…scanning the editorial pages of the WSJ or papers from the several erudite conservative and libertarian fonts, I often feel that I can play the old game: I can foretell from the first couple of sentences where that editorial or op-ed or conservative think-tank essay is going—what tried and true and trite right-wing lessons can be gleaned from it. Reading the National Review and American Spectator issues on the electoral defeat this past fall impresses one with how so many good, well-meaning, and intelligent commentators are able to miss the point.
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For 40 years, smug, snide right-wingers have made merry mocking Greenpeace fanatics and ecological doomsayers without learning a blessed thing about the precariousness of the ecology and the effect of human action (not to speak of avarice) on it, as when we promiscuously exfoliate the rain forests or condemn yet one more green acre on the southeastern shore of New Jersey to the desolation of heedless urban development. We conservatives are so self-satisfied that we have incapacitated ourselves from peering beneath the antics of idiots and the wild exaggerations of scruffy environmentalist kooks to the gathering of real dangers that their hysterical rhetoric obscures. The climate is most probably changing, and the human impact on it should be studied.
When last did you hear a conservative spokesman deplore yet another six-lane highway, yet another fast-food alley, yet another graceless subdivision, yet another Super Wal-Mart or Lowe’s that sucks the life out of small village businesses, yet one more onslaught against neighborhood and nature that is masked under the name of progress? Unless it is a bridge in Alaska from nowhere to nowhere, you will not hear the deepest red-dyed congressman denounce the progressive uglification of our natural inheritance, as though beauty is of no concern. Have you flown recently from Newport News to Boston at 25,000 feet on a clear day and gazed down upon the horror of American civilization? What man hath wrought! What we have done to this beautiful land? Dear God, forgive us! But when last did you hear a conservative oppose a new mall because it is ugly, an affront to the eye, accustoming thousands of human beings to dehumanizing blows against the aesthetic sense until it is benumbed? The good, the true, and the beautiful are inseparably joined. One cannot damage one without doing harm to the others. Those who fail to comprehend this are morally in error on the dialectical front, though they may be personally virtuous.
Not all development is bad, not all logging is reprehensible, and some eyesores cannot be avoided. Industrialization, which provides surcease from want, can neither be stopped nor should it be. But within the hysteria and exaggeration of political activists, mostly of the Left, too often supported by cooked science, there is often a kernel of legitimate concern, be it economical, sociological, aesthetic, or environmental. We conservatives have shut our ears.
How stupid. Full 480 moons have my brother James and I bemoaned this cretinous yet apparently incurable kneejerk conservative response to abuses of nature, real or alleged. Indifference to environmental damage is not only saddening, it’s a deplorable exhibition of urban-bred removal from reality. This should be our cause, for pity’s sake, not theirs. Too many conservative solons were city-born, methinks, and would be terrified to spend a single night in the wilds of Central Park, where a screech owl might whistle at them.
It’s almost as if he considers them serious people.
Where has he been the last eight years?