In several preceding essays in these pages I have, probably according to some readers, overly enthusiastically excoriated Christianity, Capitalism, and what I regard as their unholy marriage.* The user would like to add a third C, the “Cupid” that was their cHarmony.com and completed what I regard as an unholy Trinity of A Absolutes and Certainties that is unfortunately worshipped by a politically viable segment American population. I regard this Trinity as unrealistic in the relevance of its cosmology and dogmas to public life, as I regard the silly notion of three personages in “one” God to human spirituality.
There has always been a peculiarity to the American Right’s version of Conservatism. In the late Christopher Hitchens recent review of two books on G.K. Chesterton he quotes his subject’s distillation of Cardinal John Henry Newman’s “theory of development” as: “all conservatism is based on the idea that if you leave things alone you leave them as they are. But you do not. If you leave the thing alone you leave it to a torrent of change. If you leave a white post alone it will soon be a black post. If you particularly want it to be white you must always be painting it again; that is, you must be always having a revolution. Briefly, if you want the old white post you must have a new white post.”
It seems that the conservative is always trying to play catch-up ball. If he stands still, the game changes around him. Conservatives may see their position as static, but it isn’t; they stand on the bank of the river keeps flowing past them, and it’s a different river every moment. Paradoxically, although revolution may seem abhorrent to them, they need to be, as Chesterton avers, rebellious against the relentless Heraclitian forces and currents that sweep away their happiest days and most sublime moments into history or quaint nostalgia.
Is this why they have come to such a sinister and ridiculous moments with the accession of Barack Obama to the White House? Is it at the point where the tolerability of “them” no longer having to ride in the back of the bus could not abide one of them driving the bus? Or, is that “wanting their country back” we’re always hearing about some politicized dimension of their cohort’s sentiment at the general aging process? Are they the ones who, in less strident, ugly moments, are sending me attached to e-mail, photographs of 1955 Chevrolets, Bakelite telephones, stills of Ozzie and Harriet and five and dime lunch counter signs advertising hotdogs for a nickel?
I have the suspicion, that even in the wee hours of the morning, these conservatives see the absurdity of returning to exclusively “missionary position” sex before the pill, of nutritional habits and medical insufficiencies that rendered their older relatives extinct well before the age we now enjoy. Not at all; they expect to use their Social Security and Medicaid for more years to gather at town halls and in public spaces, wearing their teabag outfits, their moth-eaten VFW hats, their red white and blue this and that, brandishing their Second Amendment weapons and racist anti-Obama posters and signs, and bemoaning the passing of the world that they would have reconstructed from a bunch of shit in the backs of their closet.
Why don’t they just fucking grow up?
Their imagined idyllic world is gone, much of it in a haze of mnemonic filter that leaves out all the bad parts and keeps prom photo on their way forty pounds less and had a whole set of hair, place their favorite Hit Parade tunes, and is redolent the first time they got laid in the back seat of that ‘49 Ford coupe that is long gone to the junkyard. Somehow they have pulled together with the assistance of those programmed images spinning Ronald Reagan and a mythic period of time between the depression and the end of World War II and the beginning of those revolutionary 1960s that was their Camelot, their halcyon days. They would prefer the America in red, white and blue, to the one that is increasingly black, brown, and yellow.
Conservatism has become the Holy Ghost in a right wing Trinity along with Capitalism and Christianity. Triple C Trinity allegiance and testimony have become a virtual litmus test for anyone seeking office from the now conservative dominated Republican Party. Any signs of weakness in ideological piety can be grounds for political excommunication.
And when it comes to America’s political geographies, there is no place that outdoes its conservative sentiments in the good old American Dixie South. Mind you, these are the folks who are still sitting around bemoaning the loss of their war of secession, or proclaiming that they won it but wondering why they weren’t allowed to keep their slaves. Nevertheless, day had been allowed to keep their white political hegemony, their “welfare” that consists of military bases and agricultural subsidies without which they would devolve into impoverished banana republics, and of course their guns.
South is not without its ability to change. They changed their party allegiances after voting rights act of 1965 from Democrat to Republican, but in the process they also affected––thanks in good part to Nixonian “Southern strategy”–– The transformation of the G.O.P into the C.R.R.A.P. (the Christian Right-Republican Alliance Party).** One by one, the Southern states shifted parties to where their bigotry was more ideologically aligned, to the party that claimed the old ways of doing things and the old social order (read “conservatism” here) was preferable. But the old, Eastern establishment Teddy Roosevelt Progressive Republicanism and Rockefeller Republicanism were out the door. No more clipped New England accents and New York dialects; the new Republicanism drawled and twanged.
The new right wing conservatism (if that’s is not a contradiction in terms) is basically a contrarian, obstructionist alliance of red state yahoos buttressed by the very economic elites economic elites that screw them over and leaders who employ a perverted morality of the end justifies the means. Most of its foot soldiers would likely be unable to define conservatism, maybe even spell it, “but dang, I know I are one.”
Political Trinitarianism already shows signs of less staying power than its mythical counterpart. Pulled in conflicting directions by its own contradictions and extremism its own political convention seems poised to produce a political schism worthy of Gnosticism, the Monophysite Heresy, or how many Newts can fit in the head of a pin.
© 2012, James A. Clapp (UrbisMedia Ltd. Pub. 3.22.2012)
*75. 5: AMERICA, INC. 1.28.2012; 72. 5: Christianity and Capitalism: Scenes from a Marriage [Revised] 8.29.2011
**See DCJ Archives 12.4: IT’S NOT THE G.O.P ANYMORE; IT’S THE C.R.R.A.P. 9.12.2004