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THE NEWS THAT SEVERAL Eliot House residents were hoping to turn the fashion clock back two decades by wearing suits and ties to dinner showed up on the front page of papers across the nation; apparently, it struck editors as a sort of proof of the notion that a conservative mood is gripping the country's campuses. In this case, we're less convinced of the specific than the general; most students seem to be laughing at the boys in Eliot. But we do think this campus, like many others, will see more conservatism in the future. That is a trend a campus publication due out this month--The Harvard Salient--hopes to accelerate.
We personally disagree with many of the precepts of American conservatism, points we will continue to argue in the years ahead. For the moment, though, we wish to offer but a single hope: that The Salient, and conservative students in general, will pursue their politics with some style and grace. There are plenty of defensible propositions about conservatism, but there is nothing defensible about some of the behavioral baggage too many conservatives have lugged about with them.
Take as an example the Salient's northern counterpart, The Dartmouth Review. Though richly funded by alumni, the Review editors have been unable to rise much above the level of the nation's worst right wing scandal sheets. Taunting of homosexuals and racial minorities is commonplace in their pages; all too often it resembles its foul neighbor, the Manchester Union-Leader. Such ugliness perpetuates the worst of conservatism, and obscures the ideas that count. It is hard to think about liberty when it wears the guise of snickering prejudice.
And we hope that conservative ideology alone does not lead others to start wearing ties, mingling only with those of their own social standing, or separating Harvard students from the rest of the world. The insidiousness of social division--the clubbiness of the old Harvard--feeds the notion that conservatism is only the politics of personal gain; we hope it is something more.
The Salient--and thinking conservatives in general--will serve a useful purpose on this campus, if only by helping make people think about politics. But they will defeat themselves and cause only bitterness if they lay aside decency and humanity.
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