True conservatives need to step up
“Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion.”
So wrote Edmund Burke, whom modern conservative thinkers consider their intellectual godfather, even “patron saint.”
Burke also wrote, “All government, indeed every human benefit and enjoyment, every virtue, and every prudent act, is founded on compromise and barter.”
Senate President John Morse is potentially facing a recall election because he followed Burke’s dictum by not sacrificing his judgment to vocal constituents’ opinion with regard to several gun control measures and for agreeing to compromise, anathema to Tea Party adherents and Second Amendment absolutists.
In referencing both sides of the political spectrum in writing over the years, I have used terms that seemingly are interchangeable but for me carry subtle differences, inferences, and nuances.
With regard to those of us of liberal or progressive persuasion, I have called us both as well as pragmatists and leftists. On the other side, I have struggled to accurately describe those who ostensibly adhere to conservative positions because of my sense the days of William F. Buckley/Barry Goldwater conservatism have withered away or at least become bastardized.
Righties or rightwing fire-breathers and ideologues seem more apt appellations for them. Nevertheless, whatever you call them, please don’t call them, particularly the Second Amendment fire-breathing absolutists in Morse’s district, conservative because they’re not.
Jack Kerwick, Ph.D. in The New American insists on that when he writes, “Familiarity with Burke is necessary if the members of our conservative party are going to start acting like conservatives.”
Hmm, “act like conservatives”: that’s an interesting turn of the phrase. One can argue that indeed such folks mentioned above do “act the part,” but as it is for actors on a stage, it’s only a role. Their true cloth from which they’re cut is anything but conservative.
Still, it’s an admonition I can assure Kerwick that falls on deaf ears because to consider it, one needs to rise above passion and allow reason to guide his/her behavior. Holding that unlimited access to and ownership of weapons and ammunition is an absolute right is not a worthy, thoughtful, intellectual place, no more than holding the First Amendment gives permission to defame, libel, or use words or images that are considered profane or pornographic in a very public sphere is.
As Burke notes in his condemnation of the absolutism of the French Revolution, “To give freedom is still more easy. It is not necessary to guide; it only requires to let go the rein.
“But to form a free government; that is, to temper together these opposite elements of liberty and restraint in one’s work, requires much thought, deep reflection, a sagacious, powerful, and combining mind.”
Note that Burke puts everything in context of the rational, not in weaponry. The reason is weaponry, when not used for purposes of hunting, is predicated upon fear, a base passion related to anger, and as Burke once again notes, “No passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear.”
A fundamental distinction between those of us on the left and our rightward brethren is our emphasis on First Amendment rights being the critical buttresses against government overreach, excesses, and even fascism, and theirs being on the Second Amendment. I don’t need a gun. This keyboard and column and my radio show are my weapons.
Another difference is fear of others, particularly “the others,” those somewhat or a whole lot different in appearance, custom, faith, or belief. Liberals/progressives are not intrinsically fearful of those different from us. It’s called inclusion or cultural diversity in the pop social/political lingo. Modern so-called conservatism is, so much so it borders for some on paranoia. As our old friend Charlie Brown would express it, “Good Grief!”
Diversity is crucial in any population, from flowers to people. It’s called cross pollination. There’s a reason we are appalled by and, thus, forbid siblings producing children. A diverse, open, and tolerant community is superior to a parochial one that becomes stagnant and feeble.
Ideas and economic collapse are what brought down the Soviet Empire, not Ronald Reagan’s macho Star Wars—remember that hair-brained concoction?—program. We, the West, simply had better ideas, personal liberty among them.
When one bases his/her action on anger and fear—siblings, by the way—he/she is not acting in a conservative manner. True conservatives will condemn the recall. I doubt, however, we’re likely to hear such voices.