"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Monday, July 13, 2020

More Catholic Than The Pope–When Conservatives Turn Progressive They Always Return

Bert Blevins woke up on top of the world.  Today was the day he was to receive a Medal of Special Achievement from Progressive Leaders Of America, a nationwide organization formed to give newly woke Americans an institutional home.  It was not enough, the officers of PLA decided, to rely on one-off contributions from important but random supporters; and not enough certainly to sign online petitions, vent on Twitter, and talk over the backyard fence about the evils of Donald Trump.  No, they said, an institutional home designed especially as a locus of progressive thought, commitment and action.

Ironically his wife on the very same day would receive her official certificate of membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution, an organization which insisted on meticulous documentation of ancestry far before the War.  To be a bona fide member one had to prove beyond a shadow of doubt that he or she was a direct descendant of a patriot who had fought the British – a question of great-great-great, etc. grandfathers back seven uninterrupted generations.  Membership in the DAR was a privilege and a great patriotic honor. 

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The Society of the Cincinnati is even more restrictive, and members must be qualified male descendants of officers of the Continental Army and Navy and their French counterparts during the Revolutionary War. Whereas the descendants of anyone who fought in the War of Independence, whether front line soldier, officer, or carter could apply to the DAR, such inclusivity was considered second rate by the Society, and plowmen, mess sergeants, wheelwrights, and carpenters need not apply.

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There are many Americans related to descendants of the Founding Fathers or the great generals of the Civil War, the Mexican War, the War of 1812, and the Spanish American War; and they too have a place at the exclusive patriotic table.  Thousands more of course fought in more recent wars, and tens of thousands are simply proud of the country and its cultural ancestry - one of kings, emperors, courtiers, regents and aristocrats who built Western civilization and who managed, and extended empires.  We are children of Louis XIV, Queen Victoria, the Romanovs, the Hapsburgs, and the Enlightenment, these cultural patriots say; and we have built a free, prosperous, ambitious, and successful nation on their foundation.

Be that as it may, Bert Blevins was veering precariously to the radical Left just as his wife, through DAR membership, was confirming her foundational, conservative, very American roots.  Not only were they poles apart, but light years.  No two political philosophies could be so divergent, so antithetical.  Members of the Progressive Leaders of America were out to tear down every last vestige of colonial, white male privilege.  Nothing in America from George Washington to the present fell out of their sights.

This, the leader of the Society proclaimed, was Year Zero, deliberately reminiscent of Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge leader who in an attempt to create an Communist society more doctrinally pure than even that of Mao, displaced millions of Cambodians, sent them to punitive re-education camps, murdered those even suspected of bourgeois leanings, emptied the cities, and began what he called a Neo-Agrarian Revolution.  Mao’s Long March was nothing compared to Pol Pots forced exodus from Phnom Penh. 

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According to PLA leaders the corrupt, bourgeois, American capitalist establishment deserved no better.  The sooner that their ugly, distorted, manipulative history was expunged from town squares, history books, and museums; and the sooner that tainted racist institutions like the police were dissolved and replaced by cooperative, community-based, communal forces of order, the better.  The PLA intended to stop at nothing but a total reversal of values.  Whites would become blacks’slaves.  Wall Street tycoons would be workers' chattels and lackeys.  Castrating dominatrix, cross-gendered women would rule the sexual and social marketplace.

The odd thing was that both Bert and his wife came from the same, good, white Anglo-American stock.  They both went to exclusive private boarding schools and Ivy League universities.  They were married in a high Episcopal ceremony in Washington, DC, lived in Georgetown, bought houses on Nantucket and St. Tropez, and were of the very very elite.  Bert had never had the interest to investigate his ancestry.  His family knew they were American royalty.  Just the paintings on the wall of 18th century English lords, wealthy planters who accompanied John Davenport to New Haven to found the first English colony there, Southern Cavaliers in Walter Raleigh’s entourage, and more told the story.  One need never question this heritage.

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So what was it that turned Bert so radically Left?  Surely logic, historical exegesis, trips to the Archives and Library of Congress had nothing to do with it. To understand, one would have to back to Bert’s undergraduate days at Yale.  He had been admitted on a legacy – all Blevins since the days of John Davenport had gone there – despite the fact that his record from St. Paul’s was a bit ragged without much promise.  He had apparently matriculated at St. Paul's just as he had at Yale – thanks to legacy and years of generous family contributions. 

For most students of his ability and background, nothing much untoward would ever happen.  After Yale they went to Wall Street, again thanks to patronage and willingness of partners to ‘let him find themselves’; but Bert graduated just too late to let this conservative sinecure take hold.  The early Sixties were a time of campus peace and quiet; but by the time the decade was over, it had become a hotbed of civil rights, anti-war protests, and social justice – nothing like today’s campuses, of course, but nasty and co-opting in its own way.

Not surprisingly it was love that turned his head, and the intense, raven-haired, anarchic Judy Birnbaum was the one who did the turning.  She was a student at Barnard who participated in all the Mark Rudd troubles at Columbia, transferred to Radcliffe where her emotional socialism was strengthened by academic study, and met Bert on the Old Campus at a progressive rally.  Bert was only an onlooker, but there was something about him the predatory Judy saw and liked – a willing partner in her radical life. 

Sex was on the table early and often.  Bert, thanks to his rather limited and supervised childhood, had only light girlfriends, friends of the family, wives and marital partners to be.  He had never even known that the likes of Judy Birnbaum existed, or ever suspected such feline appetites.  He was hooked, and he did whatever she asked. 

After Yale he was too timid to pursue her and her radical anarchism, and was pulled back in by Connecticut family and friends who, stopping short of anti-Semitism, made it clear that Miss Birnbaum was definitely not for him.  So he went on like this older brothers, uncles, and grandparents to New York banking and investments.  Like others of his modest abilities but with impeccable credentials and a large treasury along with he was tolerated.  The French, when speaking of an eligible high class woman, say she has a ‘de la’ devant, et une grosse fortune derriere – in other words and aristocratic title and a lot of family money; and Bert was no different.

Bert could never forget Judy Birnbaum, even after many decades, and thought she had receded too far in the past to ever be recalled; but as the loud radical Year Zero protests began, she returned – not in person, unfortunately, for she had for years been institutionalized with early onset Alzheimer’s and recognized no one or nothing – but in spirit.  There was something heady about the Black Lives Matter protests, their violence, and total commitment to revolutionary justice that reminded Bert of her their sweaty nights on 116th Street.  

Bert had never been an intellectual entrepreneur – he was intimidated by complexity, moral uncertainty, the place of history, social relativism, and post-modernism – and so he was an ideal groupie.  As ‘one of the guys’ on the golf course at Marblehead or on the slopes of Gstaad, he was always in his element.  He never challenged always accepted.  Hale fellow well met had always served him well, and so it would again even in this angry, vengeful, and hysterical mob.  If he belonged, really belonged, and showed it, complexity would never be an issue.

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So one by one, he was easily seduced into the membership of right causes.  There was nothing on the progressive agenda that he disputed.  On the contrary, he was as happy as could be marching, protesting, sticking up flyers and posters about Black Lives Matter in his own tony, leafy Northwest Washington neighborhood.

He had not been duped by any means.  He had gone quite willingly across the political street.  After all it was belonging, fellowship, and camaraderie that counted for someone of his limitations.  He tended after a while to avoid the angry black men and women who were out to do damage, and contented himself with tamer, more appropriate causes, such as Global Warming.  These members were more civil and more his kind of people even in their progressive madness.   At the same time, he never lost interest in the more Pol Pot, Year Zero initiatives of the more radical members of the Society.   He was in solidarity with and one of them.

One might ask how Bert and his wife could stay together.  Bloodlines, ancestry, and common heritage could not be denied no matter what; and eventually, Mary Blevins knew, her husband would come back.  Wild progressivism – more Catholic than the Pope – was simply a phase for her poor, gullible, easily led and misled husband.  All this fol-de-role and progressive nonsense would soon come to an end – no society had ever peered into the abyss of anarchy and not pulled back.  Their ancestors had the right idea – probity, intelligence, will, discipline, and patriotism.

Of course she was right, and sooner rather than later Bert was playing golf again at Congressional, summering happily on the Vineyard, and skiing once again in the Alps.  What comes around goes around she thought – or maybe not since that devious nostrum never made much sense.  In any case Bert returned to normality, dismissed the craziness of the Left just as he had precipitously joined it.  No conservative ever became a progressive and stayed.
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