January 11, 2008

I spent today traveling and meeting with colleagues. A few of us who support Ron Paul had dispirited discussions of the good doctor’s performance in New Hampshire; one fellow remarked, ruefully, that while Dr. Paul certainly does not share the hateful opinions which some sickening nutcases published under his name, it was a serious, almost disqualifying lapse in judgment to allow a newsletter to appear for protracted periods under his name which he wasn’t reading. In today’s atmosphere of stultifying political correctness, in which honorable men like Paul Belien are slandered by warmongering liars, it can be all too tempting to throw caution to the winds, and say, in effect: “The Left is conducting a purge? Well, I’m not going to help them. In fact, I’m adopting a policy of No Enemies on the Right. I’ll team up with anyone who agrees with me on issue ______, regardless of his other views. Might as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb.”

Such an attitude become all the more attractive as one considers that he is in a country where a thoughtless racist remark can ruin one’s career—but it’s perfectly permissible for a doctor to extract a 9 month fetus, puncture his skull, and toss away the “products of conception”—with the full support of the NY Times. In fact, applying a consistent standard, it should be just as disgraceful to write for the Times as it is to appear in the loathsome pages of Stormfront.

But then, if we lived in a country with consistent standards and a sane moral compass… there’d be no need for conservatives, now would there?

Politics requires, even more than most other past-times, the cultivation of the virtue of prudence—which is more than just a practical art. It has a profound moral component. Indeed, as Aristotle teaches (and Aquinas agrees) prudence is the GOVERNING virtue. Without prudence, courage becomes rashness, justice vindictiveness, and loyalty mere bias.

As a persecuted minority, real conservatives must practice prudence more than most. We must exercise particular care that our associations do not disgrace the ideals we defend.

We shouldn’t adopt the arbitrary litmus tests of the Left—as in no Confederates, no pacifists, no Creationists, no serious members of any religion, and ultimately, no paleocons. And we should certainly NOT adopt the neocon habit of gleefully denouncing people and throwing them over the side with great fanfare, ala John Podhoretz and Trent Lott. But each of us DOES, in my opinion, need to subject our associations to an internal MORAL scrutiny… deciding whether the person who wishes to work with us is motivated more by love for the Good—or hatred for the evil. Because any movement based on hatred quickly abandons the good it once pursued.  This has happened innumerable times on the Left—as sincere partisans of Civil Rights got recruited by the Communists, for instance. But it also happens on the Right. 

Some of you, dear readers, may know people who have fallen victim to this phenomenon. You may have—after repeated attempts to draw him back to sanity—had to gently distance yourself from one of these people, to keep him in your prayers but not in your Contacts folder. It is not for us to judge the culpability of souls which have gone astray—we mustn’t become a pack of pharisees—but we must remember the advice given over centuries by prudent spiritual directors, who have ever counseled sinners to “avoid evil company.” That especially means company which might lead us into sin, damage our own good names with their own recklessness, or harm worthy causes by their own hot-headed excess. It’s a painful decision to make, and not something which would lead a good man to pat himself on the back. Still, sometimes you just have to do it. 


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