“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other word would smell as sweet;” Juliet, in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
Yes fair Juliet, but the names and labels we use often color the way we think about a person.
Recently I discovered that I’m not a conservative. That may surprise people who know me. It surprised me. It’s like this. I’ve been reading Wendy Shalit’s book A Return to Modesty. It’s well worth the read for anyone who cares about social change. But Shalit’s use of the word “conservative” had me puzzled for a while, until I realized that its meaning has shifted.
I thought “conservative” meant adhering to well-established moral values, especially those embraced by Christians. Turns out that a more modern understanding is one who pretends to adhere to those values. So for example, the young man who begins college, and turns out a few years later for his graduation, fresh-faced, appropriately dressed, to all appearances a fine upstanding young pillar of the community, while all throughout, he and his frat pals have been knocking off all the women they can pressure, shame, or cajole into submitting. The prototype conservative.
So those labelled “conservative” are presumed to be hypocrites. Hence the readiness of so many to presume Kavanaugh’s guilt. Well, he’s a conservative isn’t he? So of course he’s been up to the stuff that Ford accused him of. And more.
It’s interesting though – apparently the people pessimistic about conservatism still believe in a category of person who is truly honest, authentic, real, conscientious. Else, why would they be so indignant about a person who they believe has not attained that category?
Is there still a name for a real person?