Special Update #23 - HIP, HIP . . . . . AMERICA!
Time has gotten away from me over the last week or two, and I didn't get a second Special Update out as usual. Now, here it is time to start writing my May newsletters. Given the constraints of time and printing deadlines, this Special Update consists of one OUTSTANDING ARTICLE, which I have reprinted in its entirety below, and several links to stories I think will help you make some sense out of the confusing news of late.
"THE WESTERN FRONT" from OPINIONJOURNAL.COM
What We're Fighting For We hold these truths to be self-evident. Let's start acting like it.
BY BRENDAN MINITER Monday, April 29, 2002 12:01 a.m. EDT
"The problem with America," a college professor told me recently, "is that it can't get over the idea that it is somehow special among nations." His name is Robert Jensen and he teaches journalism at the University of Texas, Austin. He's flat wrong. The problem with America and Western civilization in general is that it lost confidence in itself and started accepting relativist arguments.
Today, we launch a new Monday column on OpinionJournal, "The Western Front." Many readers will recognize the reference to the Erich Maria Remarque novel about the Western world tearing itself to pieces in World War I. It was that war that accelerated Western civilization down into a dangerous pit from which it may now be emerging. The main purpose of this column will be to argue for rebuilding confidence in the West's ideal of human freedom--spiritual, political and economic liberty.
Before considering how the West might lead the world forward by example, it will be helpful to consider how we find ourselves combating terrorism while also repairing self inflicted damage to our own society.
Somewhere amid the horrific battles of World War I, the world forgot why it was fighting, but kept gnashing anyway. That conflict destroyed Europe and left the young men who survived the battles, bombs and poison gas to become the "Lost Generation." The desperate struggle left a rift between them and civil society. Into that rift, it seems, fell the West's confidence. Across Europe and even America, leaders seemed to look at the carnage and say collectively: "We are barbarians. Who are we to think we should lead the world?"
A generation later Hitler was leading a maniacal quest to prove Germany was populated by a master race. England, France, America and even communist Russia defeated that brand of evil. But World War II didn't restore the West's moral confidence. In a way, it seemed only to push it further down into the rift--if the West was capable of such barbarism, then it was morally equivalent to barbarous civilizations.
Soon the world settled down in a Cold War that pitted the free people of democratic Europe and America against the communists in Russia and China and spreading through the Third World. Many Western intellectuals argued that the communists held the moral high ground. Soon imperialism and "cultural imperialism" became dirty words. Somewhere along the way Britain gave up trying to make the world England. Colonial empires disintegrated. In Vietnam a dispirited America gave up the fight against the communists. Western culture was lying down.
Few in the West were willing to stand up and say that some cultures are better than others. Or that some cultures create spiritual, material and political prosperity while others breed nothing but oppression. Intellectuals were fond of arguments that made Western culture the oppressors of "native peoples"--an argument bolstered by horrible colonial abuses. And no one was seriously arguing that some cultures need to be undone. That was tried, the intellectuals said, and it gave us the Belgian Congo. Many thought the future belonged to the Soviets.
Then came Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II. Mr. Reagan looked across the Atlantic and said, "I do not believe in a fate that will fall on us no matter what we do." The West sat up, and the Evil Empire tripped, fell and can't get back up. Prosperity returned.
Now it's time for Western culture to stand up again. Worries about imperialism, especially cultural imperialism, should be cast off. Global free trade isn't imperialistic; it's the spread of a natural right, economic freedom. Demanding that a country respect its people's basic rights isn't imperialistic, and neither is standing for an unfettered media. No one wants to bring back colonial empires.
All cannot remain quiet on the Western front. The West, not just America, is locked in a struggle with forces that question its foundation. Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein and many others reject the fundamental ideals of Western culture: individual sovereignty, freedom of conscience, free interaction among men and the right to the fruits of one's own labor. They reject the Western intellectual framework that has permitted scientific, political and economic freedom and given the world the fruits of unparalleled creativity. These thugs hate Western success and religious plurality.
Like Lenin buying rope from capitalists, the only Western product they seem to like is weaponry.
The media's historical ignorance helps undermine Western confidence. Rarely do we see reports explaining how the West benefited from Judeo- Christian thought. We are told America's Founding Founders were deists if not atheists. Yet studying the period you'll find countless references to God and prayers of asking God's guidance. John Adams once said the intellectual framework for rebellion was laid in the churches years before it became a political struggle. That makes sense, for America is founded on the idea that man is endowed by his Creator with the right to be free.
That belief, although imperfectly applied, became the basis for American liberty. For if each man is born master of himself, it follows that he has the right to worship as he sees fit, keep the bounty of his crop, and trade with whom he can. Faith in a God who gave us freedom informs us why oppression is wrong. And it informs us when resistance--even armed rebellion--is justifiable.
This last point some in the West would turn on its head to justify Palestinian terrorist bombings. Its only ignorance that makes that argument convincing. The Declaration of Independence contains a list of grievances. It also explains that the colonists tried every legitimate means to seek retribution. But they were turned away by the courts, rebuffed by the governors and saw their legislatures dissolved. Finally they petitioned King George III himself, but he turned his back. That's when they took up arms.
The Palestinian Arabs are in no way comparable to the American Revolutionary patriots. In the Boston Massacre, British troops shot down unarmed civilians. Instead of lynching these soldiers--as Palestinians have done to Israelis, as well as to fellow Arabs accused of "collaboration"--the Americans held a fair trial. John Adams, a revolutionary and a future president, defended the soldiers. They were acquitted and allowed to go free. A fair trial, let alone an acquittal, is unthinkable under Yasser Arafat or any other Arab ruler.
The confusion in the political class about the conflict in the Middle East is symptomatic of a larger problem: the West's elites' inability to understand moral fights. Despite European assertions to the contrary, there is no moral equivalency between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Israel is a democracy and therefore sovereign and the PA is neither.
As the American founders understood, a government that oppresses its people and extends violence to other nations lacks the consent of the governed and therefore the insulation of sovereignty, a point Sen. Jesse Helms made to the United Nations in a thunderclap of a speech a few years ago. It is morally justifiable and sometimes imperative for sovereign nations to stand up to rogue states, and in some cases even dismantle them and liberate their people. That is not equivalent to rogues attacking anyone.
Israeli Jews have founded and are defending a sovereign state, and their proximity to the Arab world makes them the vanguard of Western civilization. Their most visible enemy is Arafat, a tyrant. He doesn't stand for the freedom of his people, nor does he acknowledge that all men are created equal. He instructs and pays for his followers to strap bombs to young girls and boys, who then blow themselves up next to Israeli citizens. He isn't acting as a freedom fighter. He is denying the very foundation of a free society.
Likewise, bin Laden falsely claims America is oppressive and hostile toward Arabs and Islam. In fact, America stands in opposition to tyranny in the Muslim world as well as the west. Whereas bin Laden preaches a religious paradise in the darkness, America preaches an enlightenment that shows individuals the way to build their own paradise. Communism shriveled under that light, and radical Islam will as well.
Many Muslims understand this. Iranian moderates have turned out in the streets to protest oppression there. Before Saddam, Iraq had a thriving middle class that was happy to trade, prosper and not threaten their neighbors. Turkey, a Muslim people governed by a secular state, would love to join the European Union, if only the Europeans would put aside their prejudices and let it. And millions of Arab Muslims are citizens of Israel--they aren't the source of animosity.
This is all abundantly clear to President Bush. In speech after speech he talks of the "evil ones" and says God is not neutral in the fight between good and evil. He hasn't backed off the belief that America is on the moral high ground.
Americans, whose ancestors founded a country based not on ethnicity or religion but on freedom, instinctually understand and embrace the worldview President Bush articulates in a way Europeans, still reeling from two world wars, seem unable to. National opinion polls show overwhelming support for the war on terror. In America, apologists for tyranny are laughed off the public stage. A new boldness has bloomed among our cultural leaders. Average Americans cheer those who are unabashed in their belief that America is in the right. No wonder Donald Rumsfeld is a rock star.
Western culture doesn't always live up to its ideals. We could all make a list of continuing problems as well as embarrassingly recent transgressions from our best principles. America's own legacy of slavery and racism would top any list. The first Bush administration fell short when it left Iraqi Kurds and Shiites to be slaughtered after encouraging them to rebel against Saddam. The pope recently met with his cardinals about sex-abuse scandals in the Catholic Church.
Yet whatever its failures, the West is worth defending. Indeed, it is in rising above these shortcomings that give hope to the world, establish peace among men and spread freedom to lands that have known only tyranny. We hold these truths to be self-evident. Let's start acting like it."
Mr. Miniter is assistant editor of OpinionJournal.com. His column appears Mondays.
Hope you have a wonderful week,
Gary D. Halbert
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