Schrodinger’s Other Cat

During, and in the few days after CPAC 2015, I found myself engaged, again, in what it means to be a Conservative. I’ve been identified as one and I don’t hate it. But I don’t feel like it describes me. (More on that in a bit).

What brought on the renewed discussion was the presence and short presentation of the American Atheist organization at CPAC2015. A lot of fellow atheists covered social media with gasps of how a humanist organization, one seeking scientific solutions, could be at a Conservative convention. So, being comfortable in both swimming pools, I did my own reaching out. “Hey, fellow atheists! Look, I’m one too! You probably didn’t know this but now you do and we’ve been getting along forever. Isn’t that cool?” And the reception has been just fine. Its fine, because some assumptions were realized and broken. There’s still some head scratching over why I’d want to align myself with such a group (most atheists are of the Liberal persuasion). I believe the problem is because of what the popular definition of a Conservative has come to mean verse what I take it to mean. So let’s examine that. First, let’s examine what the definition of a Conservative is. Then the popular definition. And where else to start than to simply google the word, “Conservative” and see what comes up.

Via Google, the noun definition is: “a person who is averse to change and holds to traditional values and attitudes, typically in relation to politics.”

Well, that’s a lot. What exactly is “traditional”? Is it a good thing? Slavery was traditional. So was polygamy. It was also traditional not to allow women to vote. Also traditional to burn heretics and witches at the stake. Yet I don’t know anyone who identifies themselves as “Conservative” and wants to bring back slavery and witch hunting. Hmmmm…

The adjective definition per Google is: “holding to traditional attitudes and values and cautious about change or innovation, typically in relation to politics or religion.” So it’s about the same as the noun. Again we’re with the “traditional”. Yet here there’s also “cautious about change or innovation”. And it’s in relation to politics and religion. So you could be a Conservative Russian Communist pro-slavery, Hindu. But I’m probably the first person to put those identifiers together. No, the popular definition, which we’ll get to, is so far away from that. Hmmmmm…

In the Wikipedia entry for Conservative, we come across more of what’s noted above. Being Wikipedia, there’s deeper analyses and there’s this: “There is no single set of policies that are universally regarded as conservative, because the meaning of conservatism depends on what is considered traditional in a given place and time. Thus conservatives from different parts of the world—each upholding their respective traditions—may disagree on a wide range of issues.”

There ya have it. Sure does look like “Conservative” is whatever the hell you want it to mean. So it’s no wonder that when I’m having a conversation about politics with someone who says they can’t back a Conservative agenda, I’m having such a hard time wondering why. We may have different ideas in our heads. We may be talking about different things. Everyone is a conservative and everyone is not. The word is practically meaningless. Or, better yet, the word means whatever the speaker considers traditional.

Example: A Christian conservative may feel that one man, one woman is a proper marriage. Their conservative view of marriage goes back to a time when polygamy was no longer welcome.

Example: A Muslim conservative may feel that one man, many wives, as young as nine, is a proper marriage. Their conservative view of marriage goes back to their religious history when that was practiced. (And it still is in many parts of the Muslim world).

Now we come to the popular definition of a Conservative. It has some baggage and I think this is where the problem comes in, and where American Atheists found their comrades wondering why they were there.

The term has been hijacked (in part, intentionally and, in part, unintentionally) by a small subset. This subset is summed up as heterosexual, white, Bible loving, Christian, primarily from a southern state, possibly anti-vaxxer, climate change denier and white with a side of white and more white with old, white money. The current trend is to assume that this person wants to hold marriage to one man, one woman. This person wishes to keep women’s wages lower than a man’s. This person also wishes not to grant the LGBTQ equal rights. These people, for all intents and purposes, wish to keep America divided and unequal, with themselves at the top. They love their guns. They love their “traditional family values”. They are pro-death penalty but anti-abortion. And, first and foremost, they have a tighter grip on the United States Constitution than their Bible. Have I missed anything in the stereotype? Please add in the comments.

Of all the descriptors noted above, only four of them are something the person had no choice in. The only four that qualify as “not my fault” are being white, being heterosexual, being born in a southern state or being born into old money. Other than that, the rest are matters of opinion formed after birth. So unless the anti-Conservative is a racist, I’m sure the problem is more with the other descriptors.

How did all those other descriptors get in there? That’s a whole other study, too big for the present piece. Regardless of how it happened, it happened. And we’re living with the stereotype today. And when, for the sake of brevity, I identify as one, all that baggage comes with it.

I addressed that in a prior piece here and here so I won’t get into it again. And I asked my fellow Conservatives to review their histories and policies and see the flaws. So clearly, I’m not in the stereotype because I’m trying to clean house. And, quite frankly, other than being white and heterosexual, I don’t have any of the other traits. Yet, again, for the sake of brevity, I use the term, “Conservative”.

The only position from the descriptors noted above that I hold dear, is a grip on the Constitution. But it’s not a holy grip. The Constitution is amendable and rightly so. It has been amended, for better or worse, twenty-seven times. In most cases, it’s amended as Thomas Jefferson suggested, always keeping in mind the original spirit of its making, always choosing the position that grants the most individual freedom. The Founding Fathers recognized there was a future they couldn’t predict and allowed for measures of change. I’ve already covered this here. A desire to see my government run closest to the boundaries of the Constitution is why I use the term Conservative. Everything else is baggage I’d just assume do away with.

So maybe I could use something else. Maybe Conservative doesn’t serve it’s purpose for people like me. So, let’s drill down again.

In the Wikipedia article on Conservatism there’s numerous camps under the umbrella, too many to get into. But there’s this entry for Libertarian Conservatism. Hey, I do call myself a Libertarian. So let’s look at that. In part, it defines as, “Its five main branches are Constitutionalism, paleolibertarianism, neolibertarianism, small government conservatism and Christian libertarianism. They generally differ from paleoConservatives, in that they are in favor of more personal and economic freedom.”

Oh geesz, more big words to define.

For fun, let’s look at the first: Constitutionalism. The Wikipedia article says, “Constitutionalism is “a complex of ideas, attitudes, and patterns of behavior elaborating the principle that the authority of government derives from and is limited by a body of fundamental law.”

Sheesh. It’s complex and has patterns. More things to dig into.

How about Paleolibertarians? This form is based on the policies and philosophies of Murray Rothbard and Llewellyn Rockwell. So now we have a breakdown based on two personalities.

How about Neolibertarianism? Also known as ring-wing Libertarianism. Sigh. Please define “right wing” now. And this contrasts to left-Libertarianism.

And if this wasn’t bad enough, in the Wikipedia side box of the Part of a Series on Libertarianism, under Schools, are the following:

Agorism, Anarchism, Anarcho-capitalism, Autarchism, Bleeding-heart libertarianism, Christian libertarianism, Collectivist anarchism, Consequentialist libertarianism, Free-market anarchism, Fusionism, Geolibertarianism, Green anarchism, Green libertarianism. Individualist anarchism, Insurrectionary anarchism, Left-libertarianism, Left-wing market anarchism, Libertarian communism, Libertarian Marxism, Libertarian socialism, Minarchism, Mutualism, Natural-rights libertarianism, Paleolibertarianism, Panarchism, Right-libertarianism, Social anarchism and Voluntaryism.

My brain hurts.

Maybe it’ll help if we look at what is currently considered the opposite of a Conservative: Liberalism. Back to Wikipedia and the opening paragraph reads, “Liberalism is a political philosophy or worldview founded on ideas of liberty and equality. The former principle is stressed in classical liberalism while the latter is more evident in social liberalism. Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but generally they support ideas such as democratic elections, civil rights, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, free trade, and private property.”

Sigh. That sounds like Libertarianism. That even sounds like Conservatism.

It sounds like the only way to really describe myself is to use more identifiers than any person could ever understand in polite conversation. It might take twenty different isms to get to the bottom of it. And imagine saying, “I’m a Libertarian, equal rights, social anarchist, voluntarily, liberal on speech and natural rights, conservative about the Bill of Rights except that embarrassing 18th one”. It’s rubbish.

After looking into these and tossing some dice on others, it breaks down to is this: I’m Eric. I’ve lived on this planet for almost forty-five-years now and spent a good part of it sampling much of what life has to offer. I’ve adopted policies and philosophies that seem the best. And they clearly come from different pools. So when someone calls me a Conservative, well, they’re right in part. When someone calls me a Constitutionalist, well, in part. When someone says I practice the Socratic method, yes, but I also like the scientific method, find it a better way at getting to the truth. When someone says I’m White, maybe. But I like peach better.

In essence, part of the problem is that in the United States, we have a two party system. Of course there’s other parties. I belong to one. But the deck is currently stacked against them. So for all intents and purposes, we’re dealing with two. And there’s no possible way to encompass all the different ideologies and life choices in two parties. In fact, everyone is pretty much there own party.

Should we drop labels all together? No. A label gives the frame. Despite this bunch of confusion, I accept being called a Conservative because it’s a frame that I’m closest to. It doesn’t mean I don’t share some opinions outside of the frame. In fact, I share quite a bit. But we just don’t have the time in a day to drill everyone down we meet. Ideally, the best thing to do if you have enough time in conversation is to not bring up a defining label at all. Start with issues. Ask where a person stands on this or that. Bet you’ll find out, as stated above, that no one fits perfectly into a box.

Remember, Schrodinger’s Cat could be either dead or alive in that box. That’s extraordinary polar opposites. Yet, both are as capable of being true until you check. You have no idea what its status is until you open it and check for yourself. I say, labels are convenient. They’re a starting point, hardly a finish. But before you generalize about someone, open the box.

So because of this, I’ll also have to revise my own policy to never argue with Democrats or anyone in the “Communitarian” pool. Maybe someone is in that pool but more like me and I didn’t even know it. Maybe I’m using the label Libertarian and they’re using the label “Communitarian” but were both in favor of the same things and the same way of getting to them. The labels are what’s getting in the way.

And by the way, if you google the word, “argue”, you’ll see two definitions. One reads, “give reasons or cite evidence in support of an idea, action, or theory, typically with the aim of persuading others to share one’s view.” and the other reads, “exchange or express diverging or opposite views, typically in a heated or angry way.” Don’t do the latter. Do the former. Because in the former, there’s no “heated or angry way”. Angry hats never look good and no one learns anything. In fact, angered, heated disputes on politics usually ends up reinforcing a stereotype. And what we want to do, is break them. Bet we’ll find we want much of the same thing and that some of it just might be details.

Freedom Cocktail – Our annual report for 2014

Take a moment to see how many people the writer’s here at Freedom Cocktail were able to reach in 2014. Even the smallest voice can change the course of the future. We cannot allow ourselves to be silenced. Keep the conversation going and do no give in to politically correct social pressure. Truth should never be kept at bay in favor of keeping people in the darkness of ignorance.

To all of our readers, those who retweeted, those who shared and those who liked and commented on our posts, thank you!

Here’s to an even bigger and better 2015!

(The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.)

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 3,800 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 3 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

ICYMI: Why we looked back while keeping eye on midterms

The holidays have come and gone. College football has a new BCS champion. The NFL wildcard games lived up to their name and the Superbowl is just around the corner. 2014 is underway and this will be a huge year in terms of politics in our nation with the midterms elections set for November.

Many are getting back into the swing of their day-to-day routine now that kids are back in school. To start off this year, it seemed appropriate to remind everyone of the four recent end-of-year posts that were published here on Freedom Cocktail. In many ways, they not only marked the end of 2013, they all worked together as four chapters of a single work to shed differing points of light on the coming year.

EricWojciechowski

Eric Wojciechowski

The first asked, “Why another blog?”  Eric Wojciechowski’s, Scattered Tea Leaves, addresses the topic of why it’s important to keep the conversation going, even if it feels like we are sometimes preaching to the choir. He offers suggestions of more cooperation and a focus on the bigger picture. He spends some time asking if it makes sense to add a new voice to those already in place and closes by coming to the conclusion that if it means we can get back to a Constitutional Republic, then the answer is yes! At heart, Eric is a staunch Libertarian, but even he is keeping his options open if the right candidate rises to the top of the GOP.

JeffRhodes

Jeff Rhodes

The second asked, “Why fight?” In Jeff Rhodes post entitled, Looking Back on 2013, he catalogs some of the political mile markers of 2013, from the re-election of President Obama to the Democrats continuing hold of the Senate, and suggests that, as conservatives, it wasn’t a banner year for any appreciable offense and the losses outweighed what few wins there were. But, in the face of the odds, looking at the ongoing debacle that is the Affordable Care Act, aka, Obamacare, it’s not a time to give up — rather, in 2014, it’s more important than ever to fight for the Constitution.

AlanSanders

Alan J. Sanders

The third asked, “Why forget?” Yours truly looked at the events of 2013 through the prism of the concept of time with a post called, Exit…Father Time, Even. We all like to think that time is constant — seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, etc. — but, it is a fluid and malleable phenomenon that can dull our memories and lessen our emotions. With the 2014 midterms 11 months away, it’s more important than ever for conservatives to remember, pay attention and vote. The way we fight, the way we don’t forget, is to keep the conversation going (blogging, social media) and get to the polls. It’s time our politicians realize they can no longer hide behind the forgiving aspects of the passage of time itself.

MichelleRay

Michelle Ray

And our final post asked, “Why believe the mainstream media?” when Michelle Ray wrote, Selling the News. 2013 was a banner year for the mainstream (traditional) media to craft the news and sell it to the low-information crowd in easily digested, bite-sized chunks. The majority of voters will not read a full news story anymore, settling for crafted headline and sound bites shared/regurgitated on television, cable news and via social media channels. The mainstream is on a mission to convince us that fact is fiction. We cannot let them control the narrative, which means getting out, being active and not running away from the conversations necessary to bring the facts to life. Appeal, but don’t appease. Be above factual reproach. Fact isn’t fiction, but suspicion is the new (media) religion.

As we move through the coming weeks and months, we will continue to publish works along many different topics, but all with the same underlying goal:  To convince more Americans that individual freedom and liberty are cornerstones to be demanded, not surrendered, and a less intrusive and smaller government must be the ends to our means. You can all be a part of this effort by linking to or sharing our work, in emails, in posts of your own and throughout the entire spectrum of social media options.

EveryVoteCountsVoteSmart

If you have a love for the Constitution and for our Republic, stay informed and please don’t forget to research the candidates vying for your vote and make an intelligent choice based on facts and principle, not hype and a desire to look hip.

Our country deserves so much better.

Selling The News

I like to imagine that a lot of people perform the cliché end-of-year introspection ritual. I like to imagine that people who take the time, genuinely enjoy the review of the good moments, and intend to do something to keep from repeating the not so good moments. I’ll get around to my own, but  I’ve spent the last few days reviewing the incredible impact that media, mainstream and social,  has had on conversations in my personal circle of influence and influencers this year.  The conclusions are cringe-worthy.

Late in 2012, Twitter released its top trends report. Conservative new media crowed about the popularity of #tcot , and Democrats laughed.  As difficult as it is to read what passes for media in mainstream and more left leaning outlets, the facts of that particular headline is accurate in terms of public opinion and political reality. In March, Pew released a poll indicating that sentiment on Twitter is often at odds with public opinion.  That poll has stuck in my mind as I watch debates unfold on social media.

The whole of 2013 brought little good in the way of restored freedoms for America.  What 2013 did bring, was a more-than-ever polarized media. Yahoo’s most searched stories reveals that consumers of news were treated to very little in the way of good news in 2013.  Nearly every issue on their list ( and many that didn’t make the top ten list) was a catalyst for heated political debate in some form or another… on social media.  Much of that debate has shifted to the credibility and coverage by the media outlets, themselves. Comes now the New York Times reviving the video-to-blame narrative on Benghazi and MSNBC criticizing Romney’s family for interracial adoption, and the #tcot Twitter force attacking ( rightfully) the facts.. but forgetting the WHY of both of these stories.  There are narratives to preserve, and the general population still believes them.

If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I do music. I couldn’t couldn’t have written a better anthem to describe my opinion of state of media, including new media than this:

What in 2014 for conservative/libertarian/constitutional media? Fox has a secure place in news delivery, and will hold its own. Conservative new media struggles to find that balance between presenting their own narrative and fact while appealing to a broader base. Breaking out of the echo chamber must be a 2014 priority for #tcot and #tlot media, and I see good beginnings in some bloggers reaching out to traditionally left-leaning sites,  but I caution strongly against adopting the style guide of left-leaning media.  I also hope that the new media pundits keep in mind that they cannot just inform.  With midterms here, we are way behind in community organizing. Take a few lessons from the left on ends, not means. Work to inspire your audience to do more than vote.  Urge them to get physically involved. We should already be working on ensuring a 2016 presidential field that loves liberty .

Appeal, but don’t appease. Be above factual reproach. Fact isn’t fiction, but suspicion is the new (media) religion.

All or Nothing?

Rand Paul said, “I’m not a Libertarian.”
Rand Paul said, “I’m a Libertarian Republican.”
Rand Paul said, “I’m a Constitutional Conservative.”

He said all these things on May 10, 2013 at a luncheon with several evangelical pastors in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He made it rather clear he wasn’t a Libertarian when he advised he was not in favor of ending the Drug War, that he was more in favor of a “Virtuous Society” with people practicing “Self Restraint.” Damn. Doesn’t it seem we, Ron Paul fans, got suckered by the Son? Doesn’t first glance suggest the Filibuster was a stunt? Maybe.

Rand Paul hasn’t quite practiced small government all the time. He voted in favor of sanctions against Iran. And he said that 900 US military bases worldwide was a lot but made it clear, he wouldn’t make reducing foreign intervention a priority. Regarding marriage, Senator Paul advised he thinks it’s a mistake to support a federal ban on gay marriage because they are going to “lose” that debate right now. So he’s not in favor of gay marriage. He just doesn’t think it’s a winning battle right now. Finally, the ultimate insult, was that for the 2012 presidential election, he cast his lot for Mitt Romney. NOT for his own father, who is very Libertarian.

All the offenses listed above could confirm what we Libertarians have been saying for years. That Republicans always campaign like Libertarians but end up governing like Democrats. All, except the elder Paul. But Rand Paul did filibuster until Attorney General Holder confirmed, in writing, that the President does not have the authority to kill non-combative Americans on American soil with armed drones. He is also in favor of term limits, reductions in taxation and in favor of gun rights (right to self-defense). And despite recently telling his evangelical audience that they’d lose the battle right now on gay marriage, in an earlier interview, he advised that despite being in favor of traditional One Man/One Woman marriage, he would rather the federal government remain neutral on the subject as it’s a subject more for the States. This is very Libertarian: I tolerate your life choices and; in turn, you tolerate mine.

So what are we to make of him? It’s clear and he knows it, he’s not a Libertarian. But it’s also clear but doesn’t know it, he’s not a Constitutional Conservative. The Drug War, the vast foreign meddling, those are very non-Constitutional policies. Perhaps he’s using the term as a buzz word, an ear catcher to the Tea Party that supported him from the beginning. He is, at best, correct that he’s a Libertarian Republican. Senator Paul cherry picks from both platforms. I suspect as the 2016 presidential election approaches, we’ll hear Senator Paul continue to use the words, “Libertarian”, “Republican”, “Constitution” and “Conservative”. Consider Rand Paul a connection-point between four political views. Like the one corner that the States Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico share, Rand Paul sits right there as the thread holding said political views together.

Some of my colleagues in the Libertarian Party are cautioning it’s members from supporting Senator Paul. They argue, a half-assed (small L) libertarian isn’t worth our vote. We should only vote for candidates that support the complete return to the limits of the Constitution. We should only support Libertarian candidates who run from the Libertarian Platform under the LP Banner. But I say, let’s think about that.

By the 2016 presidential election, I will have put in twenty-years of campaigning (directly and indirectly) for the Libertarian Party. And despite my efforts and the extraordinary efforts of members better qualified and dedicated than myself, we’re still clocking in at around 1% of the presidential vote. There are reasons for this. Check out the link and come back to this post. It appears we’ve been so far away from freedom, we don’t know how to get back. Maybe instead of an All or Nothing philosophy, we need to take steps. And saying this, even entertaining it gently, makes me cringe. But I’m ready to try something different.

I’ll say it again, we are so far away from the simplicity of a Constitutional government, even gradual, small steps are gratifying. It’s working for drugs. Medical marijuana is popular and States are passing favorable laws more often. Washington and Colorado voted in favor of legalization of small amounts of marijuana, having nothing to do with medicinal purposes. As people see the sky isn’t falling, more legalization will occur. The end of illegal plants is coming to an end. Isn’t this considered a victory?

In my home state, Michigan, riders of motorcycles were recently allowed to decide for themselves if they wanted to wear helmets. Instead of government mandates, the rider is now allowed to make his/her own safety decisions. That step, once the sky doesn’t fall, could lead to relaxed mandatory seat belts and air bags. Yes?

An All or Nothing stance may never get us where we want to be. I hesitated several times writing those words. Forever and a day, until today, I was an All or Nothing Libertarian. But it isn’t working. A candidate like Rand Paul is still worthy. Much better than, say, a John McCain. Some Libertarian is better than No Libertarian. Right now, I think Rand Paul is our best bridge. It took a Nirvana to bridge Metal and Punk fans.

Harry Browne once took a question on his radio show where the questioner wondered if we could even remove the Post Office from the Constitution now that we have private delivery companies like FedEx and UPS. Mr. Browne advised that we were so far away from the Constitution we needed to get back to at least the Constitution before we hacked further. This, is sound to me.

Right now, as much as I want ALL of the Libertarian Platform, a candidate like Rand Paul could be our medical marijuana. He’s worth continuing to support and look at. I say support and look at. If he falls further from the Tree of Liberty, then by all means, let’s dump him. But right now, I think he deserves a continued admiration for not giving in everywhere.

A final thought on All or Nothing. Ask a cancer patient (me) if chemotherapy and radiation reduction of a tumor is better than waiting for a complete cure. They won’t complain if the tumor is still there. But they’ll dance and sing when the bloated bastard shrinks.