I had a chat with a friend today. He mentioned Whittaker Chambers, and that he sometimes thinks that Chambers was right, that we were on the losing side of history, and the fight itself is the only reward.
I mentioned something I believed Chambers had said, that all we could do was to preserve the “fingers bones of the saints” through the coming Dark Age. I wrote to him after I’d had a few minutes to mull our conversation, and to noodle a little on the Internet. Below, lightly edited, is what I sent.
I recalled the Chambers quote incorrectly. He did not say “finger bones of the saints” as I have been misquoting him for years now.
Here is the passage which I remembered erroneously:
That is why we can hope to do little more now than snatch a fingernail of a saint from the rack or a handful of ashes from the faggots, and bury them secretly in a flowerpot against the day, ages hence, when a few men begin again to dare to believe that there was once something else, that something else is thinkable, and need some evidence of what it was, and the fortifying knowledge that there were those who, at the great nightfall, took loving thought to preserve the tokens of hope and truth.
(From William F. Buckley’s memoir of Chambers, here.)
Damn, that is beautiful.
I yield to no one in my love for Whittaker Chambers. I literally learned about Witness as a child, from my mother. She read it as a kid, when it came out, and became an ardent, lifelong anticommunist as a result — that plus hearing the last broadcasts from Budapest in 1956 when the Red Army crushed the Hungarian freedom fighters.
Chambers is one of the greats, a Conservative hero, and we should never forget him.
The only problem is that there is something drug-like to Chambers’ pessimism.
I find its opiate qualities appealing, but then I look at my kids, and the future, and I look back at my parents and my grandparents, and at the historical record, and I put the Chambers Brand vial of soothing pessimism back on the shelf.
I simply do not believe we are at the great nightfall.
We beat the Kaiser, the Nazis, and the Soviet Union.
I really do not think the public sector employees present as great a material threat to America as the Soviet Strategic Rocket Force once did.
Nor do I think that Political Correctness and its minions, for all its poison and perniciousness, presents as great a threat as the cadres of Soviet agents and fellow travelers who once sought our destruction.
We stand within reach of a new flowering of Anglo-American freedom and prosperity. We are on the verge of breathtaking and liberating breakthroughs in science and technology and medicine, which will make the world a better place. I absolutely believe this. It is not inevitable, but we are preloaded for it. We just have to seize it.
Only the crumbling, ramshackle, Brezhnevite junk heap of the Twentieth Century Blue Model legacy state stands in our way. Its defenders have nothing to appeal to, no great principle, no worthy cause, only their own comfort and security at the expense of the great mass of people in America, and at the expense of their hopes for the future.
That is not, as they say these days a “meta-stable” situation. What can’t go on won’t go on.
The rusting junk heap is going to fall apart before our eyes, with a shocking suddenness reminiscent of the collapse of the Soviet Union. That is my prediction.
We need to keep pushing on it, pointing at its bankruptcy, mocking it, and showing people how it could be so much better.
I just need to keep my kids fed through this transition period, which may well have some ugly moments.
Pardon a lengthy email. I think you needed a little bit of a pep talk, and I needed one too.
And you, my dear ChicagoBoyz readers, should also stay cheerful.
Fear God and Dread Nought.