Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Once and Forever

I was looking to do a little reading outside of my usual web haunts, so I wandered over to the National Review, where I found a column by George Will - I'd link to it, but there seems to have been some browser shenanigans going on (it kept opening new tabs to strange websites), so I'm uncertain of the page's safety.

In any event, Mr. Will, who I'd come to enjoy reading in the past was holding forth on the idea that eugenics was once a Progressive idea - in the 1920s to 1940s, and that modern progressives should know this. But he never answered the question of "Why?" Who cares what ideas were attached to modern political labels 80 to 100 years ago? Why must the current heirs to a political term be held responsible for a past that was dead an buried before they were born?

It was a disappointing read, because it seemed more outwardly partisan, and less sharp, than I remembered Mr. Will being when I'd read his columns in local Seattle newspapers. The idea that modern Democrats and Progressives are somehow tainted by the actions of the pre-civil rights era or the period before the Second World War has been floating around for years, and seems to be born of little more than a desire to insinuate that people who use the same labels as bad people in the past must be (perhaps secretly) bad people themselves.

Pretending that the world never changes is a poor mode of Conservatism, in my opinion. Conservatives may extol the virtues of the past, and desire to retain as many of the its practices and traditions as they can manage, and I can understand that impulse, even when I feel that it leads to a certain level of historical blindness. But when that blindness extends to the insinuation that the American political landscape - and the labels we use to describe it - haven't changed in a century, it becomes a handicap we can do without.

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