Saturday, February 6, 2010

Eternal Recurrence

I remember as a boy growing up in the post-WWII years that it just seemed unthinkable and impossible that the same hatreds that led to the Holocaust would ever rear their ugly head again. How wrong I was. Mark Steyn gives us a glimpse of the recrudescence of anti-semitism that's infecting much of Europe today:

He writes:

In Scandinavia, "Jews Flee Swedish Town In Wake Of Anti-Semitism":

Last year, 79 crimes against Jewish residents were reported to the Malm� police, roughly double the number reported in 2008. In addition, Jewish cemeteries and synagogues have been repeatedly defaced with anti-Semitic graffiti, and a chapel at another Jewish burial site in Malm� was firebombed last January during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza.

In the United Kingdom, "Record Number Of Anti-Semitic Attacks":

They included an incident in which a Jewish man driving an electric wheelchair was rammed by a car after leaving a synagogue. The driver shouted "Jew, Jew" at him, but he escaped with minor injuries.

In Yorkshire, strips of bacon were arranged in the shape of a star of David and stuck the fence of a home where a Jewish family lived with the word "Jewboy" written underneath.

A 12-year-old girl, the only Jew at her school, was attacked by a mob of up to 20 fellow pupils who pulled her hair and chanted: "death to Jews, kill all Jews."

And in Germany, just because you got rid of all the Jews, why deny yourself the pleasures of Jew-hating?

The leader of Germany's opposition Green party, Cem Oezdemir, who has Turkish roots himself, calls it a form of "anti-Semitism without Jews."

"These young Muslims are often people who don't know any Jews in person," Oezdemir said. "Their radical views stem from an over-identification with the Middle East conflict, from parents who are willing to employ all the well-known Jew-related cliches, and from schools that don't know how to tackle the problem in classes full of students with migrant backgrounds."

Of course, hatred of Jews is rife in the Muslim world, but in Europe? Why? It seems so irrational. It's as if there's something buried deep in human DNA that programs people to hate the Jews. Like a cat which can't resist attacking a dangling string, for reasons it surely doesn't understand, human beings often seem unable to resist their compulsion to hate Jews. Why is that?

It's not irrelevant, I think, that this new wave of anti-Jewish hatred seems to be occurring in the one part of the world that, more than any other, combines a well-educated public with a determinedly secular worldview. This is significant because it suggests that prejudice is not just a function of ignorance - even the educated have their hatreds. The problem is that secular man has no particular reason to stifle his animosities toward those who are different from himself. On a continent full of people who absorbed relativism with their infant formula there's no reason to think anti-semitism is actually wrong.

Only a Judeo-Christian society has the moral and theological resources to suppress the soul's darkest impulses, and although historically Christians and Jews too often failed to live up to their calling, it's nevertheless only a Judeo-Christian society in which any minority can expect to be accorded the same rights and respect everyone else has, because it's only Christians and Jews who are under a moral obligation to treat others justly.


Zinn Again

The other day we linked to two remembrances of the late historian Howard Zinn. One was a paen to the man's benevolent influence and the other was an acerbic dismissal of Zinn as essentially a fraud. Which you think he was will depend largely on your ideological point of view, but what cannot be gainsaid is that the man exerted great influence on several generations of American students. His People's History of the United States is the most widely used history text in American public schools and colleges, having sold over two million copies.

I wanted to bring Zinn up again because I've come across a column at National Review Online which explains in more detail why conservatives see his influence as pernicious and leftists see it as salutary. Roger Kimball argues at NRO that the People's History is filled with distortions and misstatements of fact that give a very misleading impression of the history of the United States. In Kimball's words, reading People's History is like offering to take someone on a tour of Versailles but stopping at a ramshackle shed on the outskirts and saying, "See? Pretty shabby, isn't it?"

Anyway, read Kimball's essay. It's important.



The lefty blogosphere and its media arm at MSNBC were all aflutter this past week over the results of a Daily Kos poll of Republicans that finds, astonishingly, that many of them hold views that Democrats don't. This, some commenters are saying, is proof that Republicans are, by and large, crazy extremists.

Bruce Bartlett, for example, says that, "I can only conclude from this new poll of 2003 self-identified Republicans nationwide that between 20% and 50% of the party is either insane or mind-numbingly stupid."

Chris Matthews on MSNBC calls these Republicans "lunatics" and "whack jobs."

Politico's Ben Smith writes, "A new poll from Research 2000, sponsored by DailyKos more or less with the goal of making Republicans look extreme, does a pretty good job of that."

Well, maybe, but what is it, exactly, that so many of these slobbering, lunatic extremist Republicans are believing these days? Here are the poll's results:

At the risk of being called an extremist whack job myself I have to say that I don't find these numbers all that surprising.

Progressive pundits are astonished, for example, that so many Republicans think President Obama is a socialist, but why is that surprising? What more would, say, Bernie Sanders, a real live socialist, have on his agenda were he President that Mr. Obama does not? Besides, why is it goofy to think that Mr. Obama is something that a majority of Democrats regard favorably? According to a recent Gallup poll 53% of Democrats and 61% of liberals overall have a positive opinion of socialism, so why should Democrats think it somehow weird that Republicans think Mr. Obama does, too.

The pundits are shocked that Republicans would think Sarah Palin is more qualified to be president than Mr. Obama, but that seems obvious, don't you think? Palin had administrative experience as a mayor and a governor of a state. Barack Obama brought no such experience to the White House. Unlike Mrs. Palin, he never ran a business, never met a payroll, never had to manage an administration of any sort. He never did anything that qualified him for the role he now finds himself in. He was a community organizer, a college instructor, an undistinguished state senator for a few years, and a U.S. Senator for less than two years before he began campaigning for president. What exactly was it about Mr. Obama that would lead anyone to think that he was more qualified to run the country than Governor Palin?

The pundits are dismayed that so many Republicans are unsure about where the President was born, but how can an intelligent person be anything but non-committal on the matter? No dispositive documentation of Mr. Obama's birth has been brought forward, and he refuses to allow the state of Hawaii to release the long form birth certificate that would set concerns about this matter to rest. This, despite the fact that similar questions about John McCain's status were submitted to court adjudication, and he was required to produce the necessary forms. Until Mr. Obama does likewise the most anyone can say is that they just don't know where he was born.

In any event, a couple of years back polls were showing that 61% of Democrats believed that George Bush knew ahead of time about the attacks on the World Trade Towers and nevertheless let them happen. Barack Obama even appointed a man who believed this, Van Jones, to a position in his administration. Surely, that's wackier than Republican agnosticism on Mr. Obama's place of birth.

The pundits are incredulous that so many Republicans would think that ACORN stole the last election, and, of course, that does seem a little paranoid. It also shows a failure on the part of the surveyed Republicans to draw the fine distinction between actually stealing the election and merely trying to steal the election.

The pundits are also outraged that so many Republicans think Mr. Obama wants the terrorists to win, and here I sympathize with the pundits, but, on the other hand, the numbers may reflect exasperation with the fact that Mr. Obama throughout his younger years hobnobbed socially with terrorists and seems of late to have made some very dubious decisions concerning how captured terrorists should be handled. This, of course, does not warrant saying he wants terrorists "to win," but those who say they believe he does may simply be venting their frustration with what many believe to be the President's poor judgment on the terrorism issue.

Finally, the pundits are angry that so many Republicans want President Obama to be impeached. I wonder if those who find this absurd were similarly angered by the incessant calls for the impeachment of President Bush, even from the highest echelons of the Democratic party. I doubt it.

In any event, impeachment is entirely inappropriate unless the President has been found to be engaging in illegal activity. Mr. Obama may be in over his head, but that's not yet illegal.