Languid Civility – Hey it’s just politics right?
Why is there not more civility in politics? Is it that greater controversy leads to greater exposure? Is it that ends justify the means? or Could it be that our societal civil virtues are bankrupt because our personal moral virtues are lacking?
First and foremost Civility does not require Compromise. Standing firm in your resolutions, speaking voraciously in defense of your guiding principles, and/or being loyal to your family, friends, compatriots, and associations in similar manner, does not require you to espouse uncivil discourse. Remaining civil, reasonable, and without guile is not a compromise of your principles, rather it is the very embodiment of the very things that makes a conservative, conservative.
‘Politics’ was once explained to me by a friend as “a means to prevent the bludgeoning of one another over local, regional, and inter-regional conflict”. To this day, I think its a better application than Tip O’Neill’s “All politics is local” memo. Contrasting these two views, one may conclude that both begin at the local level, and both usually end up at the national/international level. Both acknowledge that conflict springs eternal yet civility may prove useful in avoiding the ascendency of fisticuffs to war. All the while presuming that conflict may be swept under the rug through commonality and compromise, and the massaging of the ego or the pocketbook of the one or many. It is cynical in either view.
Politics is the medium in the which we debate the causes that we espouse seeking to impose policy that either leads to liberty or tyranny. Political parties are the collaborative efforts of many with similar ethos and emphasis on issues that civic confrontation exists upon. Too often we seek to win battles on issues that are distracting us from moving forward. Too often we seek to hide our faces from evil practices for the fear that we may be imposing too much morality on the sum whole of society. Liberty is a powerful force, it enables mankind to move forward with creativity, invention, innovation, competition, and improvements. However, Liberty will never be won through timid, weak-willed, or immoral practices. Tyranny however will progress evermore when a society becomes morally bankrupt. Often history has taught us that war, famine, pestilence, and any other divine or non-devine intervention sets a new course for a new generation.
Too often our fears for offense may cause us to cower from tough political discourse where our assumptions are challenged, and sometimes we are reduced to throwing pearls of wisdom before swine. Sometimes the swine reduces us further into wrestling in the mud, or enticing us to invite it into our home and dress it in formal attire with lipstick to pretty up the ugliness. What silliness ensues as we begin to bicker and argue and speak in sardonic tomes of sarcasm and cynicism. To what end will this sort of non-civility provide an ecumenical benefit to society? Maybe we’ll eat less pork? I live in Oklahoma, I don’t see that happening anytime soon.
The take away here is that we shouldn’t be wasting our time trying to convince Swine to dapper up and join us. However to borrow a concept from a 19th century preacher Dwight L. Moody that once preached a sermon regarding the “lower lights” of a shoreline and the purpose of guiding the wayfaring sea voyage and its captain safely to shore so as to avoid the dangers of a rocky and tumultuous bay. The image is daunting as we consider that without the lower lights of the harbor brightly beaming to bring others safely in by lighting the way to navigate the dangers of a shallow and jagged shoreline and by preventing a very preventable cold and watery grave. He summed up the sermon with “Brethren, the Master will take care of the great light-house; let us keep the lower lights burning.” The sermon inspired the words to the Gospel Hymn “Let the Lower Lights Be Burning” by Philip P. Bliss ca. 1871:
Brightly beams our Father’s mercy,
From His lighthouse evermore,
But to us He gives the keeping
Of the lights along the shore.
Let the lower lights be burning!
Send a gleam across the wave!
Some poor struggling, fainting seaman
You may rescue, you may save.
Dark the night of sin has settled,
Loud the angry billows roar;
Eager eyes are watching, longing,
For the lights along the shore.
Trim your feeble lamp, my brother;
Some poor sailor, tempest-tossed,
Trying now to make the harbor,
In the darkness may be lost.
If conservatives desire to continue on in such a great cause, they must seek to teach with humility and without guile a younger generation. It is too easy to assume that as our youth grow older, that they may consequently grow wiser too. Is Conservatism is at a great disadvantage here too? Nay. Often times our message can not be tailored to the whim of the masses, or the populism of class warfare. However, even though correctness is not always easy to identify without having had some experience in life, parents, grandparents, and people of trust have the advantage to influence the youth greatly when done without hypocrisy and guile. This may be why it seems a difficult challenge in speaking to vessels whose cup is full, or to vessels that refuse in libertarian-libertine fashion to not allow anything to fill their cup, as they pretend to be so self-sufficient as if they are not required to live by community standards.
It is a temptation to assume to know you have the upper hand in any disagreement. It is an even greater temptation to know you have the upper hand, and to see a means of exploiting that hand to your gain through guile and/or acrimony.
What is gained when truth is grounded to a faulty foundation? All that is needed to remove the truth, is to remove the faulty foundation. Truth does not remain relevant to the abused conscience.
It should be clear that the Media is biased to any critical thinker. What is the media’s purpose but to make everyday acts ceremonious, sensational, and controversial? Why should we pay such attention to such muckrakers and pot stirrers? The great measure of a gonzo journalist is to create a “there” when there is nothing there. To the vain and foolish generation they will seek after the signs and invent their ‘there’ until possibly something appears or they are proven fruitless. What is the downside to the vain and foolish if all that is left for them, is to remain such? Some may suggest we are at a disadvantage because they have nothing to lose. They are wrong. We have every bit the advantage, for we have everything to lose. Doubtless we must ever be the vanguard, the very lower lights that will lead the honest in heart safely to harbor.
Keep this in mind in the coming months my dear conservative men and women at arms. Doubtless what Mr. Cain is experiencing is but a sliver of what is prepared for any who is deemed victorious in the primary. It matters not where the “there” came from, what matters most, is that we stand by our principles. That we speak truth from a foundation of rock and not from the washy sand of hypocrisy. I would that we spend more time seeking truth, rather than passing barbs and seeking the destruction of our fellows. That we may be found spending our time and energy espousing the things that are of most import.
Let us not fall victim to the devices of evil namely: Deception, Fear, Contention, Division, and outright lies spun into tangled webs that ultimately distracts us from keeping our “lower lights” from burning.
P.S. I do believe that the most effect we may have in politics happens locally. Yes, it behooves us to get involved locally if we are permitted the time.