Daniel Oliver

Conservative Vibes for Our Time

That’s what Nat Con II was all about: getting inside the vibrations of modern life.

What do we mean by “conservatism” these days, anyway? That was one of the questions always present (stated or unstated) at the National Conservatism Conference put on by the Edmund Burke Foundation in Orlando, Florida, late last month. It was the second such conference, NatCon II, the first one having been held in the summer of 2019. How is this new conservatism different from what has gone before? Is it different? About 750 people, many of them young, went to Orlando to find out.

William F. Buckley Jr., the founder of National Review, wrote years ago that he knew, if not what conservatism was, at least who conservatives were—confessing at the same time that it was easier to know who a liberal was: “Spin me about like a top, and I will walk up to the single liberal in the room without a zig or a zag and find him even if he is hiding behind the flowerpot.”

Some of the “conservatism” of the Orlando crowd is a reaction, and rebuke, to the Republican establishment, especially some (maybe many) of the Republican office holders in Washington—e.g., the 13 Republican members of the House of Representatives who voted for Joe Biden’s trillion dollar “infrastructure” bill (and who should spend the rest of their time in Washington behind —in?—flowerpots). They are “Chamber of Commerce” Republicans, people who care only about business and the bottom line, not about how we get to that line, or how many people have to get stepped on, or fired, or replaced by Chinese workers (or slaves), to get to that line. National Conservatism is something different—something more proudly American, “Trumpist,” the liberals might claim, accusingly, though it has little to do with Trump, and his name was mentioned only occasionally at the conference.

And “National Conservatism” is not exactly Reaganesque either, as a number of speakers pointed out. But that’s not surprising: Reagan took office more than 40 years ago, and there is no reason to suppose he would have proposed, as the solutions for today’s problems, the solutions he proposed then.

Even Buckley was criticized by one speaker, who said his famous cry for “standing athwart history, yelling ‘Stop!’” was simply not sufficient. But Buckley never said it was. That iconic phrase appeared in the first issue of National Review in 1955. But there was a whole lot more.

Buckley wrote: “[National Review] is out of place because, in its maturity, literate America rejected conservatism in favor of radical social experimentation [Doesn’t this remind us of open borders? Critical race theory for kids? Gender optionality?]. Instead of covetously consolidating its premises, the United States seems tormented by its tradition of fixed postulates having to do with the meaning of existence, [Justice Kennedy’s infamous “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life” anyone?] with the relationship of the state to the individual [you vill vear your mask und vhere are your vaccinations papers?], of the individual to his neighbor, so clearly enunciated in the enabling documents of our Republic.”

And Buckley continued: “Conservatives in this country—at least those who have not made their peace with the New Deal, and there is a serious question of whether there are others—are non-licensed nonconformists; and this is a dangerous business in a Liberal world, as every editor of this magazine can readily show by pointing to his scars. Radical conservatives in this country have an interesting time of it, for when they are not being suppressed or mutilated by Liberals [mind you, this was decades before Google, Amazon, Twitter, and Facebook], they are being ignored or humiliated by a great many of those of the well-fed Right [Hmm: Republicans In Name Only?], whose ignorance and amorality have never been exaggerated for the same reason that one cannot exaggerate infinity.”

“Not made their peace with the New Deal”! Holy smoke! Of course, the New Deal was younger then, dating from about 1933 to 1939, less than two decades before the founding of National Review. But who these days is calling for the repeal of anything?

Christopher DeMuth, the chairman of the conference, said in his speech that three of the critical foundations of nationhood are religion, locality, and family. Exactly. The dedication in Buckley’s first book, God and Man at Yale (1951), reads: “For God, For Country, and for Yale . . . in that order.”

DeMuth’s speech illustrated a point Buckley made in an address to the Conservative Party of New York State in 1964. Buckley said: “Modern formulations are necessary even in defense of very ancient truths. Not because of any alleged anachronism in the old ideas—the Beatitudes remain the essential statement of the Western code—but because the idiom of life is always changing, and we need to say things in such a way as to get inside the vibrations of modern life.”

That’s what Nat Con II was all about: getting inside the vibrations of modern life.

Published:

November 11, 2021
American Greatness

Silver Bullets for Mask Mandates

Mask mandates are now very political. They are very political precisely because they make no medical sense.

After the 10:00 a.m. service at Annunciation Catholic Church in Washington D.C., a parishioner asked a visitor why he wasn’t wearing a mask. He replied by explaining that there was no medical reason to wear a mask; that it has been amply proven that masks are completely useless in normal circumstances, such as people gathering at a church service. He also said that he was resisting tyranny—soft tyranny, perhaps, if there is such a thing; perhaps soft fascism. (Can fascism ever be soft?) He said it wasn’t proper to do things that were meaningless just because we, the citizens, have been told to do them by government officials.

The parishioner was unpersuaded. The visitor asked her why she was wearing a mask. She replied that she was wearing a mask to protect other people. “Which other people?” the visitor asked. She paused for a moment and then said anyone who might be vulnerable. She said even people who had been vaccinated could get the Chinese Flu—though she didn’t refer to it that way.

The visitor replied that people who had chosen not to be vaccinated had chosen to take their chances with the disease and there was no reason why everyone else should wear masks to protect them. There was also very little chance that people who had already had the virus would contract it again (the CDC estimated in April only about one percent), or get a case serious enough to produce serious consequences.

The CDC website says that as of August, 182.5 million Americans have been fully vaccinated. It also says that fewer than 0.004 percent of fully vaccinated people have had a breakthrough case that led to hospitalization and less than 0.001 percent of fully vaccinated people have died from a breakthrough COVID-19 case.

That means that about 1,825 people have had “a breakthrough case resulting in death.” And it is probably fair to say, based on what we know about the people who died without getting vaccinated, that most of the people who died after getting vaccinated were old and had a comorbidity.

In comparison, in most years, the U.S. death toll from the regular flu is about 34,000 to 43,000, but we don’t wear masks to protect people from the flu. And in comparison, last year 38,680 people were killed in highway accidents, more than 21 times the number of post-vaccine Chinese Flu deaths—and 4 million people (!) were seriously injured in highway crashes.

We could probably reduce the number of highway deaths and injuries from accidents significantly if “we” (whoever “we” are) lowered speed limits significantly and enforced them. But we don’t. Why not? It’s not an idle question.

The answer is because we value some things more than the mere preservation of life. We might phrase it as “valuing living more than life.” We “allow” people to engage in dangerous activities. Some people work themselves to the bone (and to an early grave) supporting their families, because supporting their families is more important than the length of life itself. Some people engage in death-defying sports, which in the end (for them) don’t succeed in defying death after all.

For the woke, death is a disaster: it is the end. Game over. For the woke, therefore, prolonging life is essential—well, maybe not for useless grandmas, or, of course, very young children—but certainly for adult, active wokies.

But merely prolonging life is not, presumably, the goal of the people who gather each week at Annunciation Catholic Church in Washington, D.C. For them the purpose of life is to get to Heaven. And that means, while they should not be careless with life, they should put preservation of life in context. And probably you don’t have to be a Catholic to value living more than just life.

The parishioner said to the visitor that the cardinal of the Washington diocese, Wilton Daniel Gregory, had said that masks had to be worn inside churches, and asked why the visitor wasn’t willing to obey the cardinal. If the cardinal said not to eat meat on Fridays, would the visitor eat meat anyway?

Fair question, perhaps. The answer is that the cardinal can make rules in his jurisdiction. But requiring masks is a political matter, and the cardinal has no special expertise, or jurisdiction, in politics. Would the parishioner never drive faster than 45 miles per hour if the cardinal asked her not to? Unlikely.

Mask mandates are now very political. They are very political precisely because they make no medical sense. The mask mandates are just instances of politicians misusing their powers in an attempt to control the population. Free people should not give in to that—if they want to remain free people. And Catholics especially shouldn’t give in to the pols, who increasingly are woke and therefore oppose almost every essential thing Catholics believe.

The parishioner pondered for a moment, then thanked the visitor profusely for stopping so long to explain his position—though why shouldn’t he have?

It’s true she didn’t hear him say as he departed, “Hi-ho, Silver! Away!” But even so she may have wondered, “Who was that unmasked man?”

Published:

September 30, 2021
American Greatness