One of the most important differences between libertarian/conservatism and collectivism is the conviction, present in the former, that the individual matters. Collectivists of all stripes, though individuals themselves, lump themselves into a category the same as they do others. They believe that an individual human being is merely a cog in a machine – an atom in the larger organism of “society,” or of a group. “We are Borg,” they proclaim, like the dreaded aliens in Star Trek. “We will assimilate!”
Rush Limbaugh is not, to me, a bellowing loudmouth representing a mere ideology. He interests me because he is a man who spent much of his life as an underachiever, a sort of ne’er-do-well, who found his vision, acted boldly upon it and made something of himself. He now speaks for a growing and vibrant movement in a way that even congressmen and presidents have not. For those either on the Left or the Right to reduce him to “just another conservative talk-radio host” misses the central point. As a late-bloomer in life, myself – just now beginning to find and follow my path – I draw inspiration from him.
Ann Coulter interests me not because she’s a leggy blonde who happens to have some strong opinions but because she speaks out bravely and effectively. Even when I disagree with her I admire the fact that nobody has been able to shut her up. Once upon a time women couldn’t do that, but now we can. I know that I can largely because she has.
David Horowitz, the founder of News Real Blog, for which I also write, spent his early life on the far Left. He was, indeed, much farther to the Left than I have ever been. But as he grew and learned, he moved to the Right, and he has since contributed much to conservative thought. I’m sure there was a time when people howled at him and told him to shut up because he brings with him an understanding broader than their own. But you can’t move from one end of the spectrum to the other without taking that knowledge with you, and those in your new political home ignore the insights you bring only to their own impoverishment.
The fate of the United States hinges on whether we continue to honor the individual human being or drown him or her in a sea of collective nonentity. Our president, and much of Congress, seem to see us only as members of this group or that one. You don’t matter to them as yourself, and neither do I. The dehumanizing juggernaut of the Left essentially drove me to the Right. But we must not settle for being appeased merely because we represent some special interest, whether that happens to be women, men, Catholics, Evangelicals, gays, straights, Whites, people of color or whatever else.
We carry our convictions forward, and they are intensely important to us – but political operators will play us shrewdly, sacrificing the dignity of our distinct humanity, if we allow them to manipulate us strictly on the basis of any group. Even a very worthy one. Each of us actually belongs to several groups, and some of your groups may differ from some of mine. We all stand on the Right, but we must remember that the Right, historically, honored each of us as individuals first and foremost.
Each of us has a contribution to make. Every individual has abilities and motivations that are special, some of them unique. The whole picture may not be visible to us at any given time, but we can trust that there is one. If we respect those who stand with us on the Right even when we don’t always agree with them, our movement can continue to advance with our mutual cooperation. Someday we will recognize what might not have been evident earlier.
Our heritage as Americans includes a respect for each human individual. It includes a sense that each person is in some sense sacred, and that none can be safely dismissed as a stick-figure stereotype, or herded into a group to be managed more easily by the powerful few. As long as that continues to mean something, America will continue to mean something. We can avoid being annihilated in assimilation only if we keep that understanding alive.