At the risk of being obvious or repetitive: I wonder how many tea party attendees were enthusiastic supporters of the $660,000,000,000 war in Iraq.
70%? 80%? More? When drooling over the glory of war, were any of them thinking about the price tag?
All this tea party hype is both a red herring and an attempt to foist blame.
“Staying focused on the future” is a euphemism for irresponsibility.
Responsibility is owning your past.
If you have made a mistake, common decency requires that you:
- Admit the mistake was made. Stop making up new narratives to support or justify what you did.
- Account for the mistake, concretely, in detail (as opposed to a general statement of “yes, mistakes were made” or sentimental statements of general regret or shame or any mere expression of emotion, detached from concrete actions). This account is not a list of punishable offenses, but rather a record of moral lessons that have been learned.
- Detail how you would avoid making the mistake in the future. Translate your theoretical lessons into practical terms. Reassure everyone that you are intellectually equipped to avoid repeating your mistakes.
- Make things right. This is not penance. It is evidence that you are not an escapist; that you have genuine integrity – that you integrate your past and your future, your beliefs and your actions, your individual interests with the well-being of the society in which you live.
- Demonstrate that you take it very seriously that you must win back the trust of the people you inadvertently harmed. If you betrayed someone, or disrespected someone – you must show that you have learned to see differently, that you have learned to care about how someone else cares. You must humbly accept the social consequences of your mistake. This acceptance means caring about what others think of you and working to change it. You must ask for forgiveness and keep asking until you have been given it. If you think the simple act of asking for forgiveness discharges your duty you still have learned nothing. The forgiveness loop is closed when the forgiveness is given.
The conservatives have a long road ahead of them if they wish to regain dialogue (through-Logos) with their neighbors/enemies. A long stretch of that road is the recovery of the desire to come to a mutually beneficial arrangement, rather than seeking out coercive means of control over the culture.
That road is the only road that leads to winning back any soul, conservative or liberal.
The soul of conservatism isn’t any one policy. It is responsibility, and it is responsibility alone that gives any body of policy real life.