One thing that conservatives overlook in their worldview is tradition. We favor limited government, free enterprise, the social issues, a strong defense, but as to the basic theme of tradition we slide over it. Russell Kirk, an important conservative thinker from the recent past, favored tradition and he wrote about it, but I cannot think of another prominent thinker in recent years who stressed it.
Tradition is a vivifying ingredient to a country’s culture. However, it ought to be a major element in our American experience. One thinks of our unique history, with our colonial heritage, George Washington and the war against King George III, the brilliant period of our Founding Fathers, our Civil War and Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Then came our appearance on the world stage with spectacular contributions to science, sports, industry, commerce, and popular culture, to say nothing of the defense and advancement of democracy, freedom, and equality.
Ours is a great history and we should have a rich tradition, but somehow we have failed with traditions recalling our history and values. In fact, there are Americans denying our traditions. I am talking about the so-called Liberals who sneer at American traditions and peel away at them: the tradition of Christmas, the tradition of Thanksgiving, July 4th, and all the traditions attacked by political correctness.
The major weapon the so-called Liberals use in their war on American tradition is political correctness. All the things traditional Americans like, the so-called Liberals go after as not quite politically correct. Thus, the girls replace the boys in areas the boys traditionally dominated, and now the sexually ambiguous take over the traditional woman’s domain, for instance, the powder room. The result is a loss of traditional values, and, well, the world is turned upside down.
Political correctitude, I believe, explains the present state of American culture and tradition. America leads the world in turning things upside down. This explains the rise of Donald Trump. He opposes the politically correct madness and apparently a growing majority of Americans are with him. His rise should be for all traditional Americans a reason for hope. He is going to make America great again. And that is an auspicious matter for those Americans who yearn for old-fashioned American optimism.
I am vacationing in Spain where one of the traditional pastimes is the bullfight. I have been thinking about the bullfight as I walk the streets of Madrid, mingle with the clientele at the Bar de la Torre del Oro, and attend the Friday night bullfight at Las Ventas. It is the very same arena where Hemingway sat and watched hundreds of fights on the same concrete bleachers. In my mind I compare it to America’s national pastime, baseball. In a lifetime of sport, I have picked up more than a little knowledge of the various athletic endeavors of the world. Taking one sport with another, the greatest all-around athletes are baseball players with their amazing hand-eye coordination, and their ability to catch the ball, throw the ball, and hit the ball. This is not to diminish the athletic prowess of others. For instance the matadors exhibit stupendous footwork and great agility. They leap into the air right over the bull’s slashing horns and with unerring artistry stick their picks in the bull’s neck and then the sword in a mighty instantaneous lunge. Their athleticism may not quite equal that of a great baseball player, but they make up for it with unsurpassed courage. One false step will find the matador on the tips of a 400-pound bull’s horns.
We have our national pastime and the Spaniards have theirs. Both tell us something about the national character of each country’s people. The bullfight may be grislier than the baseball game, but one thing is certain: the Spanish audience is more polite, better dressed and there was no dispute about which bathroom I was to use.
As we approach the elections this fall in America let us give some thought to the condition of our traditions. For my money, when Donald Trump is talking about making America great again he is talking about many things. One of them is American tradition.