“A man who is not a Liberal at sixteen has no heart; a man who is not a Conservative at sixty has no head.”—Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881)
That quote is attributed here to Disraeli, from whom I often borrow. It did not originate with him however. According to Quoteinvestigator.com it has been credited to a number of individuals over the years. It’s anyone’s guess where it started. It’s funny how the truth is winnowed and claimed by so many as their own creation when it clearly belongs only to itself. Human wordsmiths change the packaging from time to time, but truth belongs only to God.
I first discovered that quote years ago, and it had Churchill’s name attached to it at that time; right country, wrong statesman. In my twenties it was an appealing theory. It said twenty instead of sixteen when I first found it, and I took that as evidence of my being “the world’s only living heart donor” (a distinction I also borrowed, but from a movie). Being clever seemed more attractive than being caring, and there’s nothing cleverer than logic. A young conservative, so convicted was I that I rarely even pondered liberalism. Older and grayer, conservatism still seems like a logical method of political order, but also an ideology where the ideal is never achieved. It’s a lot like liberalism that way. The older, grayer version of me finds political theater less enthralling than it once was. Politics is just show business for ugly people they say, and lately they look especially ugly. My former desire to be clever reminds me of another favorite quote of mine from the movie “Harvey.” Elwood P. Dowd states that, “In this world… you must be oh so smart, or oh so pleasant. For years I was smart. I recommend pleasant.” After years of attempting smart, I find myself desiring pleasant. Some would be surprised by that, but it’s true. Desiring and attaining are two different things. It may belabor the quotes to keep going, but here’s a couple more: “Where are all good men dead; in the heart or in the head?” That’s supposedly Shakespeare, but I think it’s a misquote. They used it in “Grosse Pointe Blank” (excellent flick by the way). Liberal politics, however flawed, are sometimes driven by wholesome desires in the heart. Liberal policies fail because they presuppose human nature to be a controllable force. Conservative policies usually succeed because they don’t involve controlling human nature. Heart or head, it matters not when individuals are free. When we’re all tied into a socialist Ponzi scheme, as we are in modern America, it matters very much who is brain dead. The answer is most people. Begging your pardon for one more from the movie “Hoosiers,” “There’s two kinds of dumb: a guy that gets naked, runs out in the snow and barks at the moon, and a guy that does the same thing in my living room. The first one don’t matter; the second one you’re kind of forced to deal with.” It seems lately that a lot of people are in my living room, and no matter how much I want to be compassionate… they’re naked and barking. Woof, woof, woof.
Wisdom is supposed to come with old age, but sometimes you discover you’re not as “smart” as you were in youth. And who would want to be? The truly wise recognize how much they don’t know. Perhaps that’s why scripture says Heaven must be accepted like a child. Maybe good men are dead in neither heart nor head, but alive in both. Children are not liberal or conservative; they’re just kids. They have big hearts and a mind that’s ever expanding. That’s something to which one should aspire. Kids question everything, and use their brains in extraordinary ways. We kill their big hearts little by little with our cynical view of the world, and we shackle their minds with everything we “know.” Eventually they end up like us, and the world devolves a little farther into chaos. Sixteen or sixty, the truly wise among us are those who know less, question more, and use not only their heart, but their brain as well.