A reader writes:
I am tempted to agree with your reader and declare you naive about what constitutes true conservatism. I have avoided yielding to that temptation, though, and your reader's argument helps me to explain why.
First, though, I should disclose that I disagree with you on approximately half of what you write, and find many of your writings on Islam to be severely lacking in the intellectual humility that you display even when discussing subjects on which you are considerably better informed. Having said that, I disagree with your reader on the notion that you are naive when it comes to conservatism. The idea that:
All this crap you complain about now - this is the real conservatism. This is the conservative id, broken through the conservative super-ego and run rampant.
strikes me, based on my admittedly limited readings of Freud, as flawed. If we are to psychoanalyze conservatism as if it were a person, then the "real conservatism" is no more exclusive to the id than the "real" me is. Each of us is the sum (or perhaps more than the sum) of the interplay or conflict between the different aspects of our psyche: the id, the super-ego, and so on.
For all I know (and I have no way of knowing for certain), at the id-level, your feelings on Muslims, religion, and race may be no different than those of Mark Steyn, Sam Harris, and John Derbyshire, respectively. Yet even if this were to be proven as true, this would not make you the same as any of those people. We are more than our fundamentals; we are also what we make of those fundamentals. This was an important part of my interpretation of your book, with its emphasis on a conservatism rooted in tradition (contingency) but not bound by it.
The refusal to surrender conservatism to its worst elements (whether they are a majority or a minority) is not naive, no more so than is the refusal to surrender liberalism to unprincipled relativists, or Islam to violent fanatics. Being naive would be to deny the existence of those elements, which any reading of your blog would demonstrate that you do not. And of course "the strains we see in this current mess" (again, conservative, liberal, Islamist, or otherwise) can be traced back into history; where else would they come from? It is precisely because nothing can come from nothing that we cannot simply "reject it, and go on." Any attempted solutions will also have to be rooted in history and tradition. This may be a daunting task for each of us in our respective areas (political, ideological, or religious), but it would be naive to think that it can or should be avoided.
Put better than I could.