The Corner

Too Brusque

Another item of housekeeping arising from my yesterday column.

A reader has chid me for writing: “I couldn’t care less about [Right to Life] issues.” It offended him, he said, nicely but firmly.

Nice-but-firm gets to me every time, and I’ve been reflecting on his point, with the conclusion that I was in error–not gross error, but at a minimum, too brusque.

Precisely BECAUSE I’m not engaged by RtL issues, I thought no more of saying that than a colleague might think of saying: “I couldn’t care less about immigration issues.” [Or limited-govt issues, or the deficit, or judicial overreach, or the space program, or education, or any one of the umpteen things we kick around here.]

That, however, isn’t quite right. RtL issues are special. They have much more of an emotional & spiritual “load” than most other issues–certainly more than any issue of economics or jurisprudence. Their “moment” in the conservative movement (defined to be: number of people committed to RtL beliefs multiplied by intensity of commitment) is probably greater than for any other issue, or coherent group of issues. I think that those of us who aren’t engaged owe a debt of courtesy to our fellow conservatives who are, & we should be restrained and not unnecessarily blunt when speaking our minds in this area.

I do my best to outrage the sensibilities of liberals. Outraging the sensibilities of fellow conservatives is a thing I do not want to do. When I do it, it’s through carelessness. I shall try to be more careful. Honest, but polite. And not too brusque.

John Derbyshire — Mr. Derbyshire is a former contributing editor of National Review.

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