Sunday Night Journal — September 5, 2010
It’s been a busy weekend, and I’ve been having serious computer problems. So I’m going to limit this to a few comments on recent events.
First, the so-called “ground zero mosque” story. Why “so-called”? Well, the use of the term “ground zero” to refer to the still-gaping hole where the World Trade Center used to be has always bothered me a little. The term originated, I think, with the early tests of the atomic bomb; it referred to the point of the explosion. As terrible as the destruction of the WTC was, it was not on the scale of a nuclear weapon (though one could argue that its global consequences have been). And the use of the term seems to give a greater victory to the fanatics who perpetrated the attack than they really deserve.
And what is proposed isn’t just “a mosque,” though it does include a place for Muslims to pray. Maybe this makes it technically a mosque, but the use of the term seems intended to inflame public sentiment, which certainly has been inflamed.
My own view of this, for what it’s worth, is that it needn’t be a national issue at all. Let New York decide, I say. But since it is a national issue, and the lines of the debate have been drawn largely on the familiar left-right divide, one forms an opinion. Unfortunately I can’t agree with my friend Daniel at Caelum et Terra. I think he has an overly benign view of Islam in general, and the meaning of its collision with the West, both ancient and contemporary, and I don’t think the Westboro Baptist analogy really holds. But I don’t agree, either, with those on the right who think the building of this Islamic complex would represent a successful phase one in the conquest of America by Islam. This piece at Inside Catholic is pretty much my view: in the abstract, it would have been okay to build the thing, but since a large percentage of the population in both New York and the country at large—a significant majority, according to some polls—views it as an affront, the imam ought to retreat gracefully, and build it somewhere else. The best analogy, as Rychlak says, is to the Carmelite convent opened near Auschwitz. I thought Jewish opposition to it was misguided and even offensive, but it was real and from their point of view not unreasonable, and to have insisted on keeping the convent there would only have inflamed the ill feeling.
The big Glenn Beck “Restoring Honor” rally has come and gone. I don’t really know much about Glenn Beck, though what I have seen suggests he is in fact a bit nutty. And I didn’t really get how this event was going to restore honor to the nation. But I think those who see in it, as they see in the Tea Party and other populist outpourings, the spectre of American fascism reveal more about themselves than about their opponents. One of the things they reveal is something I’ve been noticing more and more in recent years: the left in general really does not like middle-class Americans. In fact it often seems to hate them, and it certainly fears them.
Setting aside the attempt to get at the roots and reasons of this hostility, as being too big a topic for this hasty piece, I have to say that it seems a terrible mistake, politically. The people who are attracted to this movement are ordinary hard-working civic-minded Americans who are deeply (and rightly) worried about the future of their country, and are convinced that the left in general and the Obama administration in particular wish to throw out the baby with the bathwater in what they call reform. Obama’s famous promise to “fundamentally transform” the country decidedly does not resonate with them; it sounds more like a threat. They don’t want to fundamentally transform the country, they want to fix it. For the left to work so hard at demonizing them is not only bad for the country, it’s bad for the left; it contributes to the perception that the programs of the left are quite intentionally hostile to tens of millions of ordinary people.
Markos Moulitsas of Daily Kos fame is certainly not helping things, with his newly published book which apparently insists, with a straight face, that there is no difference between the Taliban and American conservatives. One cannot hold this view both seriously and reasonably. I don’t know in which of these categories Moulitsas is deficient, but it’s good to see that at least some on the left recognize it.
Similarly, I’m puzzled by the extreme vilification of Sarah Palin, as evidenced by a hit piece in Vanity Fair (described here—I haven’t been able to make myself read the thing itself). I’m not especially a fan of Palin, and I don’t think she’s qualified to be president, and I really hope she doesn’t run. But the repugnance with which she’s regarded by many on the left seems to go far beyond political opposition: they hate not only her views, but her, and—here it is again—the middle-class America she represents. I really don’t think the left likes the common man very much anymore, which sheds a lot of light on the difficulty it has in convincing him that its programs are for his benefit.
Also at Inside Catholic, an interesting appraisal of the appeal of Taylor Swift, by Danielle Bean. I do not know Ms. Swift’s music at all, but this explanation of the reasons for her popularity makes it seem that she’s at least a much healthier presence than, say, Lady Gaga.
But the vast majority of women respond to an instinctual drive to nurture and give of themselves to others by getting married and becoming mothers….Let's see, little girls: Shall we seek personal fulfillment through a sincere gift of self and a life of self-giving love? Or by using sex as a weapon with which we attempt to dominate men? Roll your eyes if you must, but my money's on Swift, sappy love songs...
I hope she’s right, though I fear a little for those girls who do follow this path: those who have done so and been betrayed (not just disappointed—we’re all disappointed in life to some degree—but betrayed), or simply unnoticed and unappreciated, are among the most deeply hurt people I know, and the decline of marriage in our time makes such self-giving all the more risky. But God never lets love go to waste or unanswered; if there is anything about him of which I feel certain, it is this.
And speaking of women: The Anchoress is away in Rome, and her blog has been full of guest posts from several witty and profound Catholic women bloggers: Sally Thomas, Simcha Fischer, and the aforementioned Danielle Bean. I’m through now—go read them.