We met at a McDonald’s in Stone Oak, a newer suburb just outside San Antonio – at his suggestion. When I entered the restaurant with my flag he got up immediately and walked us into the empty kids playroom, so we could talk in privacy.
He didn’t want to be photographed because he said he had been persecuted for being conservative and non-white in his college days when he was actively opposing affirmative action. He had agreed to meet me because he was childhood friends with the father of one of my friends. They had grown up together in Brownsville, in the southern-most part of the US, right on the Mexican border. His family was Mexican-American, although he pointed out that for the most part the Spanish speaking people of the Americas were largely Native American in ancestry. He said he had been, and still was, personally offended by affirmative action because it is disrespectful of his ability to succeed on his own merits. Fighting against affirmative action had started his shift from the Catholic Democrat beliefs of his family towards his current conservatism. He said even as a very young child he had willed himself to excel in school, had fought hard to always be a the head of his class and that this competition to succeed was good for society. Later in the conversation he told me how he had been taught to read and write before going to elementary school by his grandparents, who had learned literacy from the Catholic Church. I noted that this gave him an advantage in school from the very beginning, and probably allowed him to get on his academic success track.
He had ended up going to the University of Michigan after being in the military, and was now a successful Lawyer. While he was in school one of his classmates had been Michael Moore, who went on to be the well known documentary film maker. He said that the two of them would dominate their classes arguing with each other. He ended up not respecting Moore because his arguments were not based on evidence but on ideology and inference.
His definition of conservative was to conserve, in the sense of preserving traditions. He had ideas for improving the country’s economy, education system and military that I had never considered before, or even ever heard of some of them. He suggested that the US pay the same price for foreign made goods as it would cost to make the item in the US, with out wages and benefits. This would both keep more business in the United States and bring up the standards in other countries. I asked him whether that would be called protectionist and he responded emphatically, no. This was such a foreign idea to me that I can not be sure I understood him fully. When I try to think through this proposition after our conversation it seems impossible to implement. But if it were to hypothetically happen it would actually level the playing field of global capitalism and eliminate exploitation based on economic disparity between the first and third world. Maybe in a world like that I would agree with the logic that says people get what they work for and deserve in a capitalist economy.
He believes that primary education, from kindergarten to third grade should be fully nationally funded, and that it should all be bilingual, in English and Spanish. A solid bilingual education has been shown to give students strong academic advantages in the long run. With that foundation they would all be prepared to compete for success. Those who won would be the best qualified people for the positions they rose to fill, and society would benefit from having their competency and authority.
He also believes that there should be mandatory conscription into national service. If people did not want to serve in the military they could work in hospitals, or some other institution for the public good. This time of service would provide tangible benefits to American society and it would also generate in young people a sense of love for their country, since the act of giving develops a sense of dedication and good will. He said “right now our country is just like my church: 30 percent of the people do all of the work and the other 70 percent just receive benefits and never raise a finger.”
His version of conservative looks very little like what I see being represented by conservative politicians, and he admitted he likes none of the top Republican candidates. I was grateful for the chance to get to hear such a different vision of conservative political perspective, and one that was both compassionate and articulate.