Americanism vs. Leftism

Americanism:

If you think about the founders, they looked at the government as the enemy of rights; that we secure our rights by limiting the government. And even where you have government, it has to be checked. And so you have separation of power, checks and balances — all techniques to put a rein, a leash on the government. And that’s why when you look at the Bill of Rights, a lot of the phrases begin, “Congress shall make no law.” So how do we protect free speech, Congress shall make no law restricting free speech; how do we protect religion, Congress can’t pass laws about it. So restricting the government is seen as the mechanism to protect rights.

— Dinesh D’Souza, The Dennis Prager Show, January 22, 2013, Hour 2

Leftism:

Government is not inherently bad; government is inherently good. That is why we have a Constitution.

— Senator Harry Reid (D-NV), U.S. Senate Floor, April 23, 2013

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Nothing to do with Islam

From Mark Steyn:

Former brother-in-law Elmirza Khozhugov explains Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s grievances to the New York Times:

He was angry that the world pictures Islam as a violent religion.

So he blew up an eight-year old boy and a couple of hundred other Americans.

And now the media are full of stories about how the Tsarnaevs were all-American kids and “beautiful, beautiful boys” and maybe it was the boxing or the Ben Affleck movies or the classical music but, whatever it was, it was nothing to do with Islam. Nothing whatever.

So I guess it worked.

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Two Great Guys

From VDH:

I am not so struck by the glowing testimonials from fellow teenagers and twenty-somethings about the two monstrous Tsarnaevs, to the effect that they seemed great guys. Such is the power of anecdote and emotion over reasoned empiricism in the young untrained mind.

The stranger fact is the adult media’s gullible reporting of these impressions as if they were somehow significant, as if superficial impression is the key to understanding an ideology that drives behavior. The following caricature reflects how one of the present therapeutic society might remark on the death of Adolf Hitler. “I don’t quite understand his violent side. He was a man who simply loved children — certainly he fawned upon the Goebbels kids. He inquired about the health and welfare of his chauffer and valet, and no boss was more considerate of his secretaries. Hitler’s dogs were his pride and joy; I never saw a kinder and more gentler master. Eva Braun simply lit up at his presence. His conversations at dinner were witty, lively, and polite. He gave up almost everything for Germany. And while he seemed troubled at times, I always attributed it to the horrors of the trenches. None of us can quite judge him, or even know what it was like for a young man to be subject to what Hitler endured — only to be unemployed, shamed, and ignored upon returning to a defeated Austria and Germany. It just makes no sense that such a seemingly kind person could commit such horrors. I still can’t quite believe it.”

Do we care whether a man who placed a bomb full of ball bearings next to an eight-year-old boy and blew apart dozens of innocents was nice to his peers? Let us at least hope that the killer Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is not to be known as “unduly influenced by his brother,” “fully American,” “coerced to become violent,” “brain-washed,” and “young and impressionable.”

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Dead Souls

From VDH:

Although information is still too sketchy to draw any comprehensive conclusions (other than that the Boston killings are not, as recently suggested, fall out from sequestration, the NRA, lack of gun control, climate change, right-wing tea-party zealots, etc.), there emerges a familiar profile to the suspects that we have seen before. In articles in 2002 and 2007, I touched on the dangers of isolated Islamic-driven terrorists without direct connections to organized terrorist networks, calling it a sort of “al-Qaedism.”

In other word, single and usually young American resident males, often originating from the Muslim world (and not always from the Arab Middle East), sometimes citizens, sometimes resident aliens, can at some point not square the circle of being attracted to American popular culture, often failing to assimilate or succeed in the United States, and ostensibly seeking to remain (or return to being) a devout Muslim that alone gives them moral redemption and guidance.

The result is a dead soul who kills the vulnerable and innocent, and who is a psychological and social mess: consumed by fury at the country that embraced him in extremis, coupled with romance toward the country he or his family fled (and no longer has to endure), and a reliance upon, and yet lack of respect for, the tolerant liberal culture that allows him a freedom of action impossible in the land of his birth.

Like some, I question the standard American conceit that ignorance of the U.S. explains anti-American behavior in the Islamic world. It often seems just as likely the very opposite case: The more Islamists are exposed to our affluence, popular culture, informality, self-critique, lack of hierarchy, sexual liberality, tolerance of homosexuality, parity between the sexes, and tolerance of all religious observance, and see that such American values may contribute to the world’s attraction to the United States, the more they end up hating it, not the least because of fears that America’s nature erodes one’s own zealotry.

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Emotional Pornography

From Charles C. W. Cooke:

Unabated, unabashed, and increasingly unhinged, the sordid parade continues apace. Last week, Barack Obama flew some of the Newtown families to Washington, D.C., for a rally at which he argued for the putting aside of “politics” that disagree with his own, warned against “political stunts” (presumably with the exception of the one he was performing), and declared a monopoly on “common sense.” This weekend, the president ceded the pulpit of his weekly address to Francine Wheeler, a grieving mother, so that, in the name of “doing something” that might have prevented her son’s death, she could urge the passage of a set of policies that the Left has supported for years.

Over the last three months such behavior has been common. In countless appearances, the president has suggested that the interests of “our children” and “the gun lobby” are diametrically opposed,” he has brazenly maligned the intentions of those who have the temerity to disagree with him, and he has made catharsis for the families of the Newtown massacre a national priority. It has been shameless. There is, it appears, no emotional pornography that the administration will refuse to distribute in the pursuit of its agenda.

But the approach betrays a certain desperation. As Kathleen Parker observed bluntly in the Washington Post last week, “nothing proposed in the gun-control debates would have prevented the mass killing of children at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and everybody knows it.”

Everybody does — which explains the mawkishness. The sole purpose of wheeling in innocent children, of pointing incessantly to the grief of victims of gun violence, and of relating tales of family suicide (as Harry Reid recently did on the Senate floor) is to dare your opponents to be hard-hearted enough to oppose your agenda. Instead of engaging his critics on substance, the president has done his level best to circumvent the debate by transmuting a dispute over the wisdom of new laws into an up or down vote on whether or not one is sad about gun violence.

This is cynical and grotesque, but it is also clever. What better way of deflecting criticism than by encouraging your antagonists to censor themselves? Anyone foolhardy enough to write what I am writing here knows full well that he will be accused of “attacking” grieving families. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the likes of Media Matters, whose fatuous claim that Fox News was “dismissing the voices of the families who suffered in a mass shooting in Newtown, CT by claiming they’re being used and exploited by Democrats” is sadly typical. Or Greg Sargent, who characterized Mitch McConnell as “callously rebuffing” families that wished to meet with him. Or Michael Moore, who argued that if Harry Reid’s kids were shot, he would change his mind on gun control. Moore, Media Matters, and Sargent have the same hope: that their opponents, cowed by emotional blackmail, will stay quiet, allowing the president free rein.

It makes no rational sense whatsoever to privilege the testimony of Newtown’s parents in our deliberations. The children of Sandy Hook were randomly chosen victims of abhorrent and reckless violence. It is reasonable to seek the counsel of victims if you suspect that they can help you prevent future atrocities. But we wouldn’t expect the casualties of bombings to have particular insight into how best to deal with security, nor the victims of a gas leak to shed light on the details of piping infrastructure. Cruel as it might seem to observe, you are not afforded greater insight into the legal and economic questions surrounding gun control because a bullet fired by a madman has hit you or somebody you love.

This, of course, does not mean that the victims of gun violence, or their families, should sit down and “shut up.” Far from it — they can and should say whatever they wish and they should explain the devastating consequences of gun violence. But they should not be treated as expert witnesses.

In March, when the chances of a gun bill looked remote, the president griped that the public was forgetting the scale of its outrage. Perhaps so. But if true, this is healthy. Laws that are passed in haste and designed to assuage raw emotion are almost always disastrous. (New York State’s recent debacle illustrates this perfectly.) The president is a good campaigner, and he is smart enough to know that, if he is to cram something through Congress, he has to keep the outrage levels up and the focus on grief. He thus takes the perverse position that Americans will be able to produce a proper response to what happened in Sandy Hook only if they maintain their raw emotions and keep logic out of it.

The rest of us should take the opposite approach: What America does next will be best considered in the cold light of day, and that will mean looking past “the children” — and their parents, too.

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