So now that I'm back, let's talk about a few things. We'll start with gay marriage. (Why not?)
I'd like, before I go any further, to direct you to my prior words on the subject here. And note a few changes since then. Most of them center around my naivete.
Three weeks after I wrote that, I had a discussion with a senior associate at my firm. Nice guy; if not brilliant (and he probably is), very close; thoughtful; and gay. I mention the last because he told me, in no uncertain terms:
(1) I'm not merely a bigot, but a monster, for trying to stop the legalization of gay marriage.
(2) This is not something that can be debated among rational people. I'm simply evil.
(3) My "noble, but meaningless" belief that "the law matters -- if you strip aside all the trees of the law, you'll have nowhere to hide when Satan comes looking" and my antiquated belief in a separation of powers are either dodges (at best), or more likely naive maliciousness (he explained how that's not oxymoronic; it made sense at the time). And:
(4) No weapon was beyond reach to make gay marriage a reality. The explicit comparison to Jim Crow -- from a man making six figures, with the respect and esteem of not only his immediate colleagues (including myself), but of the profession, who was never, you know, forced to sit at a different lunch counter, or drink from a rusty old water fountain while others were allowed to drink from the clean one -- was breathtaking in its force, conviction, and, let us not forget, absurdity.
I am now wholly in favor of the most restrictive possible Constitutional amendment outlawing gay marriage imaginable and politically workable. If it must allow civil unions, so be it; I'd rather it forbade the whole slate. Screw federalism.
I say this because I now understand that I've been thrust into a war for which I did not ask; in which I never expected to be; against enemies whom I had never thought of as enemies, who in turn view this entire conflict as Manichaean in nature, who have absolute conviction behind them; and over an institution at the very base of society, the existence and nature of which no one would have thought to question with any seriousness for centuries. If a man who I would otherwise have thought thoughtful and moderate is actually a raging demon where this is concerned, I can only imagine what the activists preparing papers are like.
Norman Podhoretz once said something to the effect that in a contest between two sides, when one has unlimited aims, and the other has limited aims, the side with the boundless goals wins by definition every time. I therefore adopt a boundless goal: The complete denial of gay marriage throughout this country and, if I have my way, every other country in the world. (Except Europe: They're dying anyway. I don't want to waste the time on them.)
I'd also like to make a rather straightforward point. Conservatism is not an ideology; it's an inclination. It's the subtle but unmistakable certainty that changing things, while sometimes necessary and good, is almost always bad. Not to go all Andrew Sullivan and start casting my ideological opponents into the outer darkness, but you cannot be a conservative and advocate gay marriage, unless you believe that the harm society as a whole experiences is akin to the effects of slavery or Jim Crow. It's precisely that simple. To be in favor of overturning countless years of inherited wisdom and tradition based on a fifteen year old political movement, with spurious claims to victimhood and suffering, is not to be a conservative; it is to be an unapologetic radical.
Just so we're on the same page.