Saturday, May 14, 2011

Conservatives can, in fact, be charitable

[Disclaimer: the thoughts put forth in this blog post are disjointed and not as refined as they might have been if I actually took the time to write them out and organize them. As is, I keep on putting off organizing my thoughts on the matter (because this is something that has been on my mind quite often over the past couple months), so I thought I might as well just write this all down and put it out for you to read even though it isn't organized and whatnot. I'm sure you'll be able to get what I'm trying to say well enough.]

As I read more and more opinions from Liberals, I have gotten the distinct impression that Liberals tend toward thinking Conservatives are uncharitable, greedy, money-grubbers that seem to have some sort of vendetta against charity of any sort. And where does this impression come from? From the fact that Conservatives do not tend toward supporting social welfare government programs, and somehow a disdain for social welfare programs paid for by big government translates as "uncharitable, greedy, money-grubber."

The thing is these arguments usually come from articulate people that are very good at forming logical debates. They can put forth debates and arguments that appear rational and reasonable, and so it leaves me wondering why these apparently intelligent people come up with such an illogical conclusion about Conservatives. That is to say, just because a Conservative does not support big government does not mean a Conservative is uncharitable. Such a belief is a misunderstanding of what Conservatives believe.

I am obviously not about to argue for every Conservative in existence, because I am positive there are some Conservatives that are indeed uncharitable, greedy, money-grubbers. Of course, I do not think this is a result of them being Conservative. I think it is a result of them being human, and humans are naturally inclined toward base actions and thoughts. As such, as sure as I am about there being uncharitable Conservatives, I am just as sure there are uncharitable Liberals, because uncharitableness is not limited to any one political party.

In any case, I will now address the argument of Conservatives being uncharitable. I'm not really going to touch on the politics of why Conservatives tend toward not supporting government-funded charity. Instead I am going to deal with the belief that not supporting government-funded charity somehow makes a person uncharitable. (I also will not express how contradictory I think the term "government-funded charity" is... which makes me wonder why I'm even saying it.)

Charity, as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary online, is:
"a: generosity and helpfulness especially toward the needy or suffering; also: aid given to those in need
"b: an institution engaged in relief of the poor
"c: public provision for the relief of the needy"

Of note in that definition, government is not mentioned once. Just something to keep in mind.

[sarcasm] Liberals may not be aware of this, but there are charitable organizations founded not by the government, but by regular, ordinary American citizens[/end sarcasm]. Now I do not know the intricacies of every single one of these organizations, but the general idea is that the programs are run by the people, for the people. That is to say, the government does not pay for their programs. They get private businesses and citizens to pay for it instead. In general, Conservatives are in support of such organizations. Conservatives did in fact phone in after the earthquake in Haiti to help send money to the Haitians. Conservatives did recently send relief efforts to the tornado-ravaged south. Conservatives did help build some of those 6,000 homes built by Habitat last year.

But as per the general Liberal argument, none of this matters. Helping out local charities, or even nationwide or worldwide charities, means absolutely nothing if you are unwilling to support government-funded charities. As per the general Liberal argument, you can only be a charitable person if you support government-funded charities.

But that does not make sense. That is not what Merriam-Webster's definition of charity says at all in definition 2, parts a or b or c. It says "generosity and helpfulness." It says "institutions engaged in relief of poor." It says "public provision for the relief of the needy." Helping out charities not funded by the government is being generous and helpful. Charities not funded by the government are "institutions engaged in relief of poor." Charities not funded by the government are "public provision[s] for the relief of the needy."

Now I realize a liberal might see this, and say "Why, that is not what I think at all about Conservatives. Yes, I call them uncharitable, but I do not call them uncharitable simply because they don't support welfare programs." To which I would be inclined to ask, "Well then, what is it that makes me an uncharitable person?"

Conservatives do not tend toward supporting government-funded charities, yes. At what point does that make us uncharitable?

I will admit here and now that I am not, at the moment, an actively charitable person. This is not because I am a Conservative. This is because I am lazy (which, I am sure there are some Liberals out there that are too lazy to be charitable as well). I have given money to charities before. I have volunteered at charitable programs before, but I don't make a habit of doing it (the former because I'm broke, and the latter because, as I said already, I'm lazy). However, I have nothing against charitable organizations not run by the government. I love Waterfront Rescue Mission, Habitat for Humanity, those seasonal charities the Southern Baptists are all about. It makes me exceedingly happy that Habitat for Humanity is doing so well. I was pleased when two of my friends told me that when they were homeless they were able to find community-run soup kitchens and shelters (not funded by the government) that would give them food and shelter until they were able to find an apartment. I am not some evil person that wishes all charities would disappear and poor people would suffer and die. I do in fact want people to get help if they genuinely need it (and hopefully will not abuse it). I simply do not want the government spending money on these programs.

I would say the general Conservative view is similar to my own (minus the laziness and brokeness factor). Conservatives do want to help those less fortunate than themselves. They simply do not need, nor do they want, the government to organize charitable institutions for them.

So, Conservatives can, in fact, be charitable.

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