An evident characteristic of the neoconservatives is that they are forever seeing the light. Leon Trotsky, Martin Luther King, Leo Strauss, and George Bush are just some of the splendid aurorae that, in decades past, have shone upon them at the end of philosophical tunnels and through the clearings in political clouds.
It’s just that the light they’re seeing is always a different color, as though from the University of Chicago to the nursing home they’re stuck in metaphysical traffic, perspiring helplessly as it changes. Green for détente with Soviet Russia, then yellow for détente with Soviet Russia, then red for détente with Soviet Russia. Green for abortion, yellow for immigration, then red, then yellow again. Green, yellow, red, and they’re still there, sitting on their hands, windows half-down, Beach Boys on the radio.
I mention all this because the other day somebody called me a neoconservative, which is about as careless and misleading as calling Elvis Presley dead or Don Juan gay. As a matter of fact, I need say nothing in rebuttal as to the substance of my political convictions; I need only point out that, whatever they are, they haven’t changed over the course of my earthly sojourn. That alone should clear me of any imputation of neoconservativism.
In 1990, which is a quarter of a century ago, I wrote a little broadside entitled The Coming Order. “It was once explained to a Southern legislator in Congress,” my squib began, “that Eisenhower was not a communist but an anti-communist. ‘Well, drawled the southerner in reply, I don’t care what kind of communist he is.’” Strom Thurmond’s pigheadedness is a reasonably comprehensive summation of my own political philosophy ever since I remember having one.
The Coming Order had been conceived as a look at the previous quarter-century in Russian politics, but turned out as a preview of the next. Mouth agape at the Kremlin junta’s spectacular reshuffle of creedal symbols, the West – with the neoconservatives, as ever, sitting in history’s traffic jam – acceded to the new status quo, and in vain did the pigheads of the world protest that its essence was little different from the status quo ante.
“We’ve won,” cried the grandchildren of Trotskyites and the sons of Vietnam draft card burners when Moscow changed the lights from communist red to capitalist amber. “Communism has fallen!” In reality, they were stuck at the same intersection, with the same tunes on the car radio, with traffic flowing elsewhere, always elsewhere, always along routes they had not chosen.
Obstinacy may not be the same as wisdom, but unlike intellectual Johnny-come-lateness it is a responsible attitude to the political flux, which is notorious for shifting ground, finding new ways around democracy’s checks and balances, and using smoke and mirrors to manufacture assent and to manipulate public opinion.
I’ll take a stubborn pig over an impuissant Straussian anytime. Hope you will, too, or else someday an ignorant journalist may come along and call you a neoconservative.
Andrei Navrozov, born in Moscow, lives in Palermo and is European editor for Chronicles. The former publisher of the Yale Lit, he is a widely published author and translator. His Italian Carousel: Scenes of Internal Exile was published by Peter Owen Publishers.