This is from Peggy Noonan’s WSJ column
, in which she discusses “American open-mindedness and what it means in practice and theory”: “America is now a country–it was not always–in which people feel free to hold whatever private views on all human groups and behaviors while bowing to the moral necessity to show respect and regard for all groups that are different, in whatever ways. We have gone beyond tolerance in America; we have arrived at affection and sympathy and mutual respect. It has been beautiful to see, and I have seen it in my lifetime. It’s worth talking about.” I think Noonan is describing quite accurately the high American morality of disagreement, and she is doing so precisely as a conservative. She is showing that our social conservatism is not like social conservatism as it has existed in other times and places; it is not mere bigotry against certain types of people. President Bush was hinting at a similar vision recently, in his remarks on the marriage amendment: “Our government should respect every person, and protect the institution of marriage. There is no contradiction between these responsibilities. We should also conduct this difficult debate in a manner worthy of our country, without bitterness or anger.” Some will, of course, try to portray Bush’s stand as bigoted, merely because they disagree with his conclusions. But they will do so at a rather severe cost: They will show that they are the ones who lack the basic virtues of “affection and sympathy and mutual respect” that Noonan describes.