22 August 2016

You Think You Know the Southern Conservative Mind

But you don't and it's oh so obvious. You are, as the book of James notes, one who "boasteth himself of a false gift is like clouds and wind without rain." What is simultaneously puzzling, depressing and delightful to me is that you are so blinded by your arrogance.

With all this in mind, I came across an interesting essay about Russell Kirk this morning. Though not a Southerner, Kirk often identified with the Southern conservative mind. He found in Southern agrarianism, a kindred spirit. A recent essay reveals a few of Kirk's idiosyncrasies.
As to his eccentricities, these are legion: from his walking across much of North Africa during 1963, being pursued by (especially) Bedouin children, fascinated with his three-piece tweed suit and felt hat, armed with a cane (hiding a sword) and a typewriter.
In the 1970s, he threw a TV out the third floor of house, and in the 1980s, he threw rock albums into the fire when he found his daughters in possession of such cultural depravities!
In politics, he usually identified first with personality, second with ideas and political alignment. He equally admired (though, to varying degrees) Robert Taft, Malcolm X, Norman Thomas, Eugene McCarthy, Hubert Humphrey, Ronald Reagan, and Pat Buchanan.
In 1973, when radical and well-armed Lakota Indians took over the Pine Ridge Reservation in 1973, holding at bay the FBI, Kirk couldn’t decide whether it would be worth risking jail time to aid the Sioux and those helping the Sioux or not.
And, as is well known, Russell and Annette gave indefinitely long shelter to the homeless, to pregnant women, and to refugees from around the world. Kirk’s daughters never quite knew who might be at breakfast on any given morning: there might be any number of persons from Ethiopia, Vietnam, or Eastern Europe.
And, as a side note, he also planted thousands of trees, calling it penance for the European rapacious attitude toward North America. “I am best content when planting little trees,” he wrote in 1963, “To plant a tree, in our age when the expectation of change commonly seems greater than the expectation of continuity, is an act of faith. Also it is an act of historical penance, restoring the fairness of the land.”
And, on Progressive FDR's internment of Japanese-Americans:
We have indeed become a government of men and not of laws. Without legislation–without even a presidential–or dictatorial–proclamation, the army and the bureaucracy can force hundreds of thousands of citizens into the desert west of the Sierras, without even compensation. We must crush that Hitlerian tyranny which commits such atrocious crimes as deporting Polish Jews into Eastern Poland.
On the treatment of the American Indian:
In America, nothing so heinous had occurred since the progressives of the federal government had stolen Indian children from their parents to reeducate them in schools in the eastern part of the United States. Sadly, such an American tradition of theft of property and destruction of families had its roots as far back as Andrew Jackson’s presidency. All of it horrified Kirk who had no time for prejudices dealing with the accidents of birth. 
Note that progressives in the federal government  are still attempting to steal "children from their parents to reeducate them in schools" and they use the same "logic": "We know better (and are better) than you."

And one of my favorite Kirk observations, which so aptly describes much of academia these days:
When the liberals speak of liberties, he continued, they really mean “friendliness toward the rights of collectivists” and “absolute freedom for ‘liberals’ of their own kind.” 
And Kirk on "total war" brought to us by Lincoln, Sherman, et al:
With our successful conclusion to the Second World War, Kirk feared, America had embraced a new world of total war, becoming no better than the totalitarian societies of the world. If a just god or gods exist, the skeptical Kirk feared, he or they would make America pay for its crimes against humanity. Such a fear, it should be noted, on this 150th anniversary of the American Civil War, was shared by Robert E. Lee, Thomas Stonewall Jackson, and U.S. Grant, each assuming God would punish us for our atrocities committed during the Mexican American War of 1846-1848.
Kirk on "progressive education":
Depressed, Kirk found even the World War II victory celebrations offensive.  On August 17, Kirk walked through the streets of normally-conservative Salt Lake City to find “a raucous, disgusting mob of juvenile delinquents, halting automobiles, badgering policemen, and mauling girls.”  Lacking courage or, perhaps, morality, the crowd pretended not to notice or simply laughed it off.  “It was a most interesting commentary on the benefits of progressive education,” Kirk decided.
And, finally, Kirk on the essence and meaning of life in the mind of the "enlightened conservative":
The enlightened conservative does not believe that the end or aim of life is competition; or success; or enjoyment; or longevity; or power; or possessions. He believes, instead, that the object of life is Love. . . . He understands that Death, when we have finished the part that was assigned to us, is the reward of Love. He apprehends the truth that the greatest happiness ever granted to a man is the privilege of being happy in the hour of his death.

Men are put into this world, he realizes, to struggle, to suffer, to contend against the evil that is in their neighbors and in themselves, and to aspire toward the triumph of Love. They are put into this world to live like men, and to die like men. He seeks to preserve a society which allows men to attain manhood, rather than keeping them within bonds of perpetual childhood.
You can read the complete essay here.

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