THE SPINE NOVEMBER 17, 2009
These are Christopher Hitchens' words (in Slate), and so you are not surprised to find them sharp, even cutting. Doubtless, some of you are provoked. But please don't repair to the self-righteous. Self-righteousness is an awkward response to the truth.
Given the "seven salient facts" about Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan easily assembled by Hitchens I doubt that even President Obama would want us to withhold judgement on the killer. He, too, as clearly made his own. Even unto grasping the justice awaiting the culprit in the hereafter. Understandably, as Philip Elliott of the Associated Press wrote on Saturday, Obama would prefer that Senator Joe Lieberman and Representative Peter Hoekstra not press for hearings in their respective Senate and House committees. But I believe there is zero chance for that restraint to hold. And why should it?
Hitchens' salient facts illumine the propensity of government agencies (and respectable journalistic institutions) to avert their gaze from realities that would get them into murky places they have learned to avert. For example: the point at which you have to admit "that an alarmingly high proportion of terrorists are Muslim." Or that "political correctness" now subverts domestic and military intelligence from doing their jobs.
The Obama administration has announced that immigration reform is next on its legislative agenda. I am personally disposed to a rather open Emma Lazarus-inflected policy: "I lift my lamp beside the golden door." We cannot simply dispose of immigrants we've decided, after years and years of winking at them, to call "illegals." But we also don't know how to keep unwanted--by whom, by the way?--aspirant immigrants out. We do not know either how properly to judge asylum cases.
And then there is the protection of liberal values with regard to civil freedoms, religion, family policy and violence in the home, sexuality, education. Does a society have the right to insure the safety of its virtues that are distinctly American or western? Some of you, I assume, are already furious. Well, go ahead and cancel your subscription.
Here's another way of posing this dilemma. Has Holland the right to remain Holland? England the right to remain England? France the right to remain France? And what about Rotterdam, Manchester, Paris?