November 3, 2005
The Reality-Based Conservative
A fascinating New Yorker article last week profiled one of the many claimants to the title of forefather of modern conservatism, Peter Viereck. The article talks about how far conservatism has drifted from Viereck’s ideals, and how some of his greatest fears about the movement have been realized. But the profile ends with an extraordinary passage from one of Viereck’s lectures. It struck me as a wonderful summation of the value and mission of what many of us do, so I’ll share it with you:
What causes the greatest crimes in history? The greatest bloodshed? The most murders? I would say two things: sincere love and a sincere devotion to liberty. … If you kill out of love or for a perfect utopia, you never stop killing because human nature is always imperfect. Robespierre, rightly called “the incorruptible,” was more sincere than Danton and always found somebody deviating just a little bit from true liberty. …
I can think of nothing more gallant, even though again and again we fail, than attempting to get at the facts; attempting to tell things as they really are. For at least reality, though never fully attained, can be defined. Reality is that which, when you don’t believe in it, doesn’t go away.