This is a defining moment - not just for America but for conservatism as a political philosophy. The campaign to prevent the construction of a Muslim interfaith center two blocks from Ground Zero strikes me as so dangerous in its assumptions, so pernicious in its bigotry, and so dangerous in the war on terror that it needs to be repudiated as swiftly and as powerfully as possible. It is as antithetical to the principles on which this country was founded as the importation of torture into the government of the U.S. Alan Jacobs:
It’s remarkable that people who invoke the Founders so regularly and in such tones of devotion could be utterly deaf to the Founders’ concern to ensure freedom for mistrusted minority religions. They might start by reading George Washington’s once-famous letter to the Newport synagogue, paying special attention to this sentence: “It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent national gifts.” In Washington’s understanding, it is misbegotten even to ask the question, “Should we tolerate this?” ...
In its origins, with Burke, conservatism was supposed to be about taking the long view, having proper deference to the wisdom of our ancestors and taking proper care for the flourishing of our descendants. This is also what Chesterton meant when he said that tradition is “the democracy of the dead.” Burke thought this long view was most likely to be taken by the aristocracy, but in a society without an aristocracy there needs to be a body of intellectuals who take it as their special mission to meditate on the “first things”, one might say, that link us to those who went before us and those who will come after.
The approach Gingrich and Palin take to the proposed lower Manhattan mosque has nothing to do with conservatism in this sense. It is neither conservative, nor liberal, nor anything else worthy to be called “political thought.” It is an infantile grasping after a fleeting and elusive cultural dominance.
And that, one fears, is what conservatism has become in the new millennium: a paranoid, infantile grasping for cultural dominance - white, evangelical, rural - that is only one part of America, and not the whole, and a minuscule part of the wider world, not its defining hegemon.