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Conservatives and democracy

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Matt Kokkonen makes some compelling points in his piece “Stay home, terrorists” (Dec. 10). He writes that the religious culture of Syrian Muslims makes their worldview incompatible with freedom and democracy.

While considering this, we should perhaps look at the broader picture. The problem isn’t that Islam specifically is incompatible with liberal democracy, but that conservatism isn’t compatible with liberal democracy.

George Washington wrote: “The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for giving to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. … It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection, should demean themselves as good citizens … .”

But what have we seen from American conservatives? Constant bigotry and intolerance: of black people, Hispanics, Muslims, gays, women, atheists—name a minority and they’ve been in Republican crosshairs.

It seems to me that they’d be much happier in Saudi Arabia, or some other conservative paradise, where one may stone gay people to death, and religion is the rule of law.

Alas, we cannot just ship them off. Alexander Hamilton wrote that “the noble enthusiasm of liberty is apt to be infected with a spirit of narrow and illiberal distrust.” To drive them out would be illiberal, intolerant of their inherent, natural right to have their own opinion, however foreign it may be to American ideals. Besides, the great majority of conservatives are fine people, in spite of the occasional zealot who gives the rest a bad name.

We can probably expect the same of the Syrians—and the liberals, Hispanics, gays, and all the rest of us.

-- Sean Shealy - Los Osos

-- Sean Shealy - Los Osos

-- Sean Shealy - Arroyo Grande

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