Conservative principals and liberal attacks

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 3, 2005

I was out of town for a month working to address some of the immediate consequences of the massive levels of devastation in southern Louisiana.

Despite a month of seven day workweeks and 12 to 14 hours every day, I can not make any claims to significant progress due to a combination of internally imposed constraints and inadequate planning that didn’t begin to be addressed until mid-October.

While I intend to address much of this in a future after action report, my intent in this letter is to comment on Suffolk News-Herald columns and Letters to the Editor that I was reading online while I was away.

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Specifically, I was very disappointed at the level of vitriol and personal attacks on a friend of mine, Bob Pocklington, who writes a regular-and totally uncompensated-column for this paper.

While Pock doesn’t need any help from me, perhaps those who have been attacking him might benefit from a little primer on whom they have been spewing so much disgust and hatred.

First, Bob is a very proud member of that Greatest Generation that helped ensure that you don’t speak German as a primary language and the light illuminating this letter isn’t from lamps with shades made from the skin of Jews, Gypsies and several other ethnic minorities that Hitler and his sycophants loved to demonize as scapegoats.

As a 19-year old enlisted combat engineer, Bob visited Europe-as part of the second wave at Omaha Beach during the D Day invasion of Normandy-by which time any element of surprise was gone.

He remained at the point of the spear as it pressed onwards to Berlin, taking part in every major battle along the way including the Battle of the Bulge.

I don’t recall how many Purple Hearts young Bob received but it was several.

Following the war, Bob returned to the states, built a life for himself and his family through hard work in several occupations and eventually went on to be a successful businessman. He’s known poverty, disappointment, success, tragedy, brutality, hard work-both demeaning work just sufficient to put food on the table and rewarding work in several occupations, and he most certainly has earned the right to express his opinions without being personally attacked.

I suspect that few of Bob’s attackers can claim a similar record of performance, sacrifice, travel, personal contribution to society, practical education, or a history of life achievement.

I will be the first to agree that Pock is a curmudgeon who, like myself, cares little for political correctness and expects people to be able to string a series of ideas together and reach defensible conclusions.

Nor do I buy into all of his conclusions (he doesn’t agree with many of mine either). By their nature, curmudgeons share their uninhibited thoughts with others-only asking that the ideas be considered.

Few have the patience to develop their logic fully so as to convince people who choose not to think for themselves. I would put Pock in a class with Curtis Milteer, Sam Callis, Andy Diamani, Bea Rogers, and many other old codgers whose personal experiences span so many decades and whose wisdom comes not so much from formal education, but from the very difficult school of hard knocks.

While probably none of these elders sings from the same hymnbook and none of us have to accept what they might try to tell us, we’re fools if we don’t even consider their ideas.

Most of us will never live long enough to experience what these people have already lived through-the bank failures of the late 1920s and 30s, the Great Depression, the hubris of the judgment that the League of Nations would end all wars, the dismantling of our military forces that made World War II a calculated gamble for the Axis powers, the great moral shift during the 1960s and 70s that resulted in the legal abortion of over 43,000,000 Americans to date-no telling who of which would have otherwise discovered the cure for cancer, AIDS, alcoholism and depression.

Those in our society with significant age who are still willing and able to talk to us should be celebrated and respected-not scorned and ridiculed.

They have been witness to both the successes and failures of our greatest social experiments: the rejection of racism as an accepted way of life in a civilized world-but also the failure of the Great Society not only to eliminate poverty but to expand it exponentially, creating generations of dependent citizens without a clue how to support themselves or their families.

They have witnessed the failure of socialism everywhere it has ever been tried on this planet-while seeing success and failures where localities and churches have taken on similar tasks.

They know a gray world that many of us would prefer to think of as black and white.

But, most of all, they have witnessed much, contributed more, and have earned our respect and gratitude.

Bob is an unabashed Conservative and most of his ilk, and I include myself, love and understand facts, history, hard work, persistence, pragmatism, education, cause and effect, and both individual and collective responsibility.

This mindset often explains why these people tend to perform well in a competitive world where the weak fall to the wayside.

Unfortunately, so many of us are so busy with the day-to-day responsibilities of family, job, and country that we often miss the tragedy going on two blocks from Main Street -or assume that those experiencing it can fix it on their own when they are ready.

Instead, we do need to create a roadmap to personal success and create a process that places the majority of our poor on it.

This is no easy task and most Conservatives avoid it because we are so routinely demonized when we try.

On the other hand, many of today’s Liberals are the product of second and third generation Conservatives who have long since forgotten how they ended up winners in what they perceive to be life’s lottery, yet feel an incredible sense of guilt that the majority of successful citizens don’t seem to feel as badly as the liberals do about the downtrodden.

But since the problems seem to be so much greater than what can be solved using their finite resources, the liberal solution almost invariably involves coming up with ways to take money from those who have it and donate it to those who don’t.

That’s why they adore big government, yet they remain unable to point to a single big government program that has ever eliminated a significant social problem.

They characteristically refuse to apply known economic and social theory in their rush to commit to a solution and, besides, teaching people to fish takes so much longer than giving them some of our catch.

Characteristically, they almost never take the time to develop metrics to measure whether their experiments are working, nor are they willing to pull the funding on programs that have demonstrably contributed to a worsening situation.

So, if you accept the premise that liberals have a lock on compassion but haven’t been able to solve society’s problems using socialist theory that has never worked elsewhere, and Conservatives are too busy trying to make a living and making life too easy for their offspring (creating tomorrow’s Liberals), where can society go from here?

Many of those answers can be found among our oldest citizens.

They may not even fully understand how or why their long lives have led them to certain conclusions but, with time and effort, we ought to be trying to mine and organize their thoughts and piece together the roadmaps to success that our society is so desperate to discover.

The elderly have the time-but they won’t live forever and we need to seek their wisdom while they can still communicate with us.

Some, like Pock, even try to make us think and, in their own way, try to make us see the folly of what they observe.

These individuals need to be respected and listened to-whether or not they are politically correct or eloquent enough for our senses.

Hard lessons are often distasteful, but continued failure is unacceptable.

Try listening, interviewing, and digging further for the essence of why an old codger thinks the way he or she does.

Society could be richer for it.

Walter H. Mears is a resident of Suffolk.