There Are Some Conversations Conservatives Do Not Want To Have

There are some conversations that conservatives by nature do not want to have, conversations that push boundaries and ask questions for which there is no ready answer that fits inside the boundary markers.

True conservatism, a la Edmund Burke and Russell Kirk, admits of necessary change. But it is not in love with change, believing as it does that present society is an ecosystem that embodies equilibrium of a kind, based on hundreds and thousands of years of human experience. To upset that balance without an awareness of implications for the whole would be foolish.

The true enemy of conservatism is the social planner who knows exactly how things should work, even down to the math, and bows to no traditions. However, to keep that balance requires change, even as nature demonstrates.

So where do we go for that conversation? We first start by listening. To whom? The arts for a starter. As they say, art get there first. Artists in poetry, painting, sculpture, music, dance, etc. wonder aloud and almost genetically explore the “what ifs” of our species. Conservatives are not known for their arts sections in their magazines and newspapers, and nonfiction literature outside of science fiction doesn’t get a lot of press.

Second, we must listen to the aggrieved. Not so much those who pinch hit for them, but to them. Conservatives must clothe themselves in patience and restrain anger so that this story telling has the space to gain shape. I regularly listen to the Open Source podcast with Christopher Lydon. Sometimes I have to make myself listen. Lydon can be outrageous in his identity politics and his incapacity to be thankful, but he is the third rail for conservatives that though electrified and capable of frying my circuits makes sure that I am animated by voices I would not otherwise hear. I also choose to attend a church with diverse ethnicities. I am constantly reminded in worship and Life Groups that I cannot afford to pop off with ill-considered words, something I am more inclined to do if I hang only with those of my background.

Third, politically speak for those left out. If I know they are left out and don’t do anything about it, my conservatism is hollowed out and becomes primarily a tool for self-advantage.

Fourth, don’t be a shill for anybody. None of us is self-sufficient. We need community and support. But be aware of the dangers of group think that lets others do the deciding for us. Fifth, remember that conservatism is not an ideology but a set of principles. It is elastic more than it is programmatic, capable of adaptation and collaboration.

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