Over the past few days, I have been exchanging e-mails with a friend from way back in high school who just so happens to be a liberal democrat and has been for years; he was an informed liberal democrat long before the days when I made my ideological shift from uninformed liberal to conscious conservative.
Today’s e-mail was fairly short, discussing a vacation from which he had just returned with his family. The thing that struck me was that, in the course of a short paragraph, he went from describing the sights in northern California and the excellent gas mileage in the hybrid Ford Escape that he rented for his wife and kids, to “Dick Cheney is pure, unadulterated evil.”
It was so lightning quick, the transmogrification from chipper, enthusiastic husband and father to bitter, disillusioned liberal that it really got me thinking.
I had seen it before during discussions and debates at work, at school, at bars or at parties–left-leaning individuals, otherwise outwardly enigmatic, turn from Jekyll to Hyde in the blink of an eye–and it reminded me of a study I read about a few months back which determined that more conservatives of all income levels considered themselves “happy” and “very happy” than their liberal counterparts, and have considered themselves that way since similar studies commenced in 1972.
What is it, I wondered, that embitters those who adhere to the ideology of [mandated] social equality, of pacifism, of peace and of love? Why is it that those who, for the most part, are blessedly and blissfully ignorant of the evils and dangers of the outside world seem so intent upon allowing a raincloud to follow overhead all day?
George Will, in a Washington Post piece about the Pew Research study, seems to think that the happiness might have something to do with marriage, with faith, and even with sunshine, and he looked at conservatives’ tendency to be and stay married, attend worship services, and live in sunny and warm locales as a possible explanation for the happiness gap. Still, I think he’s right in many ways, but wrong in a few as well.
He touts the faded and tattered “Kerry/Edwards” and “Gore/Lieberman” bumper stickers displayed with bitter pride on hybrid vehicles and gas efficient small station wagons as evidence of liberals’ anger; I think that, sure, a little anger and bitterness is shown in vehicle adornment but more can be found in the need to constantly look for relaxation, meditation and centering in the countless yoga studios and meditation centers which pepper the coastal countryside.
He also, however, mentions that conservatives are inherently pessimistic, and that pessimism leads to delight in being proven wrong. I don’t share in that opinion. Though there is a certain level of frustration in knowing what’s out there and seeing people on the left disregard it, I think that conservatives are inherently optimistic, though guardedly so. I believe that many of us awake in the morning thankful for another day on God’s green Earth, wondering how we might contribute to our success in our jobs, or how we might best make our families happy. I believe that conservatives, for the most part, are conscious of our place in life and in the world, and understand the relationship and consequences between things and actions. This, it seems, bears in sharp contrast to liberals, who seem to partake in organic foods and environmental causes perhaps in an attempt to force themselves into a greater sense of self, of belonging, of necessary cause.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe liberals just wake up on the wrong side of the bed. Perhaps Dick Cheney truly is evil, and Halliburton his personal Death Star. Still, I can’t help but think that there is something bigger behind such a perspective.
A person must be wired a certain way to perceive the world as a conservative or a liberal, must have priorities of a certain kind, must have a materially different sense of good and bad, right and wrong, essential and non-important. If such a difference exists, why can such a discrepancy not project onto mood?
My family and I struggle to pay our bills and put food on the table each and every month, yet I cannot help but look skyward each day and thank God for my beautiful wife and wonderful daughter. I know what we do not have, and truly believe that we struggle for a reason. We’re meant to be in the position we are in and truly blessed to have the things we do have. While I feel that we may outwardly lack much of what we desire but have what we need and need no more, others in the same situation may believe that they are owed money, or help, or social services of some kind.
Regardless, there are fundamental differences on many levels in people from either side of the political spectrum, and those differences have been evident since long before America was born. They should be embraced, and it is that reason among many that the majority of my friends consider themselves liberal democrats, people with which I can talk politics knowing that nothing we say or do will change the other person’s mind.
At the very least, though, they should cheer up a little bit.