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I have a pretty simple question. This is not meant to alienate anyone, but I’m curious about the answer. If you consider yourself a conservative, and claim government as the enemy, why would you want to be a part of the system?

I’m not quite sure when conservatism became synonymous with spending no money and dismantling government as we know it, but here we are. If you’d like to reform the system in such a way that it better serves people, to make it more efficient, I understand that. That does not, however, mean destroying the Environmental Protection Agency, privatizing all education, and taking a sledgehammer to unions. It doesn’t mean cutting food stamp programs by billions of dollars to starving children and families because Ayn Rand gave you the idea that you could pull yourself up by your bootstraps and, you know, ideologically, it just doesn’t sit well with you that there are people out there “getting handouts”.

Recently, I was attacked by someone as I know as being the kind of person who “loves government”, and who defends its practices. While this is a blanket statement–I don’t support everything the federal government of the United States does–yes, I tend to support government. Since when should that be an insult?

This is a word of warning to the anarchists and the so-called libertarians and all the others who fancy themselves modern day revolutionaries. We live in a country comprised of approximately 320 million people. Among those 320 million, there are varying states of education, income, opportunities, and health conditions. Even from state to state, living conditions vary widely. We live in a patchwork society of diverse demographics, from age to culture to ethnicity.

But more important than even our differences are our connections to one another. Even if you don’t believe in a kumbaya ideal or attach the words “communism” or “socialism” to anything that remotely resembles cooperation, you have to admit that we must interact with one another in society. We merge on the same roads. We go to schools and workplaces with others. We purchase goods and services on a daily basis. These are the basics.

And we all benefit from services provided by the government from traffic lights to mail delivery to public libraries. It was often cited in the direct aftermath of the recent government shutdown that the biggest winners were the National Parks. Even the most self reliant among us love our national parks. And who can resist nature? Thoreau did write about Walden Pond, after all.

Government–from the lowest levels to the highest–has a role to play. This role is a significant one. Whether we’re talking about “entitlement” programs or passing the very laws that enable us to live in a stable society, we need government.

Grover Norquist’s colorful imagery of shrinking government to the point that we can “drown it in the bathtub” is disgusting. I’d really like to see where all these people would be without government services.

You can’t say “hands off my guns” (and my taxes and my religion), and then decide that government overreach is non-existent when it comes to “pension reform” or controlling reproductive choices or shutting down marriage equality or denying atheists and secularists the same respect as religion (often mainstream Christianity) is afforded.

Is that the real aim: to remake society in one’s own image? To so fundamentally alter the landscape of the United States as to comport a self-styled combination of the Bible and the “good old days”? To decry diversity and change and progress? Perhaps the most effective way is to declare the evils of the monstrous government that swallows all of our money, that ever-growing Leviathan run by the evil corporatists and opportunists who work in a place worse than hell. This place–gasp–is called Washington, D.C., and it’s where dreams go to die. Worse yet, it’s where the government bogeymen are killing all of your dreams too.

…Except that many of the government haters work there too. From local governments to state houses, thousands of people who won elections on the idea that government is the root of all evil are reaping its benefits in the form of salaries, health care, jobs, contracts, success, relative levels of fame, and the furtherance of their agendas using the tool that’s supposed to be their kryptonite.

I’m a vegetarian. I hate the entire system that goes into the production of killing animals so that people can eat them. Do I continue to eat meat, and say how horrible the system is? No. If it’s so abhorrent to you, government haters, how can you be a part of it? Are you trying to change it from the inside, out? That begins with a respect for its very existence and the admission that you want to be a part of that system, at the very least. If principle is so important, at least be honest with the public and yourselves.