Some people are born with a rebellious streak, or at least an obstinate one. I guess I am one of those people. And for me, social liberalism has been one kind of iconoclasm I’ve embraced. Coming from a conservative, religious upbringing, the ideas of inclusion and tolerance for just about anything and everything seemed refreshing and cool at the time. Poking fun at and condemning conservatives seemed not just fun and socially rewarding, but the right thing to do.
Now I look around and see the consequences of that attitude across three generations: destruction of family stability, undermining of basic sexual decency, promotion of anti-life ideologies, identity politics, and witch-hunting leftism.
If I had pursued my iconoclasm to the end, I would have destroyed my own roots. Now that those roots are well and truly threatened, I feel some shame for joining the dominant side in the culture wars (ironic, since I thought I was joining some kind of “rebellion”).
I recently saw someone make this observation of John Cleese, the famous British comic and member of the Monty Python troupe. Cleese spent all his life mocking the conservative establishment, and now finds that the new leftist establishment is far more controlling (vis a vis free speech) and has a sense of humor which makes the English conservatives look tolerant by comparison.
Cleese likely misses the relatively tolerant old conservatism he once mocked. I miss the social conservatism and the old traditions and practices I once mocked. You have to be careful about winning.
As smarter thinkers than I have said, the left and the right need each other. They balance each other out – since life has to be a balance of change and preservation. A total victory of either would make life unbearable.
With the balance shifted so far to the left, I feel a duty to speak up for the conservative side of things and to do it fiercely. Yes, I have plenty of critiques about the way things are. I am actually an anarchist, unlike the strange Marxist goons thronging the streets of Seattle and Portland. I’d like to see people assume the responsibility of self-government.
But even as a radical libertarian, I understand that people have to live within the structures of tradition and culture and common law. And even as a critic, I understand that I must critique the society that raised me almost as if I critique a parent or a sibling: not without gratitude, and not with a desire to see it all pass away. I would not welcome that kind of victor.