Sunday, November 09, 2008

This last week the conservatives were parading on national news proclaiming that we are a center-right nation. But we are truly a conservative nation. Just not in the ways they think.

We are celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, and if you haven't been there, you should plan a trip.

Isn't it strange that the liberal faction of American politics has supported the National Endowment for the Arts, has steadfastly worked to preserve the environment and the wild places from development, has worked in preservation of the past, while the conservatives are the ones who want to drill, mine and dump the heck out of the place?

In celebration of the anniversary of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, it seems we might revisit these old ideas, conservative vs. liberal, and perhaps see that sometimes we are deceived and only with the passage of time do we begin to see where real conservative values are present.

Self-identified "Conservatives" like Bill Bennett are always talking about values that other people should have and many in the Republican party have worked to control the behavior of others, while withdrawing into gated communities to guard their wealth. They have used their discussions of values to frighten and control the electorate, and for once at last they have failed.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, a president despised by conservatives and responsible for the Great Smoky Mountain National Park was the ultimate conservator, while George W. Bush and his supporters, full of rhetoric were complete wastrels in comparison.

The concepts I mentioned yesterday of "Formal or formative" education as contrasted with "material" education help to illustrate the difference between a real conservative, one who takes action toward the preservation of culture and values, and the kind of self-proclaimed "conservative" that has dominated the conservative movement in the US for decades.

We can talk about values until the cows come home, but the real deal is to put people to work as craftsmen, learning real values from their own lives. In the same notion, schools should put children to the task of doing real things that develop their skills, character and compassion. As any craftsman can tell you, we learn more about values from attempting to make something with beauty and lasting quality than we can sitting in a pew on Sunday morning and professing sanctity to our neighbors.


  1. Speaking of children...grandkids Lauren (4 1/2) and Nathan (2 1/2) stayed with us alone for the very first time last night. I had already planned some time in the shop with them. For Nathan, I had cut out a wooden car body and made some wheels from turned maple and axles from 3/8" dowel rod. He did some final sanding on the car body then glued the wheels to the axles and chose a fire-engine red paint to put on the whole thing. He needed a good bit of help from Grandpa with the painting. For Lauren I had prepared several wood blocks that she glued together (in her own design) to make a boat. She chose a bright yellow paint and was able to do it all herself. What a thrill to introduce my grandchildren to this wonderful activity. Lauren proudly floated her new boat in the bathtub before bedtime, and Nathan would NOT part with this car all night long. We've already talked about what we will make when they come to visit at Christmas time. Now I feel as if I've started passing along the love of woodworking that I received from MY grandfather.

  2. John, that sounds like a wonderful time. Do you have any pictures I could share with my other readers?

  3. Doug, not only was the time wonderful, it was a thrill to get things ready in anticipation!!! I spend several hours in the shop just messing about preparing for the grandkids! My wife took some photos, so I'll have to see if I can download one or two to send to you...