Liberal and Conservative Together

Winter and the Future Moon (it will take us into 2020. expect a flying car on your roof.)

Boxing Day gratefuls: for liberals and conservatives. for the divine ohr within you. for all those who, with Ram Dass, got walked home in 2019. for this still great nation and its painful troubles. for the decade now ending. for pick-up service at King Sooper. for The Happy Camper and Colorado’s marijuana laws.

Columnist Max Boot of the Washington Post wrote, in a column extolling the mores of Downtown Abbey, that it shows:

…a humane, instinctual conservatism that embodies the wisdom of philosopher Michael Oakeshott: “To be conservative, then, is to prefer the familiar to the unknown, to prefer the tried to the untried, fact to mystery, the actual to the possible, the limited to the unbounded, the near to the distant, the sufficient to the superabundant, the convenient to the perfect, present laughter to Utopian bliss.” Present-day “conservatives” must rediscover this sensibility if they are to rescue their movement from its populist-nationalist abyss.washington post

This is a crie de couer and I hear it. If we reverse the dialectics, to be liberal, then, is to prefer the unknown to the known, the untried to the tried, mystery to fact, the possible to actual, the distant to the near, the superabundant to the sufficient, Utopian bliss to present laughter.

Not quite. I do not prefer the unknown, the untried, mystery over fact, the possible, the distant, the superabundant, or Utopian bliss. No. I, too, live mostly with the familiar, the tried, fact, the actual, the near, the sufficient. In fact, I live mostly within these “conservative” parameters. It would be difficult not to.

Trump, whom Boot was decrying rather than liberals, is neither liberal nor conservative. He is a reactionary. It’s right there in his motto: Make America Great Again. Unpack Great. He meant then and means now, an America untroubled by women, by visible minorities, by unions, by environmentalists and their regulations, by governmental niceties like taxes and legislation and democracy and, especially, by the rule of law. He meant an America who is a friend to the authoritarian and in struggle with its allies.

The reactionary is a foe of the liberal and the conservative alike. We can join arms because in the end we both want a civil society. Yes, I may want, too, a more just civil society than even Obama’s America. I may be more comfortable with the mysteries of the universe, with the unknown, with the untried, but that is because I know we can be better than we are. That does not mean I prefer them. It means they are tools, time telescopes to see a better future.

Certainly, a future without Trumpian disdain for decency and justice, yes, at least that. But also a future without an upstairs/downstairs division. A future where the old can age with dignity and without fear. A future where the world marks collaboration and opportunity as ascendant values over political competition. Most of all, right now, an anti-dystopian future where the capitalist class is not allowed to rend and tear our planet without regard to human prospects.

I’m with Boot though. First our nation must be delivered from the “populist-nationalist abyss” into which it has sunk. This may not be the Mariana’s Trench of our history, but it’s as far beneath the surface as we’ve been in my lifetime. This maelstrom of greed and envy and unchecked desire is anathema to both those who prefer the familiar and those who yearn for an unfamiliar, but just society. Let’s rise up from this pit together. Then we can argue again, check each other’s baser impulses, and get back a world that has a future.