October 9, 2006
The Foley Flap and the Honor WarsBy Christopher Chantrill
In the aftermath of the Foley resignation, conservatives have spent a lot of energy complaining about the very different outcome of the Eighties sex scandals. Representative Barney Frank skated after disclosure that his sexual partner had run a male prostitution ring out of his apartment. And Representative Gerry Studds was returned to Congress five times from the 10th District of Massachusetts after disclosure of a sexual relationship with a congressional page. What a double standard!
But the Democrats are not hypocrites, at least, not in the way you think.
Republicans and conservatives live according to an honor culture. It requires them to resign after the exposure of shameful deeds. There is no need for Democrats to resign when they are are exposed for violating the very standards they impose upon the rest of society.
They don't believe in honor.
The honor culture of conservative America is a very different thing from the traditional culture of male honor. That is made clear by James Bowman in his excellent book Honor: A History. Honor "is the good opinion of the people who matter to us," he writes. As practiced since time immemorial honor has two components: "Bravery for men, chastity for women." Bravery for men is related to the fundamental requirement of the warrior band. Chastity for women we will leave for another time.
Unfortunately, when the warriors come home they often corrupt their honor culture into a culture of Might Makes Right, and a man's honor is not proved in the heat of battle. Insults to honor are purged instead in the duel.
A man's honor, then, is his reputation for bravery, his commitment to support "the man next to you." This traditional concept of honor still operates, as we have recently come to understand, in the Islamic Middle East.
In the Christian West the old honor culture is extinct. Instead we have developed two different cultures. The first, which Bowman attributes to the influence of Christianity and the rise of the middle class, is the modification of honor—as—bravery into a culture of honor—as—virtue. We no longer blindly venerate the brave, but the brave and good. The most complete expression of the new culture was the Muscular Christianity of the nineteenth century that comes down to us in the person of Eric Liddell, the hero of Chariots of Fire.
In the other culture, honor is extinct. There is
That is the gift to humanity of the international progressive class.
But the curious thing is that, even as they have rejected the old honor—as—virtue culture and insisted that everyone abandon it for values and rights, the progressives have developed for themselves an honor group of the old style. It is the company of the enlightened and the progressive—minded, and its members understand that the only thing that matters is to be loyal and steadfast to the person next to you in the progressive phalanx.
We can discern the left—wing honor culture working in the spy scares of the late 1940s when liberals stood shoulder to shoulder protecting Communist spies like Alger Hiss and the Rosenbergs, and anathematized the traitor (to them) filmmaker Elia Kazan for "naming names" of fellow Communists. We saw it in the 1990s as feminists rallied round the accused sexual harasser Bill Clinton.
So we can understand that it is entirely appropriate for progressives to close ranks around men like Frank and Studds, loyal soldiers in the rank—and—file progressive army. Honor (of a sort) among progressives is everything.
But we should take note of the double standard. For over a century the progressives have toiled to strip western men of their culture of honor—as—virtue, demanding that they replace it with compulsory collectivism in the economic realm and compulsory individual autonomy in the cultural realm. But even as they banish honor from society as a whole they smuggle it in the back door to sustain the unity of their predatory progressive band in its drive to world domination.
Conservatives want to revive the culture of honor—as—virtue that has serves as a vital cultural bedrock of the West, civilizing men out of the predatory warrior band into the virtuous western team.
Win or lose this November, it is the conservative culture of honor—as—virtue that makes conservatives strong. Let us not betray it, and let us not allow the progressives to succeed in stripping it from us.