To the man lost in a dense forest, on the open ocean, or disoriented on some mountain ledge, life is suddenly tenuous. That is what addiction, depression, and inconsolable loss can do to people – and why saving one life is mission enough, or why conservatives should care, not scoff.
Yet one sees evermore offhand comments by glib politicians and those irked by modern society, dismissing the misfortunes of others as their own fault, encouraging callous reactions, offering disdain, maybe a platitude, taking a devil-may-care attitude. They just scoff.
Here is the rub. As a lifetime conservative, avid reader of the Founding Fathers, Edmund Burke, William Buckley, Huxley, Orwell, and Russell Kirk; as someone schooled in the White Houses of Ronald Reagan and George HW Bush, who worked for Gingrich, glib is not where it is at.
The point of conservatism is not to punish those who fail to understand ideas like self-reliance, self-discipline, self-respect, self-determination, and dangers lurking in liberal entitlement.
The point is not to condemn those who become lost in the thickets of modern nonsense, disoriented by meaningless rhetoric, misguided by untruths, socialism, escapism, and blame.
The point is not to join the finger pointing crowd but to rise above it. When someone begins to lose their way, or is discovered having lost their way, is struggling on a sea of sorrows, the point is to be there in the moment, be worth your salt, be present in their life for a time, be their rock.
Conservatives are not about indulging dependence, crime, disrespect, riots, or laziness, but they are also not about giving up on lonely souls, imagining that we are somehow impervious to what ails others. The conservative is about living with compassion hourly, with the humility to help.
When one reads or hears the idea that conservatives can walk away from vexing problems, leave others to languish in their failures, missteps, poverty, and pain, content to admire the mess others have made of the world, then declare it is not their problem – that is wrong.
That is not what a thoughtful, faith-centered, compassionate conservative does. He or she does the exact opposite. They model engagement, get involved, have the hard discussion, and do not give up on that soul who has given up … on being “unlost.”
Conservatives turn into the wind, go into that dense forest, out on that sea, up that ridge – to do whatever they can while they can for those who need the knowledge they have, the life lessons missing, the encouragement that will turn the corner, hope that comes only from another caring.
Unbecoming of any self-identified conservative is the idea of indifference, the notion that we are entitled – we, of all people – to somehow dismiss the deep troubles of others, condemn them, isolate them, ridicule them, blame or treat them as the scourge we are not, and never could be.
In 1553, the Protestant religious leader John Bradford, former counselor to King Edward VI, was imprisoned by Edward’s Catholic successor, Mary I. As he watched men led to execution, he remarked “There but for the grace of God go I.” His time would come, but he knew the truth.
We are all human, all vulnerable, fragile, subject to the passage of time, sudden turn of tides, misfortunes that overtake us from behind, no warning, left with forlorn hope – at the mercy of someone not as close to the edge, not yet lost in that forest, on that sea, or on that ledge.
When I hear or read others – sure in their position, wealth, health, or life’s virtue – I am reminded of what it means to be a conservative, giving without asking, exercising humility and discretion, recalling that today you may be free of adversity, but tomorrow you may need what you chose not to give.
Conservatives value tradition, institutions, self-help, courage, decency, and rights of individuals as individuals, not as groups. But they also believe in the dignity of one soul, one person, one life – every life – and doing what we can to empower, not let hopelessness devour, that soul.
When next you think a life not worth the time, perhaps remember this line – from Ronald Reagan’s later years. “We cannot help everyone,” he wrote, “but everyone can help someone.” That is how the lost become unlost, scared become un-scared, and how conservatives teach what conservatism is about, individuals caring about individuals. That – just that – is mission enough.
Robert Charles is a former Assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell, former Reagan and Bush 41 White House staffer, attorney, and naval intelligence officer (USNR). He wrote “Narcotics and Terrorism” (2003), “Eagles and Evergreens” (2018), and is National Spokesman for AMAC.
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Very good article Rob Charles, It is in the spirit of everything that encourages good character, good citizenship, respect for law and the will of God, respect for life and liberty. The mention of the soul is very important.
Having consideration for those in need, the idea of kindness, the thought of fairness , when the storms of life turn things around in unexpected ways it is honorable to be able and willing to set things right again for those who are at their limit, the soul and the spirit being restored, a great thought. A great part of the idea of having a sense of purpose and living according to a code of conduct . Understanding, hope, the courage to continue on the journey of life. The right spirit.
TREASONOUS BRIGANDS ARE WITHIN OUR GATES
She said scoffingly….
Very well thought out piece RBC. From my observations over the decades, those most likely to offer glib or dismissive attitudes towards the pain and suffering of others are frequently detached from any semblance of normal societal standards. They view themselves as above it all, either through immense wealth or unchecked political power which does indeed insulate them from suffering the same fate as those they ridicule with such apparent glee.
Case in point without going into any specific detail, when I briefly worked for the Federal Reserve, I frequently encountered an attitude among some of the most senior people of an almost complete and utter detachment and disregard from the results of some of the policies they were implementing on main street America. That the expected negative consequences of certain policies would crush potentially millions of lives was viewed as “acceptable collateral damage for the greater good”, because their own positions within the Fed insulated them from the vast majority of negative consequences that would result.
The same sort of attitude seems to be fairly common in many politicians we see today on one side of the political spectrum: The so-called left. They understand that they will NOT be held accountable for anything they do. No matter the nature of what they do. That the administrative state and the MSM will act to shield them from any real consequences for their actions. That, at best, the most they will suffer is some bad press from the very small segment of the media that is NOT fully aligned with offering protection to them and their party.
In the private sector, this type of detached and dismissive glib view is far less prevalent than in the political space. Outside of the ultra-wealthy, leftist types like Soros, Gates, Bloomberg, Steyer, Fink, etc., that pretty much operate above it all, the private sector does a pretty good job of self-regulating or constraining the overtly megalomaniac types that seem to view the rest of the world as their personal playthings to manipulate to suit their needs.
In such an environment, we as true constitutional conservatives have to find workarounds and alterative solutions to dealing with the fallout from such individuals in power. It is of course a constant effort, as the left as no interest in modifying their behavior or policies one bit. After all, why should they? They currently hold almost all the cards, because so much of America has taken the defeatist view and thrown in the towel. Which of course only further emboldens the left to do more. Yet that doesn’t mean we still can’t maneuver around much of the garbage thrown in our path. People can still achieve a lot and help many others, if they simply put their minds to it and follow through with concrete actions.
Yes! Finally! Such an important message. Always be a better you each and every day. Be the smile that adds light to a soul wrapped in darkness, a hand that helps someone move forward, and a message that gives hope. We can do this America! Thank you, Robert!
Thank you, truth is, in our hearts we all know these things… but the modern world encourages us to forget, ignore, look away. Living true is not looking away. Thank you
So true! We must continue to remind each other throughout our journey.
Now THAT is real wisdom & compassion, RBC, well said.
Thank you Sir. Sometimes what we know just needs saying again, aloud, with conviction, and my hope sometimes is just to put a little wind in the sail. Thank again. V/R