The only way forward for conservatives is unabashed courage and an utter refusal to continue to accept the status quo that says we are not valuable in culture, academia, and polite society. We must remember who we are and live with conviction. We are the harbingers of joy, hope, sacrifice, and humanity!
This week has been a week of clarity. Perhaps that is a strange thing to say given that in many ways it has been the most confusing time that any of us have ever seen, with the election results hanging in the air (in spite of premature media proclamations to the contrary) and the fate of a country and perhaps entire civilization in question.
But the clarity for me came through a final straw of censorship I personally experienced the day following the election, directly affecting my professional work, and that clarity has led to me a complete confirmation in the truths I have long held dear as a Catholic and a conservative, and a deeper willingness than ever to fight for them.
Such has been the case for many Christians and conservatives this past stretch of days; we have finally shed any of the justifications or doubts of ill will or false, naive optimism we may have previously had about the nature of the time we are in and those who seek to ruin us, and we can no longer pretend that the violence of the progressive, radical left—a relatively small but powerful and influential few—is anything remotely possible with which we can ‘unite.’ One does not negotiate with terrorists—with those publicly and shamelessly calling for our demise.
(Others, of course, have bowed out in despair and resignation, but may they go on back to their corners! Our confidence and growing strength need not be diluted by their cowardice—a la the styling of the Old Testament’s story of Gideon’s heavily-reduced army. We have no need of self-concerned or spineless soldiers.)
That of this ‘final straw’ is all another essay, the kind of which is being published often even as I write this—that a sleeping giant has finally been awakened, and that we will not go gently away faced with the great injustice being served to our voices, livelihoods, and society.
But perhaps the most incisive clarity that has come to me in recent days is this: the stark reality that conservatives and those of good will of all stripes ever made peace at all with the rampantly unjust status quo. It has been a deal with the devil, with disastrous ramifications.
I am an entertainer, an artist, a writer, an educator, an academic. I have known—picking it up as by osmosis—since my young teens that to pursue careers in any of these categories, aside from an extreme and calculated niche, would mean that I would need to constantly be balancing my desire for success and an audience with the attacks on my integrity and the temptation to compromise my convictions. I have long known that to reside within any of the structures of culture and common education would mean hiding, in varying degrees and manifestations. Every other conservative-leaning artist or academic I know accepts the above as obvious, unmitigated fact. It is not deliberated.
How did we ever come to simply accept such toxicity—such rabid rejection of ourselves and all of the convictions upon which rests the fruitfulness of civilization and the flourishing of human souls?
I am now appalled that I and so many others accepted this reality as undisputed and unchangeable fact, and that we were not instead told to stand up and clearly state and live our convictions, carving a legitimate path for the many talented artists and thinkers who were also fighting for a rightful place in culture. I am horrified that I was not compelled to insist that, no, I do in fact deserve a voice in the arts and the public square, and no, I should not have to hide myself to claim it. Rather than becoming salt and light as we perhaps hoped we could do by treading softly, we were instead trampled under the feet of ideology and hidden under a bushel of pretence and worldliness. We lessened our voices to no voice at all. Shame on us.
And here we are—a new point of no return, although as a Christian I keep a flicker of bright hope that we have yet to see beauty and transformation out of the ashes of a culture razed to the ground.
But regardless of hope, there is no going back to how things were. We failed to effectively engage and act in the cultural realm. How shameful it is that we gave up so much ground in the name of civility and prudence, when in fact it was in many cases in the name of vanity and fear; so few have been willing to offer up the ruin of their careers to sow seeds of truth and beauty back into a culture desperately in need of their heroism. Many disengaged entirely. Fifty years ago we needed to say no to the onslaught of ideological drivers in our popular and literary culture, insisting instead on becoming more clear about our convictions rather than less. What we did instead was cow to the zeitgeist, hoping that if we were nice enough and innocuous enough we would find a way to a career making mediocre art laced with the poison of the demise of our children.
And here we are.
The only way forward is unabashed courage and an utter refusal to continue to accept the status quo that says we are not valuable in culture, academia, and polite society.
We must remember who we are and live with conviction. We are the harbingers of joy, hope, sacrifice, humanity! We understand and strive to live the values of virtue, nobility, integrity, and magnanimity. We want to love and empower every last soul into its true capacity, and build real communities where everyone has a place. This is tremendously valuable.
Why were we ever ashamed of who we are? Why would we ever compromise that remarkable value to society, and the roots that allow us to continue personally to thrive? Whose lie did we believe? The world is dying before our eyes, and so many precious souls within it, and we have so compromised—so foolishly compromised. But we can no longer.
So this is another clarion call to anyone with integrity in these fields of culture: your time has come to speak up and speak loudly about what matters, with no more concern for the respect of the “cocktail party” and no delusion about uniting with those who call for the torturous killing of innocent children at will, encourage violence in the streets, proclaim an end to religious liberty, and threaten to infest our countries with diabolical communism.
To those not active in these fields, it is imperative that you now lift up those voices who speak with courage, that you support and honour them. If you have financial resources or a position of influence, it is time for generosity in supporting these movements of artists, educators, entrepreneurs—the courageous rebuilders of the civilization we have let decay on our watch.
There should never have been the cowardice of compromise among us in the decades that have already gone.
We must seek the redemption of our cowardice, and enkindle the small spark of the truth of who we are, yet flickering within us under the darkness we have permitted to cover it. We must now rise up and fight whole-heartedly with every last resource we have—and become the heroes we were always commissioned to be.
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The featured image is “Judith and her Maidservant” or “Judith with the Head of Holophernes” (between 1618 and 1619) by Artemisia Gentileschi, and is in the public domain, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. It has been brightened for clarity.