Madrid — One thing conservatives overlook in their worldview is tradition. We favor limited government, free enterprise, certain social issues and a strong defense. But we slide over the basic theme of tradition. Russell Kirk, an important conservative thinker, favored tradition, and he wrote about it. But I cannot think of another prominent thinker of recent years who stressed it.
Tradition is a vivifying ingredient of a country's culture. However, it ought to be a major element in American culture. One thinks of our unique history: the Revolutionary War against King George III, the brilliant period of our Founding Fathers, our colonial heritage, President George Washington, the Civil War and President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. Then came our appearance on the world stage, with our spectacular contributions to science, sports, industry, commerce and popular culture, to say nothing of our defense and advancement of democracy, freedom and equality.
Ours is a great history, and we should have a rich sense of tradition. Somehow, though, we have failed the traditions that recall American history and values. Americans are denying our traditions. I am talking about the liberals who sneer at American traditions — Christmas, Thanksgiving, Fourth of July and others — and peel away at them.
Political correctness is the major weapon liberals use in their war on American tradition. Thus, the girls are replacing the boys in areas the boys traditionally dominated. And the sexually ambiguous are taking over the traditional woman's domain, for instance, the powder room. The result is a loss of traditional American values. And, well, the world is turned upside-down.
Political correctitude, I believe, explains the present state of American culture and tradition. America leads the world in turning things upside-down. This explains the rise of Donald Trump. He opposes the political-correctness madness, and apparently, a growing majority of Americans are with him. His rise should be, for all traditional Americans, a reason for hope. He is going to make America great again, an auspicious achievement for Americans who yearn for old-fashioned American optimism.
I am currently vacationing in Spain, where bullfighting is one of the traditional pastimes. I have been thinking about bullfighting as I walk the streets of Madrid and mingle with the clientele at La Torre del Oro, a local bar. I attended the Friday night bullfight at Las Ventas, the very same arena where Hemingway sat and watched hundreds of fights.
I compare bullfighting to America's national pastime: baseball. In my lifetime, I have picked up more than a little knowledge of various sports of the world. All things considered, baseball players' amazing hand-eye coordination and ability to catch, throw and hit the ball make them the best all-around athletes. This is not to diminish the athletic prowess of others. Matadors, for instance, exhibit stupendous footwork and great agility. They leap into the air over the bull's slashing horns, and with unerring artistry and a mighty, instantaneous lunge, they drive their sword into the bull. Their athleticism may not quite equal that of a great baseball player, but they makes up for it with unsurpassed courage. One false step and they will find themselves on the tips of a 400-pound bull's horns.
We have our national pastime, and the Spaniards have theirs. Both tell us something about the character of each country's people. A bullfight may be grislier than a baseball game, but a few things are certain: The Spanish audience is more polite and more well-dressed, and there is no dispute about which bathroom to use.
As we approach the presidential election this fall, let us give some thought to the condition of our traditions. In my opinion, when Trump talks about making America great again, he is talking about many things. But one of them is American tradition.