Friday, May 2, 2014

You've got to be kidding...

Flyer I picked up off the street in San Fernando, October 3, 1979
1. The 800-lb. gorilla in the room.  A couple of recent news events have provided a stark reminder of the thrall in which Islam holds the American Left and the mainstream media (but I repeat myself).  The first was the anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing that happened on April 15, 2013.  To the extent the perpetrators (brothers and Chechen "refugees" Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev) were mentioned at all -- most stories on the topic treated the bombing as though it had been a natural disaster -- hardly anyone addressed the obvious Islamist-terrorism connection.  The second event was the revocation by Brandeis University of an honorary degree, and an invitation to speak at commencement, to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, an African feminist critic of the endemic oppression of women in the Islamic world.  Hirsi Ali experienced that oppression first-hand as a young girl and adolescent, as she was made to undergo female genital mutilation at age 5 and later only barely escaped an arranged marriage to a stranger by seeking asylum in the Netherlands.  After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, she renounced Islam and became an atheist, and now she requires a round-the-clock team of bodyguards due to her participation in the making of the anti-Islam film Submission -- the producer of which, Theo van Gogh, was slaughtered in 2004 by Islamist extremists on an Amsterdam street.  Notwithstanding all of her left-attractive characteristics -- black, female, feminist, atheist, etc. -- all it took was a protest by an Islamic organization (and a petition signed, shamefully, by numerous members of the student body and faculty) to cause the Brandeis administration to cancel Hirsi Ali's appearance there, citing her supposedly "hateful" attitude toward Islam as a pretext.  

Thus no sane person can dispute that Muslims are now at the top of the identity-group "victim" heap, in America and elsewhere.  Furthermore, I'm reminded of the exchange between Robert Redford and Paul Benedict in the movie Jeremiah Johnson, where they argue about the wisdom and necessity of crossing a Crow Indian burial ground in order to rescue snow-bound white settlers: "This is big medicine.  [The Crow] guard this place with spirits."  "Surely you don't believe that."  "It doesn't matter -- they do."  Do we think we're in a war with Islam?  My response is pretty much the same: It doesn't matter what we think, because militant Muslims believe they're in a war with us.  And "moderate" Muslims, aside from being in general philosophical agreement with the extremists, typically are too cowed to disagree with terrorism as a means of subjugating "infidels" and establishing a world-wide caliphate.  And these are the people whose feelings we don't want to hurt?  What reason do we give them not to believe that we won't ultimately accede to their aspirations of world domination?

2. Republicans trying to behave like Democrats...and falling way short of the mark.  I couldn't help laughing when Chris Christie's administration in New Jersey was accused of having caused a traffic jam on the Jersey side of the George Washington Bridge as a way to get revenge against Christie's political enemies.  If it really happened that way, it not only points up how incompetent most Republicans are at doing what has become the Democrats' stock-in-trade -- using government agencies illegally to stick it to their enemies -- it also shows what pikers they are by comparison.  The Obama Administration uses the friggin' IRS to do damage to conservative organizations, and a traffic jam is supposed to be a big deal?

3. Moderate Republicans are always seen as extremists.  It's always intrigued me that Republicans who truly are "moderate" are generally hated by the Left, whereas only conservative Republicans seem to earn the Left's grudging respect, usually well after they're dead and buried.  I can cite several cases in point.  One is Richard Nixon, who established the EPA and OSHA, dabbled in wage and price controls, established diplomatic relations with Communist China, pursued the policy of Détente with the Soviet Union (which led to various weapons-related talks and treaties), and actually ended the Vietnam War (albeit after his re-election); however, no one has fond memories of him now.  The second is George W. Bush, who supported "No Child Left Behind," helped to enact Medicare Part D, established PEPFAR to combat AIDS in Africa, and entered into a nuclear treaty with India -- but is despised now, apparently for his zeal in combating terrorism at its middle-eastern source and seeking retribution for the 9/11 attacks.  The third is Ronald Reagan, whom the Left viewed as both dim-witted and dangerously strident in his pro-America, anti-Communist views while he was president but seems to look up to now.  And the fourth is Barry Goldwater, who was absolutely crucified in the U.S. press before and during the 1964 presidential election (remember "In your guts, you know he's nuts"?), in which he suffered one of the biggest landslide defeats in the country's history.  And yet even he seems to be respected now by the Left.  

Similarly, and on a much-smaller scale, most of the Democrats I know think I'm ultra right-wing, despite my moderation on a number of social and economic issues.  I favor the legalization of marijuana, and I've come to favor -- if not to be passionate about -- same-sex marriage.  I support some kind of universal healthcare coverage in the U.S., if only by making more people eligible for Medicare and Medicaid.  (I can't be against Medicaid when half of my grandchildren are on it, and especially after it paid for life-saving major surgery for one of them.)  I don't like abortion, but, like Thomas Aquinas, I believe society must tolerate a certain amount of evil in order to function -- and perhaps a generalized right to abortion in the first 6-8 weeks of pregnancy is the price we must pay to keep people from breaking out into greater evils like late-term abortion and infanticide.  I'm sort of "agnostic" on the issue of "climate change"; it may be happening just as herd-science maintains, but the messengers clearly have an ideological bias and a penchant for hysteria that have all but destroyed their credibility in my eyes.  (And their contentions, contrary to what they suggest, are not self-evident or outside the purview of scientific, or even journalistic, inquiry.)  I believe it would be grossly unfair to deport non-citizens who have come here, legally or otherwise, and made lives for themselves, although I'm also for heightened border security to impede future illegal immigration.  I believe in renewable energy, but its implementation on a broad scale only makes sense if we can find ways to produce it efficiently and drive down the price.  (The infliction of great economic pain is not the way to go about it.)

These aren't exactly the most-conservative of positions, so why do I seem so "reactionary" to my left-leaning friends and acquaintances?  It may come down to two things: (1) my strong belief in self-sufficiency and individual responsibility (and that government involvement in people's lives, while clearly necessary at some level, ultimately becomes corrosive, even destructive, to those ideals); and (2) my overwhelming distaste for social change wrought by the judiciary, preferring instead to leave all that to legislators.  I guess that's what passes for "extremism" these days.

4. The "Bundy Revolution" against the federal government.  I have to admit I was initially disposed to take the side of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy in his dispute with the federal government over grazing rights and fees.  I don't know much about the merits of his claim -- he certainly couldn't state his position articulately in the interview I saw with him on TV -- and later, of course, he made comments about slavery that cast him as a racist of sorts.  However, the one thing that still perturbs me greatly about the stand-off is that the Bureau of Land Management, of all federal agencies, has its own force of shock troops and snipers, and that, but for the instant nature of communications in the smartphone/Youtube/Twitter age, the BLM seemed perfectly prepared to open fire on private citizens in a relatively trifling land dispute.  Is it any wonder that a growing group of people see the federal government as an enemy to be resisted?

5. Donald Sterling and the NBA.  The big news in the last week or two has been the racially charged remarks that Los Angeles Clippers owner (and billionaire octogenarian) Donald Sterling made to his mistress, which she secretly recorded and leaked.  When I first heard about it, I thought, "What an idiot!"  (It turns out that Sterling has a long record of racist sentiments and generally jerk-y, immoral behavior characteristic of the "imperious" wing of the American super-rich.)  It's clear the NBA couldn't let his comments pass, despite the private nature of the conversation and the mistress's obvious baiting of Sterling while recording him without his knowledge.  (I agree with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar that she should be prosecuted criminally.)  A fine was indicated, and the NBA owners' association certainly had the right, and the grounds, to kick him out of their "club"; however, I think he'll still have a cause of action for massive damages if the NBA tries to make him sell his interest in the Clippers for significantly less than its current market value.  Racism is ugly, and racists merit our scorn and opprobrium, but it isn't a reason, in and of itself, for large-scale forfeiture of property.

It also bears comment that racist attitudes aren't exactly uncommon among white American males of Donald Sterling's generation (and older).  My own father once was "offended" when I dated a girl whose last boyfriend had been an African-American basketball player, telling me that any white woman who would date a black man was a "pig."  Kristy and Heidi's biological grandfather became upset when Heidi went on a date one time with a black friend of hers in high school.  And the partners in the small law firm for which I used to work, both of whom had roots in the South, quite often said grossly bigoted things about African-Americans.  The Americans who fought World War II were, as Tom Brokaw rightfully called them, the "Greatest Generation"; however, racial prejudice was a fact of life for many of them.  Thus it may be that white men born prior to WWII have to pass away entirely before the Donald Sterlings of the world stop rearing their heads from time to time.

5. Democratic government in Chile.  I have a Chilean Facebook "friend" who recently posted a few derogatory things about Michelle Bachelet, the current socialist president of Chile, particularly with regard to her government's handling of the recent wildfires that ringed the coastal city of Viña del Mar and destroyed thousands of homes.  If nothing else, it reminded me that Chile has democratic government, something that wasn't the case when I served my church mission there in 1979-80.  I remember going to hear the right-wing Chilean dictator of the day, Augusto Pinochet, speak in San Fernando, Chile in October 1979.  (Thousands of flyers like the one in the attached scan were dropped by a Chilean Air Force plane prior to Pinochet's arrival by helicopter; I obviously picked one up as a souvenir.)  Whatever one thinks of Pinochet or his government (particularly its human-rights record -- Bachelet herself was an exile for a number of years), it warded off a full-scale, Cuba-like revolution and a tremendous bloodbath in Chile.  Instead of having democratic elections in which a socialist could participate and win, Chile might well have ended up with a crippling, long-lived left-wing dictatorship that would have destroyed all of its democratic traditions.  That my friend can complain about the Chilean government without fear of reprisal is hugely significant to me.