Can Grown-Ups Save Conservatism? A Preface
June 28, 2016 2 Comments
Considering what has happened to conservatism, and conservatives, politically, ideologically, culturally, even morally, in the past eleven months because of the rise of Donald Trump, it may come as a surprise to you that I wrote the bulk of this article five years ago in September, 2011 when another outsider was making a run for the presidency. His name is Herman Cain.
But this has been a subject that has colored my thinking about modern conservatism, and how it defines itself, since at least the arrival of Barack Obama. After all, I’ve been on speaking terms with conservatism since Barry Goldwater ran for president in 1964 (because my father admired him).
So I’m old enough to notice things.
Only this week I was drawn into a Twitter exchange with a couple of snarling pit vipers about Hillary’s well-documented shortcomings as an honest person. I assumed the two ladies were young, under 40, maybe even 30, but noticed that in every exchange they included the twitter handle of Jonah Goldberg at National Review Online. So I was unsure if they were EverHillary’s or NeverTrumpsters. (You NeverTrumpsters should take note that without context you do sound remarkably similar.) I wanted to ferret out which side they were on, as well as fire a broadside at Goldberg, who is one of my favorite Trump-bashing targets because of his meritless elitism and irreverent deviance from what I always considered true conservatism to be. To establish that, I mentioned to the Valkyries that I met Jonah’s mom in the early 90’s, who I was introduced to by a former member of the Reagan Administration, and who, along with Bill Buckley’s brother, James, was a founder of the Conservative Party of New York.
They hung up, or whatever they call it on Twitter.
A recurring problem exists on the Right of allowing pride and vanity to over-shadow the fight against the Left reminding me that pride always heralds a coming fall (Prov 16:18), a fall Ameruica can little afford.
We need to distinguish conservatism culturally from the Left, and our youngsters seem not equipped to do it.
American culture must trump politics.
* * * * * *
Used to be, by the time you were 30 you were grown-up and by the time you were 40, you were entering middle age, considered then a man’s prime. Those were to be our best years, where maturity and experience combined to mold a man equipped to achieve at his highest level, his station in life built on the respect he had earned from his peers.
When I was growing up, that was the place I wanted to get to. Like Rush Limbaugh, I couldn’t wait to be grown-up. In my time (I’m five years older than Rush) almost all our heroes and role models were grown-ups. From Washington to Jefferson to Neil Armstrong to John Wayne, everyone looked up to them. We picked our film stars from men we wanted to be like in some way.
We didn’t so much want to be like them as to be respected as they were respected.
I couldn’t wait to outgrow the assumption that I carried the same sort of self-absorption that had tagged my generation. I assumed everyone looked at me like I didn’t know a thing (which I didn’t) and knowing I’d never done a thing worth mentioning (which I hadn’t).
To be a grown-up you had to have a resume in life and experience, not just semester hours, so I went about making one. At 30 I was a captain in the Army. By 40 I was in senior management in a Fortune 500 manufacturing company, followed by 25 years in the old Soviet World. And while I write these days I only watched and listened in those days. I was boots-on-the-ground for over 50 of my years.
These are still required habits necessary to moving about in the world of the grown-up.
And that’s the thing, I think. Like the author, I write now, but until I was in my late 50s, I didn’t, I went, I did, and I found out what worked. What worked in practical electrical work, in leading men, in assembling teams, in life, and yes, in religion as well. Unlike him, I didn’t have the advantage of being a military officer, although I somehow absorbed much of the ethos, probably through reading history.
When I was a child, I hungered and thirsted most for the respect of adults, to be given the responsibility to keep the yard mowed, (regardless of my hay fever) all five acres of woodland, to have a responsible job. Yes, I started working for dad when I was 13, as an assistant staking engineer, planning new power lines, as well as wiring my first building on my own.
Most of my friends were farmers kids, and were much the same, they were working from the time they could run a shovel and/or a tractor. Most of us loved it, it meant we were being treated like an adult, finally, and it was something we had earned. It wasn’t given to us.
The real lessons were the timeless ones of how adults did things, how they thought, and how to overcome difficulties rather than whingeing about them.
The Baby Boom Infarction
But I was a Baby-Boomer, and among us arose a cult of youth which has consumed each succeeding generation since. It may yet be the death of us all.
Now, there are dozens of ingredients that go into becoming “grown-up,” but I will dwell on only one or two here, as they have a bearing on the future of conservatism (and America). In short, the youth culture that arose out of my generation contained some sociological ingredients that prevented them from ever growing-up in the cultural sense, regardless of biological age, and these ingredients severed the best from the brightest.
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At thirteen, most of us understood this completely
When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child:
but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
Would that all of our contemporaries, conservative and liberal, American, British, or anybody else, had our advantage, for truly we learned this is the price of adulthood.