Hope And Division Part 2

     In our conversations about important topics, the C.S.O. often asks what I consider to be the critical kind of question: the kind that clarifies what the issue really is. A question of that sort, put to someone with a particular stand on the issue, can get him to reveal what he values most.

     A good demonstrator arises from the endless snipings over gun control. Many a gun-control proponent says that his concern is harm to innocents, perhaps children. I had a colleague who was rabidly opposed to private ownership of firearms because, he said, if there were no guns in private hands, fewer people would be hurt or killed. So I asked him: “If I could show you hard evidence that increasing private ownership of guns actually reduces harm to innocents, would you reconsider your position?”

     The question agonized him. No one wants to be thought of as closed-minded toward the evidence. But a passionate position of any sort isn’t easily exposed to vulnerability. After some time, he said that he wouldn’t change his position – not, mind you, that he doubted that I could produce such evidence; rather that it wouldn’t affect his stance. So I said roughly this to him (it was a long time ago):

     “Then there must be something that matters to you more than harm to innocents, right? Something important enough to you that even if we could reduce harm to innocents by allowing private citizens to own guns, you would still be opposed to it. Would you mind telling me what that is?”

     He didn’t answer me, then or ever. But I’d planted a seed. Perhaps it made him rethink the matter privately.

     To return to the point: Beth asked me why prominent entertainers in the Right are so much more reticent about their politics than are those on the Left. Why, for example, are Clint Eastwood and Kurt Russell not as vociferous about their positions as are the multitudes of actors and musicians on the Left who seemingly can’t stop talking about them? It’s a question that doesn’t have a blanket answer, though there are some threads of connection worth noting.

     First to mind is the “our sort don’t do that” syndrome. Many persons choose their politics out of their admiration for others with whom they’d like to associate or be associated. If the general tendency among those admired ones is reticence about politics, the admirer will feel a pressure to emulate them in that regard. (Note also how that functions among those who admire persons on the Left.)

     Second is the matter of fundamental values, especially humility. If Smith sincerely prizes that value, he’ll surely try to live accordingly. He won’t promote himself or his convictions at the expense of others. In particular, he won’t use whatever following he may have as a platform from which to proselytize for his positions. Notably, the West’s two great religions, Christianity and Judaism, both incorporate humility in their fundamentals – and those two affiliations are more frequently found among those in the Right than on the Left.

     Third, and increasingly important in our time, is the unwillingness to tempt attackers. At a time when the media, a lot of the largest corporations, and a host of occupational associations are firmly under the Left’s control – see Robert Conquest’s Three Laws of Politics for the explanation – the potential for triggering a vicious and sustained attack on oneself by provoking those entities is huge. Many in the Right have suffered greatly from it. Though silence may be considered to give consent, it has the virtue of not calling fire down on one’s own position.

     There are surely other reasons pertinent to particular persons, but the above three generalize rather well over the American Right. Thus, we see Dwayne Johnson saying that henceforward he’ll keep his politics to himself, but not that he’s switched allegiances. Given what he’s said about combating division among Americans, that might well be the case, but proclaiming it would be inconsistent with the value he’s articulated.

     A coda: It’s been said that “I was wrong” is the hardest of all English-language sentences to master. In Pay The Two Dollars, his hilarious tome on law and lawsuits, Alexander Rose wrote that “Most people would rather plead guilty to murder than to ignorance.” Anyone who’s sat in enough status meetings will know this for truth, and it applies with tremendous force to changes in one’s political stances. The reluctance to admit to error inhibits everyone. On this subject I speak from experience.