I’ve noted before that it pleases me that ninety-seven year-old Grandma, who is still with us, was born before World War I, the Bolshevik Revolution, the creation of the Nazi Party, the completion of the Panama Canal, and the founding of Saudi Arabia. Part of being conservative (in a good sense) should be recognizing that many things that pretend to be ancient or permanent are in fact recently-concocted fads soon to be exploded. Recognizing how short-lived some seemingly-huge historical phenomena such as the Nazis and the USSR really were can help put things in perspective.
And now Grandma has seen Bin Laden come and go. She may yet outlive al Qaeda.
Perhaps people’s revulsion at that group’s religiosity will also hasten the death of the false notion – treated as a timeless truth by the Cold War right and still believed by some – that religion is essential for the protection of the U.S. and Western civilization. Just the fact that some conservatives keep mouthing that idea while, with the next breath, saying our current greatest foe is a band of religious fanatics is a reminder that people don’t choose to think too carefully about these formulations once they take on even the thinnest veneer of “time-honored wisdom.”
Things change. Until the moment they do, we are often told that the current situation is not only likely to prove permanent but is, in some deeper sense, the way things have always been (though Europe was still ruled by monarchical dynasties when Grandma was born, etc., etc.), and furthermore that our intellectual options are (alas!) very limited, usually to only two items (us or them, religion or immorality, government or mass starvation, etc.).
Just be aware that when you say with a confidence born of timeless wisdom that religion is essential to public morals – or that government programs must be maintained if the poor are to get ahead – you may be saying so in words devised by a PR person as recently as 1973. Lack of awareness of history (and thus change) creates a false sense of permanence.
And now, in honor of Grandma – and all who dwell in New Hampshire, whether they’ve been there a mere four months or are Seaveys who’ve been there a mere four centuries (that being only four times Grandma’s lifetime, keep in mind) – here is footage (from somewhere) of a bear hauling a moose carcass across a driveway.