Tuesday, October 10
"Remember that at every step, where your feet are planted, where your heart is pumping, where you can see the sunsets from behind a screen of leaves, you are home."
I chilled at the Canvas "Cafe and Gallery" last night, near Golden Gate Park. It's a cafe-bar, the kind I have yet to find in Boston (Allston for sure, but hopefully I'll find one in Cambridge). The sandwiches come with salads, the beer is on tap, there is funky artwork all over the walls. There are several brightly lit rooms and then a darkly lit one where I sat, where they had live music, a really funky quartet from France. Sort of Jazz, with a synthesizer and vocals and lots of weird instruments. More a play than a concert, really, because the female vocalist kept shouting and running around the room and acting out the music. The light over the band went on and off in synch with the music too.
I had time to catch up on my favorite political blog, Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish, and then watched an hour and a half of him debating another brilliant journalist/intellectual on the decline of Conservatism. Andrew's premise was that true conservatism is based on a premise of doubt and fallibility; that conservatives (specifically Burke and Oakshotte) liked freedom because they were skeptical of power claiming absolute certainty, liked free markets because those closest to the interactions are most likely to have the best information, and were skeptical of liberals who claimed to have all the answers creating a Great Society. Conservatism has been destroyed, in his view, by the merger of fundamentalist religion into politics; doubt and dissent being the enemy of fundamentalism, even a sin; so that the essence of conservatism has been destroyed by those who claim to be the most conservative.
His opponent in the debate was David Brooks, also brilliant, who argued that it is not fundamentalist religion that destroyed conservatism but rather partisanship - not "doubt is wrong" but rather "the other side is wrong"; that religion is simply an opportunistic tool of political conservatism; that there is in fact no governing philosophy to the current administration; and that while there is room for doubt and skepticism in politics, freedom as the Founders saw it was a "self-evident truth" and a liberal democracy needs leaders who espouse strong, certain views in order to be elected.
I think they're both right, really. There are many reasons why so-called conservative politics have been destroying this country for the last six years, and ideological fundamentalism and partisanship are obviously two huge parts of it. And I think I want to dive back into my classes next Spring (and my double major of philosophy and political science) with a focus (in my own studies if not the actual classwork) on practical applications.
The debate also made me miss debating. Not competitive debating, but debating like that, about real issues (not made-up "motions") with real people in forums (this was CATO) that have a real impact.
So to sum up last night, I enjoyed good music, had good beer, and got a wonderful intellectual workout. A very good evening.
Now to this morning...I checked out of the motel and drove two blocks to Peet's where I got (as I have every morning here) a pumpkin spice latte and (just today) a cinnamon roll. I'm going to plan my route for today shortly, and then head out.
The rider: Ben Buckman, 21