So, what is it that you believe? People believe all sorts of things – absolutely convinced that they are right. And I’m not just talking about ignorant belief, but well-informed belief.
Just as an example, Douglas Haig was commander of the British forces in France from December 1915 until the end of World War One. During Haig’s tenure of command, Britain engaged in massive and completely fruitless battles, most notably the Somme and Passchendaele. There’s no doubt about some basic facts here – Haig was in command when vast numbers of British soldiers were killed during offensives which simply failed to win the war. On the first day of the Somme, nearly 20,000 British soldiers were killed. Still, it was Haig who in 1918 worked out the military moves which broke the back of German resistance in France and forced the Germans to capitulate. In the immediate aftermath of the war, a grateful Britain awarded Haig an earldom and 100,000 pounds (about five million US dollars, adjusted for inflation). But the days of Haig’s positive press were short-lived. Even before he died in 1928, he had come in for severe criticism from Winston Churchill in his history of the First World War. Churchill, however, didn’t attack the man, as such – later historians did, and ripped into Haig quite severely. By the time everyone had got done with him, Haig was a callous, stupid commander who has pointlessly sacrificed British lives to no purpose. Ask anyone with familiarity with World War One history, and that person is probably not going to have kind words to say about Haig. We all just know he was a bad commander – and probably a bad person, into the bargain.
But, on the other hand, Haig was one of the founding members of the British Legion – a group akin to our Veteran’s of Foreign Wars and/or American Legion. At a time when some powerful voices in Britain were figuring that former soldiers could shift for themselves or survive on private charity, Haig worked diligently to get the British government providing for veterans in a manner fitting of their service and sacrifice. This is not exactly the sort of action that a callous man would engage in. It is, in fact, the action of a man who cared very deeply for the men who had served under his command and wanted to ensure they got all the help they needed in the difficult transition to civil life. Most people who know of Haig know nothing of this – it, after all, doesn’t quite fit the Narrative which has been imposed upon History.
I bring this up because it shows how a certain set of beliefs can grow and become downright impervious to actual facts…and that people then learning about things can just be flat wrong, because what they learned simply wasn’t true. As Reagan said, it isn’t what they know that is worrisome, it is what they know that isn’t so.
We know that our Progressives believe a lot of twaddle – but there is some twaddle that we on the right just as stoutly adhere to. I won’t bring up specifics in this post, because I’m trying to provoke thought, not battle. It is good to roll over in the mind, from time to time, what we think is correct. Maybe we latched on to an idea years ago and have just left it un-examined for years. Perhaps that view has been challenged, but rather than thinking it over we just stuck to our position with fanatical determination. But, what if we are wrong? We might be, on this or that point.
Always be willing to take a fresh look at things. Always be willing to accept new facts, and adjust your views in light of the new facts. Do not dig in your heels! A willingness to accept correction is a vital requirement of life. We don’t know everything – we can’t know everything. The person who is going to win the battle is going to be the person who is willing to see what is happening and listen to criticism. We’ve got a bizarre opportunity coming up starting on Friday – none of us can know what will happen. But if we on the Conservative side want to a Conservative America to emerge – and we do, right? – then we have to be willing to think anew and act anew. We can’t be sure that the particular ways and means we’ve used in the past will bring us to victory now and in the future. This isn’t a call to jettison belief, but a call to seek new ways to apply those beliefs to current circumstances.