September 9, 2008
The Mom and the OneBy Christopher Chantrill
We know now that the Palin phenomenon is for real. We can tell because our lefty friends have come up with a new pejorative: "Caribou Barbie." It joins "neoconservative," invented in the 1960s to describe New York Jewish intellectuals who had been mugged by reality, and "neo-con," invented in the 2000s to account for the sons of the neoconservatives of the 1960s, men who believed in reality even before they were mugged. And who can forget Dorothy Parker on Calvin Coolidge: "weaned on a pickle," or Clark Clifford's "amiable dunce" who won the Cold War.
There is no escaping the truth. No real conservative can hope to succeed in national politics without first earning a sneering pejorative from the Progressive Order of Angry Lefties. Gov. Palin must be the real thing.
Many conservatives were angry, in the last week, as our liberal friends descended upon Gov. Sarah Palin with a ferocity that was startling even to William Kristol. But this was not bad. This was good.
Rush Limbaugh is always saying that liberals cannot admit to the American people who they really are. They have to dissemble in order to get elected. That's why Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) is going around talking about his "faith," trying to talk evangelical lingo to the God and guns set.
But last week, after the Palin breakout and the ensuing disorder in the front lines of the culture war, many liberal formations were running around leaderless, and they didn't have their talking points from brigade HQ at The New York Times and National Public Radio yet.
Without the proper talking points they told us rather more about themselves than they should have. They let us see who they really are.
And they showed Americans how liberals really are different from conservative and heartland Americans.
The difference has nothing to do with bad-tempered pejoratives. Oh no. We conservatives understand that. We understand that the difference is deeply philosophical.
Here's what Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor says in The Sources of the Self. The "me" of the authentic modern self, he writes, is not a feeling or an instinct, it is:
what reason produces, and what reason demands is that one live by principles.
Reason and rational principles must be the guiding lights of life. But ever since this notion was advanced by chaps like Kant at the end of the eighteenth century, conservatives have said: Whoa, dobbin.
Conservative have insisted on aspiring to a balance of principle, of conscious rational principles balanced by the unconscious wisdom of tradition.
But in the progressive understanding, developed by Hegel and Marx, the "aspiration is ultimately to a total liberation." Here there is no balance but a drive for complete liberation from the superstitions and the obligations of the past.
In politics and economics total liberation gets you from capitalism to the liberation in socialism. In personal liberation it gets you to French existentialism, Jean-Paul Sartre and his partner Simone de Beauvoir. For them the liberation of the individual creative self in creative expression is everything From them comes the idea of women's liberation in The Second Sex, where woman is the "victim of the species" unless she is liberated from unending drudgery by a career of creative expression.
You can see why abortion slithers into place as the central sacrament in this faith. You cannot attempt a life of creative expression if you cannot experiment with all aspects of human experience, including sex. But then you cannot live out your life of individual creative exploration if you have also to live out the sexual consequences of your expressive life. Nobody would want a young person to be "punished with a baby," or disqualified from creative self-expression by a minor youthful indiscretion. You soon get, in fact, to the modern extended adolescence where nobody expects a teenaged liberal, or college liberal, or twenty-something liberal to suffer the consequences of their expressive behavior.
The life of Gov. Palin and her family are an intolerable witness against this liberation world-view, inconvenient facts that cannot be allowed to falsify its liberating truth, and that is why our liberal friends are beside themselves.
And so the culture wars are rejoined, and the American people are called to make their choice: The Mom or The One.
"Bloom where you are planted." That's what Rebecca Hagelin's mother told her. And that is what Gov. Sarah Palin did.
What makes her absolutely appealing to ordinary citizens across the country - both young and old - is that she didn't go looking for greatness somewhere "out there"
She found it right where she was planted.
Want to influence your child's education? Get involved at the local school. Fed up with the "good old boys" at city hall? Run for election. Get pregnant when you are 17? Well, I guess you are growing up faster than you thought.
Does that make sense to you? Then you must be a conservative. You must believe in responsible liberty rather than self-expressive liberation.
Still, a conservative can chuckle at the thought of "Caribou Barbie." Do you think that Mattel could get a limited edition with rifle, specs, and chignon out by November 4?