Conservatism as Therapy Only

RomeBurnsby Brad Nelson   9/4/14
First off, mea culpa. With the caveat that writing can be therapeutic, that it can scratch one’s creative itch, and that it can impart useful information and opinions, it is my belief that much of what passes for “conservatism” is little more than a way to let off steam.

My thesis is that listening to conservative talk radio, reading conservative magazines and web sites, and even writing conservative articles often acts as a mere pressure-release valve or as a way to make ourselves feel free while remaining trapped inside someone else’s cage. I have the image, for instance, of some government worker, job for life, who spends a few hours each day on some conservative site telling us how he or she hates statism. Or the “conservative” sitting at home collecting Social Security who tells us all (and himself) how much he dislikes Obama. Or the HR director of some medium-sized business who hates political correctness even while drawing a salary as a de facto “diversity director.”

And I offer no evidence of this other than personal observation, intuition, and no less of an authority than Mark Steyn. Steyn says regarding your typical “Progressive” in Europe (and I roughly paraphrase) that the state may run your life in regards to all the big stuff (health care, education, retirement, etc.), but people feel that they are still free because they can choose the color of their iPhone cases.

And that’s what “conservatism” is for a lot of people. They live in an increasingly unescapable “Progressive” culture (as do we all), but they haven’t given in because they listen to Rush Limbaugh. They aren’t facilitators, even collaborators, with socialism and the Left because they cheer when Mark Levin says, “Shut up, ya big dope.”

One of the true Founders here (Mr. Kung) reminds us every once in a while that all our talk is nearly useless. Where the rubber hits the road is getting out and actually helping conservative candidates — via doorbelling, contributions, attending GOP meetings, getting involved in the GOP apparatus, attending official meetings at city hall and having your say, etc.

And he’s quite right. We have to admit that as right as Rush Limbaugh is on most issues, and as popular as the conservative media is (relative to such attempts as Air America), it hasn’t changed the landscape of our country. As Rush himself never fails to acknowledge, it’s difficult for conservative candidates to try to get the message out once every election cycle when in between times the rest of the culture is feeding people “Progressive” ideology 24/7.

And some of my conservative friends (at least of the Facebook variety) deal in a fair amount of delusion when they castigate some losing GOP candidate for not “reaching out” to this or that community, as if that was the problem. But it’s not the problem. The problem is that a “Progressive” culture has  been “reaching in” and has taken over the mindshare of the West — even in and amongst its major competitor (Christianity) which is becoming more and more “Progressive.”

And many people want to pretend otherwise, thus they blame a political defeat on some poor conservative schmuck somewhere who supposedly just didn’t try hard enough to tell welfare moochers and others who receive government largesse that they are a really really nice guy — no, really. There’s a lot of pretending and reality-escaping going on these days.

So what are we doing here at StubbornThings? Is it all just mental masturbation? Do we read here, maybe post a comment here, or perhaps pen an article here as a way to make ourselves feel better without doing much at all to stem the tide? And I’m not singling us out (again, mea culpa) as any better or worse than everyone else. But it does seem to be a factor in regards to the feebleness of the right in changing the culture.

That said, I do think it is fitting and proper that we get our minds right. And our souls. There are therefore things we need to talk about and that we need to write about. Although I’m not a practicing Christian and remain skeptical of various theistic tenets, I understand (no, really, I do) that the world is larger than me. I also understand that Christians are potentially our biggest ally against statism/collectivism in a way that not even the most liberty-professing libertarians can ever be. It matters that we acknowledge our friends just as much as it does knowing who are enemies are. And perhaps others can be our allies as well if we can break the spell.

So, what’s the problem? Is it mere “factionalism”? Certainly humans are given to that, even in the best of times. But I think it’s more than that. Or perhaps it is far more useful and artful to say what needs to be done instead of trying to stuff the whole problem into any one word. And if I could condense the principles or factors needed to show that our emperor has no clothes (Obama), and to show that all such as him are suitably naked, and to get us to quit voting for these creeps and to reclaim our honor and integrity as citizens of a great republic and a great heritage, the general makeup of this x-ray vision to see through that nakedness would be:

+ Get over yourself. Reacquaint yourself with the notion that the world doesn’t revolve around you, nor should you be freed from criticism or offense just so that you can stay in your bubble. Narcissism is not just a river in Egypt.

+ Everything in life has a cost. If you’re trying to get something for nothing then recognize in yourself that you are at least part thief and moocher. Human nature is prone to this.

+ Re-educate yourself. Nearly everything you’ve been taught about America and Western civilization is a lie. Yes, they really did lie to you. Which leads to…

+ Don’t assume that you are so smart that no one could ever deceive you. You are not, and they have — numerous times. Stop being played for a fool. And simply glomming onto some half-assed ideology such as libertarianism is not a substitute, nor is believing that you are among the Enlightened and Especially Nice People because you know how to regurgitate PC phrases.

+ Pray for your nation. It can’t hurt.

+ Put down your damn iPhone. Shut off the flippin’ TV. Stop going out of your way to try to rub stupid and vulgar into your brain. Stop allowing yourself to baste in the lowest-common-denominator — and liking it. You should hate it. You should want something more.  You were made for better things.

+ Read a book (no, not stupid romance novels or comic books — I mean real books).

+ Grow a pair. Instead of being an obsequious toad, stand up for yourself when someone tries to get you to do something stupid. Be willing to be a man (or woman) and tell the politically correct idiots to take a hike. You’re not a “racist” or anything else just because they call you one. Start off by calling a bully a bully and then go from there.

+ There is more to life than groupthink (see the above point). And if you are no more than what other people think of you, then you have not achieved the status of a real human being.

+ Morals matter. It’s not enough (are you listening libertarians?) to just say that mere uninhibited personal inclinations are the glue that fashions a good society and holds it together.

Most of the stuff that needs doing we can do in and around our lives without a Herculean effort. We just need to stop bleeding off our energy by giving in to tyrants or, conversely, pretending we are doing something when we are not by immersing ourselves in elements of conservative media culture. Perhaps (at least analogously) do as I did a few months ago when I threw a socialist out of my office. Stand up for yourself. Start thinking for yourself. Be willing to take a little heat. Man-up, whether you are a woman or a man.

And by all means keep reading StubbornThings and keep contributing on that little Donate button down on the bottom right. But most important of all is to do something that the conceited hippie generation supposed they were doing long ago (but never really did): Free you mind. Take the red pill instead of the blue one. And don’t be such a dumb-ass. “That’s right, I said it.”

Brad is editor and chief disorganizer of StubbornThings.
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Brad Nelson

About Brad Nelson

I like books, nature, politics, old movies, Ronald Reagan (you get sort of a three-fer with that one), and the founding ideals of this country. We are the Shining City on the Hill — or ought to be. However, our land has been poisoned by Utopian aspirations and feel-good bromides. Both have replaced wisdom and facts.
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23 Responses to Conservatism as Therapy Only

  1. Mitchell Robinson says:

    Talk to your neighbor. Not as some impassioned idiot, but as a reasonable soul who genuinely loves this nation and its legitimacy as a realm of rational lovers of true liberty! The average John or Jane next door are generally receptive to the nature of things as they truly are, rather than some dumb-ass progressive snow job. Good stuff, Brad.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Thanks, Mitchell. And that’s just me bloviating. But I have been active in politics in the past, mostly through my father, so I haven’t always been on the sidelines pontificating. And (yikes) that “activism” was mostly for Democratic politicos. But I was just a worker bee (putting together signs and such). I had no ideology at the time nor was I aware of any in the candidates. Nor was I trying to “change the world.” I was just following orders.

      Later I came into an ideology. And I’m not particularly good at spreading it around (which is ironic then to have started this site). But others are.

      Still, I don’t think I’m wrong in saying that the Left is a cult and that their ideas are extremely entrenched. So you can play patty-cake with people who think they are God’s Gift to the Poor and Downtrodden or you can hit them over the head with rhetoric. The result will be much the same. Until they are mugged by reality, it’s unlikely that the narcissistic impulse will be overcome.

      I don’t know if I was mugged by reality as much as I just eventually became curious about the world, history, and politics. Plus, I think I had the same sort of experience at one point that puts meaning to the words that Reagan once said to some activist he met (as governor, I believe) on a California campus: “I know who you are.”

      And I know who these guys are. Most don’t which is why we could have elected (and re-elected) an America-hating, Islam-loving Marxist for president.

      Will I or anyone else ever find the right words to reach the chronically befuddled? I don’t know. But I guess I believe we have to remain sharp in case that day ever comes. And perhaps we can create a resource for people who are looking to find their way out of the dark.

      That’s why I don’t mince words. You’ll get very little patty-cake from me. I’m going to tell it like it is (or how I think it is) rather than give several pale-grey shades of namby-pamby. And I think it would behoove us all to do that.

  2. Timothy Lane says:

    Well, some of us don’t have a whole lot we can do other than blog (though we have done volunteer labor in the past for Anne Northup, and we have sometimes put up signs for candidates; I’ve also made small contributions, but not so many in recent years because I don’t have the money). I will also note that some of my written contributions are in venues where they can be seen by liberals as well as conservatives (such as Politico).

    As for the idea of conservatism as therapy, I will note an article maybe a decade ago by (I think) the late Charley Reese (a Southern paleo-conservative who appeared in Conservative Chronicle) in which he wondered where he would be without the ability to express himself in writing. The possible answers can be frightening.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Well, some of us don’t have a whole lot we can do other than blog

      Oh, don’t get me wrong. We can, and should, pontificate to our heart’s content. But sometimes I wonder if the power we have doesn’t lie with simply placing a banana peel in the path of these Progressives and watching the fun.

  3. Pst4usa says:

    Very funny Brad, “Narcissism is not just a river in Egypt.” I thought the quote was Nihilism is not just a river in Egypt, no wait maybe that was denile… oh who knows. I know you were not going for funny in the overall post but that part was to me. I am not sure what more I can do man. I cannot write anywhere near your level, but my tool has been to stand up and speak out. But I have to wonder is anybody listening? We have let the left push us around for so long now that when we push back, even a little, in the eyes of most of our fellow Americans, we scare them off just by telling them the truth.
    I will see about that donate button, see if it still works?

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Well, folks should know that you have been living the committed-citizen life where you are, involved in several aspects. You’re a man of wisdom and integrity who has stuck his face in the political fan of party politics. Do you still have your nose? But you still do have your sense of humor, and I think one needs it when getting involved in politics. Oh, the stories you could tell (I’ve heard a few). 🙂

      • Jerry Richardson says:


        Glad I carefully read all of your article. Again I feel kinda silly; I didn’t know the site had a donate button. Now I do, and I used it.


        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          No problem, Jerry. And thanks very much for the donation. That will help to keep this site humming along.

          And I’m just as guilty as anyone, when I visit a site, of not noticing all the links and such. One thing I try to do here is keep it as simple and uncluttered as possible.

          Still, it’s easy to miss something and I always have that factor in mind when trying to organize stuff. But, still, at some point its up to the reader to be a little adventurous and perhaps look at the menus or whatever. I’m often asked, for instance, “How do I submit an article?” And that’s fine. If someone has a question, I want them to ask it.

          But many people don’t even bother to try to do even a cursory look for themselves. Perhaps they might notice that big, blue “Submit an Article” button on the side. Or they haven’t checked the “Contact” menu item. One cannot design anything that is perfectly suited for the passive-entertainment crowd. At some point, in order to have a certain amount of complexity and utility, we have to move beyond that. The reader has to make at least a minimal effort — and they sure as hell better if they plan on reading one of Glenn’s articles. 😉

          Again, thanks for the donation.

  4. Pst4usa says:

    Yep, it still does work. Try it out folks, it is not completely painful. (The donate button that is)

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Pat, your reputation as this site’s Koch Brother remains intact. And without the libertarian baggage. Thanks again for the donation. I shall now be able to afford that upgrade for my bicycle…err, I mean I should be able to afford to purchase more hard drive space for the site and such. Yeah, that was it.

  5. Glenn Fairman says:

    The bible adjures us to strengthen what yet remains and to remain a light on the hill. We are to evangelize our understanding of the Good Life as Conservatives and as people of faith. Pouring ourselves into the breach, even if the cause is lost, becomes no less noble in the attempt. In fact, men of principle should act in no other fashion.

    Help the widow, feed the hungry and needy….not from the confiscated funds of others, but from your own meagerness. Speak out against tyranny when it shows itself in the light of day and when it takes on the garments of care and concern.

    Be a good man or woman. A light to others. Give more than you take and try to persevere even as the barbarian gathers outside the gates. For too long we have lived for our own amusements and luxuries. Shall we not draw the line and get on with the business of heroism?

  6. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    In my opinion, the main value of a site like ST is that it can be educational. It gives many people a chance to express their ideas and spread their knowledge to others. Hopefully, this can then be used by all of us in the non-stop job of ridding the world of the political poison known as progressivism.

    Of course, ST can also help keep moral up. Given the filth we must encounter everyday, this can be important.

    But in general, people can have the most influence on those closest to them. And on a personal level, I strongly believe a man’s actions speak more clearly and honestly than his words. Therefore, I try to use some of the time and any talent I may have in doing concrete things in my neighborhood.

    In the short term i.e. political side, since I wish to receive the biggest political bang for my buck of effort, I concentrate more effort on local politics with the hope that if we are able to put good people into office at the local level, things may eventually improve as we go up the food chain.

    And while I appreciate your compliment Brad, I think what I really do is lurk in the background watching with amazement while you function as the perpetual motion machine that keeps the site going.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Thanks for your contributions as well, Mr. Kung. Certainly there are technical aspects in running a site such as this. But it really help to be gregarious (verbose?). I can’t imagine how it can be otherwise and keep it full of some kind of content. And one must try to be gregarious without being too obnoxious or sucking all the oxygen out of the room. It’s a difficult balance at times.

  7. Glenn Fairman says:

    What some call “preaching to the choir,” I call exhortation. Bucking up the troops requires a rhetoric composed of equal parts reason and sentiment. We may not be able to ply moral suasion on those who are effectively beyond the pale, but we can keep those who earnestly toil in the fields from losing heart. Many times I have felt that I was spinning my wheels at the keyboard, and then I get an e-mail from a total stranger who tells me that they were touched by a piece, or that their estranged child forwarded my article to them and reestablished a link.

    People want to laugh, cry and feel that they make a difference in the world, and that they are not just a tear flowing into the River of Lethe. They want to be assured that there is a truth larger than their troubles and that in the end, even if they fall in the attempt, they will emerge from the ashes a new and beautiful creature from having persevered…..even when they could see nothing but sorrow or futility. If there were no hope, we should never have desired it. The longing in our hearts is no mirage. In the final accounting, victory awaits for those who will not let go of the reins.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Geez…you almost make me believe my own rhetoric. 😀 And yours! It’s an occupational hazard when dealing with words which are inherently at least one degree separated from reality. It’s easy to become detached. That is the heart of “intellectualism” wherein one can arrange and re-arrange words in clever and nice-sounding ways without once sticking your finger outside to see if it’s raining. The words can become little more than a prideful badge one wears to show how smart one is.

      Yes, I do believe that people want to make a difference in this world. (And many of those, of course, are making it worse because they do not take along wisdom in their task.) But, of course, I know you mean the other kind of people who want to make a difference, who do the real work in this world, who are the real glue of society — aka “the forgotten man” — and who usually pay the price for other people’s folly.

  8. Cato says:

    I’m late to the party as usual … been a little busy collaborating with Jon Hall the last few days. This is fine rant, and one I will be passing along. I’m old enough, and many of ST’s stalwarts are as well, to remember the last time the world seemed lost. Then, the choice was between Ford and Carter (or “Edsel and OMG” as my wife once put it). Then, we had people held captive for over a year in Iran. Then, we had inflation out the wazoo and “malaise”. The world turns, and chaos theory isn’t just science fantasy. It’s politics, too. One voice, in one ear, at just the right moment can change a mind. And the world is gained or lost one mind at a time.

    So I understand the frustration and the feeling of irreparable harm having been done, but I also know change comes, and I can feel it in every straw that blows by me in the wind. I wrote a post about it here, “Progressivism is Dying”. And we all should be whispering in every ear we get next to for as long as it takes for morning to shine in America again.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Ah, Jerry the Fool. I remember that election. I contributed $80 to the Reagan campaign (about 1% of my income that year), and didn’t want to vote for Ford. But, late in the campaign, I realized that no matter how little I thought of Ford, I still much preferred him to Jimmy the Creep.

      Incidentally, one useful thing accomplished by “preaching to the choir” media such as this website is informing people of interesting reports (Rotherham, for example) or interesting interpretations of the internal enemy — such as the suggestion that liberals dislike the dynamics of the free market because their crony capitalists prefer the security of cronyism. In a free market, they might not be the winners.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Yes, I saw that article by Jon and yourself at American Thinker: A Conversation with Cato the Eldest. Very good. And Jon was nice enough to give this site a plug.

      One would surely hope that Progressivism is dying. What I see instead is that its major assumptions (its DNA) are being integrated into the system as a whole. Now people speak of “equality,” for instance, as an automatic good with no other considerations (nor the acknowledgment of the inherent conflict between freedom and equality).

      I like that your specialty is economics. That brings an element to this site, and to the conservative conversation in general, that needs buttressing. We don’t all have the time or the brain power to read Thomas Sowell’s Basic Economics or Applied Economics. I hope you will continue to strive to make the complex simple without making it simplistic.

      But our problems are way beyond economics, in my opinion. I sometimes cringe when I hear on the news about some major economic indicator that is going up or down, as if there is no other measure of our civilization, our republic, or our own lives but whether or not we can afford the latest generation of iPhone.

      Granted, there is nothing wrong with material prosperity. And certainly if that “pursuit of happiness” is being choked by an over-stuffed government then we ought to take note of every indicator that shows us whether that government is growing or shrinking. But I hope we never adopt that mindset that life will suddenly become good and all we be right if the unemployment rate decreases to 5-1/2 percent. And I think that is the mindset of most Americans today. We’ve become atomized economic creatures for whom the words, “A republic, if you can keep it” have no meaning. And thus we are not keeping that republic very well at all.

  9. Leigh Bravo says:

    Okay, you all are so much more intellectual than I, but we must all realize that we are fighting for the same values and morals and want the fair government who considers itself in our servitude. We must never stop believing that writing down those thoughts on morality and a conservative ideology will have some affect on others. We must never reach that point where we give up on the potential ability to change the path of humanity with our words and convictions. I love this site and feel that we all can make a difference, if we only try! Brad, thank you for creating and maintaining this site. When I started my blog, it was all very new and foreign to me. You were the first to publish my articles and you gave me the confidence I needed to keep on plugging away. The day that we give up in frustration is the day that America looses it’s freedom. Thank you for your dedication and constant and continuing dedication to putting the word out there!! Please tell me how I can donate… Excuse my ignorance, but I do not see a clear path for donation…. Tell me how!

    • Timothy Lane says:

      You consider us more intellectual than you? How can you insult us so? But I certainly agree that we must never give up. People have triumphed over far greater odds than we face. I doubt any of us can save the world (I certainly have no such ability), but we can always play some role. As Cousin Abe said to his best general, “Anyone who can’t skin an animal can at least hold a leg.”

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      We must never stop believing that writing down those thoughts on morality and a conservative ideology will have some affect on others. We must never reach that point where we give up on the potential ability to change the path of humanity with our words and convictions.

      Ditto! Well said. Roger Wilco. And if you want to donate, there’s a PayPal button at the very bottom right of the site. But you’re already contributing great content, so in that sense you already have donated and nothing more is expected but every little bit is always appreciated.

  10. Misanthropette says:

    I wonder that my fellow Americans spend so little time on their knees and as a result have little humility, which is, after all, the beginning of wisdom? Perhaps that explains us becoming a nation of arrogant fools? People who cannot or will not restrain themselves eventually succumb to a government or a dictator who will restrain them.

    I do attend local Tea Party meetings, but see the Republicans infiltrating us to decrease our effectiveness. I feel at times I need to be an expert at political history and strategy to deal with these people. Brushing up on my Cicero, hope to retake the field soon.

    Didn’t ST publish a list of “must read” books for Americans? Thank you to everyone who offered a suggestion or recommendation. Don’t despair, discriminate! You are what you read and what you watch.

    May I add an entry to your list? Take up a hobby or a sport. Learn an instrument. If your job is intellectually demanding, do something which utilizes your hands, or whole body. A firm belief in self-sufficiency ought to compel us to this. Lately, I notice signs of hope like a canning revival, or knitting and quilting circles becoming fashionable. People who learn how to garden don’t need SNAP programs or food banks. People who know how to amuse or entertain themselves do not need television. People who know how to barter, do not pay attention to the Federal Reserve Beige Book.

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