Sunday, February 28, 2010
An Open Letter to Great Depression Babies
Many people born between 1929-38 in the United States, especially in the so-called dust-belt, grew up in poor families that relied on government relief programs such as FDR’s New Deal to survive. As a 1953 graduate of Lawton High School in southwest Oklahoma (and a 1957 grad of Abilene Christian in Texas), I heard from my parents and grand-parents how tough life was for them, and to some extent remember poverty first-hand right after the Great Depression. I imagine many of my schoolmates (born in 1935 or so) might have similar recollections.
The reasons for the hard times back then are still not exactly clear. Theories range from an unequal distribution of wealth (rich factory owners) and income (farmers and laborers), to an unsustainable credit-based economy. The U.S. Federal Reserve is usually accused of allowing large national banks to fail rather than prop them up with subsidies. (Maybe this is why economists were so reluctant to follow the recommendation that conservatives were recommending just recently!)
Many scholars have looked at we Great Depression Babies in terms of our politics today, and are puzzled by the fact that the great majority of us are quite conservative, even though our lives were saved by the liberal government public policies of the FDR administration. The question, of course, is why? Why have so many Democrats turned into Republicans? Is it merely because we went from poor to rich (through hard work and a flourishing war-time economy) and are not about to support the public policies (and pay the taxes) that would support the poor of the nation today? Or is it more complicated than that?
I suspect that there is a larger “liberal” agenda that includes paying more taxes for the poor and other things that we don’t like, such as abortion, homosexuality, and immigration. We don’t like the immorality that seems to be surrounding us and our children every day. We’re not prudes, but we think sex is a private matter with clear boundaries about what is natural and what is not. Most of all, we are tired of the crime and violence and pornography that permeates our lives. We believe firmly that this nation is a Christian nation and must be protected from terrorists like the 9/11 fanatics whose religion teaches them to destroy us.
I have spent my life as a university professor and administrator with credentials as a cultural historian. Now in retirement, I find myself with lots more time to write, and I would like to write down your responses to the question posed above, namely, “Why are you now a political conservative even though you came from a liberal background?” The responses I get will be confidential unless my publisher is wild about what comes out and sees a bestseller in the making. In that unlikely event, I will ask your permission to quote you.
If you put your faith in the Republican Party to implement your conservative views, tell me why. If the Democratic Party does not represent you, tell me why. If you do not consider yourself to be conservative in your political and religious views, please tell me that, too, along with your reasons why. (My impression, of course, is that liberal Great Depression Babies are in the minority.)
Whatever you tell me will remain in strictest confidence. I do plan to share on my Face Book page some of the results in terms of statistics and the more interesting comments. But even those will not be made public until I get a green light from each person. I will share my own views along with yours, but you can see from my Face Book information page that I consider myself to be “very liberal” in both politics and religion. So my motives in conducting this survey clearly are suspect, maybe even subversive!
But I hope you can appreciate why I am asking for your opinions this way. Before I die I simply hope to fill in all the gaps and connect all the dots that might help me understand myself and my fellow peers a little better.
Feb. 12, 2010
Glenn T. Webb
Palm Desert, CA