By Ronald Glenn
alienation : a withdrawing or separation of a person or a person’s affections from an object or position of former attachment
Alienation. This term was much used in the 1960s to describe the unique relationship which had developed in America between the government and many of its citizens. Today, it seems just as well suited as an appropriate description for those who are struggling with the Republican Party and the conservative movement as a whole.
Gay people claim the conservative movement has alienated them over gay marriage. Christians say that fiscal conservatives have alienated them because they’re obsessed with Wall Street and don’t much care about religious moral issues. Fiscal conservatives similarly lament the perceived obsession with religious and moral issues at a time when the economy is teetering on the edge of collapse.
It would appear everyone is talking about their isolation and separation from the Republican Party. Everybody is frustrated, feeling as though they’re being pushed out. Soon, there will be no one left.
Once again, when dealing with contemporary matters, it pays to look to history. In fact, a possible solution to this perceptional problem on the right may lie in an old answer. When I was a young man, we were taught the basis of American democracy was the concept of “common moral virtue.” Instead of emphasizing the differences people may hold that are particular to their religion, cuture, nation of origin or more, we need to emphasize the virtues that people have in common. This is a positive way of addressing politics, because is does not emphasize our weaknesses. This is reaching for that Shining City on the Hill without having to deal with the rocky pitfalls along the path to get there.
For example, instead of bemoaning our differences in the nitty-gritty details of individual issues, we should embrace the broad strokes which bring us together and render us so different than our counterparts on the left. Instead of thinking in terms of one sticking point, address the heart of it all — we are conservatives because we can take care of ourselves, because we don’t need government assistance in our daily lives, because we believe that less intrusion by government is better for everyone involved.
This approach emphasizes two points. First, we need to stop being single trait and/or issue obsessive. If a person, for example, is gay, he or she cannot be discounted solely on that basis. As conservatives, we must look at a much larger set of beliefs that have to do with the fundamental principles of governance. And that applies to Christians as well — the left loves to make conservatives fight amongst themselves in such a way that they not only seem stupid, but that they also appear to be bigots. Let’s stick to the fundamentals and not give the left any such ammunition. Secondly, we do need to need to continue the ongoing debate about the specifics of the virtues we hold. There are certain basics we adhere to, of course, but the idea of what is good and acceptable changes over time. America does not believe in slave or child labor anymore — at a time, both were accepted as part of life. Since then, we’ve changed our minds about it. And that’s good, not bad.
The lessons we can learn from history are simple, and easily adapted to the times we face now. Start with what you are NOT politically, as in “I am not as liberal.” Then, think about what you are in terms of what you feel best represents your beliefs as a conservative, and you shall see there are many more than originally thought who believe the way you do.
A minister told me once that the majority of congregations that fall apart do so because the members fail to overlook the faults of the other members. If the members saw the virtues of each other instead, they could go forward in strength.
Thomas Huxley once wrote: “It is not who is right, but what is right, that is of importance.” There are far too many battles ahead to waste our energy turning on one another.
Ronald Glenn has worked in real estate and law for more than twenty years. He now works in Philadelphia, and lives outside the city with his wife. Ron has been writing for America’s Right since January 2009.