Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Liberals' "Other" Problem

For the last decade or two liberals have been lecturing us on the "Other." The narrative goes something like this.

The reson there is domination, conflict and oppression in the world is that some people (not liberals, of course) stigmatize and marginalize people who aren't like "Us." The people that are different are the frightening, dangerous "Other."

Sexists relegate women to the "Other;" racists condemn blacks and minorities to the "Other." Homophobes gay-bash gays as the "Other." Because they are different, because they are not like "Us."

In its finest versions, e.g., Charles Taylor's version in Sources of the Self, it is incandescent:

Perhaps the most urgent and powerful cluster of demands that we recognize as moral concern the respect for the life, integrity, and well-being, even flourishing, of others... Of course the scope of the demand notoriously varies: earlier societies, and some present ones, restrict the class of beneficiaries to members of the tribe or race and exclude outsiders... But they all feel these demands laid on them by some class of persons, and for most contemporaries, this class is coterminous with the human race (and for believers in animal rights it may go wider).

In a practical world, there are people who are legitimately outside the pale. There are foreign governments that actually wish us ill. And there are domestic enemies: robbers, rapists, killers, who we hunt down and imprison.

But liberals go to extremes. They are unwilling to regard domestic enemies as the "Other." They "blame America first" because they believe that criminals act out their violence because of their poverty. That's why liberals are big on police brutality and on "racial profiling."

Liberals are unwilling to regard foreign enemies as the "Other." They "blame America first" because they believe that America provokes enemies with its imperialist foreign policy. That is why liberals were so contemptuous of President Bush and his forward policy against the terrorists, and why President Obama is "resetting" our relationship with Russia and Iran through negotiations.

This philosophy works well as long as you don't have a conflict with anyone. When you have a genuine disagreement then you have a conflict and then you start to divide the world into "Us" and "Them."

It is in domestic politics that liberals find their enemies, and where they draw the line and declare that people opposed to their politics are the enemy. This is not surprising. Politics is civil war by other means. Government is force. Whenever you propose a new government program you are proposing a new expansion of force and compulsion. Not surprisingly, the people that are going to be subject to force as a result of the new program object to their marginalization. Then out come the political rottweilers, the Rahm Emanuels and the Nancy Pelosis and they start to demonize the opposition.

Here's a good argument for limited government. The more the government does, the more that the American people are pitted against each other, and the more they stigmatize people that don't agree with them as the "Other," outside the boundaries of Taylor's moral concern.

It was easy for President Clinton to blame talk radio for the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, although there is no evidence that the bombers were influenced by talk radio. It was effective politics though, and started Clinton on the road back to reelection.

But President Obama and the mainstream media find it hard to blame Islamic jihadism for the Ft. Hood shooting. They would rather it was all a case of post-traumatic stress syndrome. And we know why. Liberals are desperate to avoid anti-Muslim violence. They are afraid that if we call Maj. Hasan a terrorist then angry Americans will turn on Muslims all across America.

It may be, of course that liberals are right, and that if Maj. Hasan is identified as a terrorist that no Muslim in America will be safe. But the trouble is that their belief system is encouraging them to deny reality. Islamic jihadism is real. It proposes to annihilate the culture of the west. It may be, of course, that it is not a serious movement, not world-historical, but just a bunch of hot-heads in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Or maybe not.

Whatever it is, liberals need to get back to reality. They are wrong to make everything domestic into a political issue, because when they do that they divide the American people. They are wrong to hide from the fact that there really are enemies out there, and we ought to be serious about them.

Otherwise they will do this nation enormous harm.

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