Monday, March 16, 2009

Malcolm X the Conservative

Shelby Steele is always a refreshing tonic on race matters.
The appeal of conservatism is the mutuality it asserts between individual and political freedom, its beautiful idea of a free man in a free society. And it offers minorities the one thing they can never get from liberalism: human rather than racial dignity. I always secretly loved Malcolm X more than Martin Luther King Jr. because Malcolm wanted a fuller human dignity for blacks -- one independent of white moral wrestling. In a liberalism that wants to redeem the nation of its past, minorities can only be ciphers in white struggles of conscience.
I've also, more often than not, found myself the oddball conservative for loving Malcolm over Martin. But Steele's WSJ op-ed for today is not really about Malcolm so much as the more fundamental problems in the GOP's metanarrative which prevent it from getting a fair hearing in an American electorate hungry for national justification and sanctification.

As a theological aside, somewhere in the trauma of the Civil War and Reconstruction, Protestant theology of redemption and eschatology got transferred from the church to the nation-state. Bleeding heart activism is the Protestant work ethic projected onto the political and social realm. What the activists always fail to question is the deification of the State.