Solzhenitsyn and me
Posted by Ron Coleman on August 3, 2008
Alexander Solzhenitsyn died. (UPDATE: New York Times obituary here.) Two years ago this October, on the occasion of the even of elections, I wrote on Dean’s World the following about how and why I became a conservative. That story began with Alexander Solzhenitsyn:
I recognized that I was a conservative during high school, when in support of a paper I was writing on Solzhenitsyn in a senior-year comparative literature class my ethnic-Polish teacher gave me a stack of American Spectator magazines, one of which included an article on Solzhenitsyn by Malcolm Muggeridge.
The entire gestalt of it just spoke sense to me. Was it a reaction to the tepid, petrified left-wing Jewish labor socialism of my extended family? The anger of a first-generation American (on one side) at a society that seemed (remember, I grew up in the ’60’s) so inexcusably and utterly unwilling to defend itself against what anyone could see was subversion? “Common sense,” as a Princeton friend, later dropout and current Washington operator would later describe it when recruiting me for some Reagan-era campus political / social suicide mission? Maybe it was just the natural inclination of one identified as depressingly adultoid from an absurdly young age and whose picture can be found at the Wikipedia entry for “stick in the mud.” I don’t really know, but I do remember that when I told my college roommate that I had, upon my return from an Israel program for Jewish searchers, become committed to religious observance, he said, “Well, now at least your religious ethic matches your political one” (or words to that effect).
Be that as it may, it is truth to me, even though politics, and most politicians, turn my stomach. I mean, there is some ethic in there, isn’t there?
But at the end of the day, these Democrats are the ones who so undermined the world I remember growing up in, and they continue to do so today. They are not even in the league, for patriotism and love of country and decency, of the Democratic politicians of my early youth — Lyndon Johnson, Roberty Kennedy, Hubert Humphrey. With McGovern, that ended.
Jimmy Carter sealed the deal. He made being an American embarrassing, humiliating, depressing, hopeless. Wimpy. Apologetic. Cringing. Losing.
I don’t believe any of today’s Democratic leaders have improved on Jimmy Carter, except that he had the benefit of not having to kowtow, as today’s Democrats do, so grossly to identity politics of every right- and- privilege- demanding ethnic and social subcultural group, no matter how subversive; to the hard-left on abortion rights; and he was allowed to be some kind of public Christian.
I wish there were Republicans today who had a quarter of the qualities of Ronald Reagan. Here was a great man, one who never claimed for himself the mantle of a perfect or even particularly virtuous personal life; but he loved his country, knew right from wrong, and — exercising a quality that I admire for the very scold it places on one such as myself — his ability, now proved doubly and triply, to make everyone around him think he was a dumbbell when in fact he was sly as a fox. Frankly I think George W. Bush comes quite close to these qualities. But, sadly lacking the Gipper’s ability to communicate and being the literal heir to a political tradition of some ideological infirmity to a conservative — think Jim Baker, the man who made me vote for Bill Clinton in 1992 — he is not Reagan. Nor are today’s dizzy denizens of the Capitol statesmen, by and large. Were they ever? The past takes on an undeserved elegance in sepia. The crassness of living, live and unsilenceable color makes today’s professional political class seemingly harder to swallow than its predecessors — red or blue.
But every time I step into the booth I ask myself, If this candidate could choose Ronald Reagan* or Jimmy Carter to make the keynote speech at his or her party’s nominating convention, which one would he or she choose?
The choice is simple.
* Captain Ed [just] posted on Reagan as well, so if you’re reading this belatedly, click through to Ed’s comment.
Cross-posted on Right-Wing News.