recent dinner party I posed a question to a politically apt acquaintance (who just so happened to be a Jewish Democrat) — 'why is it that so many Jews vote Democrat?'

This question has always intrigued me, because if there's any group of people that focus on tradition, morality, and the rule of law — the conventionally accepted basis of conservatism — it's the Jews.

The answer he gave to me, however, was equally as intriguing.

'Jews are just generally more concerned with social justice.'

His answer was rather jarring, but not wanting to make the situation unbearably awkward, I bit my tongue despite the fact that I was offended on several counts. First of all, it seems to make the assumption that Republicans are NOT concerned with social justice. And second of all, it seems to make the assumption that any Jews that don't vote Democrat are somehow betraying their spiritual obligations. Neither of which, I believe, are true.

Despite the fact that I've voted Republican in the only Presidential election in which I've been eligible to vote, I still deeply care about social justice. It just so happens, however, that my idea of 'social justice' does not include massive entitlement programs. I fail to see the 'justice' in the fact that generation after generation of the urban citizenry in this country is poisoned by ineffective, ill-planned, and poorly implemented government initiatives. 'Justice' is not doling out checks that feed a vicious cycle of dependence.

I have the utmost respect for people with the intellectual honesty to admit when the 'party line' they are towing turns out to be wrong. If liberals and Democrats are truly dedicated to social justice, they would do well to admit mistakes in the last 60 years of policy toward the poor and try a different approach.

The same is true for matters of international politics. If liberals and Democrats, as they claim to be, are truly dedicated to religious freedom and other basic human rights, they should be standing in solidarity with the people of Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and every other nation where its citizens are persecuted, tortured, killed, and otherwise denied the basic human rights for which these liberals supposedly stand.

Instead of the wide-eyed alarmists currently in this country claiming that Bush aims to make homosexuality illegal and force his religious views on Americans, perhaps they should focus their attention to places where homosexuality truly is illegal upon punishment of death, and places where the religious views of the leadership are in fact imposed on the citizenry, again, upon punishment of death.

Sadly, it seems that the left in this country, and most other Western countries for that matter, would rather use the Iraq war as political fodder against their political opponents rather than use it as an opportunity to spread the values which they supposedly espouse.

When opposition to war and a political movement leads people to abandon their ideals for the sake of political manuvering, they have lost all credibility and moral authority for their cause.

If defining 'social justice' as 'actually helping people' — and coming the realization that not all international conflicts can be solved with hugs and flowers — makes me a neo-con, well, where do I get my membership card?