My liberal inclinations started at a young age.  This photograph, from the Dec. 1, 1977 issue of the Oregon State University student newspaper The Barometer, was taken on my 23rd birthday when I was arrested along with 121 other protesters in an act of non-violent civil disobedience against the now defunct Trojan Nuclear Power Plant in Oregon.  My friend Marv Pace and I were two of only three protesters who pleaded guilty to trespassing, and therefore accepted the consequences of our actions in the spirit of our hero, Mohandas Gandhi.

The article that follows was my 2004 response to the vicious attacks on liberals by right-wing politicians and radio/tv personalities such as the blatantly biased FOX "News" celebrities.  It first appeared as a guest editorial in the Corvallis Gazette-Times and later appeared on the website (now a part of and on the Don Quixote Society Website.  It represents my beliefs in 1968 when I campaigned door-to-door for Hubert Humphrey (I was 13 years-old); and in 1977 when I was arrested at Trojan; and today when I seriously wonder if our nation will ever realize its true potential.

Why I Am Not a Conservative

by Joseph Fulton

Conservatives would have us believe that liberals are out to destroy our country. A popular conservative refrain is that two types of people live in the United States: Americans and liberals. That might be funny except that it's a grotesque distortion of American history. The fact is that every single significant movement advocating an expansion of American liberty has been initiated by liberals and violently opposed by conservatives.

The Abolitionist movement, led by unapologetic liberals like William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips and Frederick Douglass, was viciously opposed by conservatives in both the North and the South and many abolitionists were murdered or imprisoned.

The Reconstruction of the South following the Civil War was perhaps the boldest liberal experiment in American history, but it was crushed by southern whites who called themselves "The Conservatives" and formed terrorist clubs like the Ku Klux Klan.

The Woman's Rights Convention of 1848 and the subsequent woman's suffrage movement were spearheaded by the indomitable liberal Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Conservatives cried out from pulpits and the halls of Congress against this dangerous attack on "traditional family values." Courageous suffragists would endure 72 years of brutal harassment by conservatives before securing the right to vote.

The noble effort to reform labor laws and protect working class people was led by a diverse group of liberals from Jane Addams to Eugene Debs who were fought every step of the way by conservatives, even when it came to child labor reform!

Finally, during the Civil Rights movement of the 20th century brave liberal Americans, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., gave their lives in the fight for equal rights for black Americans. Live television coverage exposed the ugliness of the southern conservatives' opposition to Civil Rights.

Today many good people are being hoodwinked into thinking themselves conservative because of the new mantra that conservatives are more patriotic and more Christian than liberals. They are neither.

The conservative philosophy is not patriotic because it seeks to squelch political dissent and it mocks cultural diversity - the two most important aspects of both our history and our unique American democracy.

Conservatism cannot be Christian because it embraces all sorts of violence including the death penalty, unrestricted sale of firearms, destructive exploitation of our environment and preemptive military invasions against defenseless nations.

Conservatives make a big deal out of their support for the "unborn," but this is an easy position because it doesn't cost a dime. It's when people are actually born into this world that conservatives lose their compassion.

Conservatives lead the fights against tax measures and legislation to fund education and human resources, but they happily support measures to put more people in prison and build more bombs.

Conservatives have always thrived on fear; fear of change, fear of the future, and especially fear of those who are different. They react to this fear by picking on other people; newly freed slaves, women seeking equal rights, immigrant laborers seeking better pay and now gay Americans asking for the most basic of all rights - the right to love and to be loved.

So if you want to be on the wrong side of American history and the wrong side of humanity, go ahead and call yourself a conservative. As for me, I believe that America will rediscover its great liberal tradition and once again strive to become a progressive, creative nation that stands as a beacon of hope for "the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free."

Copyright 2004 Joseph Fulton

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