A while ago Harper’s Weekly Review handed me this, below, which kicked off some thoughts about how feckless — even conscientiously feckless — is the GOP.
…a Republican congressman and former mixed martial artist attempted to rescue five Americans in Afghanistan but never made it into the country. “#Ordinarypeopledoingextraordinarythings,” he wrote on Instagram.
For a long time I’ve been wondering how conservatives define themselves. In contrast, for instance, I can state I’m a liberal or progressive, depending on whether we’re defining my intellectual ideals or my soul. On the ideal front, I could give you a long list of things I, as a liberal, believe in and support.
I have an easy explanation of the soul thing. My sister calls it empathy or lack of empathy and she’s right. It comes down to this: for my entire life, whenever I see or hear of someone who does not have my advantages, has been wrongly rendered unequal to me in status, unequal in living fully, as I do, with the power that should be granted to each of us by universal human rights, I hurt. It’s physical: my heart hurts.
Don’t know if I’ve described the sensation properly, yet I think you understand it: sorrow, pain, pity, anger and a fierce, if sometimes helpless, desire to make things right.
I consider myself not very much of a Jew. I am antagonistic to any organized religion or dogma and have no belief in any god.
So I was fairly surprised when recently I encountered a Hebrew phrase, tikkun olam, and instantly realized it was the perfect description of my soul. It means “world repair” or, more poetically soaring, “repairing the world.” The instinct, the passion to make everything right.
In this simple way, I am a Jew. A godless one but I believe I’ve got a Jewish soul.
Let’s get back to the central question: What is a conservative? What do they believe? Do they have souls?
My major newspaper is the New York Times, which has some conservative columnists. Usually, I’ll read a paragraph or so from Ross Douthat, Bret Stephens and David Brooks. If I feel my face turning red in rage, I stop and entertain myself by clicking into readers’ comments. They rebuke those guys more articulately than I could.
I think anyone who regularly reads the Times has noticed that there is some weird slippage in the avowed positions of all three “conservative” columnists, due to Trump’s dominance of their world. It’s understandable. Although I have a hard time understanding how anyone with a good brain and education could be a conservative, it’s clear that Trump has thrown every reasonably smart conservative into an abyss.
Usually, I won’t read even the first paragraph of the columns purporting to be a “conservation” between Stephens and Gail Collins; I can’t bear reading the much beloved Collins tossed into the Bret pit. She has such a sense of wit; Stephens thuds.
But the other day, the title of their combined column, indicating it’d be a Trump trashbasket, caused me to read some of it.
Good thing because Stephens said something that I guess still defines conservatism:
In my perfect world, the federal government would be about one-third the size that it is today and we would privatize and regulate functions like the post office, Amtrak and Social Security.
Got it, Bret. I’m wickedly pleased you’re sticking to a concept of conservatism so old, so passé, you really need to dust it off before laying it out. It’s almost as if you’ve gone blind to contemporary American reality.
But thank you. You’ve answered my question about conservatism and have proven conservatives do not have a soul –certainly not a tikkun olam sort of soul.