It may come as a shock…

It may come as a shock… November 9, 2012

but I tend to be idiosyncratic, colloquial and casual in my speech when I blog.  I know.  If you need to lie down for a while as that reality sinks in, I understand.

Anyway, because of this, I toss off little coinages for various ideas under the assumption that a regular reader will generally understand what I’m getting at. Murder Inc for Plannned Parenthood.  The God King to refer to Obama when he acts as a lawless emperor or is worshipped by his adorers (the latter phase seems pretty well dead and gone.  Most of the Lefties I hear from basically sound like Christian righties talking about Romney, “We held our nose and voted for him because the alternative terrified and disgusted us”). (By the way, I really think the rank and file of both parties should turn off FOX/MSNBC, go to a bar and get to know each other, because all y’all have an awful lot in common.)  Salvation Through Leviathan by Any Means Necessary refers to the Right’s–particularly the “prolife” Catholic Right’s–disgusting prostitution to the proposition of ushering in the kingdom of democratic capitalist heaven and national security by acting as court prophet for a right wing torture regime.  And so on.

One of the bits of shorthand I have used over the years is the Thing that Used to be Liberalism (which has passed from saying “the rights of man come not from the generosity of the State, but from hand of God” to “the government is the one thing we all belong to” and, of course, “you are human and get to live when we say so.”  The prostitution of the Left to the abortion license and the culture of death is the great bleeding unhealed wound on the Left that distorts, ruins, and twists all of their often good and noble efforts.  A Left that was authentically open to Life and the conscience of Christians would thrive and prosper, not barely eke out a victory against a moral void like Mitt Romney while treating the 30% of its ranks who are prolife like dung.

Similarly, I have coined the Thing That Used to Be Conservatism with the assumption that people got what I was saying.  One reader did not and asked me to explain the distinction between conservatism and the Thing that Used to Be Conservatism.  Here is what I dashed off in my combox reply.  It’s pretty quick and dirty, but somebody asked me to stick it on the blog, so here it is:

By “the Thing that Used to be Conservatism” I basically have in mind what is commonly referred to has Movement Conservatism. The sort of people who live in a media bubble of FOX, Limbaugh, Talk Radio, and National Review, augmented with stuff like the Blaze, Breitbart, and related propaganda organs. People who seriously believed that Tuesday would be a Romney landslide and who took seriously not merely the idea that Romney sucked less than Obama (intellectually defensible) but that he was a good candidate who was “prolife” and “conservative”. People who think the Bush years were not a catastrophe but a great thing, that the Iraq war was a good idea the Church never opposed, that the erection of a police state only became a bad thing when Obama took over the project, that Ayn Rand is a thinker to be reckoned with, that Sarah Palin was a serious stateswoman and thinker, who never saw an Obama conspiracy theory or denunciation they didn’t like, who believe devoutly in the Immaculate Conception of the State of Israel, who think Mitt Romney was the embodiment of Christian Values, and who never listen to news media outside the bubble just described (except for Christian radio and/or EWTN) lest they be defiled.

By “conservatism” I have in mind, basically, that which seeks to conserve (and intelligently develop) the best of the Western tradition. This means more than “Opposition to deliberately killing the right class of innocents”.  It means opposition to deliberately killing all innocents, including in unjust wars beloved by neocons or in injust actions such as the mass murders of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Dresden.  It means opposition to torture and abuse of prisoners and indefinite detention and cool awesome drone strikes that blow up swarthy foreign children we don’t look at too closely but dismiss as “collateral damage” and ignore.  It includes the idea, not just of subsidiarity (the only part of Catholic social teaching the Thing that Used to Be Conservatism ever discusses–and misinterpets as a synonym for libertarianism), but solidarity and the common good.  It includes even the bits about the preferential option for the poor, peace as the default position for dealing with tension between nations, and the notion that innocent blood cannot be deliberately shed, even when it seems expedient to win a war or look tough on terror.  It is a thing that is intellectually curious and does not lionize figures like Sarah Palin.  It is sober and does not lionize figures like Glenn Beck.  It is morally consistent and does not lionize figures like Newt Gingrich.  It believes the truth is attractive and so does not try to win by lying or propagandizing, but by argument.  It thinks people can be persuaded by reason and should not be stampeded by fear. It governs by moral suasion and not by regarding citizens as beasts to be tempted or threatened. It takes seriously human dignity, even in criminals and terrorists.  It abhors so much as the whiff of racism because it takes seriously the imago Dei.  It rejects the entire consequentialist project that both left and right in this country totally embrace.  It believes we are fallen and that the state exists for the common good of human persons, not human persons for the state.  It puts the family at the center and sees human systems as existing to foster the family.  It is as skeptical of the corporation as of the state.  It lives in reality and realizes that part of what the state does is “redistribute wealth” (we call this “taxation” in English) and so does not fall for demagoguery about “socialism” and “communism”.  Conversely, it is skeptical of the perfectibility of man in this world and so reject all attempts, from utopian communism to utopian neocon dreams of “ending evil”, to immanentize the eschaton.  But unlike Randian class warfare, it does not say, “IF the poor be like to die, they had better do it and help decrease the surplus population.”  That is because it is rooted in the Tradition and recognizes the truth of Abp. Chaput’s words: “If you neglect the poor, you will go to hell.”  Finally, its hope is not in this earth, but in heaven.  So it does not act like the Thing that Used to bbe Conservatism and wrap itself in false prophecy, lies, denial, blame-shifting and despair in order to fend off the self-denying “death” required to practice real self-evaluation, repent, learn and grow.  It trusts that the truth will set you free.  The Thing that Used to be Conservatism fears the truth and prefers illusion.

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