It is with great hesitancy that I wade into the quagmire of this month’s events in Charlottesville and Boston. Uncontrolled and irrational emotions on both sides seem to have wiped out any chance of civilized conversation about Charlottesville, President Trump, Antifa, White Supremacy, Confederate statues, and other issues that have gripped the news and social media.
In the past week’s, I’ve heard too many conservatives defend White Supremacists and Nazis with the logical fallacy that “Antifa is worse.” If you truly believe that Nazis are evil, then your argument should never end with “but….”. There is no “but” when condemning evil. White Supremacists and Nazis are evil, hate-filled, and un-American. Period.
To see White Supremacists, Nazis, and Antifa activists clashing in our streets is a natural progression in the breakdown of civility in many parts of society. We label our opponents with nasty names, regardless of their true nature. In the rhetoric of the Left, all conservatives are “Fascists” (though hardly any understand the term). Failing that, they have a whole dictionary full of slurs (“Teabaggers”, “Deplorables”, “Misogynists”, “Racists”). Extremists on the right label liberals as “Socialists”, “Communists”, “Libtards”, or “Snowflakes”. Our national debate has turned into a playground argument between 3rd graders.
In the end, all of these slurs, left and right, fail to move our national conversation forward. They diminish the civility required for us to find solutions for our country’s ills. The insults dehumanize our fellow Americans. The conservatives that I know are not Nazis or White Supremacists. The liberals that I know are not Socialists or Communists and they are definitely not wearing the black masks of Antifa.
One of Russell Kirk’s Ten Conservative Principles is that there exists an enduring moral order.
“This word order signifies harmony. There are two aspects or types of order: the inner order of the soul, and the outer order of the commonwealth. Twenty-five centuries ago, Plato taught this doctrine, but even the educated nowadays find it difficult to understand. The problem of order has been a principal concern of conservatives ever since conservative became a term of politics.
Our twentieth-century world has experienced the hideous consequences of the collapse of belief in a moral order. Like the atrocities and disasters of Greece in the fifth century before Christ, the ruin of great nations in our century shows us the pit into which fall societies that mistake clever self-interest, or ingenious social controls, for pleasing alternatives to an old fangled moral order.”
I would include civility as an important foundation of this moral order. When we degrade ourselves by resorting to the foul language, insults, and behavior of those who do not respect this order, then we have lost. By holding ourselves to a higher standard, we advance civility and moral order.
This doesn’t mean that we are disarming ourselves. No, in fact, it means that we are better armed than our opponents. It means that we can win not only debates, but hearts and minds, with logic and reason and passion against those who defend failed economic and social theories.
This is the true nature of a conservative: to believe in and to abide by the enduring moral order, an order that includes civility, good manners, and respect.