The New Great Awakening

I just wrapped up the last session of my History of Conservative Thought course.  We spent the last day unpacking the “Introduction” to Richard Weaver’s Ideas Have Consequences (you can read my summary here).  We also discussed tax policy (an unexpected and pleasant pre-class discussion) and spending, and completed the “Debt Fixer” simulation from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

Towards the end of class, I also briefly touched upon the 2016 election of Donald Trump to the presidency.  I spoke extemporaneously, and largely touched upon the “forgotten men and women” theme—that is, that legions of voters perceived themselves to be overlooked, ignored, or even denigrated by the political and cultural arrangements of our time, and latched onto Trump’s candidacy as the best vehicle for expressing this sense of alienation.

At the top of my mind was a series of posts from my good e-pal photog, proprietor of the excellent blog Orion’s Cold Fire.  photog has a long post up entitled “The Great Awakening” that details the slowly dawning realization that millions of Americans were bamboozled by their political elites.  I highly encourage you check it out.

That essay comes on the heels of another photog post, one of his “American Greatness Post of the Day” features.  That feature links to a long essay by Matthew Boose, “The Great Excluded and Our Nationalist Future,” which casts our current political and cultural battles as one between the champions of multiculturalism versus the traditional American patriots.  The former believe America is “open to everyone”—except, of course, the benighted conservative Americans of flyover country—while the latter believe there is more to America than a set of abstract principles, and that our borders and traditions mean something.

photog and I both exist in “the thin space between the lumpen masses of the civic nationalists and the bomb-throwing bad-thinkers of the Post America far right,” as he aptly puts it.  We don’t accept the full-blown claims of the far/Alt-Right that America is doomed and our national heritage is irredeemable, nor do we think that one’s race is a determining factor in one’s ability to be a part of the American experiment.

But we also no longer believe that just getting the policy right will solve our problems.  As Weaver diagnosed in Ideas Have Consequences, our problems run deeper, to the level of ideas, but also to the metaphysical.  As Michael Knowles has said multiple times, our essential questions are not truly political, but are theological; that is, they are questions about who we are, what we believe, and what our place in the universe is.

Thus, we have another Great Awakening in American political and cultural life, a period during which we reexamine these fundamental questions.  For too long the radical, progressive Left has dominated how these theological questions are approached and considered.  The time has come for the Right to take its message to the people, and to restore a more traditional, satisfying, and godly sense of man and his place in Creation.

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