Sunday, August 20, 2017

Reflections on Conservatism in the Wake of Charlottesville

Charlottesville "Unite the Right" Rally (35780290814)The American people have elected a man who has no idea of shame as their president, and I surprised myself by feeling particularly incensed to see the way he confidently assumed he could disrespect a gold star family and then count, not only on the obedience and professionalism but the political support of the American service chiefs. Last week, his service chiefs served a quiet but determined notice: they would obey him but never willingly acquiesce to the corruption and dishonour of the military they served. After witnessing white supremacists parading with the symbols of slavery and genocide, and their president refusing to condemn either the ugly ideology or its uglier, murderous display, the chiefs of the American services: Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps issued a series of statements condemning white supremacy and warning potential recruits their services had no place for bias or racism.

The American service chiefs, and many of their business counterparts, displayed the  principled conservatism  the moment called for. They aligned themselves with great conservative thinkers such as Burke and Wilberforce, who grasped the necessity of change to continuity. Only by understanding what needs discarding can a society keep what it most values. Without this principle, conservatism devolves into reaction; either an impotent pearl clutching at the latest excesses of social change, or else a vicious defence of unjust privileges.

Ideally, the Left will adhere to principles in the same way. Without a vision of just and right social relations, and a clear path to make those relations a reality, leftist action can easily devolve into impotent virtue signalling. In their best expression, the Left and Right broadly cooperate, with the Left pushing for change, and the Right providing the caution to ensure the process does not destroy things we all want to keep.

The ideal doesn't describe the state of politics in the United States now, and has not for some time.

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