As many of you can probably guess, I was disappointed at the results of the latest presidential election. And as I write this, after reading a number of articles from many voices within the conservative community (for that is what it is, less a movement and more a community) and having an imagination that knows practical limits, I imagine myself writing this on a sheet of paper in a small pub or brew-house somewhere in the Mid-Atlantic Coast area or small-time urban area (preferably South Carolina, Virginia, or Georgia, though New Hampshire and Western Pennsylvania come to mind as well), sitting and musing about the current state of affairs of my intellectual preference over a lovingly-brewed craft beer. I can see myself: dressed like I'm from the Fifties, pen in hand, fingers cupping my chin in thought, my eyes glazed in contemplation (or perhaps too much to drink...). Thus I begin to write.
Now, more than ever, do I fully understand that to be a conservative is to largely run against the grain of the zeitgeist. Conservatism as a community and as an strain of thought is not meant to, as The National Review stated in its mission, "Stand Athwart History, Yelling "Stop!" because trying to stop the illusion of progress (and that is what most of what we see today is illusion) is like trying to stop a freight train. Rather, we should shout "Slow Down! Come on over and have a beer and put up your feet! Sunset's about to happen and Ma's got some pie ready! Relax and enjoy the moment!" Perhaps this sounds too much like something that is naive or unattainable. But it is the essential spirit of a conservative; that, and a Sunday service and blessed meal afterward.
I said not too long ago in a Facebook discussion that "...wealth is neither the end nor the means in regards to happiness and life; it's the icing on the cake." Too many people in the US have forgotten this, or worse, never knew it. We all aspire to greatness and wealth and power: it's natural. I have worried about this myself: I don't want to be just another soul to add to a list, loved in life (and perhaps hated, but I hope not) but ultimately forgotten by time. But even the most minuscule influence I can have in the development of not only a good son or daughter, but a beloved neighbor and a virtuous citizen and faithful Christian is worth more to me than all the gold in the world. I aspire to be prosperous, but I must remember that there are many faces of prosperity, the same as there are many faces to conservatism and to good beer and pie.
The vitality of conservatism is its infinite variety, the same variety that Russell Kirk spoke so lovingly of in his magnum opus, The Conservative Mind. And we must keep in mind that we are all human: we make mistakes. Perhaps we as a community have made too many mistakes in the past several decades, so rabidly anti-Left that we failed to treat our own cancers. A true conservative understands that he cannot be perfected, nor is he infallible. That's fine by me. The more we understand our limits not only as men but also as a community, the better we can serve our local communities, our families, our churches. That means looking at things from a dozen different perspectives.
The most important thing that I believe that most conservatives have missed is that, unlike our competitors, we are not political animals. Politics may be important, ideas may be important, but the tantamount point of life is to bring oneself closer not only to God but to our fellow man through contact and relationships-in essence, true brotherhood and fraternity, not the false ragdoll presented as fraternity by the other side. And in spite of our setbacks of late, we must remain as we are: merry folk, hard workers, sober thinkers. Instead of quarreling amongst ourselves and pointing fingers, what is really needed is a congenial sit-down and ironing out of our problems. It's time to look at our places in our nation with clarity and humility, but also with congeniality.
The intellectual choices and reading lists for conservatism read like an overview of craft-brews from all over the nation, but they do share something in common: I much prefer the variety and soul of the many ideas and thinkers and books that I find, much like the craft brews I find, over the massive, the conglomerate, the universal with destroys individual identity. I believe that Wilhelm Ropke coined the term "enmassement," and I do believe he knew what he was talking about. We have a treasure trove of excellent and thought-provoking ideas and thinkers that we have largely neglected. That must change above all else.
Further, we must stop the entirety of our focus upon economics. I realize, as does any thinking conservative, that the economy and economics is a looming figure in our lives. But I argue that it should not consume us. We may be economic creatures, but we have allowed ourselves to be defined by our class and status and wealth and our character, virtue, and dignity sorely neglected. We are created in God's Image, and it's about time we remembered this.
In conclusion, on November 7, I awoke disappointed and, to be honest, quite angry. I felt cheated, I felt abandoned, I felt betrayed. I wept a little at the thoughts of the future and the clouds of the storm looming there. But these thoughts, though shared by many friends, were dispelled by the simple joy and humor of being amongst my fellow Delts and students. In short, I stopped trying to read the tea leaves of politics (to an extent) and savored the joys of life's brew. Life went on on that Nov. 7 morning, and so it shall, come hell and high water. And while I don't condone naivete, optimism is optimism.