I have never liked New Year’s Eve. Americans might have voted for “change” recently, but I’ve rarely desired it, always finding the same-old, same-old to be as bright or brighter than any new horizons. As a child on New Year’s Eve, when everyone was looking toward a better new year, I was always wondering what was wrong with the last one. I loved my family, friends, the neighborhood I grew up in, and would have preferred that no one moved away, that no one grew older, and would have gladly repeated any grade in school for the rest of my life. Childhood was a good place to be and I was in no hurry to leave it.
To instinctively oppose change is what most would call a “reactionary” position and growing up in the comfortable, close-knit community of Hanahan, South Carolina very well might have turned me into one at an early age. Since putting away childish things, all the typical accusations lobbed at reactionaries; being anti-liberal, resisting “progress,” romanticizing the past, you name it – I’ve not only been guilty of each, but have considered such qualities bedrock conservative principles. And I’ve certainly never understood why faith in tradition, heritage and the tried-and-true was automatically disparaged, yet blind faith in the open-ended promises of progress was automatically desirable.
But while my politics remain conservative – my disposition does not. With the hometown of my youth now somewhat distant, and portions of it being overrun by foreigners of questionable legal status, change could not come fast enough. With a government constantly and forcibly wedding my own future fortunes to inept big government and big business, and spending our children’s and grandchildren’s inheritance without hesitation, a drastic change of course is undoubtedly in order. And after eight years of a utopian, big government, authoritarian-leaning president who some still mistake as a conservative, I cannot wait for any new leadership that might redefine the American Right – and given the current, sad state of affairs – the more radical the better. I suspect many might agree that the changing the status quo is no longer a simple matter of reform – but revolution.
Many conservatives fear that the new president will prove himself increasingly worse the more things change, but I most fear this will prove true precisely as things continue to stay the same. Like Bush, Obama isn’t uncomfortable with the current system – he just believes he can run it better. A more efficient manager of the federal and financial government beast will have done nothing to address root problems and may do much to create an even more dangerous animal.
Politically, I now seem to be growing up backwards, as retiring youthful ideals to embrace adult realities has only served to make me more radical. 20 years ago, Southern philosopher Mel Bradford explained the importance of the term “reactionary” for modern conservatives, “Reaction is a necessary term in the intellectual context we inhabit in the twentieth century because merely to conserve is sometime to perpetuate what is outrageous.” Bradford was right, and on the cusp of 2009, the perpetuation of so much outrageousness promises to make it harder to find much worth conserving. The conservative might indeed need to become more radical, the most sober realist might be the most reactionary and unfortunately the clearest paths home may prove the most improbable.