What, Me a Conservative?
As I settled in to read history, speak and teach, and to write for Friends Bulletin, Friends Journal, and Pendle Hill, I was astonished to discover I was gaining the reputation among Quakers of being a conservative. What, me? Socialist at Andover, who sang Solidarity Forever in Boston, whom the landlords in Colombia had called a communist, who had caused a multinational corporation to threaten the University of Pittsburgh? Me, now a conservative? One friend wrote me that "your articles in the Friends Journal enrage our local Meeting, but I guess that's not news to you, is it?" Another complained that I had never shown any sympathy for the thousands of people being killed in El Salvador. I can't quote his exact words, because I tore the letter up.
I began to take stock. I hold a central belief: in the dispersion of power, in the safeguards of pluralism or of numerousness of political groupings and their ability to hold each other accountable for the use of resources, financial, human, and ecological. I oppose concentrations of power, whether in multinational corporations, labor unions, or governments, be they socialist or capitalist. All of these agencies are all right in reasonable dimension; when they overpower, each becomes mainly wrong.
One friend said to me, "The difference between us is that you don't believe government can do anything right, and I believe it can." That too hurt. But he had not known third- world governments as I had, and it is, I suppose, natural to believe that other governments are like one's own. Many