On conservatism, liberalism, and the lessons from Woodstock

Ethical relativism has run amock. There are few standards left and those are under attack by those who reject order and question everything either intentionally (e.g., anarchists) or unintentionally (well meaning people who are reticent to judge the actions of others, especially if they are outside the mainstream). Children show little respect for parents–or anyone else. Self-expression, however meaningless, is encouraged rather than self-edification in the democratization of ideas where everyone is entitled to believe and do anything they like and every person’s ideas and values are exactly as valid as that of anyone else. The new societal paradigm holds that right and wrong are outdated concepts foisted on the masses by false religions whose sole purpose is to keep people down and prevent them from self-actualization. If any religion has flaws (all do) such as the undervaluing of women, then the baby must be thrown out with the bathwater rather than the text reinterpreted in view of a more enlightened culture.  Standards= REPRESSION. Rules=OPPRESSION. Judgment=PREJUDICE.

I recently visited the original site of the Woodstock concert of 1969 with my wife (see the museum’s official page here: http://www.bethelwoodscenter.org/ A HIGHLY RECOMMENDED VENUE!). There is a lovely museum there and the surrounding area in New York’s Catskill Mountains is truly beautiful. I’ve said it before that I am a lousy conservative because I hate conformity for conformity’s sake and value rebels (but ONLY rebels WITH A CLUE). The organizers of the original concert had to move it at the last minute only weeks before it took place because people in the original New York community venue rebelled at the idea of hippies invading their small town with unbridled sex, drugs and rock and roll. Bethel Woods hosted the event at the last minute in a staunchly conservative, sleepy, small, country farming hamlet in the Catskills. The owner of the farm, a conservative, took a great deal of heat from the locals for allowing the hoards of hippies and their sympathizers  the venue. He did not agree with the anti war, anti establishment leanings of the movement that saw the zenith of its momentum at the three-day concert, but stated publicly that he believed the hippies had a right to express their views and deserved a venue for doing so. When some more than 200,000 people showed up on the first day of the concert and thousands of others kept right on coming, the local roads were overwhelmed. The local CONSERVATIVE townspeople saw a real humanitarian crisis for the young attendees who coalesced there with little or no money and with whom they shared little by way of values or lifestyles. But they did not reach for their Bibles to lecture the misguided hoards about the perils of free love and drug abuse, or reach for their guns to protect their homes. Instead, when one of the greatest traffic jams in New York history ensued, local residents flooded their local markets and bought thousands upon thousands of loaves of bread and non-perishable supplies, made sandwiches carried water and provided  food and drink to the hungry hordes of flower children and music lovers from all over the country that found themselves without food or shelter on their way to making history, going among the hoards of people to distribute food and drink as they were stuck in traffic with nowhere to go for endless hours. These mostly working class farmers that today are labeled as “selfish, haters, bigoted, Bible-thumping, gun toting REPUBLICANS” gave out tens of thousands of sandwiches, sodas, fruit and other essential nourishment and REFUSED TO TAKE PAYMENT WHEN IT WAS OFFERED. There was no price gouging and no profiteering from those with whom they fundamentally disagreed and likely disliked and distrusted, rather compassion and a helping hand in a truly CHRISTIAN, REPUBLICAN, CONSERVATIVE fashion. And though the concert was remarkably peaceful and free of significant violence despite the hundreds of thousands of attendees, lousy weather and lack of sufficient sanitary facilities, it was the make love not war, love-bead garnished attendees that ransacked the too few food concessions, “liberated” the food and burned down some 20 food stands.

These are facts, my friends. Think carefully on them. And think carefully of where we’ve come as a society since then–how much has changed and how much has not. Good luck on finding out about the incredible generosity of the conservative locals or the open-mindedness of the conservative owner of the farm unless you visit the museum or talk to a local historian. Some 50 years later, I don’t know whether the conservative locals would do it again. One can only turn the other cheek a limited number of times before sighing deeply, blocking the blows and punching back.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “On conservatism, liberalism, and the lessons from Woodstock

  1. Since I don’t believe invented constructs (like conservative or liberal) accurately reflect the robust flexibility of human behavior, I think if an unexpected humanitarian crisis visited a rural region, people would react with exactly the same generosity of spirit now as they did then. Compassion is above politics. You don’t ask a neighbor how they vote if their barn burned down or one of the kids was in a car accident.

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  2. No philosophy and no construct can reflect the “robust flexibility of human behavior.” Conservatism and liberalism, however, are not “invented constructs.” They reflect general points of view informed by very different philosophies. There are very few people who fit the exact mold of either construct, but most of us tend to reflect values derived mostly from one rather than the other.

    I do agree with you that in a real crisis (something that Woodstock was not, by the way–just a lot of young people stranded for hours on end in country roads completely paralized by traffic many miles from their final destination on the way to a concert). All people of good will, which is most all people, in my view, come together regardless of philosophy at such times. Having said that, I’m not sure that the liberal souls in Greenwich Village or San Francisco would have shown the same kindness towards, say, 300,000 Tea Party members or opponents of gay marriage stranded in an unprecedented traffic jam for hours that shut down their towns on a hot August day on the way to a convention the locals vehemently opposed. Nor am I sure they would have spent their own money and refused compensation for the food and beverages they passed out. Moreover, I’m fairly certain that no staunchly liberal property owner in San Francisco or Grenwich Village would voluntarily make available a venue for such a rally in the name of upholding the importance of free speech. But even if I’m wrong about all of this, certainly no one maligns liberals directly and indirectly as heartless, selfish, and bigoted on a daily basis as is done of conservatives in the popular media. The example of Woodstock belies these smears.

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