Some of the things I’ve read in the last week have been among the most disheartening of my career. If people wish to be in favor of the mosque at Ground Zero, that’s fine. Make your argument. But the viciousness and arrogance of the attacks on those who oppose the structure are reminiscent of the tactics that we used to call McCarthyism. Our friends on the left have discovered the Constitution, a document they often prefer that their favorite judges ignore. They now cite our “core values as expressed in the Constitution,” they wave the flag that they’ve insulted a good part of their lives, and they denounce anyone who disagrees as a racist and a bigot, or, remarkably, as “un-American.” It is perfectly plain that they regard themselves as our betters, lecturing to the unruly masses.
What our friends on the left lack is humanity.
Ulysses S. Grant could have been entirely legalistic when he met Lee at Appomattox, but Lee later commented on how moved he was by Grant’s feeling for the Southern soldiers, and how he appreciated the respect that Grant displayed, and the generosity of the surrender terms.
The United States could have been legalistic, and cite legal precedents, when the surrender of Japan was signed aboard the USS Missouri on September 2, 1945. But a young Japanese diplomat, present for the signing, later wrote how touched he was by the respect the Americans showed for the Japanese delegation. It was a respect that continued during Douglas MacArthur’s enlightened occupation of Japan.
John Paul II removed a group of Carmelite nuns who’d set up a convent at Auschwitz, in Poland. The pope was Polish. Had he insisted that the nuns remain, he would have had Poland behind him. But he understood the sensitivities of others, and the convent was closed.
I happen to know the family of a fire lieutenant who died in the 9-11 attacks. He always taught his children, “If you want respect, give some.” But there has been little respect shown for the families of those whose lives were cut short on September 11, 2001. A little lip service, maybe, but little more. We’re told that we must uphold our Constitutional traditions, even though there is absolutely no Constitutional right to build a structure at a particular place.
About ten years ago a radical college invited an African-American radical, imprisoned for the murder of a police officer in Philadelphia, to deliver its commencement address by tape. When the widow of the officer wrote a letter to the college protesting, she received a patronizing note from the college president, reminding her of the First Amendment. There was absolutely no compassion shown for her suffering, for what she and her children had lost. It was all cut-and-dried legalism.
There are many stories like that, and they go to something I’ve learned over the years: The left is cold. Leftists are not the “caring” people they claim to be. They live their lives by their college board scores, their degrees and their ideologies. People mean very little. It is hardly a secret that both Betty Friedan, the founder of modern feminism, and Bella Abzug, the leading champion of feminism in the U.S. Congress, both treated women terribly. All that counted to them was some abstract “cause.” Human beings were simply pegs on a board.
In the mosque debate we are seeing that left-wing coldness played out. We saw it in the indifference of the left toward the Cambodian genocide, and to the mass murder in our own cities during the past half century.
And so I think we are living through a defining moment, a moment that splits America between those who understand what it is to be human, and those who live entirely by their presumed intellects. Many thought President Obama “cool” when he was elected. Now they see him as ice. There is a difference.
Liberalism is an honorably philosophy, but liberals, in my youth, were very different from what they are today. They need, more than anything else, a period of introspection and self-examination, to contemplate what has happened to them, and why Americans are rejecting them in such massive numbers.
Two years ago this country elected an African-American president with a Muslim background. The humanity and generosity the American people showed was stunning. I only wish that the president we elected, those around him, and the political and journalistic class that supports him, would show some of that same humanity and generosity.
FROM URGENT AGENDA (WWW.URGENTAGENDA.COM)
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