Monday, November 5, 2018

How I Became a Conservative

I've been coming to the realization slowly over the past few years, and it feels a little strange.

I mean, it does.  It's weird.  I'd always thought of myself as a little edgy, a little wild.  I fought the Man, or at least wrote snarky blog posts about the Man.  I was liberal.  My friends were liberals and leftists and anarchists and progressives.

They still are.

But I am kind of conservative now.  I mean, I am.  It's how I feel.  It's an odd thing, but I can't resist it.  While I still share significant common cause with my more earnestly prog comrades, I no longer  fully inhabit that realm.

It's probably because I am no longer young.  I no longer inhabit that place where I'm the prime demographic.  That, and I tend to creak and ache most mornings.

My wife notes it, as I gradually become more curmudgeonly.  "Honey, you really don't need to yell at those kids on our lawn," she'll say.  "But those are squirrels, dear," I'll reply.  "No, honey, those are kids.  You really should get your eyes checked," she'll reply, for the hundredth exasperated time.

That conservatism manifests itself in a range of other ways beyond my nascent presbyopia.  Like, for instance, I believe that individuality and personhood are more vital than systems, labels and categories.  I refuse to relinquish the idea that grace is a higher purpose than justice, and that the Good is a universal, not culturally subjective or personally relative.

I'm not convinced that deconstruction and disruption are inherently good.  I would rather have one true friend than a thousand "allies."

But two details of my newly found conservatism seem particularly important.

First:  I am a liberal.

It's an odd thing, a paradox, perhaps.  How can a liberal be conservative?  But it's my "lived experience."  I am a liberal, with liberal perspectives.  And the fact of my liberality makes me conservative.   I think that all things should be considered, carefully, before leaping to judgement.   I believe that bias in encounter with a new thing is unacceptable, and that we need to take and consider everything carefully and respectfully.

Not that I don't have opinions.  Lord, do I.  I also have a moral compass, one dictated by a deeply held faith.

But liberality has always meant leavening what you know with the possibility that the Other has something to offer.  It does not mean "left wing," because there has never been any functional difference between the bolshevik and the brownshirt.

Neither is liberal.  Neither is open to the soul and personhood of the Other.

And liberality seems a thing of the past in this era of social media hysterics, as our positions calcify and radicalize.  We are driven to be loudest, to be shrillest, to be roaring and bullying and mocking.  That's what gets the RTs and the likes and the shares.  That's what starts the fights, and fights draw our attention, and attention means our blog can be monetized.

Circumspect and measured?  Who wants that?  Dull.  Liberality has always been a little boring.  And so it fades into the rearview mirror.

Being that it's a thing of the past, well, that's where I'm conservative.

I hold on to a liberal worldview, because it's a good that should never have been lost, and that can't be forgotten if our republic is to stand.

Second: The current POTUS and his regime.

I do not use his name, not typically.  It seems to play into his brand, and his hegemonic black-hole ego-vortex ever-presence in media.  I never speak it in my sanctuary, because it would profane a sacred space.

But I can say this: Donald J. Trump has made me conservative.

Conservatism, after all, is holding on to the good.  Particularly the good that is threatened by misbegotten change.  Conservatism's best spirit sees where a culture has wandered from the story of its God-dreamed best self, and points the way back to that path.

I do not want the crass, false, boorish and bullying America that this presidency represents.  It bears no resemblance to the best graces of a nation I deeply love.

Donald J. Trump is a mark of America's decadence, and of our moral decay as a people.

I mean, sweet Mary and Joseph, look at him.  Let the scales drop from your eyes, and look at him.

See his story, crude and grasping and lascivious.  He shamelessly appeals to a leprous racial blight in the American soul, a sweet dark creamy rot in our national flesh that we've never fully excised.  He has no vision, no imagination, offering nothing but japing lies, transparent hucksterism, and brassy cruelty.

I want none of that.

Because I am conservative.