Princeton Professor Robert George offered important advice at the Western Conservative Summit in Denver: We need to display conspicuous courage. This explanation is important to keep in mind:
George acknowledged it is not easy to suffer such “abuse” and “defamation,” noting it places jobs, relationships, businesses and much more in jeopardy. But the more people stay silent, the bigger a problem it becomes, he said.
“If we want our children, if we want our young men and women, to be able to stand up on a college campus and not be bowled and not be intimidated, and to speak the truth and to speak their minds — we had better set an example in our own adult lives,” George said, prompting applause.
“Anyone who succumbs to the intimidation and bullying, anyone who acquiesces or goes silent out of fear, not only harms his or her own character … he or she also makes things harder for others,” George said. “We owe it not only to ourselves to be courageous … we owe it to God.”
In cultural matters — as well as spiritual — we’re all part of a chain. Each person who steps back from the challenge makes it that much more difficult for the next person in line. The ideal state of a movement is for its members to be so uniformly sturdy that is difficult for the weakest to break ranks. On the other end of deterioration, even the strongest find it difficult to be sturdy.
One can observe this in play as an ideological strategy when even the most reasonable progressives refuse to acknowledge that a conservative is making a reasonable point. In such cases, reasonableness is a sign of weakness (in actuality betraying the weakness of the position that the progressives are defending).
That is not a model that conservatives should emulate, because it is morally wrong and intellectually vapid, but it merits remembering: Whenever you feel yourself wavering in the face of hostility, bring to mind those next in line who will find it more difficult to uphold your shared principles because you backed down.
Featured image: Robert George in a video presented at the 2013 Portsmouth Institute conference.