“One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas day. Don’t clean it up too quickly.”
— Andy Rooney
From Bret Stephens:
Dear fellow conservatives:
Let us now pledge to elect Hillary Clinton as the 45th president of the United States.
Let’s skip the petty dramas of primaries and caucuses, the debate histrionics, the sour spectacle of the convention in Cleveland. Let’s fast-forward past that sinking October feeling when we belatedly realize we’re going to lose—and lose badly.
Let’s move straight to that first Tuesday in November, when we grimly pull the lever for the candidate who has passed all the Conservative Purity Tests (CPTs), meaning we’ve upheld the honor of our politically hopeless cause. Let’s stop pretending we want to be governed by someone we agree with much of the time, when we can have the easy and total satisfaction of a president we can loathe and revile all the time.
Let’s do this because it’s what we want. Maybe secretly, maybe unconsciously, but desperately. We want four—and probably eight—more years of cable-news neuralgia. We want to drive ourselves to work as Mark Levin or Laura Ingraham scratch our ideological itches until they bleed a little. We want the refiner’s fire that is our righteous indignation at a country we claim no longer to recognize—ruled by impostors and overrun by foreigners.
We also want to turn the Republican Party into a gated community. So much nicer that way. If the lesson of Mitt Romney’s predictable loss in 2012 was that it’s bad politics to tell America’s fastest-growing ethnic group that some of their relatives should self-deport, or to castigate 47% of the country as a bunch of moochers—well, so what? Abraham Lincoln once said “If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend.” What. Ever. Now the party of Lincoln has as its front-runner an insult machine whose political business is to tell Mexicans, Muslims, physically impaired journalists, astute Jewish negotiators and others who cross his sullen gaze that he has no use for them or their political correctness.
And while we’re building a wall around our party, let’s also take the opportunity to throw out a few impostors in our midst. Like that hack, George Will. Or John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Mitch McConnell, Jeb Bush and every other Republican In Name Only. Or Marco Rubio, who didn’t chicken out on immigration reform quite as quickly or convincingly as Ted Cruz did. Or the Republican “Establishment” and “elite”—like the editorial board of this newspaper—who want to flood the country with cheap foreign labor so they can enrich their Wall Street pals.
All of them must be humbled, re-educated or thrown out, like old-time cadres with suspected bourgeois tendencies. How else will real Americans get a hearing and find their voice? What’s a lost election cycle or two when the soul of movement conservatism is at stake?
As for what the soul of that movement is supposed to be, we can figure that out later. Donald Trump is a candidate of impulses, not ideas. (If you can hire people to write your books you can also hire them to do your thinking.) This doesn’t seem to have perturbed his supporters in the slightest. Mr. Cruz is happy to be on any side of an issue so long as he can paint himself as a “real Republican”—the implicit goal here being the automatic excommunication of anyone who disagrees with him. Naturally, he’s rising.
What we won’t accept, however, is a standard-bearer whose convictions or personality might conceivably appeal to those wavering voters who usually decide elections in this country. Of all the reasons to dislike Mr. Rubio, surely the greatest is that he’s the only Republican who consistently outpolls Mrs. Clinton in general election matchups.
Didn’t we already mention that our subliminal goal is to lose this election?
Of course we’ll tell ourselves that the polls don’t matter, that a congenital liar like Mrs. Clinton can’t possibly win, that all we have to do is turn out the hidden Republican base that supposedly didn’t show up to the polls for Mitt Romney. We’ll convince ourselves, too, that those voting blocs we’ve spent the past decade alienating—not just Hispanics, or Asian-Americans or gays and lesbians, but also moderates turned off by loudmouth vulgarians, oleaginous debate champs or ostentatiously pious Christians—don’t matter either.
Deep down, though, we know the political math doesn’t add up for us. We just don’t care. Because we’ve turned even the appearance of moderation, or the amenability to compromise, into a four-letter word. Oh, did we mention House Speaker Paul Ryan is another sell-out?
Years ago, the late columnist Michael Kelly wrote of American liberalism that it was “an ideology of self-styled saints, a philosophy of determined perversity. Its animating impulse is to marginalize itself and then enjoy its own company. And to make itself as unattractive to as many people as possible: If it were a person, it would pierce its tongue.”
On current trend, this will soon better describe American conservatism, which is going the way of the Democratic Party circa 1972. So let’s skip the non-suspense of next year’s campaign cycle, gird ourselves for a McGovern-style debacle, and elect Hillary Rodham Clinton now.
Why would Ms. Tashfeen Malik, who was born in Pakistan but lived most of her life in Saudi Arabia, want to come to the United States?
She obviously hated the United States and its values, at least enough to help stockpile an arsenal and to kill 14 people and wound another 21 in San Bernardino.
Or for that matter, why did her husband and co-mass-murderer Syed Rizwan Farook, if he was unhappy with his native America, not return to his parents’ Pakistan, where he might, in greater peace, have practiced Sharia law, memorizing his Koranic verses without the temptations of crass and uncouth American culture?
Or why did not family members or friends notice the couple’s assembling of a veritable arsenal of assault in their townhouse? And if they did notice, why did they not help to protect their adopted country?
And why did a spokesman for the Council on American–Islamic Relations (CAIR), Hussam Ayloush, as if suffering from a politically correct tic, almost immediately tie terrorism in the U.S. with American foreign policy? “Let’s not forget that some of our own foreign policy, as Americans, as the West, has fueled that extremism,” he said. “ . . . We are partly responsible. Terrorism is a global problem, not a Muslim problem.” Was that pop exegesis designed to show Americans how CAIR abhors Islamic-inspired terrorism inside the U.S.?
As part of the “Other,” the San Bernardino terrorist tandem did not seem to direct their furies against the so-called dominant white culture or white privilege, given that their innocent victims were of all races and both sexes and representative of multiracial America, a country both far more diverse and far more tolerant of diversity than, say, Pakistan.
Surely the Tsarnaev brothers were unhappy in Boston — despite (or was it because of?) generous public assistance and attention. Could not Major Nidal Hasan have returned to his parents’ native Palestine to better practice jihad than murdering 13 and wounding more than 30 of his fellow Fort Hood soldiers? Why stay in the U.S. instead of heading to the West Bank?
What exactly about UC Merced’s oppressive atmosphere set off Faisal Mohammad’s stabbing of four fellow students? If, in his youthful angst, he wished to romanticize about ISIS and his own identity, could he too not have left the hated United States and found a more congenial environment in the Islamic world, where there are no supposed losers deserving of death like those at UC Merced?
Surely there was no need for more than two dozen Somalis to immigrate to Minnesota, only to return home to sign up for jihad with al-Shabab? Was Minnesota colder than they had unexpected, too stingy in its public assistance, or known for its endemic racism?
For that matter, what exactly has driven Muslim immigrants or their children to attack non-Muslims in America in nearly 50 instances since 9/11? Islamic spokespeople talk of hate crimes, but not of the fact that Muslims as a group commit more hate crimes than they suffer, or that the greatest target of hate crimes in America is the Jewish, not the Muslim, community. How many Muslims by virtue of being Muslims have been killed by non-Muslims since 9/11 in the United States? And how many Muslims have killed non-Muslims by virtue of their being non-Muslims? Is there such a word as unIslamophobia?
Who is in more danger in the West: a Western native who draws a cartoon caricaturing all three major religions, thus including Islam, or an immigrant who threatens him?
One can argue statistically that the number of Islamist attackers is small compared with the pool of Muslim immigrants. It is, of course, also true that mass shooters come in all races and religions, from the cases of Columbine and Sandy Hook to those at the Oregon community college, Virginia Tech, and Miami.
But no other common tie — no particular religion, no political identification, no singular subset of mental illness — binds so many mass shooters as do professions of Islamist radicalism, both among first-generation arrivals and among their offspring.
Ostensibly, people leave the Middle East for the West, in particular Europe and the United States, because it is an oasis, not the hellhole many of them came from. We take for granted clean water, uncontaminated food, competent medical treatment, religious tolerance, economic opportunity, meritocratic hiring, political freedom, and respect for the individual regardless of birth, class, and status. But that bundle is non-existent even in the elite Gulf enclaves. Those Western characteristics are apparently universal human wants, and they drive even Middle Eastern Muslims to seek out otherwise entirely foreign landscapes of quite different cultures and attitudes.
For many Muslims, to have strep throat treated promptly, to be accorded equality and respect while in a government office, and to be free to say whatever one wishes are all worth putting up with watching men kiss in public or women wear braless tank tops on planes, or seeing Christian crosses everywhere, or watching commercials for Viagra and Tampax in the middle of the evening news, or seeing so many apparently happy, content, and satisfied people of so many races who do not have Islam in their lives.
Why, then, is radical Islamism, so antithetical to Western values, still preached in American and European mosques? Do radical Muslims in the U.S. and Europe realize that if they had had their way, they would not have wished to emigrate to the U.S., given that it would resemble the homelands they abandoned? The worldview of Tashfeen Malik, if enacted, would eventually have turned San Bernardino into Islamabad; would Ms. Malik then have left it for Portland?
Why is ISIS apparently attractive to hundreds, if not thousands, of Western Muslim youth? Why is the FBI supposedly busy tracking down radical Muslims residing in America, who presumably came here of their own free will? Is it because the FBI is Islamophobic?
One obvious reason for these anomalies is a sort of paradox. The more a Muslim youth enjoys casual sexual hook-ups, easy access to liquor and drugs, and unapologetic secular indulgence, all the more the voluptuary feels he has betrayed his culture, religion, and very identity — and the more his eventual return to Islamic purity is likely to become extreme. No one forced Mohamed Atta and his band of killers to become Western sybarites. What made them slaves to their appetites was their very Islamic Puritanism, which turned what was commonly available into forbidden obsessions: the more taboo, all the more to be indulged in, and all the more to be regretted post facto and the indulgence blamed on others when passions are drained and probity returns.
Second, in many cases, the immigrant immediately asks upon arrival, “Why do they have so much here, while we have so little back home?” Do not expect him to cite everything from religious tolerance to consensual government to freedom and market capitalism — not when there is an accessible American dictionary of victimization, ranging from colonialism and imperialism to oil and Israel. The new arrival from the Middle East need not turn on Al Jazeera to be spoon-fed grievances, when he can listen to President Obama’s apology tours or Cairo speech or breakfast sermons about high-horse Christians and their millennium-old Crusades.
Third, we in America ask almost nothing of immigrants any more. We do not care whether they come legally and will obey the law once they’re here. We have no concern whether they can support themselves, or whether they will become wards of the state. One need only review the careers of Obama’s own immigrant aunt and uncle. We have no worries about whether they learn English. They can hate or love America, as is their wont. If an immigrant commits a crime against his hosts, we feel that we would commit a greater crime by sending our ungracious guest home. Is that why ICE released 36,000 alien lawbreakers in 2013 alone, preempting their deportation hearings, or why 347,000 criminal aliens are believed to be at large in the United States?
Citizenship as a cherished privilege has utterly vanished. So has any idea of gratitude. A hallowed notion of legality, of being more law-abiding even than native-born Americans, has disappeared among immigrants. Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez — the five-times-deported illegal alien and seven times repeat felon who shot Kate Steinle to death in San Francisco — was only the most extreme example of what is possible under current immigration law and practice.
At no time did Lopez-Sanchez thank the United States for offering him a better chance than Mexico had — at least if repeatedly committing felonies can be see as a form of not offering thanks. We deduce that he believed things were better here than in Mexico or he would not have reentered the country illegally so many times. Lopez-Sanchez, like the Tsarnaevs, knew that the U.S. leaves immigrants alone, or perhaps, better yet, romanticizes their difference, and provides, if not a legal amnesty for their crimes, a psychosocial one.
Fourth, immigrants sense an identity-obsessed culture, where diversity, not unity, brings career dividends. A teen can cross illegally from the oppression of Oaxaca and almost instantly qualify for victim status and affirmative action on the bizarre theory that American oppressions have earned him compensation and reparations, as if he were psychologically damaged by America while he was in Oaxaca or will be in America if he was not in Oaxaca.
Hyphenation, not conformity, is preferred — and wisely so. Poor George Zimmerman’s “white Hispanic” troubles arose from his Americanizing his mixed-race identity rather than emphasizing a constructed otherness by calling himself the more authentic-sounding Jorge Mesa. A fight between Trayvon Martin and Jorge Mesa does not reach the White House, because it furthers no particular agenda; it’s analogous to the weekend toll in Chicago rather than a Ferguson teachable moment. Apparently, Zimmerman did not learn the lesson that an upper-middle-class prep-schooler named Barry Dunham, whose conniving African father had abandoned him, would have been a mere statistic. But as Barack Hussein Obama he became a unique example of diversity, with all its resonance.
At best, if a Muslim immigrant fully assimilates, to the point where, as is true of most Americans, he cannot easily be identified by his religion, or if his religion becomes incidental rather than essential to his public persona, then he is rendered just an ordinary American. Perhaps he even is in some danger of joining the unattractive majority not subject to special dispensation. At worst, he can become a sellout in the eyes of his local mosque and immigrant enclave. Emphasizing identity to its logical extreme wins rewards in today’s America. We saw to what insane lengths this has gone in the cases of the fabulists Rachel Dolezal, Elizabeth Warren, Shaun King, and Ward Churchill.
Finally, the Muslim shooter understands that so many of his hosts are naïve, ashamed of their own culture, unsure of their heritage, and prone to apologize rather than criticize. They would likely not call the authorities even if they spied preparations for terrorist activities — believing that being called a racist is worse than possibly allowing violence to ensue against the innocent. Note that Ms. Malik never thought that she might have to tone down her suspicious activities, because her neighbors quite magnanimously did not call the police.
Appeasement is a psychological disorder that affects both the appeaser and the appeased. The more exemptions are granted the offender, the more the grantor feels good about himself, and the more the offender loses respect for someone seen as weak rather than magnanimous.
The United States government is too often seen as wavering, concerned with political correctness, unsure of its values, easily swayed by supposed victimization and refugee status, and terrified of charges of racism and xenophobia. For the immigrant, there is everything to gain by clinging to a foreign identity, showing disdain for the culture of his adopted country, and romanticizing his abandoned homeland, and nothing of immediate advantage in integrating, showing gratitude, and being critical of what drove him out.
Add up all the above, and it is a miracle that we do not have even angrier young immigrants and children of immigrants from the Middle East.
San Bernardino is not the last we will see of the strange nexus between radical Muslim immigrants hating the Middle East enough to abandon it and then romanticizing it from a safe distance enough to kill their generous hosts.
From Bret Stephens:
Little children have imaginary friends. Modern liberalism has imaginary enemies.
Hunger in America is an imaginary enemy. Liberal advocacy groups routinely claim that one in seven Americans is hungry—in a country where the poorest counties have the highest rates of obesity. The statistic is a preposterous extrapolation from a dubious Agriculture Department measure of “food insecurity.” But the line gives those advocacy groups a reason to exist while feeding the liberal narrative of America as a savage society of haves and have nots.
The campus-rape epidemic—in which one in five female college students is said to be the victim of sexual assault—is an imaginary enemy. Never mind the debunked rape scandals at Duke and the University of Virginia, or the soon-to-be-debunked case at the heart of “The Hunting Ground,” a documentary about an alleged sexual assault at Harvard Law School. The real question is: If modern campuses were really zones of mass predation—Congo on the quad—why would intelligent young women even think of attending a coeducational school? They do because there is no epidemic. But the campus-rape narrative sustains liberal fictions of a never-ending war on women.
Institutionalized racism is an imaginary enemy. Somehow we’re supposed to believe that the same college administrators who have made a religion of diversity are really the second coming of Strom Thurmond. Somehow we’re supposed to believe that twice electing a black president is evidence of our racial incorrigibility. We’re supposed to believe this anyway because the future of liberal racialism—from affirmative action to diversity quotas to slavery reparations—requires periodic sightings of the ghosts of a racist past.
I mention these examples by way of preface to the climate-change summit that began this week in Paris. But first notice a pattern.
Dramatic crises—for which evidence tends to be anecdotal, subjective, invisible, tendentious and sometimes fabricated—are trumpeted on the basis of incompetently designed studies, poorly understood statistics, or semantic legerdemain. Food insecurity is not remotely the same as hunger. An abusive cop does not equal a bigoted police department. An unwanted kiss or touch is not the same as sexual assault, at least if the word assault is to mean anything.
Yet bogus studies and statistics survive because the cottage industries of compassion need them to be believed, and because mindless repetition has a way of making things nearly true, and because dramatic crises require drastic and all-encompassing solutions. Besides, the thinking goes, falsehood and exaggeration can serve a purpose if it induces virtuous behavior. The more afraid we are of the shadow of racism, the more conscious we might become of our own unsuspected biases.
And so to Paris.
I’m not the first to notice the incongruity of this huge gathering of world leaders meeting to combat a notional enemy in the same place where a real enemy just inflicted so much mortal damage.
Then again, it’s also appropriate, since reality-substitution is how modern liberalism conducts political business. What is the central liberal project of the 21st century, if not to persuade people that climate change represents an infinitely greater threat to human civilization than the barbarians—sorry, violent extremists—of Mosul and Molenbeek? Why overreact to a few hundred deaths today when hundreds of thousands will be dead in a century or two if we fail to act now?
Here again the same dishonest pattern is at work. The semantic trick in the phrase “climate change”—allowing every climate anomaly to serve as further proof of the overall theory. The hysteria generated by an imperceptible temperature rise of 1.7 degrees Fahrenheit since 1880—as if the trend is bound to continue forever, or is not a product of natural variation, or cannot be mitigated except by drastic policy interventions. The hyping of flimsy studies—melting Himalayan glaciers; vanishing polar ice—to press the political point. The job security and air of self-importance this provides the tens of thousands of people—EPA bureaucrats, wind-turbine manufacturers, litigious climate scientists, NGO gnomes—whose livelihoods depend on a climate crisis. The belief that even if the crisis isn’t quite what it’s cracked up to be, it does us all good to be more mindful about the environment.
And, of course, the chance to switch the subject. If your enemy is global jihad, then to defeat it you need military wherewithal, martial talents and political will. If your enemy is the structure of an energy-intensive global economy, then you need a compelling justification to change it. Climate dystopia can work wonders, provided the jihadists don’t interrupt too often.
Here’s a climate prediction for the year 2115: Liberals will still be organizing campaigns against yet another mooted social or environmental crisis. Temperatures will be about the same.
By John R. Lott:
arack Obama stunned Americans and French alike on Tuesday with his false claims about gun violence in America. “I say this every time we’ve got one of these mass shootings. This just doesn’t happen in other countries,” the president claimed, as he has repeatedly over the years. Talk about being self-absorbed.
The French have witnessed three mass public shootings this year. January saw two attacks, one on the Charlie Hebdo magazine and another on a Paris supermarket. In the November attacks, 129 people were killed and 352 were injured. In 2015, France suffered more casualties than the U.S. has suffered during Obama’s entire presidency (508 to 394).
Obama also overlooks Norway, where Anders Behring Breivik used a gun to kill 67 people and wound 110 others. Still others were killed by bombs that Breivik detonated. Of the four worst K-12 school shootings, three have occurred in Europe. Germany had two of these — one in 2002 at Erfut and another in 2009 at Winnenden, with a total death toll of 34.
Obama isn’t correct even if he meant the frequency of fatalities or attacks. Many European countries actually have higher rates of death from public shootings that resulted in four or more murders. It’s simply a matter of adjusting for America’s much larger population.