Guest Editorial by August West
The news today is crazy and we bear witness to everything from the repugnant to the mesmerizing to the humorous to the bizarre. Two years ago we would have never guessed that many conservatives would forget about conservatism, liberals would remember the rule of law, Republicans would forget about fiscal responsibility, evangelicals would forget about Christianity, self-proclaimed capitalists would forget about free trade. We would not have guessed that a large segment of the population who were once respected would prefer a casual dalliance with lies and over substantive facts and data.
We could not know that big government would be condoned by the Freedom Caucus, conservative Congressional lions would cower to a lifelong liberal and bribing porn stars would be cheered by the party who endorses family values. We could not know that athletes should not have free speech, Russians are our friends, our president would endorse Neo-Nazis as “fine people” nor that a Republican Congress would abdicate its responsibility as a co-equal branch of our government. We could not know that the one elected official who should be a bulwark advocate for intelligence and law enforcement agencies would spend most of his time trying to break them. We could not know that those who stood so firmly and proudly against the abyss of liberalism would turn so abruptly and decisively towards it. We could not know that politicians who were elected to defend us against tyranny would hide so conspicuously in plain site.
We did not ask for this and most of the decent folks do not want the rapidly deteriorating state of our civility, democracy and rule of law. Lies have supplanted the truth and good people have been turned against each other. With a little help from our politicians Russia has been able to score a few points against us and it is going to take some time to recover. Like any schism, these events separate fine citizens from each other. Difficult times test convictions and flesh out those who are committed to values from those who take a more fair weather approach to their beliefs.
I do not say this from a self righteous position. Like most, I too am to blame for this reckoning. For example, once, I believed that an audacious winding wall would be an impactful deterrent to illegal immigration. The conclusion seemed so logical and evident. I cheered as my favorite news network gave me an unfair, unbalanced view of perceived truth and I consumed this information as if no other option was available. However, now that this concept is on the precipice I have been forced to further vet and investigate the propriety of this idea. As I have further delved into the logic of a border wall, I can now see the depths of financial, moral and pragmatic irresponsibility that is contained in this misguided vision. In essence, my intellectual laziness has been exposed and I must break from those who I once agreed with. When push comes to shove, I suppose I never felt as strongly or as securely as I claimed. In hindsight, my belief in the border wall may have been fair weather at best.
I noticed this juxtaposition most distinctly the first few times I visited a few sites of what is now called the Alt-Right. I always knew that this was not my style of conservatism but I viewed them like a distant cousin. I saw it similar to National Lampoon’s Vacation where I would take my klunky Griswold style of conservatism on a roadtrip to visit Uncle Eddie and his unorthodox and quirky family. My naivate extended into a belief that I could find common cause amongst these related strangers and I may discover another arrow for my intellectual quiver.
What I found dampened my enthusiasm and destroyed my collegiality. I witnessed dark and slanted articles, intentional omissions and some outright lies. I saw commenters who used threats of violence, racial epithets and utilized name calling rather than wielding any intellectual prowess or analytical skills. I saw mods who were asleep at the wheel while cretins, Russians and bigots pervaded the discussion threads.
After a few trips to these far away places I left insulted, embarrassed, confused and concerned. My head hurt, I felt less intelligent than before I went in and, I swear, my keyboard smelled like Arby’s. I have now jettisoned those sites completely.
My friends, it is now time for tough love. Like it or not, this separation is real. This separation is happening. This separation, particularly among those who claim the mantle of the Conservative movement, will continue to accelerate. The earth has shifted beneath us and people are forced to distinguish what is relevant, what is important and what is the truth. Many will cling to their security blanket and stay with what they know, even if deep inside they know it is a fraud. Others will immigrate to other places of thought and continue their search for what they believe will make them better people. The term Conservatism is no longer monolithic. Rather, it has been shattered into thousands of shards, some that are sharp and dangerous.
Although I encourage everyone be an internet Captain Kirk, seeking out new places and ideas, please keep in mind of the split that we are witnessing among the right. Everyday I see people commenting at TNB about battles at other sites. They act surprised and angered that some people ignore evident truths to cover for their favorite politician. If you are getting agitated and frustrated I just have this advice: this is not changing. This is the new normal. This is the world we live in. If you don’t like it then don’t go back to those sites. If you find it tolerable then visit at will, knowing that there can be honest differences between good people.
Like reuniting with high school friends, you do not have to feel bad if you no longer have anything in common. Simply remember the similarities you shared before you both grew apart and continue to move forward. You must come to the point where you accept who these people are now and that they will never be what you want them to be again. They will say the same about you, and may not be wrong when they say it.
If you visit old friends be respectful. If you occasionally fight with old friends then keep it between old friends. If you always fight with old friends then don’t visit them anymore. Showing off battle scars inflicted by old friends does not help you, your old friends nor your new friends.
In the words of Thomas Wolfe, “You can’t go home again.”