Celebration Celebrates Wrong Things

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Byline: GUEST VIEWPOINT By Brian M. Thompson For The Register-Guard

I read with interest The Register-Guard's editorial last September about the absence of conservatives at last year's Eugene Celebration. I concurred with the editors' observation. I come from conservative roots, and although I can clearly identify the events and aspects that keep me away from the celebration, I was unable to articulate my reasons.

As 2006 passed into 2007, the question stayed with me. I purchased a few books mentioned in the pages of The Register-Guard: "Who Really Cares," by Arthur Brooks, and "Generation Me," by Jean Twenge. In these books, along with "Deus Caritas Est" (God Is Love), Pope Benedict's first encyclical, the divide between left and right becomes clear.

Brooks, director of the Nonprofit Studies Program at Syracuse University, describes himself as a stereotypical liberal professor. He studies the economic aspects of charitable giving. He was forced to change his political views based upon the strength of the evidence he revealed. His research has clearly shown that conservatives are far more charitable - by any measure - than liberals. Further, being charitable makes conservatives happier, healthier and more successful.

Brooks defines four characteristics of conservatism: religious faith, stable two-parent families, personal entrepreneurism, and an opposition to government income redistribution.

The data are compelling. Whether rich or poor, conservatives give more than liberals. Conservatives give more of themselves in all aspects of American life, including volunteerism. If liberals gave blood at the rate that conservatives do, donations would rise by 45 percent. The data even show that being charitable is associated with being more honest and courteous.

Ralph Nader, the Green Party candidate for president in 2000, has stated: "A society that has more justice is a society that needs less charity." The reality is far different. Government income redistribution is clearly linked with a reduction in charitable giving. Income redistribution is taking us in the wrong direction. Charity is the right direction. Charity makes us happier, because it is a form of love.

Another form of love is self-love, also known as self-esteem. The liberal secular progressive movement has made self-esteem a priority. Children who grew up in the 1970s, '80s, and '90s have been raised to "be themselves" and to focus on the individual without regard to society or the greater good. These people are the subject of "Generation Me," by Jean Twenge, an associate professor of psychology at San Diego State University. She is also a member of "Generation Me."

Twenge studied why "today's young Americans are more confident, assertive, entitled - and more miserable than ever." Twenge writes: "Self-esteem is an outcome, not a cause...?. It just doesn't do much good to encourage a child to feel good about himself; just to feel good." She goes on to show that unconditional self-esteem tends to lead to narcissism. And "Narcissism," Twenge writes, "is one of the few personality traits that psychologists agree is almost completely negative. …