Saturday, October 29, 2005

A Glimpse at the Future

Let's grab a glimpse of the future that the Islamists envision for our children:

Three teenage Christian girls were beheaded and a fourth was seriously wounded in a savage attack on Saturday by unidentified assailants in the Indonesian province of Central Sulawesi.

The girls were among a group of students from a private Christian high school who were ambushed while walking through a cocoa plantation in Poso Kota subdistrict on their way to class, police Major Riky Naldo said.

Naldo said the heads of the three dead victims were found several kilometres from their bodies.

[Since 2002] there has been a series of bomb attacks and assassinations of Christians. These included a blast at a market in Poso, a predominantly Christian town, that killed 22 people in May.

Christian leaders have repeatedly accused the authorities in Jakarta of not doing enough to find the perpetrators and bring them to justice.

Perhaps the authorities have no idea who the perpetrators might be. Let's try to help them narrow down the suspects. Let's ask where the perpetrators might most likely be found. Should the authorities look in a:

a. convent of nuns
b. monastery
c. missionary clinic
d. mosque

If you answered a, b, or c you get the Norman Y. Maneta award for dopey adherence to political correctness, named after our current Secretary of Transportation. The award is so named for Mr. Maneta's unswerving fidelity to such bedrock principles of left-wing ideology as that octagenarians in wheel chairs should be searched every bit as thoroughly for bombs before being permitted to board an airplane as sullen, twenty-something Arab males. To do otherwise, Mr. Maneta believes, is to betray an intolerable ethnic bias.

Heaven forgive us if we're guilty of thinking that we're far more likely to be blown out of the sky, or have our torsos relieved of our heads, by young Arab males than by elderly Anglo-Saxon women. It just reveals how ingrained our racism is that we can't seem to shake the thought that a young Muslim Arab is a far greater threat to our well-being than is a feeble great-grandmother.


I recently finished David McCullough's wonderful, if slightly mistitled, 1776. I say wonderful because once I got about a third of the way into it I didn't want to put it down. McCullough is a masterful writer and the story he tells is full of fascinating anecdotes and detail that seize the reader's attention and cause him to regret arriving at the last page of the book.

I say it is slightly mistitled because it's not really a story of the year 1776 so much as it is an account of the trials, travails, and tribulations of George Washington during those bleak twelve months.

McCullough tells a tale that one doesn't ordinarily read in popular accounts of Washington who is often portrayed as a man with near-perfect judgment and almost infinite wisdom. That his judgment was often excellent and that he was wise there is no doubt, but in the year 1776, the first year of the revolution, Washington made several serious mistakes and were it not for what McCullough refers to as miracles and the excessive caution of his adversary William Howe, the fledgling Continental army would probably have been destroyed at New York. Until the very end of the year the story of the war was a narrative of ignominious American retreats. As McCullough writes victories are not won by withdrawals no matter how well executed.

It is hard to imagine, although McCullough does a good job of describing it for us, the darkness of those months: the steady string of defeats, the abandonment by thousands of citizens who fled to the British, the demoralization and lack of training and discipline of the troops, the desertions, poor equipment, harsh living conditions, and the seeming indifference of the Continental Congress, and, not least, the utter despair that many, including Washington himself, must have felt. Yet, despite the fact that he didn't win a major engagement until late in the year when he caught the Hessians by surprise at Trenton, he never allowed himself to succumb to his forebodings and trepidations about the prospects for success, at least not for long. He learned from his errors, some of which were extremely costly in terms of lives lost, and he didn't permit the harshness of his critics nor the betrayals of friends to deter him. He truly was a great man.

As I was reading McCullough's narrative I thought of our current commander in chief. Like Washington, he has been pummeled, slandered, and ridiculed by his critics. He has faced dark days when success was anything but assured. He has had to bear up against a steady drumbeat of defeatism in the press. There must be times when he thinks that nobody cares about winning the war on terror but him, and yet he refuses to bend to the cavils of critics. Bush's situation is perhaps more like that of Lincoln than of Washington, but even so, some of the similarities with Washington are striking.

I recommend 1776 to anyone with an interest in American history and especially the history of the first year of the American revolution. There is much in it that we can apply to our own parlous times.