The vision thing

Whether or not one liked him, Ronald Reagan got “the vision thing.”  He had an extremely strong sense of America and her place in the world, and was never afraid to share that narrative.  America was the shining city on the hill, the bastion of true republican democracy, and the world leader in exporting freedom and wealth.  The Communists were, simply, evil.  They were the antithesis of America because they were the antithesis of freedom.

Sophisticates sneered at Reagan’s simple, (old) Hollywood vision of the world.  To ordinary Americans, though, Reagan’s clearly and repeatedly articulated vision of this country instilled in them a deep sense of pride that ran comfortably alongside an economic boom resulting from the policies that underlay Reagan’s vision.  Just as importantly, in gulags and prisons around the world, prisoners, and dissenters, and dreamers heard Reagan’s words too.  They understood that, not only was he describing something better than their totalitarian governments had to offer, but also that the leader of the most powerful nation in the world understood and willingly articulated that truth.

Obama also gets the vision thing.  His education, career and presidential trajectory show it very, very clearly.  His vision is that America is an arrogant nation rife with internal inequities.  Domestically, his job as president is to equalize people’s status within the country, which is best done through redistributive financial policies.  On the international side of things, his job is to subordinate America to the United Nations, making it just one nation among many.  ObamaCare and the Libya War stand as hallmarks of these domestic and foreign visions.

Obama’s vision is of America as Europe — not Europe during her imperialistic heyday, but a post-WWII Europe, socialist and humbled.  Of course, what he doesn’t seem to realize is that post-WWII Europe survived only as long as it did because America footed the bill.  No America, no post-WWII Europe.  He hasn’t grappled with that economic reality as he’s pushed America out of her financier mode and into her begging socialist mode.

What’s interesting about Obama is that, while he is consistent in his vision, and unfailing in his willingness to put it in effect, he refuses to articulate that vision.  Put him in front of a teleprompter, and he simply mouths platitudes about “America is great.”  Unscripted, he slips up periodically and talks about “sharing the wealth,” and the fact that there’s nothing exceptional about America.  Overall, though, he’s coy.

Reagan braved the ridicule of the world’s intellectuals to sell his vision to the world.  Obama already has the world’s intellectuals on board.  His vision about America and her place in the world is exactly the same as their vision.  He’s coy, then, not because he fears media and Ivory Tower derision, but because he knows that ordinary Americans will not buy what he would be selling were he to speak.  How much better to skip the sales pitch and just force the product on a credulous public?  Obama also doesn’t sell his vision because he knows that, abroad, while the Euro-trash and Muslim Brotherhood eat up what he has to say, the people languishing in prisons, in China, in Cuba, in Venezuela, in Iran, etc., would recognize his vision for what it is — not even snake oil, but pure venom.

Anti-American, anti-Semitic NPR fundraising executives punked *UPDATED*

I’m actually grateful to NPR.  It was its unbelievably biased Israel coverage that helped me make the break with my reflexive liberalism and take a long, hard look at my political beliefs and party affiliation.  Nevertheless, it irks me no end that my taxpayer money funds NPR, PBS and local affiliates.  There is no reason in this day and age to have government media, especially government media that is hostile to more than half the American population and wants to roll around naked in bed with the Muslim Brotherhood.

If you don’t believe me about NPR’s beliefs and desires, you must read this Daily Caller article and take the 11 minutes to watch the video that is a part of the article.  It’s disgusting but it’s also wonderful, because it shines sunlight in an area the Progressives have tried to keep shady.  Considering that the NPR executive who got punked said it would be best for NPR to lose its federal funding, my response is, let’s give the guy what he wants.

UPDATE:  I like NPR’s defense which amounts to this:  since we didn’t immediately accept their phony bribe, we’re “appalled” by Schiller’s comments, and Schiller got another job, get off our back.

“The fraudulent organization represented in this video repeatedly pressed us to accept a $5 million check, with no strings attached, which we repeatedly refused to accept.

“We are appalled by the comments made by Ron Schiller in the video, which are contrary to what NPR stands for.

“Mr. Schiller announced last week that he is leaving NPR for another job.”

It doesn’t seem to occur to the NPR folks that the video shows Schiller desperate to get a steady stream of income from a Muslim Brotherhood organization that wants to give a platform to Hamas and Hezbollah, two terrorist groups.

It’s a Norman Rockwell world out there, even for the haters

I heard about Blake Gopnik’s attack on Norman Rockwell (as part of his defense of the “Ants on Jesus” video), and actually started writing a post on the subject.  Life caught up with me, though, and I abandoned the post and doubt I’ll return to it.  Fortunately, Anchoress has been thinking about the subject, and I can’t do better than what she wrote.

A world without America

I first ran this YouTube video three years ago, when Barack Obama, our nation’s first anti-American president, was still a theory, not a fact.  It bears watching now, as we witness Obama’s efforts to bring about a world without America:

The foreigners in the White House *UPDATED*

If you read only one thing today, please read Andrew McCarthy’s incredibly sad and disturbing article about the way in which we are currently being governed by foreigners, all American born, in Congress and the White House.   Then, if you have time for a second read today, check out what Charles Krauthammer had to say about the federal government’s Civil War era first-of-its-kind announcement that it will support federal law only if that law comes from favored states, and it will ignore federal law if legal infractions are triggered by disfavored states.

My mother, a Democrat since she arrived in this country in the 1950s, is finally convinced that this administration genuinely hates America and wishes her ill.  That is, this is not an administration that shares with most Americans a common goal for this country’s well-being, but that disagrees with half of Americans about how to effectuate that goal.  Nope.  This is an administration that truly, madly, deeply hates what our country stands for and desires to see America’s wings well and truly clipped.

UPDATE:  While you’re at it, if you find even a little bit more time, read the Anchoress on those who want dictatorships, and why Barry Obama and Gene Wilder might have been separated at birth.

The “Howling Mob” theory of liberal politics

You and I have seen Howling Mobs, although, if we’re lucky, not up close and personal.

This is a Howling Mob (in Fallujah, with murdered contractors hanging in the background):

fallujah

This is a Howling Mob (in London, a part of the Danish cartoon riots):

behead1

This is a Howling Mob (with thanks to Zombie, from a series on protests at the Berkeley, CA, Marine Recruiting station):

IMG_9148

This is a Howling Mob (showing protesters in San Francisco stomping the Israeli flag, with thanks to Zombie):

IMG_8633

Oh, here’s another Howling Mob (this one burning George Bush in effigy, again with thanks to Zombie):

143-4350_IMG

And now a few more Howling Mob pictures for the gallery.

This is a picture of the Howling Mob that formed against American Muslims immediately after 9/11:

[Sorry, couldn’t find one.]

This is a picture of the Howling Mob that formed against American Muslims after the Food Hood massacre:

[Sorry, again, I couldn’t find one.]

This is a picture of the Howling Mob that gathered to boot Hispanics out of the country once Arizona passed its statute requiring police to comply with federal immigration laws:

[Whoops!  Once again, I seem to be missing some pictures here.]

Here are some members of the Howling Tea Party Mob, gathered together to protest Barack Obama’s economic policies:

teaparty11

Oh, my God!  Run for the hills, Dude!  They’re out to get us.

My point, obviously, is that the Howling Mobs are not to be found amongst Americans united to support traditional American values, such as secure borders, national security, and economic conservativism.  Nevertheless, as Michael Barone points out, America’s political class, and especially America’s Democratic/Progressive political class, envisions ordinary Americans as gun wielding, torching bearing, axe swinging lynch mobs, anxious for politically incorrect blood:

Why the reluctance to state the obvious truth, that we are under attack from terrorists motivated by a radical form of Islam?

My theory is that these well-intentioned folks see the American people as a Howling Mob. They think that if Americans find out that Islamists are attacking us, they will go out and slaughter innocent Muslims. They think that Americans are incapable of understanding the simple truth that, while most terrorists are Islamists, the large majority of Muslims are not terrorists.

Of course, the evidence is that Americans are quite capable of holding these two ideas in their heads. Even after September 11, there were only a miniscule number of attacks on Muslims, and many more Americans went over to their Muslim neighbors and offered to help if they had any trouble. They didn’t even need to hear the almost instant assurances from Rudy Giuliani and George W. Bush that all Muslims are not terrorists to bake a cake and bring it over.

The Howling Mob theory explains a lot of otherwise puzzling things. It helps to explain why Janet Napolitano’s Homeland Security Department, tasked with finding possible terrorists, set about tracking disgruntled military veterans and gun owners. Just the kind of people who turn into a Howling Mob!

It helps to explain journalists’ desperate search for racist epithets at tea-party gatherings — and their lack of interest in the actual violence that has been common at rallies against the Arizona immigration law and at antiwar marches. It helps to explain the Justice Department’s decision to drop the case against the New Black Panthers who were physically intimidating voters in Philadelphia on Election Day.

It helps to explain why Solicitor General Elena Kagan was willing to work in the Clinton White House after Bill Clinton signed the law banning open gays in the military — a law Kagan has said she detests. Hey, he was just trying to propitiate the Howling Mob.

Michael Barone has much more to say on the subject, and I suggest that you read it here.  And as you read, please try to keep in mind the identity of the real Howling Mobs, both at home and abroad.

With a friend in the White House, the anti-war movement takes off the mask

There was another anti-war rally in San Francisco, but the gloss of all Americanism with which the movement covered itself during the early years of the Iraq War is gone.  With that gloss ripped away, the truth comes out:

The glory days of the 21st-century anti-war movement were in 2003 and 2004, when tens of thousands of naive “average Americans” would show up at each anti-war event. Then, as I documented extensively over the years at zombietime, far-left and extremist groups quickly seized control of the movement and tried to lead the middle-of-the-road protesters leftward politically. But as the radicalism escalated with each successive protest, the sane people all stopped coming, the rallies started getting smaller and smaller, and from 2004 onward it’s been a continuous downward slide.

The bottom line is revealed:  these protesters, the ones who are Obama’s base, even as they are dismayed by his pragmatic decision to stick it out a little longer in Iraq and Afghanistan, hate America.

Please visit Zombie’s photo essay.  It will give you a good chance to see the ugliness that was always festering underneath the more middle class anti-war movement.

What do you get when you cross a Bratz doll with a Smurf? *UPDATED*

What do you get when you cross a Bratz doll with a Smurf?  A Na’vi.

Yup, folks, I finally caught up with my pop culture and went to see Avatar last night.  Seeing it made me realize why I so seldom bother to catch up with pop culture.  The movie was a snoozer.  The first two hours were mostly a college freshman’s fantasy anthropology thesis leavened by myriad cliches and really bad acting.  At the very end, when the action adventure sequences finally kicked in, I didn’t think the visual quality or the plot turns were any better than the most recent Transformers movie.

Others have written about the movie’s politics, which are certainly offensive (military evil, corporations evil) and stupidly demeaning (indigenous people are child-like angels on earth), so I won’t go there.  What bugged me was how derivative the movie was.  Again, others have commented on the way in which Cameron simply recycled Dances With Wolves and a gazillion other movies in which the evil American military and corporations seek to destroy indigenous people, only to have a messiah like ex-military or ex-corporate person ride in to save the innocent indigenous who can’t save themselves.  All that goes without saying given Cameron’s knee jerk politics (although I don’t see him donating his profits to any indigenous people’s groups).  Nope, what bugged me was the lazy derivative quality that had Cameron borrowing from a bunch of other movies.

For starters, as I said, the creepy Na’vi were clearly inspired by hybridizing Bratz dolls and Smurfs.  Here, I’ll illustrate.

First, the Bratz dolls, with their big heads, huge, highly colored eyes, and abnormally elongated bodies:

SteppinOut.Group

Next, the Smurfs, with their blue skin and big ears:

smurf-tm

Blend these pop culture images, and you end up with Na’vi, completed with oversized heads, big ears, big eyes, blue skin and weirdly elongated bodies:

avatar_Navi

The only mystery is how the Na’vis figured out, on their own, the wonders of corn-rowed hair:

tn_HPIM0084

But the borrowing didn’t stop there.  Do you remember when Jake Sully was giving his impassioned “we can’t all get along” speech?  Because the movie was in 3D, Jake’s wagging little tail kept distracting my eye.  It didn’t take me long to track down that image either:

CowardlyLion-300x287

Twice in the Wizard of Oz (that I can remember) that tail took center stage:  once when the four friends began their long walk down the hallway to meet the Wizard for the first time, and once again when the tail kept peeking out of the costume the Cowardly Lion had stolen from the witch’s guards.  There is no doubt in my mind that the same genius who designed the tail for the Wizard of Oz got resurrected to help out with the Na’vi.

Cameron raided old Hollywood for other ideas.  The night time scenes of a luminous Pandora were pretty, but certainly not original.  Disney got there first, all the way back in 1940, in the lovely Nutcracker Suite part of Fantasia:

For the goddess’ tree, those glowing, hanging limbs, into which the Na’vi can plug their braids, were clearly inspired by commercial grade rope lights, right down to the little bulbs embedded in the strand, and the plugs at the end:

ledropelightcat

(Here’s an even better example of light ropes.)

As for the dialogue . . . bleh!  Cameron is a terrible writer.  Borrowed ideas, film cliches (people always whoop in helicopters or when they’re otherwise flying) and, worst, unbelievably hackneyed lines borrowed from decades of bad action movies:

[to Jake, before he becomes an Avatar]
Dr. Grace Augustine: Just relax and let your mind go blank. That shouldn’t be too hard for you.

***

Dr. Grace Augustine: So you just figured you’d come here, to the most hostile environment known to men, with no training of any kind, and see how it went? What was going through your head?
Jake Sully: Maybe I was sick of doctors telling me what I couldn’t do.

***

Trudy Chacon: [fires on Quaritch’s Hellicopter] Your’e not the only one with a gun, Bitch!

***

Col. Quaritch: Yo Sully! How does it feel to betray your own race?

***

Jake Sully: It’s over.
Col. Quaritch: Nothing’s over while I’m breathing.
Jake Sully: I was kinda hoping you’d say that.

Cliches, insults, wooden writing, it’s all there. I’m surprised Cameron didn’t manage to have the wacko Marine Colonel throw in “I love the smell of napalm in the morning.”  To be fair to Cameron’s bad writing and nasty attitude, though, he did manage to get in a snide reference to “shock and awe” by referring to the campaign against the angelic Na’vi in those terms.

I could go on, but it’s like re-living a bad dream over and over.  For 162 minutes, I writhed in my theater seat, overwhelmed by boredom, leavened only by the occasional disgust.  What a lousy movie.  If it wasn’t for the computer animation, it would have sunk like a stone.  And to be honest, even the animation wasn’t that good.  [Slight spoiler alert:]  The only time I really felt it added to the movie was when ash was falling after the crazed military bombed the great tree.  That was kind of pretty.  [End of slight spoiler.]

If you’ve seen Avatar, I bet you know what I’m talking about.  And if you haven’t, save your money.  Or better, the ticket price to a gift basket at Soldier’s Angels.  Those guys and gals deserve it after the massive insult lobbed at them in the most popular movie in years.

UPDATE:  Silly me.  I forgot another borrowing.  (The following is a slight spoiler, if you care.)  When the born-again indigenous Jake calls upon the earth for help, and gets that help, that came right out of Tolkein and C.S. Lewis (who borrowed the concept from Tolkein).  In both those classics, the enraged trees in a land despoiled by evil end up helping the good guys.  Funnily enough, though, I never saw either Tolkein or Lewis as savage critics of corporatism, conventional religion or their own nation’s military.  I must have missed something.

A writer who understands how the Left operates

I’m reading a very enjoyable novel right now that is completely on point about the way in which the Left operates, especially when it comes to the media and academia.

The writer is tuned into the name calling that substitutes for informed debate. For example, when the book’s protagonist, Paul, learns that Leftists started submitted articles to a magazine that contained misstatements of facts in an effort to shift political sentiment (a la Climategate, although this book predates that effort), the following dialog ensues between Paul and Bill Weider, the magazine’s editor:

“But – Bill, why don’t you publish the story you told me? Just as you’ve told it to me? Let your readers know. Let the public see what is happening.”

Weidler’s frown came back. “You know what will happen? There will be a campaign against us. We’ll be called fascists, war-mongers, American imperialists, witch-hunters.”

“You’ve forgotten to add ‘hysteria-inciters,’” Paul said, smiling. “Strange how often they’ve been using hysteria recently – almost hysterically, in fact.”

On the subject of claims about hysteria, my sister, much impressed, sent me this Glenn Greenwald article deriding American hysteria about the Flaming Panties bomber.  I wrote her back that Americans would be less inclined to be hysterical if the administration would identify and focus upon an enemy – that would be radical Islam, by the way. As long as the Administration (and this goes for the past Administration too) refuses to identify the enemy, all Americans are suspect, and all must be exposed to searches, stupid restrictions, and other limitations on civil liberties.

In a charming aside, the book tackles the root cause question. When the book’s heroine, Rona, and her sister, Peggy, talk about an unpleasant acquaintance, they have this to say:

“She isn’t a friend of yours, is she?” Peggy was now very much the elder sister.

“Not particularly,” Rona said, which was a miracle of understatement. “Scott says she’s a product of her environment,” she added.

“Strange how we never use that phrase when we are describing pleasant people,” Peggy said….

Do I need to remind you that one of the first things Obama did after the Flaming Panties bombing was to emphasize the poverty in Yemen? Yes, it’s true that poor, corrupt countries are great hosts for radical Islamists, but there is no doubt that the bombers, whether they’re the fabulously wealthy founder of Al Qaeda, young dilettantes flying airplanes into the World Trade Center, ordinary Yorkshire youths blowing up British subways, educated psychiatrists shooting soldiers at Fort Hood, or fabulously wealthy Nigerians setting their underwear on fire are products of only one environment, one that the Left never dares to acknowledge: Islam.

Using a conversation between Paul and his friend, Jon, a professor, the writer has a long riff on the way in which the Left deliberately targets universities and newspapers – indeed, all media of mass communication – as a way in which to manipulate the public:

“You’re in education, Jon. Do you think propaganda is a powerful force? Could it be dangerous? Supposing an enemy of this country had its sympathizers carefully planted here? Supposing these propagandists were trying to infiltrate such businesses and professions as radio, the press, films, schools and colleges, the theater, publishing?”

“That’s a damned silly question,” Jon said almost angrily. “You ask how dangerous it might be?” He looked at Paul, unbelievingly, but Paul kept silent. “This is the twentieth century, with communication easier and more powerful than it’s ever been. The trouble with those who see no danger, who think we are perfectly safe if only we invent more hideous bombs is that they are still living with a nineteenth century idea of peace. Wars haven’t changed much except in bigger and better holocausts. But peace, as we are going to see it in this century, is something quite altered. A lot of new dangers are going to stay with us permanently just because we’ve invented a lot of peacetime conveniences that make life so interesting. It isn’t only armies we have to fear today: it’s words, words abused and corrupted and twisted.”

Still Paul said nothing.

“You see,” Jon went on patiently, “a hundred years ago, fewer people could read, fewer people were educated, and fewer people thought they could argue about international conditions. Also, in those days, propaganda spread more slowly and less widely. But now we’ve got a vast public who read their papers, discuss books and articles, go to the movies and the theater, listen to their radio, watch television, and send their children to schools and colleges.”

“And a public,” Paul interposed, “who have enough to do with arranging their own lives without analyzing all the things they read or hear. They’ve got to trust the honesty of those men who deal with the written or spoken word. Just as the journalist, or the movie director, or the teacher, has got to trust the honesty of the businessmen and workers whenever he buys a refrigerator or a car or a shirt. Isn’t that right?”

The above was written before the 2008 election – before the media completely abandoned its role of reporting and became an institution devoted to advocating a single party in an election. And, as Paul predicted, the public bought it hook, line and sinker, trusting as they did in the honesty of the written and spoken word pouring out over the airwaves. Nowadays, big lies get promulgated with warp speed, in myriad media outlets, and they live forever, corrupting political discourse.

The author recognizes the way in which the Left is hostile to any wars that might conceivably advance American interests. In speaking of a college campus, she says:

“The colleges and universities were full of pickets with placards saying it was all an imperialist war. The students and faculties were deluged with leaflets denouncing war-mongers and reactionaries. Speakers were appearing on the campus, haranguing us all not to fight.”

There’s a universality to that description, since it aptly describes the Left’s anti-War tactics in 1940, 1968, 1991, 2003, and today. To the Left, the possibility of a good war, a war to maintain the line against totalitarianism and preserve freedom, is always impossible to imagine – and the easiest targets for that failure of imagination are colleges students, since it is they who must be convinced that they are fighting for something worth defending.

Speaking of fighting for something worth defending, the writer has no truck with the Leftist habit of moral relativism. Here are Rona and her boyfriend Scott having a debate about a guest at a party who Rona believes has a tiresome habit of painting everything in Left of center politics:

“His line is so old! Two years ago, or three, he could manage to get away with it. But not now.”

“What do you mean?” Scott looked across the room.

“Just that he wasn’t the least little bit the original talker he likes to imagine he is. He only succeeded in annoying most of our guests.”

“Because he thinks differently from them? Se we must all talk the same way, think the same things?”

“No, darling!” She rose and came over to him. “I don’t believe two of us in the room echoed any point of view, except in a general way – well, of believing that right is right and wrong is wrong.”

“That’s all relative,” Scott said. “Depends on each man’s frame of reference.”

“I don’t believe that,” she said, “except for the small things in life. You can find them as relative as you like. But in the big things, you’ve got to decide what is right, what is wrong. Or else you’ve no moral judgment, at all. Like Murray. He’s just a parrot, that’s all he is.”

Moral relativism, of course, is a chronic talking point for the Left, and a chronic problem for those educated and controlled by the Left. In the War against Islamists, for example, moral relativism is tightly entwined with the whole “root cause” that both the author and I mentioned above. After all, as Michael Moore said, one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist. The Left never seems to understand that, while the act of fighting may be the same, the reason one fights determines whether one is morally right or wrong. Fighting for individual liberty is a good reason to fight; fighting to subjugate the world to a misogynist, homophobic, antisemitic, anti-Christian, completely totalitarian religion – well, not so good.

In the last section of the book from which I’ll quote, the writer also tackles the Left’s habit of targeting individuals by appealing to their sense of victim hood. Multiculturalism isn’t a means of preserving what’s special about a group’s ethnicity. Instead, it’s a political tool aimed at dividing Americans from each other, and making them dependent on the Left as their only savior.

While today’s victims are mostly blacks, Hispanics, gays, lesbians, women (when it’s still useful), Muslims, etc., in the book, the man targeted to be a victim who can be saved only by the Left is a Jew:

“I’ve a battle on my hands right now. They want us to keep different, and I’m telling them the hell with that, we’re Americans. That’s what we are. Stop building a wall around us, stop emphasizing differences, that’s what I keep trying to tell them. And they look at me as if I were some kind of traitor.” He looked at Jon Tyson. “But I’m building no wall, and no one is going to persuade me to do it.”

Obviously, I’ve been playing coy with you, keeping secret the book’s author, title and date of publication. Those of you who know my weakness for Helen MacInnes’ Cold War novels might already have figured out that I’m quoting from one of her books. The book in question is Neither Five Nor Three, published in 1951. It focuses on the Left’s infiltration of the media world and college campuses.

This was the beginning of the Cold War, of course, so Helen MacInnes couldn’t look ahead and realize how that infiltration would be completely successful. While we were challenging the Soviet Union abroad, it was taking over our institutions at home. And now, as Leftist Professor Ward Churchill would say, “The chickens have come home to roost.” All of the nascent tactics MacInnes described then – the moral relativism, the victim-based multiculturalism, the name-calling, the anti-Americanism – have become permanently entrenched in America’s media and education cultures. In those days, people saw these things and remarked upon them. In these days, people believe in the message and approve of the messengers.

My American Thinker article about Obama’s American-ness

A few weeks ago, I did a post asking if Barack Obama is anti-American.  I liked the concept, but wanted to refine on it a bit.  Well, that refinement turned into a very long post, which I passed on to American Thinker, and the editors were kind enough to publish it.  Take a gander at it and tell me what you think.

Is Barack Obama anti-American? *UPDATED*

A couple of weeks ago, I included in a post the statement that Barack Obama is anti-American.  A dear and respected friend suggested that I was exaggerating.  Obama may have a different vision of or goal for America, he said, but that’s scarcely the same as being anti-American.  I’ve been thinking that over for a while and, after a lot of mental give and take about what it means to be “anti-” anything, have now decided that Barack Obama is indeed anti-American.

Everything has a fundamental essence, a quality that makes it uniquely itself.  Take an orange, for example.  It’s not only citrus fruit, it’s an orange colored citrus fruit.  Horticulturists can alter its size, its texture, it’s sweetness, and the purity of its orange color, but it still remains an orange because that color is its definition.  Change the color, however, and suddenly, you have the un-orange, the anti-orange.  You have something completely different that no longer contains within it the essence of the original fruit.  Lose the essence and you lose the orange.

America has an essence too, and that essence is liberty.  America since its inception has been defined by liberty, both the liberty of the individual and the liberty of the nation.  Individual liberty means that Americans should be subject to minimal government constraints.  The state exists to serve the individual (commerce, transportation, security), not to control the individual.  That’s why the Bill of Rights focuses so closely on individual freedoms:  the freedom to speak, the freedom to write, the freedom to worship, the freedom to defend oneself with arms, the freedom from searches and seizures, etc.  Liberty also extends to the nation.  Both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are replete with examples of the Founders’ absolute obsession with national sovereignty.  Just recently, we’ve been reminded of the fact that the Founders didn’t even want the appearance of impropriety and the risk of influence, since they specifically prohibited foreign emoluments for our presidents.

Despite blunders of enormous magnitude (slavery, the treatment of Native Americans, and the imprisonment of American Japanese), Americans have, for the most part, taken these freedoms with the utmost seriousness.  We are a nation “of the people, by the people and for the people.”  We have not allowed ourselves to be ruled by tyrannies, dictators or bureaucracies.  We like our taxes low and our freedoms high.  In the past 100 years, when we fight wars, we do not fight wars to conquer other people, we fight wars to free other people from tyrannies.  Those on the Left who sneer at our “imperialist ventures” implicitly side with Hitler, with the North Koreans, with the Communist North Vietnamese, and with Saddam Hussein (mass murderer of his own people).  While ordinary Americans shed blood so that others on foreign shores can live free, the Left cheers on those who would deny their own citizens (or the citizens of conquered nations) the same freedoms we unthinkingly enjoy.

All the freedoms I’ve discussed can very quickly be distilled into a single essence, an American essence:  American individuals are free from control by and fear of their own government, and the American nation is free from control by other nations.

Barack Obama is anti-American because he wants to change this American essence.  His domestic policy is directed at increasing government control in every area, which decreases individual liberty.  Here’s an incomplete bullet-point list of his anti-liberty goals on the home front:

  • He wants to remove any last vestiges of the marketplace from individuals’ control over their own health care, and put the government entirely in charge.
  • He’s willing to give government control over American businesses (i.e., Bank takeover ands Government Motors).
  • His administration, while on record as opposing the Fairness Doctrine, is aggressively exploring a backdoor regulatory scheme that would have precisely the same practical effect as the Fairness Doctrine:  it would impose government restrictions on content, rather than allowing the market (that means us, the consumers) to control content.
  • His FCC wants to control the internet, which is a humming beehive of free speech, much of it critical of Obama.
  • Although he’s mostly erased the record, his dream is to create a civilian national security force, subordinate to the administration, which would be larger than the American military.  The military, please note, is controlled by the Constitution and has traditionally existed as a separate entity from any government.
  • He wants to take away the right to bear arms.  He’ll pay lip service to supporting the Second Amendment, but his fundamental goal is to use government to remove arms from individuals.  I’ve never held a gun in my life, but I know that the Founders understood that, for individuals, their single biggest defense against an overreaching government, is the right to arm themselves.  Statists never allow their citizens to bear arms.  Indeed, the first thing the Nazis did was ban guns in citizen’s hands.
  • He wants to redistribute wealth.  Without money, people have no choices.  The more money the government siphons to itself, the fewer choices we, as individuals have, which makes us increasingly subordinate to the government.

Of course, not all these Obama dreams will become reality.  As I noted above, Obama has been trying to delete evidence that he ever dreamt about a huge civilian security force at his beck and call.  And with other dreams (for example, the Second Amendment) he’s doing a fancy dance by which he tries to hide his authoritarian impulses.  But it doesn’t matter.  This post isn’t about what Obama will actually do.  It’s about what he wants to do, what his desires are vis a vis the American people — and it’s very clear that his desire is antithetical to the American essence.  He wants to limit or destroy individual liberties.

Politically, too, Obama’s impulses are all antithetical to liberty.  Again, some examples:

  • He has turned against the only democratic nation in the Middle East (that would be Israel), in favor of the bloodied tyrannical theocracies on her borders.
  • By reversing his pledge to keep a missile defense system in place in Poland and the Czech Republic, he has favored Iran’s Muslim tyranny over these democratic nations only so recently freed from Communism.
  • Figuratively and literally, he bows to dictators (Saudis, Venezuelans, Russians, Iranians, Cubans).  They ask, he gives.  In other words, contrary to America’s hundred year history of siding with the people against their tyrants, he sides with the tyrants against their people.
  • In Honduras, he sided with the delusional Zelaya against the people and the Constitution.
  • In Iran, when the people took to the streets, he sided with the megalomaniac theocracy, against the people.
  • In his much-heralded speech to the Muslim world, in addition to grounding Israel’s right to exist solely on a Holocaust the Muslim world denies, he repeatedly and noisily trumpeted the right of Muslim men to control Muslim women, a trope he reiterated in subsequent speeches.  This goes beyond the idiocy of multiculturalism and actively supports the subordination of an eighth of the world’s population.  (If 1/4 of the world is Muslim, and half of those Muslims are women….)
  • In his speeches, he assures the tyrannies of the world that America is abandoning her century old role of America’s policeman.  They are freed from any constraint.
  • By joining the farce that is the U.N. Human Rights Council, he is lending America’s imprimatur to the most violently anti-Semitic, authoritarian, dictatorial, anti-American political body in the world.
  • As part of his belief in the increasingly discredited notion of climate change, he stands ready to cede American sovereignty to a U.N. body that can control American wealth distribution and police the American body politic.

With the exception of the last item, and unlike the list regarding Obama’s domestic goals, the above bullet-points are not made up of things Obama merely wishes he can do.  They are composed of things Obama has already done.  He has subordinated America.  America is no longer the symbol of liberty around the world.  She’s just another nation and, worse, one whose leader, by temperament and political belief, has more reverence for dictatorships than democracies.  In other words, when he deals with the world outside America’s borders, he has again denied America’s essence, which is as the symbol of and standard-bearer for freedom.

If every one of Obama’s desires and actions is antithetical to America’s core essence, then it is reasonable to say that he is anti-American.  He’s not merely making little changes around the edges, smoothing away rough spots, augmenting existing traits, or getting rid of ugly cankers.  Instead, both at home and abroad, he’s trying to destroy America’s essence, that commitment to liberty that makes her unique in this world, and that makes her uniquely American.

Given Obama’s authoritarian, anti-liberty (and, therefore, anti-American) impulses, Obama’s periodic, TelePrompter-generated professions of love for this country ring untrue.  Just as we disbelieve statements of love from the man who beats his wife to a pulp because he’s trying to “improve” her so that she can achieve some impossible standard that would re-make her in the beater’s own mind, so too are we entirely justified in disbelieving Obama’s lukewarm affirmatives, when his behavior continuously shows a profound disdain for America and her core values.

UPDATE:  Well, that didn’t take long.  Within an hour of my having written the above, I learn that the same Obama administration that took days before voicing lukewarm support for the Iranian people under the thumb of a tyrannical theocracy, took mere minutes to condemn a bombing that killed the military wing of that same dictatorship.  Obama’s every impulse is hostile to liberty.

America’s decline is Obama’s goal

Charles Krauthammer spells it out:  America’s decline is not a by-product of Obama’s myriad Left wing policies; it is, instead, his primary goal.  Think of that as you wonder why a Leftist European prize committee awarded the formerly prestigious Nobel Peace Prize to Obama.

Of course, this isn’t new to any of you.  I’ve been saying it since before he was elected, and I think many of you have been agreeing with me.

For more, check out this Power Line post.

Is Obama naive about the UN’s role or does he have a genuine affinity for bad actors?

When it comes to Obama’s speech before the UN, Brett Schaefer and Nile Gardiner are both kind enough to attribute to naivete what I’m increasingly sure is a malignant combination of anti-American feeling and antisemitism.

In the same vein, Paul, at PowerLine, a blogger who has tried to be level-headed about Obama, professes himself horrified by Obama’s “Sophomorically Utopian Oration,” and gives details and argument to prove his point that Obama has all the intellectual and political sophistication of a starry-eyed, ill-informed, Left leaning college student.

That’s the theme that seems to be emerging about Obama’s UN debut:  he’s Utopian, sophomoric, naive. Obama wasn’t shocked by the UN’s corruption and power seeking behavior.  Instead, he was scolding the world body for not getting its act together and creating a Garden of Eden, with the Palestinian lion lying peacefully beside the slaughtered Israeli lamb. In other words, rather than recognizing that this international body should exist as a forum to ensure some level of functionality between national entities that have different values and goals, he thinks it ought to be some giant mommy that gently smacks the nation-kids around until harmony is ensured. (As a slight aside, if you can ever see the Episode of the New Twilight Zone, from the 1980s, called “A Small Talent for War,” you must. The link I provided has a spoiler, but it’s still worth checking out given Obama’s speech.)

Maybe Obama wasn’t even naive.  Maybe, as my friend Don Quixote suggested, Obama appropriately wants nations to stand on their own two feet, without America as a prop, and truly believes that, allowing “good nations” more independence will achieve peace on earth and good will among men.  If that’s the case, Obama must be credited with a genuinely good faith belief that the world’s “good nations,” given sufficient moral support (but nothing more) will do the right thing. My reply to DQ was that this view assumes that Obama shares with ordinary Americans a sense of what constitutes a “good nation.”

In my book and, I know, in yours, a good nation is one that provides maximum liberty to its citizens without veering into destructive anarchy. Obama, however, seems to have a different definition.

In Iran, although both Ahmadinejad and Mousavi are equally repugnant, the uprisings weren’t about a specific leader, but were about the corruption of democracy. Obama sided with the totalitarian dictators, against the people.

In Honduras, the Obama administration has aggressively sided with a would-be dictator against the constitutional will of the people.  The only one who’s happy right now is Chavez, the buddy with whom Obama once shared a big grin and a political man hug.

Aside from liking the bad guys, Obama also seems to be unduly deferential to their desires.  As between North and South Korea, Obama promptly yielded to the Norks’ demands for single party talks, without getting anything in return.  And we all know about his recent abandonment of the Czech Republic, Poland and neighboring states, which basically saw him doing obeisance to the totalitarian KGB operative, Vladimir Putin.

Zip over to the Middle East, and Obama bows to totalitarian kings, and makes unreasonable (by any standards) demands on the only functional, free Democracy in the region — after repeatedly denigrating its right to exist by implying that Israel’s only justification for existence is the same Holocaust that the surrounding Muslim nations deny ever occurred.  And so it goes, with the added spice of insults to old friends such as the Brits, the French, and those “Austrian” speaking Austrians, all the while making kissy faces at some of the world’s most horrible, aggressive dictators.

So here’s the question:  If one assumes that Obama really is as naive as others assume about what the UN can and should do, should Obama be forgiven for this naivete because he is seeking a world of equal players, all working harmoniously under one UN roof?  Or alternatively, is there no forgiveness, naivete or not, because Obama is manifestly working to subordinate the United State, one of the last bastions (if not the last bastion) of true liberty in the world, in order that those he seems to characterize as “good nations” — nations with the least freedom and the most territorial aggression — can have a more level playing field and a greater opportunity to achieve their goals?

With regard to that last statement, Obama’s speech, aside from its reference for some halcyon UN future, made quite clear Obama’s desire to take America from being a world leader to a mere player.  Indeed, Peter Wehner sees the UN speech as a perfect example of Obama’s policies and personality insofar as his relationship to America is concerned:

There is more to be said about the Obama speech—including the president’s tiresome pretense that he and he alone will lead the world out of its cul-de-sac, where “we bicker about outdated grievances.” But I cannot escape a depressing thought, one I hope is proved to be wrong over time: that Barack Obama, even though he is the leader of America, is constantly placing himself above it. His criticisms of our country are now part of a troubling routine, so much so that Obama is now winning the applause of people who genuinely hate America (like Fidel Castro, who complimented Obama for his “brave gesture” and “courage” in criticizing the United States at the UN).

Obama not only fails to strongly defend the United States; he is actually adding brush strokes to a portrait of our country that diminishes its achievements and standing. He seems unable or unwilling to speak out—in a heartfelt and passionate way—on its behalf. He is, of course, clever never to say a word of praise for America; no, this sophisticated wordsmith and smooth politician, this cool customer ever in search of The Golden Mean, can speak in both text and subtext. He says just enough to deny the charge that he is not a strong defender of the country he leads. But by now we’re on to the game.

No one believes America’s history is pristine; we are all familiar with the catalogue of our own sins, beginning with slavery. Other presidents have recognized them, and a few have given voice to them. But it was done in the context of a reverence for America—for what it has been and stands for, for what it is and can be. Think of the words of George Washington, who said of America, “I was summoned by my Country, whose voice I can never hear but with veneration and love.” That is a noble sentiment from a man whose love of country knew no bounds. They are also words that I cannot imagine President Obama saying, at least with conviction. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t like his country or admire things about it; it means that he has yet to really speak out for it. And it means that he has shown, so far at least, that he is more interested in advancing his interests than in speaking on behalf of the nation that elected him. There are enough critics of America in the world; we don’t need to add America’s president to that list.

John Bolton picks up on precisely the same thread, which is that Obama, the President of the US, is publicly throwing American into the dustbin — not to mention his by now routine willingness to sacrifice Israel whenever the opportunity comes along.

All told, I do not give Obama a pass for a charming 1960s style naivete about the UN’s role as a world peacemaker.  I think that his speech was a calculated effort to pave the way for his favored totalitarian nations to have a free hand  (along with America’s help) when it comes to despoiling the democratic nations around the world.

Obama’s foreign policy in a nutshell

From Jennifer Rubin:

Far from assuming the role of an “honest broker” in the Middle East (that would be an improvement at this point), Obama is affirmatively choosing sides, making every effort to identify with and sweet-talk the “Muslim world” as he conceives it.

But this is not only a pro-Muslim tilt or identification. It often appears that Obama sees his task as revisiting every perceived American failing or error — from the 1953 revolution in Iran to American support for Central American strongmen to the dropping of the atomic bomb — that his Left-leaning academic friends and followers have laid at America’s feet, then systematically reversing them, however counterproductively or haphazardly.

He sees something bearing a vague resemblance to a “coup” in Honduras (but that isn’t if you stop to examine the facts), so America must not merely stand back but also pull for the Chavez-backed leftist. We are making up for past sins, you see. In his eyes we are still burdened with the guilt of dropping the atomic bomb, so we must shoulder the burden and lead the world in denuclearization — well, except for those who won’t go along.

And likewise, in the war on terror, he’s convinced that we lost our “moral standing” by roughly interrogating terrorists and housing them indefinitely in a secure facility at Guantanamo. Now we must live all that down — in short, forgo serious interrogations and scatter the Guantanamo detainees around the world.

It’s quite a record. Perhaps Obama does believe in “American exceptionalism” — but it is the exceptionalism of a country so burdened by its past and filled with remorse that we must humble ourselves before the world and renounce specifically American interests in order to get along with those we supposedly wronged. You can’t say it’s not “change.”

What has the American voter wrought?

On a similar point, Drudge has a lot of headlines about the UN demanding a global currency and all sorts of other countries and groups around our border licking their chops in anticipation of our tasty, depression-damaged national carcas.  Normally, I would scoff and say that America is resilient enough, not only to recover, but to resist these predators.  Today, I still think we’re resilient enough to recover, but I’m terribly afraid that our President and our Congress will willingly hand us over to the circling internationalist vultures.

Giving the Medal of Freedom to a dictator-coddling antisemite *UPDATED*

You’ve already read that the Big O (an increasingly empty hole if there ever was one) is now set to give the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Mary Robinson, the Irish woman who has cheerfully led the UN into ever deeper antisemitic, anti-American depravity.  Jennifer Rubin sums up beautifully the only two possibilities that could have motivated Obama when he made this foul choice:

One is left with two options in assessing the Obama administration’s decision: either a colossal error in vetting or a deliberate effort – which meshes perfectly with his Cairo speech’s theme and his admonitions that “daylight” is required between the U.S. and Israel — in order to ingratiate himself with the Palestinian cause. What better way to flaunt his disdain for Israel’s sensibilities — and for American voters who support Israel — that [sic] to pick the villain of Durban? And while he is continuing his worldwide effort to denigrate American exceptionalism and give credence to the blame-America-first crowd, there could be no more fitting honoree than Robinson.

As to Obama, I have only this to say on his decision to recognize Robinson as a standard bearer of freedom:  Don’t watch what he says.  Watch what he does.

UPDATEDiana West has a nice rundown on just what a dreadful person Mary Robinson is.  So does Jake Tapper.  And still more on Robinson’s MO.

Why Obama’s records — not his birth certificate — matter

James Lewis nails what’s driving the Birther issue, and gives a very good reason why we should abandon the birth certificate, but nevertheless focus on the other records:

The birth debate about Obama is real enough, but it is legally complicated, as analyzed by legal beagle Andrew McCarthy at National Review. No judge is going to question the Constitutional qualifications of an elected president. I’m sorry, but that’s the practical reality. The judge is going to follow stare decisis — the sheer weight of commitments that cannot be reversed without creating chaos. Once the political system of the United States, the voters, the media, and the politicians themselves are all committed to the proposition that Obama is president, trying to reverse it would mean riots in every city in the nation. At some point even debatable claims become irreversible. That is why Al Franken is now the US Senator from Minnesota, even if his election was corrupt and wrong. It’s water under the bridge. Leave it to history.

And yet the Obama “birther” debate is important. What’s important about it is the feeling a growing number of Americans have in their bones that Obama is foreign — to our traditions, loyalties and shared understandings about the nature of America. In a way the legal debate matters less than that bone-deep sense that Obama is fundamentally “Other than American.”

Obama’s in for the next four years, folks.  His citizenship or lack thereof is a dead issue.  It’s not coming back.  But who he is still matters a great deal, both in terms of defining his agenda for the American people and in preventing him for a four year re-run in 2012.  It’s all the other records — the school information, the work information, the travel to Pakistan in 1981, etc. — that still matters.  These will tell us if his much-vaunted genius is one of the big lies and, even more importantly, who his friends and what his values really are.

The rot is very, very deep in England

Rowan Laxton is Middle East expert and a high ranking official in Britain’s Foreign Office.  He is also a hard-core anti-Semite with limited impulse control (two things that seem to go together, by the way):

A high-ranking diplomat at the Foreign Office has been arrested after allegations that he launched a foul-mouthed anti-Semitic tirade.

Middle East expert Rowan Laxton, 47, was watching TV reports of the Israeli attack on Gaza as he used an exercise bike in a gym.

Stunned staff and gym members allegedly heard him shout: ‘F**king Israelis, f**king Jews’. It is alleged he also said Israeli soldiers should be ‘wiped off the face of the earth’.

His rant reportedly continued even after he was approached by other gym users.

[snip]

Mr Laxton, who is still working normally, is head of the South Asia Group at the Foreign Office, on a salary of around £70,000.

He is responsible for all the UK’s diplomacy in that area and for briefing Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who is Jewish.

Mr Laxton has worked extensively in the Middle East – he married a Muslim woman in 2000 – and has been deputy ambassador to Afghanistan.

The case could not have come at a worse time for the Foreign Office. Next week, Britain is hosting an international summit on combating anti-Semitism, with politicians from 35 countries.

It’s bad enough when England’s Pakistani population interjects this type of vile anti-Semitism into the system.  But it’s not just bad, it’s truly saddening, when it comes from someone British.  As those who have read Barbara Tuchman’s wonderful Bible and Sword: England and Palestine from the Bronze Age to Balfour know, since the time of Cromwell, England was one of the least aggressively anti-Semitic countries in Europe.  You wouldn’t allow a Jew at your dinner table, classing them generally with all inferior beings, but you wouldn’t kill him either.  There was even a strain of evangelical philosemitism that resulted in the Balfour Declaration declaring the Jewish right to a homeland in the Holy Land.  That official Britain could have gone from its earlier bizarre combination of sneering tolerance and occasional actual respect to this gross outburst of the worst kind of hatred is a devastating reversal of a long historic trend.

This one about Europe snuck in under my radar

I wrote it a few days ago, but it just got published today:

The other day, Mr. Horace Engdahl, a man who normally occupies a rather obscure outpost when it comes to public awareness, bought himself a few minutes of fame by engaging in everyone’s favorite pastime: America bashing. Mr. Engdahl’s statements in this regard were noteworthy only because he happens to be the top member of the committee charged with awarding the Nobel Prize for literature.

In an “exclusive” interview with the AP, Mr. Engdahl pulled no punches when it came to demeaning Americans. In his estimation, “The U.S. is too isolated, too insular. They don’t translate enough and don’t really participate in the big dialogue of literature. That ignorance is restraining.”

This was a rather interesting comment coming from a Swede. Sweden is a lovely country, and the very nice people who live there all seem to speak beautiful English. It’s also a country of only about nine million people, 87% of whom profess the same religion, speak the same language, and share the same ethnicity. Oh! Don’t forget that it’s surrounded on all sides by similar nations (Norway, Denmark, and Finland). I don’t say any of this to insult Sweden. I just think it’s worth pointing out that those who live in insular countries shouldn’t throw snide stones.

We shouldn’t really be surprised at this, however. Democrats and other Americans of the liberal persuasion are desperate to throw the Republicans out of the White House so that they can curry favor with the Europeans they so much admire. I’m afraid they have a tough road to hoe — and an Obama election may not be enough to do it. The fact is that Europeans don’t like us, and they never have.

Because Mr. Engdahl started this discussion about the dislike Europeans (or, at least, Europe’s intellectuals) feel for America, we should look first to Nobel Prize winners when we cast about for examples of European anti-Americanism. In the world of literature, last year’s controversial winner was Doris Lessing, she of the famous “they would murder Obama” attitude. (Ironically, the only place that’s almost happened, at least by tragic proxy, is in England, where a white racist shot — but thankfully did not kill — a black man wearing an Obama shirt.)

Lessing is only the most recent anti-American winner. Two years before her prize, the winner was Harold Pinter, a leftist amongst leftists, who has called George Bush a “mass murderer.” He was preceded by Elfriede Jelinek, another European Communist who deeply hates America.

This year’s winner, Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio, has not (yet) ascended to the ranks of rabid America haters, but his general theme seems to be a disdain for all things Western. Work your way past the prize committee’s incomprehensible praise for him as an “explorer of a humanity beyond and below the reigning civilization,” and you can find the meat of his writing, which one reviewer explains the Third World as “a utopian antithesis to the ugliness and brutality of European society.”

And don’t even get me started on the winners of the Nobel Peace Prize.

You can read the rest here.

The view from across the pond

I like to read British publications, as well as the Spiegel, and whatever other English language versions of European papers strike my fancy.  It’s useful to see what’s going on in other parts of the world and, more than that, to see how the local press views its own events.

One thing I’ve noticed in all these foreign publications in the last week:  aside from whining about their own economic plight, they’re all thrilled to think that America’s dominance is at an end.  This story from Spiegel strikes precisely the note I’m talking about:

THE END OF ARROGANCE
America Loses Its Dominant Economic Role

By SPIEGEL Staff

The banking crisis is upending American dominance of the financial markets and world politics. The industrialized countries are sliding into recession, the era of turbo-capitalism is coming to an end and US military might is ebbing. Still, this is no time to gloat.

I found that last sentence quite amusing, because the Spiegel Staff is so obvious gloating. After 60 years of being dependent on America — to rescue them from the Naziism they imposed on themselves, to protect them from Communists, and to support their economy by providing all the military they needed — the Germans (and most of the rest of Europe) are just too delighted with America’s current economic woes.

I will only say, Twain-like, that I suspect reports of America’s death are greatly exaggerated.  And more to the point, the Europeans had better hope that they’re exaggerated, because we are the last bastion of small “d” democratic freedoms, whether the European’s like to admit it or not.  We’re not holding our own as well as we once were, and some Europeans are wising up the hard way, but we’re still the last best hope.

European arrogance towards America doesn’t stop with politics.  How about this from the head of Nobel literature committee:

Bad news for American writers hoping for a Nobel Prize next week: the top member of the award jury believes the United States is too insular and ignorant to compete with Europe when it comes to great writing.

[snip]

As the Swedish Academy enters final deliberations for this year’s award, permanent secretary Horace Engdahl said it’s no coincidence that most winners are European.

“Of course there is powerful literature in all big cultures, but you can’t get away from the fact that Europe still is the center of the literary world … not the United States,” he told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview Tuesday.

Well, I guess you’re going to be the center of the literary world if you designate yourself as the center, but tautologies seem to be too sophisticated a thought for Mr. Engdahl.

As for me, I’m a woman of simple tastes, and make a point never to read recent examples of Nobel Prize winning literature, since they seem better suited to a man of Mr. Engdahl’s dubious sophistication:  unmoored to common concepts of grammar, narratively challenging, and morally vacuous.  But that’s just me.

Barack Obama — not one of us (and it’s not because he’s black)

The Confederate Yankee launches a truly scathing attack on Obama’s fundamental lack of “American-ness” — and it has nothing to do with skin color, and everything to do with his profoundly un-American upbringing.  I think you should read it.

I will add only that some of the greatest patriots I’ve met are people who were raised in countries other than America, but who came here bursting with love for everything that it is unique and wonderful about America.  Obama’s lack of patriotism, his lack of love for the country, goes beyond his peculiarly “un-American” upbringing, and lodges deep within the psyche of a very angry, alienated man.

We have met the enemy and it is us *UPDATED*

I mentioned the famous Walt Kelly phrase (“we have met the enemy and it is us”) the other day in connection with a post I did about Sweden’s national suicide pact.  My point then was that, if a culture is determined to self-destruct, that suicidal urge becomes the most powerful weapon possible in its enemies hands.  When it comes to Europe, the Islamists don’t need airplanes and bombs — they just need to keep the Europeans doing what they’re doing.  If you stop having children and you hate yourself, your cultural demise is pretty much a foregone conclusion.

At Scott’s Conservative News and Commentary, we get a reminder that some people are more active in the cultural and national self-destruct mode than others.  Get a load of this incredible picture of Code Pink protestors.  Don’t just glanced at it.  Really read the sign.  You then have two choices:  crawl into a corner and cry or fight back in this war of ideas.  [UPDATE:  I have it on good authority that the photo is a fake.  While Code Pink has real signs with similar sentiments, someone mocked this one up to make a point.  I think this post still stands, though, even if the photo isn’t real.  What do you think?]

Incidentally, you can read a bit more background information Code Pink’s latest initiative at Butch Morgan’s site.

Un-American education

I just attended the end of year program at my children’s elementary school. I won’t run on here about how adorable my children were or how charming the other children ewre (accept that as given). Instead, I want to focus on the show’s content, which I found both fascinating and depressing.

A little background first: This school, as is typical for nice middle class schools all over America (and it is a very nice school, despite my carping about its systemic problems), boasts “character” as a big part of its curriculum. This doesn’t mean that character issues permeate every lesson or interaction with an adult in the school, which would make sense to me. That is, the teachers don’t use every history lesson to discuss a historic figure’s virtues or faults, nor do I see that teachers demand of their students’ every interaction a level of respect and kindness.

Instead, the school has bought into the “Character Counts” program, which has “character” taught as just another lesson, with the students viewing it as an abstract subject, unrelated to themselves and as easily ignored as geometry. (There are lots of posters too, although a friend has rightly pointed out that a school’s commitment to actually teaching an issue seems to decline in direct inverse proportion to the number of posters on the wall.)

This year, the school decided to integrate the character curriculum into the end of the year show, with the classes doing little vignettes to illustrate the various virtues, such as “trustworthiness,” “responsibility,” “fairness,” etc. When I first heard the announcement, and not having yet looked at the program, I instantly saw the show play out in my head, replaying the national myths of my own childhood. “Trustworthiness” could be Parson Weem’s wonderful story of Washington and the Cherry Tree; “Responsibility” would be Paul Revere; “Citizenship” could be about the Declaration of Independence; etc. Oooh, was I wrong.

Without giving too much away, I can tell you that every one of the vignettes drew from cultures other than America. Mexico, Brazil, China, Japan, Russia — they all yielded lessons for our children about the basic moral virtues the school was trying to teach. The school did not field a single lesson tied to our own American culture, myths and history.

I don’t think this was a conscious decision on the part of the teachers and administrators. I think, instead, that they’ve been completely Zinn’d when it comes to history: They accept unthinkingly that America is a nation without virtue. George Washington wasn’t an exemplar of honesty and freedom; he was a slaveholder. Paul Revere wasn’t a brave freedom fighter; he was a sleazy merchant trying to make money instead of doing the decent thing by shutting up and paying his taxes. The Declaration of Independence wasn’t a stunning moment in human history that turned away from autocracy and a subordinate citizenry; it was the opening shot in a sorry history of American jackbooted imperialism.

This learned, innate hatred of American exceptionalism is now seeing horrible fruit in university professors and media elites who want to destroy the one Constitutional right that makes America a better, freer, healthier nation than any other country in the whole world: Free Speech.

The New York Times has finally written about the Kangaroo Court in Canada that is prosecuting Mark Steyn and McLean’s Magazine in connection with the latter’s reprint of an excerpt from Steyn’s book, America Alone. As I know all of you know, Steyn’s point is that Muslim population growth and immigration patterns indicate a Muslim Europe in the fairly near future. Some Canadian Muslims took exception to this and complained to the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal, which cares naught for free speech (or even truth), but worries only about the fact that someone’s feelings (er, make them, an oppressed class or person’s feelings) might have been hurt.

What’s fascinating about the Times article is how it found prominent American thinkers who are anxious to jettison America’s free speech in favor of European censorship:

The Maclean’s article, “The Future Belongs to Islam,” was an excerpt from a book by Mark Steyn called “America Alone” (Regnery, 2006). The title was fitting: The United States, in its treatment of hate speech, as in so many other areas of the law, takes a distinctive legal path.

“In much of the developed world, one uses racial epithets at one’s legal peril, one displays Nazi regalia and the other trappings of ethnic hatred at significant legal risk, and one urges discrimination against religious minorities under threat of fine or imprisonment,” Frederick Schauer, a professor at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, wrote in a recent essay called “The Exceptional First Amendment.”

“But in the United States,” Professor Schauer continued, “all such speech remains constitutionally protected.”

[snip]

Some prominent legal scholars say the United States should reconsider its position on hate speech.

“It is not clear to me that the Europeans are mistaken,” Jeremy Waldron, a legal philosopher, wrote in The New York Review of Books last month, “when they say that a liberal democracy must take affirmative responsibility for protecting the atmosphere of mutual respect against certain forms of vicious attack.”

Professor Waldron was reviewing “Freedom for the Thought That We Hate: A Biography of the First Amendment” by Anthony Lewis, the former New York Times columnist. Mr. Lewis has been critical of efforts to use the law to limit hate speech.

But even Mr. Lewis, a liberal, wrote in his book that he was inclined to relax some of the most stringent First Amendment protections “in an age when words have inspired acts of mass murder and terrorism.” In particular, he called for a re-examination of the Supreme Court’s insistence that there is only one justification for making incitement a criminal offense: the likelihood of imminent violence.

The imminence requirement sets a high hurdle. Mere advocacy of violence, terrorism or the overthrow of the government is not enough; the words must be meant to and be likely to produce violence or lawlessness right away. A fiery speech urging an angry mob to immediately assault a black man in its midst probably qualifies as incitement under the First Amendment. A magazine article — or any publication — intended to stir up racial hatred surely does not.

Mr. Lewis wrote that there was “genuinely dangerous” speech that did not meet the imminence requirement.

“I think we should be able to punish speech that urges terrorist violence to an audience, some of whose members are ready to act on the urging,” Mr. Lewis wrote. “That is imminence enough.”

Just so you know, these are the professors who are teaching your children and the writers who are disseminating their profoundly anti-American ideology at home and abroad. And I don’t feel at all as if I’m lapsing into disproportionate ad hominem language when I call them anti-American. Nothing, absolutely nothing, is more American than virtually unfettered free speech. Therefore, nothing can be less American, more antithetical to core American values, than trying to shut that speech down.

No wonder my kids’ sweet little school, without a second thought, was incapable of looking to our own country and culture to illustrate abstract virtues. We don’t believe in ourselves any more, so much so that we are willing to destroy, not only the thing that makes us most American, but the thing that keeps us most free.

Everything old is new again

I am a huge Georgette Heyer fan. I consider her one of the most amusing, sophisticated novel writers ever, and think it’s a shame that she got labeled as a pure romance writer, a genre that puts her in the “I browse that section wearing sunglasses and a scarf” category of books at any Barnes & Noble. In fact, her historical novels, written about the years between 1775 (or so) and 1820 (or so) are examples of meticulous historical research. In her own times, she was recognized as one of the people in England most knowledgeable about the Regency period and, by extension, about the Napoleonic wars that served as a 22 year background to that era.

A side note here: Although the historical distance makes it a bit hard to tell, England’s stand against Napoleon was incredibly important, not just for England’s control of trade and Empire building (which was a selfish reason for England to stay in the world), but for Europe’s freedom. While Napoleon definitely had good points (he broke open the ghettos that confined European Jews), he was also a megalomaniac who was trying to establish a new Napoleon-controlled Empire stretching from Spain to Russia. It would have been a police state as surely as any other “empire by conquest” and his defeat was, overall, a good thing. Now back to Georgette Heyer….

One of Heyer’s books, A Civil Contract, is a romance that has as its backdrop England during the last year of the Napoleonic war, from his imprisonment at Elba to his ultimate defeat at Waterloo.  As the book nears its end, Heyer discusses the Duke of Wellington’s campaign against Napoleon in the weeks immediately before Waterloo, and, more interestingly, the attitudes prevailing in London at the time amongst high society, the politicos (with both the liberal Whig views and the conservative Tory views on display), and the mercantile class.  Even then, it seems, liberals were anti-War!

Read this lengthy passage about the fatigue and disinterest that set in amongst large swaths of the population during a long war, as well as the anti-War party’s longing for defeat at any cost, and see if it doesn’t ring a bell.  (Adam is the book’s lead male character, and he is an ex-Army officer who had fought under Wellington in earlier campaigns.):

[H]is brief sojourn in London had made him realize that between the soldier and the civilian there was a gulf too wide to be bridged.  It had been no hardship to cut his visit [to London] short.  The [social] season was in full swing; the looming struggle across the Channel seemed to be of no more importance to the ton [England’s high society] than a threatened scandal, and was less discussed.  To a man who had spent nearly all his adult life in hard campaigning it was incomprehensible that people should care so little that they could go on dancing, flirting, and planning entertainments to eclipse those given by their social rivals when the fate of Europe was in the balance.  But England had been at war for twenty-two years, and the English had grown accustomed to this state, accepting it in much the same spirit as they accepted a London fog, or a wet summer.  In political circles and in the City [the merchant class] a different and more serious point of view might be taken, but amongst the vast majority of the population only such families as had a son or a brother in the Army regarded the renewal of hostilities as anything more than an inevitable and foreseeable bore.  Except that Napoleon had not abdicated in March of 1802, it was the Peace of Amiens all over again.  It was disagreeable, because taxes would remain high, and one would once more be unable to enjoy foreign travel; but it was not disastrous, because whatever he might do on the Continent Napoleon would not overrun Great Britain.  Life would go on, in fact, just as it had for as long as most people could remember.

To Adam, who, until so recently, had had no other real object than to defeat Napoleon’s troops, such apathy was as nauseating as it was extraordinary.

I don’t know why, but having just read Heyer’s words, the following comment at the Commentary Blog (h/t Danny Lemieux) put me in mind of the above passage about European malaise when it comes to self-preservation.  The two things are not the same, of course, since the Commentary post, by Peter Wehner, focuses, not on England during the Napoleonic era, but on the European and Leftist attitude about Bush’s failed multilateralism (even when evidence shows she’s been multilateral), or their complaints that she’s insisting on help, rather than functioning unilaterally.  There’s something about the damned if you do, damned if you don’t tone, the carping, and the general inability to recognize real danger, however, that seem sunchanged after two centuries:

Last week I was in London attending a Global Leadership Forum, sponsored by the Royal United Services Institute, the Princeton Project on National Security, Newsweek International, and Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP. The attendees–from both the United States and Europe–included academics, scholars, journalists, diplomatic advisers and others who inhabit the foreign policy world. The event was well-organized, the conversations wide-ranging, and there was a genuine effort to hear from a diversity of voices (hence my invitation). But there is no question that the dominant outlook of most of those in attendance was left-leaning, which itself made the trip illuminating.

I came away from the gathering (portions of which I missed) with several broad impressions. One was that multilateralism has become virtually an end in itself. What matters to many Europeans and liberal-leaning Americans is the process rather than the results. What almost never gets discussed is what happens when one’s desire for multilateralism collides with achieving a worthy end (for example, trying to stop genocide in Darfur or prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb). The child-like faith in multilateralism as the solution to all that ails the world would be touchingly innocent if it weren’t so terribly dangerous.

There were the predictable assertions made about how the United States, under George W. Bush, was “unilateralist” and that, in the words of one former Clinton Administration official, “multilateralism was a dirty word” in the Bush Administration. This charge is simplistic and demonstrably untrue–and one could cite as evidence everything from the lead up to the Iraq war (in which the United States went to the UN not once but twice, and gained unanimous approval of Resolution 1441); the war itself (which included support from the governments of Britain, Australia, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, Italy, Spain, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Romania, Norway, El Salvador and many other nations); the E3; the Quartet; the Six Party Talks; the Proliferation Security Initiative; a slew of free trade agreements; and more. In fact the Bush Administration was criticized by Democrats for being too multilateralist in their dealings with North Korea; it was said by John Kerry, among other liberals, that we should engage in bilateral talks with North Korea rather than rely on the Six Party Talks.

Another impression I had was that many (if not most) Europeans and American foreign policy experts are caught in a time warp, acting as if we are still in 2006. They simply want to wash their hands of Iraq. They hate the war, are seemingly impervious to the security and political progress we have seen in Iraq since last summer, and they want the next Administration to downplay Iraq as an issue, which they believe has “obsessed” the Bush presidency. What they don’t seem to understand is that ending U.S. involvement in the war won’t end the war. In fact, if Obama or Clinton follow up on their stated commitments, it is likely to trigger mass death and possibly genocide, revitalize al Qaeda, strengthen Iran, and further destabilize the region. The irony would be that the plans laid out by Democrats, if followed, would increase, not decrease, Iraq’s dominance of American foreign policy. An Iraq that is cracking up and caught in a death spiral is not something that even a President Obama or Clinton could ignore.

You can read the rest here.  I know the analogies aren’t at all perfect, but the miasma of defeatism and hostility seems to transcend time.

The women in Obama’s life and their effect on his personality and politics

Spengler, writing at Asia Times Online, has one of the more fascinating attacks I’ve seen on Barack Obama, and one that exposes some Obama history about which I was blissfully unaware. I knew that Michelle Obama, in her role as candidate’s wife, has forced herself to speak positively about America, to the point where she even grudgingly admitted that, given the positive response to Obama, she’s actually (and for the first time ever) proud of her country, although in a very limited way. I knew, too, that she likes to put him down in public, speaking denigratingly of his ineptitude at home and his morning breath, points that were perhaps meant to humanize him but that, in fact, just make her look angry.

What I didn’t know, though, was that Obama’s mother comes from the far, far Left, and raised him in a deeply anti-American environment:

Friends describe her [Ann Dunham, Obama’s mother] as a “fellow traveler”, that is, a communist sympathizer, from her youth, according to a March 27, 2007, Chicago Tribune report. Many Americans harbor leftist views, but not many marry into them, twice. Ann Dunham met and married the Kenyan economics student Barack Obama, Sr, at the University of Hawaii in 1960, and in 1967 married the Indonesian student Lolo Soetero. It is unclear why Soetero’s student visa was revoked in 1967 – the fact but not the cause are noted in press accounts. But it is probable that the change in government in Indonesia in 1967, in which the leftist leader Sukarno was deposed, was the motivation.

Soetero had been sponsored as a graduate student by one of the most radical of all Third World governments. Sukarno had founded the so-called Non-Aligned Movement as an anti-colonialist turn at the 1955 Bandung Conference in Indonesia. Before deposing him in 1967, Indonesia’s military slaughtered 500,000 communists (or unfortunates who were mistaken for communists). When Ann Dunham chose to follow Lolo Soetero to Indonesia in 1967, she brought the six-year-old Barack into the kitchen of anti-colonialist outrage, immediate following one of the worst episodes of civil violence in post-war history.

[snip]

Barack Obama received at least some instruction in the Islamic faith of his father and went with him to the mosque, but the importance of this experience is vastly overstated by conservative commentators who seek to portray Obama as a Muslim of sorts. Radical anti-Americanism, rather than Islam, was the reigning faith in the Dunham household. In the Muslim world of the 1960s, nationalism rather than radical Islam was the ideology of choice among the enraged. Radical Islam did not emerge as a major political force until the nationalism of a Gamal Abdel Nasser or a Sukarno failed.

I’m not arguing that the sins of the father should be visited on the children. As I’ve frequently discussed here, my father was raised as a Communist although he was a solid Democrat during my life. He would never have voted Communist, but he did carry with him the anger and pessimism that characterized Communism, and he was really incapable of seeing America’s virtues, which he always viewed as instruments of oppression. However, I am not my father. I have explicitly disavowed those viewpoints and, indeed, I never did support his more Leftist leanings. I loved him dearly and respected him greatly, but I did not agree with his more radical political beliefs.  Further, to the extent that I’ve left my own generic Democratic past, I have attempted to explain where I feel that the Democratic party changed (abandoning me), and where I have changed (abandoning the Democratic party).

Significantly, Obama has never done what I have done; namely, rejected explicitly the more distasteful views of his family and associates.  With regard to Obama’s careful silence on these hot topics, Spengler makes a rather stunning point about Obama’s personality and techniques:

Barack Obama is a clever fellow who imbibed hatred of America with his mother’s milk, but worked his way up the elite ladder of education and career. He shares the resentment of Muslims against the encroachment of American culture, although not their religion. He has the empathetic skill set of an anthropologist who lives with his subjects, learns their language, and elicits their hopes and fears while remaining at emotional distance. That is, he is the political equivalent of a sociopath. The difference is that he is practicing not on a primitive tribe but on the population of the United States.

There is nothing mysterious about Obama’s methods. “A demagogue tries to sound as stupid as his audience so that they will think they are as clever as he is,” wrote Karl Krauss. Americans are the world’s biggest suckers, and laugh at this weakness in their popular culture. Listening to Obama speak, Sinclair Lewis’ cynical tent-revivalist Elmer Gantry comes to mind, or, even better, Tyrone Power’s portrayal of a carnival mentalist in the 1947 film noire Nightmare Alley. The latter is available for instant viewing at Netflix, and highly recommended as an antidote to having felt uplifted by an Obama speech.

America has the great misfortune to have encountered Obama at the peak of his powers at its worst moment of vulnerability in a generation. With malice aforethought, he has sought out their sore point.

Spengler’s language is even stronger than that which I’ve used (I’ve repeatedly called Obama a demagogue, but never a sociopathic), but fundamentally there is nothing in there with which I disagree.  I believe that Obama is a very scary political figure, and I devoutly hope that Americans will look at John McCain’s ebullient energy, his positiveness, if you will, and reject the scarily empty rhetoric that masks Obama’s deep dislike for America and its political and economic systems.

Hat tip: El Gordo

Berkeley — the un-America

I found Berkeley a desperately unpleasant place when I attended University there in the late 70s/early 80s.  It shocks me to realize that, unaware of it though I was, those were the good years.  In a report filled with photos and text, Zombie walks us through the depths to which Berkeley has sunk.  And I’m not going to excuse the City from this kind of thing on the ground that the protesters were just a small percentage of the whole population.  Keep in mind that it was the general population that elected the City Council that started this whole thing in the first place.

I also want to add here that it’s too facile just to say, “Well, that’s Berkeley.  It’s always been a nutty place.”  While it’s true that Berkeley’s always been nutty, there is a unique quality to this nuttiness and others should take note.  This is not just a collection of eccentrics.  This is the stripped down mask of the left — take the vague anti-Capitalist, anti-American, anti-military, anti-democracy, anti-Israel, racist (er, identity politics) rhetoric that permeates the soft Left, distill it to its essence, and this is what remains.   Without Obama’s warm fuzzies, and Hillary’s soccer Mom platitudes, these are the underlying faces of their core beliefs.  And you should definitely not forget these pictures come November.

One more thing about Berkeley:  it was not always so.  Growing up, my next door neighbor was an absolutely lovely maiden lady (when that idea still existed) who came from an old San Francisco family.  She had been born and raised in San Francisco, and used to entertain me with harrowing tales of the ’06 quake, when you could go into the yard of their home (miraculously preserved but for a collapsed chimney) and read a newspaper at night by the flames destroying the City.  She also told me about attending Berkeley around 1913 or 1914.

When I commuted to Berkeley decades later, I battled my way through City traffic, battled my way through freeway traffic, battled my way to Berkeley traffic, and parked in neighborhoods so scary the campus cops were barred from escorting students there because of safety concerns.

When my neighbor commuted to Berkeley, she took a streetcar to the ferry.  Once on the ferry, she and her friends (no doubt in lovely flowered hats), always treated themselves to tea and fresh pastries.  After they docked at Berkeley, a horse drawn carriage would be waiting to drive them to the center of campus.  She always looked back on those years as a remarkably civilized time and bemoaned what the hippies had done to her once lovely alma mater.

A little perspective about Israel

In an earlier post, I asked how America in the 60s managed to swing over to and completely accept its enemy’s way of defining the situation. That is, the logical American point of view should have been that we were defeating Communism, which is an evil scourge that was trying to take over the world one country at a time, and that we were aiding free Vietnamese in their desperate fight against the Communists. However, in America, on our streets and campuses, what you heard was that America was an evil imperialist trying to take over the world one country at a time. It was a profound paradigm shift and its only because of the passage of time that we know that the defeated pro-American viewpoint was the correct one — as countries emerged from the Communist yoke, it was clear that Communism was as evil as the anti-Communists said and that American help, no matter how lukewarm and limited it eventually became, counted.
The same holds true for Israel, and I think Joseph Klein correctly characterizes the topsy-turvey way in which a truly evil narrative has trumped reality:

Every year since Israel’s founding, Israeli civilians have been murdered by Arab soldiers, the fedayeen, Fatah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Al Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade, Hezbollah or some other shadowy Islamic militant group. Israel’s enemies have, from the start, sought to eliminate the Jewish state through whatever means necessary, including committing genocide against the Jewish people.

Islamic terrorists use suicide bombers and increasingly sophisticated rockets, launched from lands relinquished by Israel to the Palestinians, to accomplish their grisly deeds. Their killing machines of choice tomorrow will be whatever weapons of mass destruction they can get their hands on.

Israel is falsely accused of ‘collective punishment’ when it strikes back to defend its citizens. This propaganda has been repeated at the United Nations, right up to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon himself. He said late last month, for example, that “I would hope that the Israeli Government should not take such a collective punishment to the general public.”

Yet it is the Palestinian and other Islamic terrorists who continually violate the Israelis’ human rights under the Geneva Conventions, which state that “Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited”.

The innocent Israeli women and children, who have been slaughtered while going about their daily lives in their homes, their schools, on buses, at shopping malls, and places of worship, have committed no wrong against the Palestinian people. They are the victims of the Islamic terrorists’ measures of intimidation and terrorism, which violate their most basic of human rights – life itself. The Islamic terrorists are pursuing nothing less than the collective annihilation of the Israeli people.

When the Israeli government responds with stern but non-violent, defensive measures to protect its most vulnerable citizens from murder – for example, with border closures, security checks, economic sanctions and a separation wall – the terrorists’ apologists complain that it is Israel which is violating the Palestinians’ human rights under international law. Their premise is that Israel, as the occupying power, is prohibited by international law from imposing collective punishment on the occupied population. As recently as last week, Ban Ki-moon’s spokesperson declared on the record that the UN still regards the Gaza Strip as part of the Occupied Territory. This assumption leads to the proposition that Israel is thereby precluded from taking actions that might hurt the people who are under its occupation.

The premise underlying this argument is false because Israel is no longer occupying Gaza – or Lebanon, for that matter. Hamas controls Gaza and the Lebanese have sovereignty over all of Lebanon. Yet Israel’s citizens continue to suffer intimidation and terrorism launched from those liberated areas in violation of their international human rights. The perpetrators are Palestinian and other Islamic terrorists, with the active support of state sponsors such as Iran. Israel in good faith ceded the Gaza Strip to the Palestinians in a good faith effort to advance peace. Gaza turned instead into hostile territory under Hamas’s control. More than 4200 rockets have been launched from Gaza into Israeli residential areas after Gaza was no longer occupied territory.

You can and should read the rest here.  The inversion of truth into negative political propaganda can destroy a country from the inside out as we know.  In America, it led to country in emotional and economic disarray until Reagan came along; in Israel, it may well lead to something more extreme, such as national annihilation.

America Derangement Syndrome — or, yes, you can call them unpatriotic

While idly browsing the shelves at our local public library, I stumbled across a fascinating book — one that is fascinating on a couple of different levels. It’s called Uncouth Nation : Why Europe Dislikes America, and was written by Andrei S. Markovits, a Jewish man who was born in Romania, and raised during the 1960s in Vienna and America. He is now a professor of comparative politics and German studies at the University of Michigan.

Although Markovits occasionally lapses into the terrible writing of academia (e.g, at p. 28, “To be sure, anti-American sentiments have indeed varied in their manifest expressions both diachronically and synchronically….”), he presents his thesis very lucidly, and it’s a good thesis. Markovitz believes that the anti-Americanism that is increasingly present in Europe is not George Bush’s fault, but that it has been present in Europe since Columbus’s time. Even when America was just a little blink over the horizon, elite Europeans viewed it as a threat to their cultural stability and own sense of superiority. This sense of threat only worsened in the 20th Century as America, along with its siren song of freedom (economic and social), gained the actual power to affect European affairs. Now, Europeans have to deal, not only with their ancient and visceral dislike, but also with the reality that they are dependent on a nation they have historically disdained. In other words, Markovits describes an “American Derangement Syndrome” throughout Europe:

Just like anti-Semitism, so, too is anti-Americanism antonymous. Everything and its opposite pertains: too religious, too secular; too idealistic, too materialistic; too elitist, too populist; too prudish, too pornographic; too individualistic, too conformist; too anarchic, too controlling; too obsessed with history, not having any history; too concerned with culture, not having any culture; too dominated by women, too controlling of women. America, in the view of some Europeans, is so obsessed with freedom and individualism that this obsession impedes genuine individuality and creates what one conservative German critic of the United States tellingly labeled ‘freedom Bolshevism”…. In short, the motto is clear: Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. (p. 24.)

I agree and, with every paragraph I’ve read in the book, I think Markovits makes and proves his point about the deep roots anti-Americanism has in Europe.  There’s more to the book than that, though.

What caught me was the way in which Markovits is forced to expose the anti-Americanism that characterizes the American Left, and that cannot be excused by looking to Europe’s long-standing dislike for America.  The topic comes up because Markovits tries to increase his argument’s credibility by establishing his own position.  At least, that’s why I think he is forced to acknowledge that the American Left, like the world Left, is defined by its hatred for America.  After all, if this were a standard rant against the Left coming from someone on the Right, no one would pay attention to it.  The argument about Europe’s chronic, historic dislike for America gains credence only if it’s made by an insider.  And so, in the book’s preface, Markovits is forced to explain that Europe’s almost hysterical anti-Americanism is a coming together of ancient hatreds and modern politics (most that go far beyond BDS), and that this hatred infects the American Left, which has made him something of an outcast.

Markovits begins by pointing out the anti-American and anti-Semitic animus that is becoming the core definer for the Left:

There can be no doubt that anti-Americanism has become a kind of litmus test for progressive thinking and identity in Europe and the world (including the United States itself). Just as any self-respecting progressive and leftist in Europe or America, regardless of which political shade, simply had to be on the side of the Spanish Republic in the 1930s, anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism have become the requisite proof of possessing a progressive conviction today. [Snip.] Over the last thirty-five years, a steady anti-Americanism and an uncompromising anti-Zionism, which occasionally borders on the anti-Semitic, have become key characteristics that both divide and determine political identity absolutely. They are “wedge issues” — clear articles of faith or “deal breakers” — whose importance overshadows, and even negates, many related components of the “clusters” that characterize such an identity. (p. xiv.)

Because the “litmus test” is hatred for America, all the other standard Leftist tropes become secondary if you want to belong to that club.  Markovits uses himself as an example of this fact.  He begins by establishing his Leftist bona fides. Thus, here are the beliefs this comparative politics profession at the University of Michigan holds:

I am an advocate of affirmative action in all realms of public life; a supporter for decades of numerous civil rights organizations, in favor of complete equality for women and discriminated ethnic groups, especially blacks, in the United States; an opponent of the death penalty. I favor legally recognized marriages for gays and lesbians; support the right of all women to complete and exclusive autonomy over their bodies, in other words, the right to an abortion; support unrestricted stem cell research [snip] and favor the Kyoto Climate Protocol, the International Criminal Court, the Ottawa Conventions on the ban of land mines, and the International Biological Weapons Convention. I do not want prayers in public schools and oppose charter schools; I favor strict gun control laws and — as an animal benefit activist — oppose hunting for sport. I have always supported trade unions in their difficult struggles, always favor increases in the minimum wage, have never broken a strike or crossed a picket line, even when I did not agree with the striking union’s demands; I welcome the legalization of marijuana, advocate a more just and socially conscience health care system, and desire progressive taxation and a much greater role for the public sector in economic matters. I am a decisive opponent of subsidies for rich American (and European) farmers, deride th exclusivity and price gouging of the pharmaceutical industry, oppose trafficking in women and exploitation of children, and am appalled by the erosion of civil liberties in the United States as well as by the shameful, completely illegal situation in Guantanamo and the outrageous abuses in Abu Ghraib prison. [Snip.] In terms of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, I have always supported the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state and have held views that have been akin to the Israeli peace camp’s. I have regularly condemned and opposed certain measures of American foreign policy, regardless of which party needed to be held responsible (whether the Vietnam policy of Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson or the Iraq policy of Republican George W. Bush), and I have therefore — as should be obvious from the above list — positioned myself quite clearly on the left side of the political spectrum in America (and Europe as well). (pp. xiv-xv.)

Prof. Markovits Leftist bona fides are as impeccable as they come. He has a problem, though, which is that there is a thread of innate honesty and intelligence running through him, and it is this that leaves him unwilling to accept mindlessly the anti-American and anti-Semitic hostility that is now becoming a dominant trait on the Left at home and abroad. Thus, after reciting his sterling Leftist credentials, Markovits had this to say:

Yet I am increasingly avoided by leftists on both sides of the Atlantic owing solely to the two wedge issues mentioned above [anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism/anti-Semitism].  As a reaction against this, I find myself having withdrawn from the established American and European lefts in whose presence I feel increasingly misplaced.  I am not writing this to elicit sympathy for my increasing political marginalization but rather to make a point of how central anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism have become to virtually all lefts on both sides of the Atlantic and beyond.  (p. xv.)

In other words, from a die-hard Leftist, you hear that, yes, the American Left is indeed unpatriotic because to hate America is the test for admission into the progressive club.

I’m rather impressed with Prof. Markovits’s ability honestly to confront the fact that the anti-Americanism that oozes out of Europe and keeps popping up at home is not just a figment of the Right’s paranoid imaginings.  Instead, it’s real and it’s rising.  It is, as I’ve captioned it in this post “America Derangement Syndrome” (“ADS”).  Just as with Bush Derangement Syndrome, it exists at an emotional level that has no need for facts.  America is evil because it’s evil.  Bush is evil because he’s evil.  No further proof needed.

What’s sad is that, even as Markovits has been able to break away from the ADS, even to the point of becoming shunned by his former Leftist compadres, he’s still in the grip of an unreasoning BDS.  Every few pages, he feels compelled to blame Bush for something, only to back away and acknowledge that, whatever Bush did, it doesn’t excuse the European (and, by extension, American Leftist) animus to America and Israel.  For example:

George W. Bush and his administrations’ policies have made America into the most hated country of all time.  [Wow!  Because apparently everyone loved the Mongols, the Romans, the Ottomans, the Nazis, the Nationalist Japanese, etc., etc.]  Indeed, they bear responsibility for having created a situation in which anti-Americanism has mutated into a sort of global antinomy, a mutually shared language of opposition to and resistance against the real and perceived ills of modernity that are now inextricably identified solely with America.  [I think this paragraph was written before some recent European elections.]  (p. 1.)

After reading the above, I almost felt like snarling, “Smile when you say that, Pardner.  Them’s fighting words.”  If that’s not unanchored BDS, I don’t know what is — and Markovits is completely unaware that it exists.  Even as he’s castigating the Europeans for their unreasoning American hatred, he’s engaging in precisely the same type of thinking vis a vis Bush.  There’s hope for him, though.  That same inconvenient honesty that finally broke him free of the Left’s strangle hold about America, forces him to acknowledge that Bush is not the culprit in failing American-European relations:

While the politics, style, and discourse of the Bush administrations — and of George W. Bush as a person — have undoubtedly exacerbated anti-American sentiment among Europeans and fostered a heretofore unmatched degree of unity between elite and mass opinion in Europe, they are not anti-Americanism’s cause.  Indeed, a change to a center-left administration in Washington, led by a Democratic president, would not bring about its abatement, let alone its disappearance.  [Take that, John Kerry!]  (p. 5.)

Perhaps, as time goes by, and as Markovits peels away the unthinking allegiance he has to Leftist doctrine, he’ll begin to take stands on matters that are informed and principled, and not driven simply by ideological loyalty.  Certainly to leave the ideological trap will make him a more honest thinker and, I’m willing to be, a better teacher (and that’s without regard to how good a teacher he may already be).

America Derangement Syndrome — or, yes, you can call them unpatriotic

While idly browsing the shelves at our local public library, I stumbled across a fascinating book — one that is fascinating on a couple of different levels. It’s called Uncouth Nation : Why Europe Dislikes America, and was written by Andrei S. Markovits, a Jewish man who was born in Romania, and raised during the 1960s in Vienna and America. He is now a professor of comparative politics and German studies at the University of Michigan.

Although Markovits occasionally lapses into the terrible writing of academia (e.g, at p. 28, “To be sure, anti-American sentiments have indeed varied in their manifest expressions both diachronically and synchronically….”), he presents his thesis very lucidly, and it’s a good thesis. Markovitz believes that the anti-Americanism that is increasingly present in Europe is not George Bush’s fault, but that it has been present in Europe since Columbus’s time. Even when America was just a little blink over the horizon, elite Europeans viewed it as a threat to their cultural stability and own sense of superiority. This sense of threat only worsened in the 20th Century as America, along with its siren song of freedom (economic and social), gained the actual power to affect European affairs. Now, Europeans have to deal, not only with their ancient and visceral dislike, but also with the reality that they are dependent on a nation they have historically disdained. In other words, Markovits describes an “American Derangement Syndrome” throughout Europe:

Just like anti-Semitism, so, too is anti-Americanism antonymous. Everything and its opposite pertains: too religious, too secular; too idealistic, too materialistic; too elitist, too populist; too prudish, too pornographic; too individualistic, too conformist; too anarchic, too controlling; too obsessed with history, not having any history; too concerned with culture, not having any culture; too dominated by women, too controlling of women. America, in the view of some Europeans, is so obsessed with freedom and individualism that this obsession impedes genuine individuality and creates what one conservative German critic of the United States tellingly labeled ‘freedom Bolshevism”…. In short, the motto is clear: Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. (p. 24.)

I agree and, with every paragraph I’ve read in the book, I think Markovits makes and proves his point about the deep roots anti-Americanism has in Europe.  There’s more to the book than that, though.

What caught me was the way in which Markovits is forced to expose the anti-Americanism that characterizes the American Left, and that cannot be excused by looking to Europe’s long-standing dislike for America.  The topic comes up because Markovits tries to increase his argument’s credibility by establishing his own position.  At least, that’s why I think he is forced to acknowledge that the American Left, like the world Left, is defined by its hatred for America.  After all, if this were a standard rant against the Left coming from someone on the Right, no one would pay attention to it.  The argument about Europe’s chronic, historic dislike for America gains credence only if it’s made by an insider.  And so, in the book’s preface, Markovits is forced to explain that Europe’s almost hysterical anti-Americanism is a coming together of ancient hatreds and modern politics (most that go far beyond BDS), and that this hatred infects the American Left, which has made him something of an outcast.

Markovits begins by pointing out the anti-American and anti-Semitic animus that is becoming the core definer for the Left:

There can be no doubt that anti-Americanism has become a kind of litmus test for progressive thinking and identity in Europe and the world (including the United States itself). Just as any self-respecting progressive and leftist in Europe or America, regardless of which political shade, simply had to be on the side of the Spanish Republic in the 1930s, anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism have become the requisite proof of possessing a progressive conviction today. [Snip.] Over the last thirty-five years, a steady anti-Americanism and an uncompromising anti-Zionism, which occasionally borders on the anti-Semitic, have become key characteristics that both divide and determine political identity absolutely. They are “wedge issues” — clear articles of faith or “deal breakers” — whose importance overshadows, and even negates, many related components of the “clusters” that characterize such an identity. (p. xiv.)

Because the “litmus test” is hatred for America, all the other standard Leftist tropes become secondary if you want to belong to that club.  Markovits uses himself as an example of this fact.  He begins by establishing his Leftist bona fides. Thus, here are the beliefs this comparative politics profession at the University of Michigan holds:

I am an advocate of affirmative action in all realms of public life; a supporter for decades of numerous civil rights organizations, in favor of complete equality for women and discriminated ethnic groups, especially blacks, in the United States; an opponent of the death penalty. I favor legally recognized marriages for gays and lesbians; support the right of all women to complete and exclusive autonomy over their bodies, in other words, the right to an abortion; support unrestricted stem cell research [snip] and favor the Kyoto Climate Protocol, the International Criminal Court, the Ottawa Conventions on the ban of land mines, and the International Biological Weapons Convention. I do not want prayers in public schools and oppose charter schools; I favor strict gun control laws and — as an animal benefit activist — oppose hunting for sport. I have always supported trade unions in their difficult struggles, always favor increases in the minimum wage, have never broken a strike or crossed a picket line, even when I did not agree with the striking union’s demands; I welcome the legalization of marijuana, advocate a more just and socially conscience health care system, and desire progressive taxation and a much greater role for the public sector in economic matters. I am a decisive opponent of subsidies for rich American (and European) farmers, deride th exclusivity and price gouging of the pharmaceutical industry, oppose trafficking in women and exploitation of children, and am appalled by the erosion of civil liberties in the United States as well as by the shameful, completely illegal situation in Guantanamo and the outrageous abuses in Abu Ghraib prison. [Snip.] In terms of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, I have always supported the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state and have held views that have been akin to the Israeli peace camp’s. I have regularly condemned and opposed certain measures of American foreign policy, regardless of which party needed to be held responsible (whether the Vietnam policy of Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson or the Iraq policy of Republican George W. Bush), and I have therefore — as should be obvious from the above list — positioned myself quite clearly on the left side of the political spectrum in America (and Europe as well). (pp. xiv-xv.)

Prof. Markovits Leftist bona fides are as impeccable as they come. He has a problem, though, which is that there is a thread of innate honesty and intelligence running through him, and it is this that leaves him unwilling to accept mindlessly the anti-American and anti-Semitic hostility that is now becoming a dominant trait on the Left at home and abroad. Thus, after reciting his sterling Leftist credentials, Markovits had this to say:

Yet I am increasingly avoided by leftists on both sides of the Atlantic owing solely to the two wedge issues mentioned above [anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism/anti-Semitism].  As a reaction against this, I find myself having withdrawn from the established American and European lefts in whose presence I feel increasingly misplaced.  I am not writing this to elicit sympathy for my increasing political marginalization but rather to make a point of how central anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism have become to virtually all lefts on both sides of the Atlantic and beyond.  (p. xv.)

In other words, from a die-hard Leftist, you hear that, yes, the American Left is indeed unpatriotic because to hate America is the test for admission into the progressive club.

I’m rather impressed with Prof. Markovits’s ability honestly to confront the fact that the anti-Americanism that oozes out of Europe and keeps popping up at home is not just a figment of the Right’s paranoid imaginings.  Instead, it’s real and it’s rising.  It is, as I’ve captioned it in this post “America Derangement Syndrome” (“ADS”).  Just as with Bush Derangement Syndrome, it exists at an emotional level that has no need for facts.  America is evil because it’s evil.  Bush is evil because he’s evil.  No further proof needed.

What’s sad is that, even as Markovits has been able to break away from the ADS, even to the point of becoming shunned by his former Leftist compadres, he’s still in the grip of an unreasoning BDS.  Every few pages, he feels compelled to blame Bush for something, only to back away and acknowledge that, whatever Bush did, it doesn’t excuse the European (and, by extension, American Leftist) animus to America and Israel.  For example:

George W. Bush and his administrations’ policies have made America into the most hated country of all time.  [Wow!  Because apparently everyone loved the Mongols, the Romans, the Ottomans, the Nazis, the Nationalist Japanese, etc., etc.]  Indeed, they bear responsibility for having created a situation in which anti-Americanism has mutated into a sort of global antinomy, a mutually shared language of opposition to and resistance against the real and perceived ills of modernity that are now inextricably identified solely with America.  [I think this paragraph was written before some recent European elections.]  (p. 1.)

After reading the above, I almost felt like snarling, “Smile when you say that, Pardner.  Them’s fighting words.”  If that’s not unanchored BDS, I don’t know what is — and Markovits is completely unaware that it exists.  Even as he’s castigating the Europeans for their unreasoning American hatred, he’s engaging in precisely the same type of thinking vis a vis Bush.  There’s hope for him, though.  That same inconvenient honesty that finally broke him free of the Left’s strangle hold about America, forces him to acknowledge that Bush is not the culprit in failing American-European relations:

While the politics, style, and discourse of the Bush administrations — and of George W. Bush as a person — have undoubtedly exacerbated anti-American sentiment among Europeans and fostered a heretofore unmatched degree of unity between elite and mass opinion in Europe, they are not anti-Americanism’s cause.  Indeed, a change to a center-left administration in Washington, led by a Democratic president, would not bring about its abatement, let alone its disappearance.  [Take that, John Kerry!]  (p. 5.)

Perhaps, as time goes by, and as Markovits peels away the unthinking allegiance he has to Leftist doctrine, he’ll begin to take stands on matters that are informed and principled, and not driven simply by ideological loyalty.  Certainly to leave the ideological trap will make him a more honest thinker and, I’m willing to be, a better teacher (and that’s without regard to how good a teacher he may already be).

Better to be respected than liked

It’s a good day at American Thinker. In one of my preceding posts, I quoted at length from Kyle-Anne Shiver’s article about Mike Huckabee. Now, I’m about to quote from Soeren Kern’s article about the reflexive anti-Americanism that characterizes Europe.

Kern’s starting point is Bill Clinton’s announcement that, if Hillary wins, he and George H.W. Bush will go on a whirlwind, worldwide tour convincing everyone that George Bush has been relegated to the dustbin of history and that America is willing to make nice again. (If this is really true insofar as Clinton is speaking for George H.W. Bush’s involvement, I really don’t think I can say enough bad things about George H.W. Bush, a man who would go around attacking his own son. I doubt it’s true, though.)

Kern starts off by pointing out what should be obvious to Bill Clinton, who claims to be a learned and intelligent man: Anti-Americanism predates George Bush, although there’s certainly been a resurgence during his administration.  Kern goes through Spain, Germany and France for examples of anti-American sentiment that existed decades or even centuries before Bush’s presidency.

The more important point that Kern makes, though, is that Europe’s anti-Americanism is, as one might expect, as much a product of envy as anything else. And, really, you can’t blame the Europeans, because it’s extremely human to want to take down a peg, or to dislike, someone or something that has the power and wealth you really think should belong to you:

As political realists like Thucydides (c 460-395 BC) might have predicted, anti-Americanism is also a visceral reaction against the current distribution of global power. America commands a level of economic, military and cultural influence that leaves many around the world envious, resentful and even angry and afraid. Indeed, most purveyors of anti-Americanism will continue to bash America until the United States is balanced or replaced (by those same anti-Americans, of course) as the dominant actor on the global stage.

In Europe, for example, where self-referential elites are pathologically obsessed with their perceived need to “counter-balance” the United States, anti-Americanism is now the dominant ideology of public life. In fact, it is no coincidence that the spectacular rise in anti-Americanism in Europe has come at precisely the same time that the European Union, which often struggles to speak with one voice, has been trying to make its political weight felt both at home and abroad.

In their quest to transform Europe into a superpower capable of challenging the United States, European elites are using anti-Americanism to forge a new pan-European identity. This artificial post-modern European “citizenship”, which demands allegiance to a faceless bureaucratic superstate based in Brussels instead of to the traditional nation-state, is being set up in opposition to the United States. To be “European” means (nothing more and nothing less than) to not be an American.

Because European anti-Americanism has much more to do with European identity politics than with genuine opposition to American foreign policy, European elites do not really want the United States to change. Without the intellectual crutch of anti-Americanism, the new “Europe” would lose its raison d’être.

That’s the reality behind anti-Americanism, and one that has nothing to do with George Bush. He’s just the latest rhetorical device in the European’s never-ending sense that they can elevate themselves, not by improving themselves, but by knocking America. Behind this psychological reality, though, lurks a real danger:

Anti-Americanism is (at least for the foreseeable future) a zero-sum game because the main purveyors of anti-Americanism are in denial about the dangers facing the world today. They believe the United States is the problem and that their vision for a post-modern socialist multicultural utopia is the answer. Never mind that most Europeans do not have enough faith in their own model to want to pass it on to the next generation.

This is the dilemma America faces: If it wants to be popular abroad, it will have to pay in terms of reduced security. And if it determines to protect the American way of life from global threats, then it will have to pay in terms of reduced popularity abroad.

But if America loses out against the existential threats posed by global terrorism and fundamentalist Islam, then the issue of America’s international image will be moot.

Better, therefore, if the next president focuses on keeping America strong and secure, rather than on pleasing those who will never like the United States, even if its foreign policy changes.

Better, also, for the next president to focus on wielding American power wisely, because doing so will earn the United States (grudging) respect, which in the game of unstable relationships that characterizes modern statecraft, is far more important than love.

Even fairweather friends can be useful

Kerry assured us that, because he spoke French and loved the UN, he would have Europeans eating out of America’s hand if he were to become President. How great must his chagrin be with the fact that it is during Bush’s watch that the Europeans are coming back to us. And it is during Bush’s watch — and despite the War in Iraq — that the more stable Arab nations are coming back to us. They may not like Bush or America, but with Russia and China placing pressure on Europe, and Iran placing pressure on fellow Muslims, political expediency is driving them back into the American penumbra. Charles Krauthammer, not unsurprisingly, sums it up well:

And it makes the point that the Bush critics have missed for years — that the strength of alliances is heavily dependent on the objective balance of international forces, and has very little to do with the syntax of the U.S. president or the disdain in which he might be held by a country’s cultural elites.

It’s classic balance-of-power theory: Weaker nations turn to the great outside power to help them balance a rising regional threat. Allies are not sentimental about their associations. It is not a matter of affection, but of need — and of the great power’s ability to deliver.

What’s changed in the last year? Bush’s dress and diction remain the same. But he did change generals — and counterinsurgency strategy — in Iraq. As a result, Iraq has gone from an apparently lost cause to a winnable one.

The rise of external threats to our allies has concentrated their minds on the need for the American connection. The revival of American fortunes in Iraq — and the diminished prospect of an American rout — have significantly increased the value of such a connection. This is particularly true among our moderate Arab allies who see us as their ultimate protection against an Iran-Syria-Hezbollah-Hamas axis that openly threatens them all.

Once again, it seems that actual reality is running counter to the conclusions that the “reality based party” has drawn in approach the world around it.

The Bush doctrine at work

The familiar (way too familiar) trope on the Left is that the Bush doctrine is making everyone in the world hate us.  That desire to be loved, and the fear of being hated, is a feelings based mentality, of course, that has nothing to do with justice, morality, right, honor, etc.  My own view, as a Mom, is that I don’t have to be loved, I just have to be right.

It’s worth keeping those two conflicting sentiments in mind — “everyone must love me” versus “do the right thing regardless of how people feel about you” — as you look at a series of cartoons that MEMRI has assembled from Arab newspapers.  Lately, of course, to read a sentence that contains both the words “cartoons” and “Muslims” (or “Arabs”) usually means bad news.  This time, however, the opposite is true.  While the cartoons show absolutely no love for America (nor even any mention of America), they contain something much more important:  a denunciation of terrorism.

Bush doesn’t have to be loved but, boy, it would help us over here if the world would realize that he’s right.

Catch ‘em being good

I used to have the worst children in the world. Truly, I did. And I knew that they were the worst children in the world because the evidence came out of my own mouth. I had to criticize them constantly because of the way they ignored instructions, the way they broke rules, and the way they fought with each other. I knew in my mind that I loved them — they were, after all, my children — but my heart had doubts, because they were so very difficult.

I was complaining about them one day to a wise man and he stopped me in my tracks by asking, “Do you ever catch them being good?” My instantaneous response: “Huh?” He explained to me that most people have a bit of a problem with giving praise because good behavior is considered normative and that it therefore slips past them, unnoticed. We see when our children hit each other, but we take as ordinary, and unworthy of comment, the fact that they had spent the previous half hour playing peacefully together. He told me that a good rule of thumb with children — indeed, with anyone — is that for every negative thing that comes out of your mouth, at least four positive things should also come out of your mouth. As to the latter, you shouldn’t lie or make up things, but you shouldn’t let the ordinary dissuade you from making a positive comment.

For the first week, it was I bit of struggle. “Oh, Little Bookworm, I’m so proud of you. I know you wanted to, but you didn’t hit your brother.” (Normally, I would simply have commented on the yelling that took place.) “Look at you, Little Bookworm. You’ve eaten much more neatly than you did yesterday.” (Previously, I would have pointed out the mess on the floor.) By the end of this week of mental effort, I discovered something wonderful: I actually had — and continue to have — great children.

Now, many years later, my heart and my head are in synch — I love my kids, because they are lovable. Sure, they can be naughty, but isn’t that true for everybody? And yes, when I’m in a bad mood, the criticisms definitely amp up, and I have to remind myself, still, to catch ’em being good. But after so many years, catching them being good is mostly automatic, with manifest benefits for us all.

Believe it or not, this bit of parenting advice (and it’s the best advice any parent will ever get), has a political purpose, but I’m taking my time getting there. Part two of this story is the conversation I had the other day with my sister, who was reminiscencing about the fact that she always found my Mom rather frightening. She acknowledged that Mom was constantly professing her love for us but, when it came to my sister, every “I love you” was followed by a criticism. “I love you. Your room is a mess.” “I love you. Stop slouching.” “I love you. Why aren’t you doing better in school?” As an adult, my sister knows that my Mom truly adored her, and felt that the best thing she could do for my sister was to improve her with a constant, bracing storm of criticism. As a child, though, my sister came to a different conclusion: Either my mother was a fool, for how could anyone but a fool profess love for a creature as imperfect as my sister obviously was, or my mother was a liar, and did not love her at all.

(Incidentally, I had a different experience. Since I was the younger child watching these “loving” harangues, I made sure to clean my room, stand up straight and do well in school. Mom happily praised me for doing well in these areas, in contrast to my sister. It speaks well for the enormity of my sister’s goodness that she loved me then and loves me now.)

And now I’ll get to the political point:  Don’t the ordinary Progressives, not the dyed-in-the-wool Marxists masquerading as Progressives, but the ordinary, man-in-the-street Progressives, remind you of the parenting style that professes love but only voices criticism?  Though they claim to be patriotic Americans, everything they say about America is critical:  America is too racist, too classist, too rich, too greedy, too abusive of the environment, too religious, too conservative, too xenophobic, and on and on.   Never, never, do the Progressives catch America being good.  So perhaps, the ordinary person, the one who is not politically engaged, might be excused for thinking that Progressives are either fools, for how could anyone but a fool claim to love such a dreadful society, or they’re liars, and don’t really love America at all.

Catch ’em being good

I used to have the worst children in the world. Truly, I did. And I knew that they were the worst children in the world because the evidence came out of my own mouth. I had to criticize them constantly because of the way they ignored instructions, the way they broke rules, and the way they fought with each other. I knew in my mind that I loved them — they were, after all, my children — but my heart had doubts, because they were so very difficult.

I was complaining about them one day to a wise man and he stopped me in my tracks by asking, “Do you ever catch them being good?” My instantaneous response: “Huh?” He explained to me that most people have a bit of a problem with giving praise because good behavior is considered normative and that it therefore slips past them, unnoticed. We see when our children hit each other, but we take as ordinary, and unworthy of comment, the fact that they had spent the previous half hour playing peacefully together. He told me that a good rule of thumb with children — indeed, with anyone — is that for every negative thing that comes out of your mouth, at least four positive things should also come out of your mouth. As to the latter, you shouldn’t lie or make up things, but you shouldn’t let the ordinary dissuade you from making a positive comment.

For the first week, it was I bit of struggle. “Oh, Little Bookworm, I’m so proud of you. I know you wanted to, but you didn’t hit your brother.” (Normally, I would simply have commented on the yelling that took place.) “Look at you, Little Bookworm. You’ve eaten much more neatly than you did yesterday.” (Previously, I would have pointed out the mess on the floor.) By the end of this week of mental effort, I discovered something wonderful: I actually had — and continue to have — great children.

Now, many years later, my heart and my head are in synch — I love my kids, because they are lovable. Sure, they can be naughty, but isn’t that true for everybody? And yes, when I’m in a bad mood, the criticisms definitely amp up, and I have to remind myself, still, to catch ’em being good. But after so many years, catching them being good is mostly automatic, with manifest benefits for us all.

Believe it or not, this bit of parenting advice (and it’s the best advice any parent will ever get), has a political purpose, but I’m taking my time getting there. Part two of this story is the conversation I had the other day with my sister, who was reminiscencing about the fact that she always found my Mom rather frightening. She acknowledged that Mom was constantly professing her love for us but, when it came to my sister, every “I love you” was followed by a criticism. “I love you. Your room is a mess.” “I love you. Stop slouching.” “I love you. Why aren’t you doing better in school?” As an adult, my sister knows that my Mom truly adored her, and felt that the best thing she could do for my sister was to improve her with a constant, bracing storm of criticism. As a child, though, my sister came to a different conclusion: Either my mother was a fool, for how could anyone but a fool profess love for a creature as imperfect as my sister obviously was, or my mother was a liar, and did not love her at all.

(Incidentally, I had a different experience. Since I was the younger child watching these “loving” harangues, I made sure to clean my room, stand up straight and do well in school. Mom happily praised me for doing well in these areas, in contrast to my sister. It speaks well for the enormity of my sister’s goodness that she loved me then and loves me now.)

And now I’ll get to the political point:  Don’t the ordinary Progressives, not the dyed-in-the-wool Marxists masquerading as Progressives, but the ordinary, man-in-the-street Progressives, remind you of the parenting style that professes love but only voices criticism?  Though they claim to be patriotic Americans, everything they say about America is critical:  America is too racist, too classist, too rich, too greedy, too abusive of the environment, too religious, too conservative, too xenophobic, and on and on.   Never, never, do the Progressives catch America being good.  So perhaps, the ordinary person, the one who is not politically engaged, might be excused for thinking that Progressives are either fools, for how could anyone but a fool claim to love such a dreadful society, or they’re liars, and don’t really love America at all.