Friday, February 6, 2009

All Our Confederate Heroes

A few posts back on this precious, precious blog, a genuine Christianist and self-described "recovering Republican" offered this comment:

As Stonewall Jackson's Chief of Staff R.L. Dabney said of such a humanistic belief more than 100 years ago:
"[Secular conservatism] is a party which never conserves anything. Its history has been that it demurs to each aggression of the progressive party, and aims to save its credit by a respectable amount of growling, but always acquiesces at last in the innovation. What was the resisted novelty of yesterday is today .one of the accepted principles of conservatism; it is now conservative only in affecting to resist the next innovation, which will tomorrow be forced upon its timidity and will be succeeded by some third revolution; to be denounced and then adopted in its turn. American conservatism is merely the shadow that follows Radicalism as it moves forward towards perdition. It remains behind it, but never retards it, and always advances near its leader. This pretended salt bath utterly lost its savor: wherewith shall it be salted? Its impotency is not hard, indeed, to explain. It is worthless because it is the conservatism of expediency only, and not of sturdy principle. It intends to risk nothing serious for the sake of the truth."
Our country is collapsing because we have turned our back on God (Psalm 9:17) and refused to kiss His Son (Psalm 2).
Jeepers! Who could gainsay the wisdom of Stonewall Jackson's chief of staff?

It's difficult to prove either of the following claims, but I think (a) this Johnny-Reb-Taliban commenter has been working hard to spread this particular insight around the blogosphere since it cribs verbatim from the "mission statement" of his little white trash group whine project; and (b) one of the recipients of the comment was, to all appearances, our dear tortured conservative Andrew Sullivan.

The latter is difficult to prove because Sully's site does not do comments but its author invites feedback via e-mail, to which he often responds on his blog. Difficult to prove, yes, but this sounds like a direct reply to Stonewall Jackson's chief of staff's most ardent living fan:
At what point does it [conservatism] simply become me-tooism for liberalism? It does imply a constant long-term defeat, as cultural and social liberalism make their in-roads, or even as Christianism and Islamism wax and wane as neurotic religious responses to modernity. But conservatism's genius is to be cheerful and imaginative in managing defeat; and conservatives can always hope that the increasing complexity of modern society will make libertarian and federalist approaches more appealing, because they are the only ones capable of keeping such a multi-cultural polity in one piece. Only the market is smart enough to govern effectively in the immensely complex societies of our time (although the market itself of course requires constant regulation). And the new technologies of information have acted as a solvent to some of the more collectivist impulses of our era. There's also no reason why lovers of the past can't adapt to social change by adjusting existing institutions to coopt new social realities.
Suffice to say that for all this sunny talk of conservatism's "cheerful" mien and "imaginative" responses to what it labels defeat, Stonewall Jackson's chief of staff is exactly the authority to fix in the mind when pondering the reality: Stonewall Jackson fought to preserve human chattel slavery and against the "immense complexity" of ending it. That's conservatism in action -- bad-faith temporizing by another name.

Certainly I agree with Sullivan's tone more than with the Christianist's bile, but with that said, conservatism should really just go fuck itself, as its recent standard bearer famously told a member of the US Senate. And from where I sit, Sullivan should just call what he does "pragmatism" or "pragmatism hitched to anti-tax prejudices" or something else that avoids the invidious association with this perversity.

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