After convincing my fiance that it would be so much better to watch the life of Margaret Thatcher than a movie involving aliens attacking the Earth (will they never cease?!), I suffered one of the greatest cinematic disappointments of my life.
The Iron Lady taught me three things:
A) It’s more important to focus on a person’s dementia and hallucinations than their humanity and life’s accomplishments;
B) The best way to show accomplishments is through really long montages of police riots and quick scene changes portraying important decisions and huge world events (the Berlin Wall coming down, for instance, got about 5-10 seconds); and
C) Conservatism is pretty heartless, but on principle.
Principle is a beautiful thing, a foundation by which people cannot be swayed or bought. Principle should not and cannot be confused with politics. When Thatcher argued for hard work, making one’s own way and fiscal austerity, the movie showed how people rioted. But does that show fault in Thatcher’s principles? Or that people truly need to connect personal actions with the good of society?
Russell Kirk wrote in “Ten Conservative Principles” that the very first principle conservatism adheres to is that “there exists an enduring moral order. That order is made for man, and man is made for it: human nature is a constant, and moral truths are permanent. This word order signifies harmony. There are two aspects or types of order: the inner order of the soul and the outer order of the commonwealth.” (emphasis mine)
Kirk lamented that
Our twentieth century world has experienced the hideous consequences of the collapse of belief in a moral order. Like the atrocities and disasters of Greece in the fifth century before Christ, the ruin of great nations in our century shows us the pit into which fall societies that mistake clever self-interest, or ingenious social controls, for pleasing alternatives to an old-fangled moral order.
It has been said by liberal intellectuals that the conservative believes all social questions, at heart, to be questions of private morality. Properly understood, this statement is quite true. A society in which men and women are governed by belief in an enduring moral order, by a strong sense of right and wrong, by personal convictions about justice and honor, will be a good society—whatever political machinery it may utilize; while a society in which men and women are morally adrift, ignorant of norms, and intent chiefly upon gratification of appetites, will be a bad society—no matter how many people vote and no matter how liberal its formal constitution may be. For confirmation of the latter argument, we have merely to glance about us in the District of Columbia.
As a resident of a swing state and a woman, I’m particularly aware of how the political machine utilizes the rhetoric of principle. If Gov. Romney is elected, he will take away my ability to “choose” (satisfactorily vague and scary). If President Obama is re-elected, my birth control bill will be paid for (by my own tax dollars, of course).
But the arguments are all wrong.
The national discussion of birth control and abortion acutely shows the difference between politics and principles. In politics, people parade around wearing vagina costumes to make a statement about respecting women, ordering everyone to stay out of their bedroom, and then asking the State to provide birth control as part of their health care requirements. To respect them, they say, you must respect their right to not take responsibility for what happens to and within their body. You can disagree with them, but you cannot stop them from acting as they wish.
On principle their arguments are completely off-course. The portrayal of women is a diminishing one, for starters. A woman is a whole person and a whole human. She does not vote based because of her “lady parts.” Birth control is deplorable because it allows a man to want only parts of a woman (that is, her body) and not the rest. Pooh, pooh! on her soul. No thanks! to her fertility. It also rejects the whole man, although in much less obstinate ways. But it feels so good? Could that be a contributing factor to the dramatic rise in divorce in the 20th century? Sex, the ultimate union between two people, is life-giving. Anyone who uses a condom knows that. Furthermore, any one remotely devoted to a healthy life would certainly not put chemicals into their body without a proper diagnosis. Fertility, may I remind the dear readers, is not an illness. Birth control, on the other hand, can seriously harm a woman’s body.
To tie this issue back to the election (a few more days, people!), an argument has been made that people need to make sacrifices. Some of these sacrifices should be their own religious liberty; other sacrifices should be made monetarily. One sacrifice no one is asking Americans to make is to not have sex if you’re more willing to abort the baby than love it. Bear with me: when a person is looking to lose weight, no one only takes diet pills and forgoes the exercise or indulges on desserts. This is what birth control is: taking a “wonder drug” and engaging in any kind of activity. Sadly for some people, even birth control cannot protect from STDs, or unwanted pregancies, or broken hearts.
Women, you deserve so much more than that. Men, you too! No election changes that. No politician changes that. It is one reason why I am a conservative, and an imaginative one at that. I imagine a higher calling for men and women alike, one which acts and responds with love for all fellow humans.
Helen Avare, a law professor at George Mason University, started Women Speak For Themselves, an organization created in protest of the HHS mandate in respect to women and religious liberty. In an e-mail she sent out on November 2, she wrote:
The amount of ink spilled over the last year suggesting that “relationship-free-sex” (i.e. no baby AND no commitment), makes women free, is alarming. I will state frankly that I don’t believe this to be in women’s interests at all. Of course, some women are made for the single life, and beautifully live out the meaning of their lives, and live as gifts to others, in that particular vocation. Most women, however, wish to marry and to have children, and it is this vocation which is being called into question most virulently at the present time.
Today, according to numerous, well-done studies, privileged women mostly get their wish, and less-privileged women do not. Poorer and minority and newly emigrated Americans marry less, cohabit more, divorce more, and have more nonmarital pregnancies, nonmarital births, and abortions, than do their more privileged sisters.
I think, in short, that the version of women’s “freedom” promoted by this year’s HHS mandate is really, really harmful to our most vulnerable sisters. And I think our resistance to it–and our efforts to turn the tide–have all the hallmarks of a new civil rights movement: the right to a healthy relationship and marriage and parenting culture, for ALL, not just for the privileged.
We believe that many of the “Second Wave” feminists truly thought they were helping women by promoting universal birth control use and abortion on demand. They thought those things would help women understand her other gifts, besides motherhood. Instead they ultimately changed the societal expectation that women would not let motherhood get in the way of anything else. That motherhood was a second-best option to “real successes”. That their fertility and motherhood held them back. We know better and insist that we change society to meet the needs of women; of mothers. Because we will never settle for the idea that our fertility, our pregnancies, our breastfeeding, our children make us capable of anything less than amazing.
Respect is a two-way street, and the government’s ability to worm its way into every aspect of human life is a prime example that it does not respect any decisions of its citizens. The latest Obama ad targets women by comparing voting for the first time to losing one’s virginity. As vlogger TokenLibertarianGirl pointed out, that is creepy and rages its own war on women by presumption.
Women, like men, are more than sexual objects to be used and gratified. As Margaret Thatcher shows us, women can be mothers and wives as well as successful. There is no limit to what a woman can achieve, especially in America. To suggest that women must forgo meaningful relationships, marriage and children (as well as put themselves at risk for further health problems and mental distress), in order to have a meaningful life speaks more loudly that the system needs to be adjusted for women, not women for the system. No one is asking men to do that, and they have equal responsibility for every child they create and care for.
The real contest between principles is between the short and the long-term views. The conservative is concerned with the short and long–the health of the person (and as such, their soul) is integral to our country. If we as conservatives do not live what we value, then our words are empty. We need to revive the culture through the joy of being human, the honor of worshiping God, the freedom which comes through an obedience to his laws, and the wisdom of knowing our life is not more valuable than another’s. This election is short-term. Whoever wins will not affect my own principles, even if he may violate them. This whole silly season reminds me distinctly of a Margaret Thatcher quip in her autobiography, The Downing Street Years:
Consensus: The process of abandoning all beliefs, principles, values, and policies in search of something in which no one believes, but to which no one objects; the process of avoiding the very issues that have to be solved, merely because you cannot get agreement on the way ahead. What great cause would have been fought and won under the banner: ‘I stand for consensus’?
Friends, let us stand for more! Here’s to your soul and mine; let’s put some heart and love back into these principles of ours, and our commonwealth might just profit.
Books mentioned in this essay may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore.