As New York Times critic A.O. Scott wrote recently, forty years ago this summer the movie that changed the movies premiered. Anybody old enough to remember films before Bonnie and Clyde can testify to the jolting power of Arthur Penn’s kinetic blend of blue-grass slapstick, Depression-era nostalgia, and gruesome, stylized violence. But something else was revealed then, something that I, 14 at the time, was too callow and ignorant to notice behind the cinematic innovations––the moral idiocy that has since come to define pretty much most of American popular culture.
The New York Times’s Thomas Friedman is right on the mark most of the time in his analysis of the dysfunctions troubling the Muslim world and of our own failures in confronting them. Particularly important is his frequent criticism of our feckless disregard of our dependence on fossil fuels. As Friedman argues, we should all be doing more about the fact that our oil consumption subsidizes the terrorists who want to blow us up.
The publication of the CIA’s “family jewels”––the record of its domestic spying, hare-brained plots against Castro, and mind-control experiments, among other oddities–– is sure to add fuel to that roaring bonfire of a myth that so-called “progressives” have been warming their egos at for forty years.
In Gaza the fighting between Fatah and Hamas has escalated to the point of all-out civil war, replete with dead women and children, kneecapping, and handcuffed prisoners thrown from roofs. Meanwhile in Lebanon, the Lebanese army continues to shell a Palestinian refugee camp, with who knows how many civilian deaths. Arab is killing Arab, Muslim is killing Muslim, and the world basically is shrugging its shoulders.
The departure of Paul Wolfowitz from the World Bank has nothing to do with his alleged misdeeds. How can anyone credit criticism of providing for a mistress from the same Europeans who during the Monica Lewinsky scandal lectured us provincial Americans on our puritanical lack of sexual sophistication? Being shocked at a powerful man using his influence on behalf of his girlfriend is like being shocked at finding gambling at Rick’s.
American Idol has been a remarkable success. The show revives the old myth of Pygmalion to chronicle the transformation of ordinary Americans into pop-stars and instant celebrities, a plot-line familiar from a thousand Broadway plays and Hollywood musical comedies. Not content with earning billions of dollars, however, the show’s producers now must assert their social consciences. Like a medieval knight buying masses for his soul after a life of plunder and pillage, the show is now compensating for it riches by raising money for the poor.
The reaction to the murders in Blacksburg is eliciting the usual liberal nostrums. Typical is the New York Times editorial that concluded, “What is needed, urgently, is stronger controls over the lethal weapons that cause such wasteful carnage and such unbearable loss.” No, what is needed is some coherent thinking that will keep us from allowing the government to restrict further our Constitutional freedoms.
I hate to use a cliché, but “bleeding-heart liberal” is just too accurate not to use. I suspect the phrase derives from those depictions of Jesus Christ with his exposed heart wrapped in thorns and dripping blood. This image nails the egocentric, self-righteous exhibitionism of most self-styled “progressives.”
The New York City Council recently passed a resolution banning the use of the word “nigger.” The resolution, of course, is entirely symbolic, since trying to control language by fiat is like King Canute trying to stop the tide. Language isn’t legislated, but grows and changes organically through the people who speak it. That’s why the grammar police always fight a losing battle.
Remember Big Daddy in the movie Cat on Hot Tin Roof? He kept walking around complaining about the “stink of mendacity” emanating from his dysfunctional family. I know how he feels, for every day the bad odor of lies, hypocrisy, and deluded appeasement wafts from the daily news.
Acceptance of a double standard has always been a sign of inferiority. To let someone behave according to one set of principles or values while demanding that you be subjected to others is to validate a claim of superiority that justifies the inconsistent and unfair behavior. A double standard can also reflect incoherent thinking, a failure to apply consistently a principle that presumably has universal validity. In the West’s struggle with Islamic jihad, doubts about the superiority of Western values have coupled with a breakdown in ethical reasoning. The result is the appeasement of jihadist aggression and the confirmation of the jihadist estimation of the West’s corruption.
While making a connection at London’s Heathrow airport this week, I witnessed a scene that suggested much about the West and its current struggle with Islamic jihad. People on the same flight who had not yet gone through security were being screened at the gate. The passengers, mostly European and Americans, mostly middle-aged or older, lined up, had their bodies thoroughly patted, their shoes removed and swabbed for explosives residue, and their bags inspected. The security personnel doing all the patting and swabbing and inspecting were, as far as I could tell, virtually all Pakistani or Indian Brits.