'Gran Torino' Conservatives

We live amid a chaotic age.

As with the Age of Industrialization’s dawning, this Age of Globalization’s advent is a time of promise and peril, wherein many Americans’ cherished way of life is being “creatively destroyed” by a tsunami of merciless changes seemingly beyond control. The very concept of a sovereign nation-state is besieged by the discordant forces of disorder – and without order, there is no justice or freedom for the people.

In most American lifetimes, only societal tumult of the late Sixties and early Seventies is comparable, if not equivalent. Then, it was the “Destructive Generation” (as David Horowitz has termed the Hippy-Boomers) who assailed our nation’s traditional cultural, political and economic institutions. Out of this madness arose a hero to restore order, justice and liberty: Detective Harry Callahan.

Stripping away the character’s now clichéd Byronic veneer of an alienated anti-hero, Detective Callahan was at heart a harkening to the traditional Irish beat cop. The beat was different, but the challenges – imposing order upon disorder – were not. A deeply conservative figure for his times, it was no accident that Detective Callahan served as a law enforcement officer in San Francisco, the time period’s epitome of societal disorder and cultural disintegration. Here, in the radical New Left’s psychedelic citadel, “Dirty Harry” Callahan made his stand for tradition and the imposition of order to secure justice and freedom for law-abiding citizens.

Audiences still revere him for it.

Forty years on, Dirty Harry Callahan is retired and San Francisco’s New Left hippies have “evolved” into “limousine liberal” Boomers. But the forces of disorder have found a new home; and traditional Americans have found a new hero determined to preserve their cherished way of life amidst the chaos.

Walt Kowalski lives in what America perceives to be its present epitome of disorder and decay, Detroit. He harkens to the traditional Polish United Auto Worker member who helped make Detroit America’s engine of prosperity and “Arsenal of Democracy.” Born at the tail end of the “Greatest Generation,” Mr. Kowalski served his nation in Korea, the “Forgotten War,” before becoming an auto worker. He lived through the heyday of Detroit as a prosperous manufacturing community of two million. He’s witnessed its decline into a shell city of 850,000 people sifting through the ruins of what the myopic cynically deem “post-industrial America.” Mr. Kowalski’s Yuppie, suburbanite kids are trying to get him to abandon his hard-earned piece of the American dream and move into what he would call an “old folks home.” Despite the deterioration of his neighborhood, which mirrors the larger city, he refuses. Indeed, when a neighborhood youth tries to steal Kowalski’s prized Gran Torino, this cultural conservative rises to instill order upon disorder to secure justice and liberty within his community. In the process, he also transcends his own ugly prejudices by realizing his neighbors are fellow human beings and allies in the struggle to defend their shared and cherished way of life.

Of course, while his life is devoted to conserving the permanent things that provide meaning to his life – his honor, independence, home and the proud symbol of his life’s labors, his Gran Torino – Mr. Kowalski is far from a modern Republican. He probably holds all politicians in contempt (another wise trait). As a retired U.A.W. member, he would most likely vote for Democrats. However, he is undoubtedly representative of the culturally conservative blue-collar workers who supported the last President who brought order out of chaos and constructive change out of decline – Ronald Reagan. Thus, Mr. Kowalski personifies the voter driven away by ideological, Globalist Republicans.

Ironically, Walt Kowalski’s fictional attempt to conserve his cherished way of life is being performed in what amounts to a very bad – but very real – off-off-Broadway quality production in Washington, D.C. In this “drama in real life” the heart of American manufacturing – the domestic auto industry – is fighting for survival. For the people of beleaguered, abused Detroit, this is their Walt Kowalski moment. They are not fighting merely to preserve an industry or a regional economy. In the face of the callous disregard for the human cost of “creative destruction” advocated by ideologically driven Republicans and radical environmentalists, Detroiters are fighting to conserve a cherished way of life from being swept away by the amoral flood-tide of Globalization.

If Detroit goes down and America’s domestic manufacturing base is scrapped, the rest of the country may well simply shrug its shoulders at the inevitability of the loss in this Brave New World economy. Like Walt Kowalski’s kids who would blithely stow their “old man” in a human warehouse, most American’s believe they are “post-Detroit.”

They are wrong, because right now no one is post-disorder. If the rest of the nation facilitates the decimation of Detroit through malign neglect, deeper social, economic and political chaos will accelerate and spread from the Motor City to the rest of America. The “limo libs,” the globalist Gucci “conservatives,” and all arm chair ideologues will pale before the deluge and drown in their streams of intellectual adolescence. All the while as the waters rise, an anxious citizenry will call out for intelligent, mature leaders – flesh and blood, heart and soul Gran Torino Conservatives – devoted to creatively achieving constructive change amidst Globalization’s chaos

Until these Gran Torino conservatives arrive to restore order, justice and freedom to our American home, “Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.”

United States Representative Thaddeus G. McCotter (MI-11) is the Chair of the Republican House Policy Committee


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