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In America, what is called the political Left operates within a few modes of thought tied to seminal events on the Left. One if the civil right era, another is the Watergate era and the other is interwar Europe. All events are framed by this period. If they do not fit these models then they are usually ignored. Of course, their framing of these periods is cartoonish and absurd. It is all easy to understand heroes and villains, who are stripped of moral ambiguity and nuance.
What passes for the Right has always been an echo of the Left, so they have evolved similar framings. It took a while but the 1980’s is one of their primary frameworks for talking about current events. They are always looking for the next Reagan, Thatcher or Bill Buckley among the current mediocrities. Their answer to almost every issue is a slogan from the high water point of conservatism. Modern conservatism is a cargo cult where current members ape the members of the past.
Like their friends on the Left, the Right also has an obsession for the interwar period in Europe, but with a different emphasis. While the Left checks under their bed every night to make sure Hitler is not waiting for them, the Right is always sure Neville Chamberlain is lurking somewhere, ready to give away the Sudetenland. Like the Left, their understanding of that time is cartoonish and absurd. All the players are exaggerated heroes or villains with crude moral choices.
This can be traced to the Reagan years. His innovation in the Cold War was to call the Russians the “evil empire.” This may be the first example of a politician convincing adults by using a reference to a children’s show. Everyone dealing with an affluent white female liberal (AWFL), who quotes Harry Potter all the time, can thank Ronald Reagan for that bit of cultural innovation. Ever since, the right has sorted the world into extreme villains and themselves as the heroes.
Of course, the most extreme villain is Hitler. Reagan stopped short of calling Gorbachev the new Hitler, but that generation knew their history. Those that followed have thrown around the Hitler language as recklessly as the Left. Saddam Hussein was Hitler and his party was “islamo-fascist.” In fact, every Muslim with a complaint about bombs dropping on his head was called an “islamo-fascist” by conservatives. Even the Taliban got this label from conservatives.
In this framing, every Hitler needs a Chamberlain and Churchill. In conservative framing, Chamberlain is not a man who wished to avoid another horrible European war, but a foolish sissy unwilling to face reality. Churchill is not a reckless warmonger known for his alcoholism and lack of judgment, but a heroic visionary who could spot Old Scratch coming before anyone. Of course, every conservative sees a bit of Churchill in himself, so he is always ready for another war.
We see this with the undeclared war on Russia. Putin is Hitler, despite the Russian role in defeating the real Hitler. The Russians are the Nazis invading Poland, even though the guys on the other side are extreme Hitler enthusiasts. Biden has to be Chamberlain, even though he barely knows where he is most of the time and it is his administration that launched the war against Russia. His failure to take it to the nuclear level is proof that he is too soft on the new Hitler.
You see this deranged mental state in this American Conservative post about a warmonger convention held in DC. Those who point out the massive failure of thirty years of pointless wars of choice is now called a neo-isolationist. Note how not supporting aggressive imperial wars of domination is isolationism. Note also that the people who say this love quoting the Founders, except the part where Washington warned about entangling alliances.
Part of this framing is the lack of scruples by modern conservatives. The warmonger events are sponsored by the war machine and they pay well. Sites like National Review are now wholly dependent on money from Big Tech and the Military Industrial Complex, so they are happy to sell endless war, foreign and domestic. Conservatism is now just the public relations arm of the security state. It is why they never expose themselves to pushback on these issues.
That aside, it still leaves the obsession with Hitler. In the middle of the last century, the men who actually fought real Nazis rarely mentioned Hitler. The occasional joke about the old enemies was as much as they did. Their children and now their grandchildren, who grew up insulated from all of life’s troubles, are obsessed with events that happened almost a century ago in another country. The war on Russia reveals that this derangement is getting worse.
The answer may simply be that the so-called conservatives are just boys and girls playing a role, wearing costumes too large for them. Like children in their parent’s clothes, modern political actors are midgets compared to the men who created the roles they are now asked to play. To make up for the fact that they are fleas on the society they inherited, they exaggerate their role in it. A similar phenomenon drives the Left, which also operates like a cargo cult.
Another factor is cultural inertia. The Global American Empire was born in the Second World War and its evolution was in the context of its shadow. The Cold War was driven by the energy of the war against fascism. The energy from the initial creation of the empire was channeled into the Cold War. The residual energy that now gets channeled into endless wars of choice is just cultural inertia. It is the old rationale for existence looking for a place to go in post-Cold War age.
Regardless, the only way forward for America and the West is to finally close the books on the 20th century. That will require a lot of funerals and retirement parties, but Father Time is undefeated in this regard. Once the people defined by the endless fights over old ideas like nationalism, fascism and communism are gone, then the new fights over civilizationalism can begin. The question is whether the actuarial tables can do their magic before it is too late.
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