A "progressive" has left, and a "conservative" has arrived. Progression is a good thing, and so is conservation. I don't think any "progressives" would deny that "conservation" and careful stewardship of our natural resources is a virtue. By the same token, no true "conservative" would deny that "progress" and careful improvement of our achievements is also a virtue. So why is there so much agitation among "progressives?" Perhaps it's only media hype, but we have reports of anti-Trump demonstrators breaking store windows in Washington this morning as we had in Portland and other cities after he won the election. Tomorrow we will have to endure what organizers have promised will be a virulent anti-Trump demonstration in San Francisco, right after our peaceful Walk for Life West Coast.
Why so much agitation? I don't remember this kind of violence on the part of conservatives when Mr. Obama was elected. Have the agitors forgotten that America balances itself, and that we can trust a system that has effected an unprecedented 44 peaceful transitions of power over a 220 year history?
I recommend the "Public Square" article in the February issue of First Things by its editor, Rusty Reno. He points out the genius of conservatism as we usher in a conservative administration. He could well point out the genius of progressivism: both ways of thinking have their virtues. Conservativism tends toward trust rather than skepticism. Conservatives tend to appreciate the existing order rather than seek to change it. Trump's slogan is "make America great again," meaning, return to an already-proven and existing order rather than seek to invent something new. No doubt Mr. Trump will fail in much of what he promises, but this fundamental trust in the existing system is a conservative's strength.
The priest I prayed with this morning is a good friend. When we priests took a personality inventory some years ago we discovered that Fr. Mark is "continuity-oriented" while I am "change-oriented." When we go on vacation, for example, my impulse is to rearrange the furniture, while his is to appreciate the furniture as it is. We deeply appreciate each other's gifts, especially since we now know how and why each approaches situations differently. We have come to deeply respect, and even love, each others' differences. He brings a joyful serenity to situations, while I bring a joyful excitement. He is by nature conservative, and I by nature progressive. (Some would deny that I am "progressive," but perhaps only because they don't know me very well.)
I think the divided populations in our country could also respect, and even love, each other if we got to know each other better. I think even those who are smashing windows today and staging loud protests tomorrow could come to appreciate the virtues of their "conservative" brethren if they would stop to listen and think beyond their preconceptions. The same is true for overly-assertive conservatives.
The virtue of conservatism, as I have said, is that it feels confidence in what is rather than feeling agitation in what is not. Conservatives tend to feel at home in America, tend to be more at peace with American traditions. They find "repose" in our system and feel gratitude for what has been given. Notice Mr. Trump had three religious leaders before he was sworn in and all three gave thanks to a beneficent Creator, expressing confidence that He will guide us, we who cannot possibly find social repose on our own. "Of political debate there is no end," writes Mr. Reno is the article I cited above. "But with the proper disposition of gratitude, public life can be for us a place of satisfying repose." May the good God grant us a measure of serene trust that His great gift of America can be a home for all 300 million of us.