Tuesday, February 17, 2009

End of Right Patriotism?

I explore whether we are seeing a reversal of Left and Right on the matter of patriotism, here.

My conclusion:

It may indeed be the case of a rejuvenation of pre-Reagan conservatism, drawing deeply from the works of such authors as Kirk, Weaver, Niebuhr and other “pessimists” (or, I would submit, Realists) may doom any such New/Old/Paleo conservatism to irrelevancy in the American narrative. However, if some of its basic message has remained the same, times have decidedly changed. Faced with a collapsing economic system, the undoing of the American-led Post-World War II global consensus, the growing evidence of environmental and moral depletion all around us, the message of conservative realism may be ripe for a re-hearing and reassessment. Everywhere people are realizing that the message of optimism - don’t worry, be happy, and pay for it tomorrow - was in fact a message of deception, duplicity and fraud. Neither the mainstream Left nor Right appear capable of speaking meaningfully to the import of this moment. Ironically, the very moment that the Left has re-connected to its message of “liberal faith” may be the very moment when that faith is proven to be too much evidence of things unseen. In the meantime, a critique of the American narrative - combined with a reconsideration of “Another America,” a tradition of localism, community, self-government based in limits, a culture of memory and tradition, undergirded by faith and virtue - may have found its moment. For starters, its heroes are more likely to be the likes of the Anti-federalists (see Bill Kauffman’s book on Luther Martin for a start) than the triumphalist narrative of the Founders and their creation of an empire of liberty. Its cultural heroes are more likely to be the Waltons rather than the celebrity flavor of the month (I can’t recommend enough a re-viewing of this series, now more than ever, courtesy of Netflix. We have been watching it with our children for some months, and it is salutary and decent beyond description). I speak here of a revival of patriotism, alright, but a patriotism based in places and folkways, not abstraction and expansion. Thus, perhaps not the sort of patriotism we are used to, but one of noble lineage and one that will need good storytellers to begin to displace an otherwise broken and tinny narrative that now should be discarded.


QP said...

I've dubbed the financial crisis The Great Chatisement. If it helps us reflect on and strengthen our moral weaknesses, the cost well may be worth it. I appreciate your insightful participation in the good fight.

Re: The Walton's, a national treasure. Season 1, Episode 12, "The Dust Bowl Cousins" won the Best Direction in a Dramatic Series award from the Directors Guild of America.

"We heard from Cora a few times after they left. They settled finally in up-state New York in a place called the Mohawk valley and they did all right farming. Grandpa used to say that Ham must have learned one of the Walton secrets in spite of himself - that the world wasn't like the song said "just a bowl of cherries" but that you had to go out and climb the tree, and bark your shins a few times doing it, and pick those cherries yourself".

Episode synopses are online here.

admin said...

Has Peggy Noonan embraced localism?

I force fed my self through this article, as I can't stand her syruppy prose she has in "awe" of ourselves, but she concludes as follows:

" Dynamism has been leached from our system for now, but not from the human brain or heart. Just as our political regeneration will happen locally, in counties and states that learn how to control themselves and demonstrate how to govern effectively in a time of limits, so will our economic regeneration. That will begin in someone's garage, somebody's kitchen, as it did in the case of Messrs. Jobs and Wozniak. The comeback will be from the ground up and will start with innovation. No one trusts big anymore. In the future everything will be local. That's where the magic will be. And no amount of pessimism will stop it once it starts."


Unknown said...

Virtue, always virtue. The virtue of small places. The virtue of the village. The virtue of the community writ small, of family and continuity, of limits - city limits, of the Waltons, viewed repeatedly, on TVs that have been produced locally. The virtue of... You are batty.