Written at the peak of the Ground Zero mosque controversy…
When, as a teenager, I declared myself an atheist, I assumed that I would discover some kind of affinity with the left. Whatever its flaws, I saw that the left had no patience for the Christian Right’s nonsensical obsession with abortion, school prayer, and gays. An atheist’s natural position on the social-issues spectrum, I figured, must be with those who most vocally opposed such fanatics.
Wrong. Totally, utterly, blindingly wrong. And I was wrong for this reason: I committed myself to consistent rationalism, not merely to a political crusade against conservative Christianity. A consistent rationalist has no home on the modern left, because the left’s problem is not with religion, but with Christian Republicans. The left doesn’t love Darwin, for example; it just hates Palin. It doesn’t love reason, it hates conservative Christianity. We are dealing here with a political ideology that is completely defined by what it hates. And what it hates is anything at all that stands in support of traditional Western values — whether they are Judeo-Christian religious ones or Greco-Roman pagan ones. Anything that obstructs tradition is held as sacrosanct and untouchable.
Postmodern identity politics, which has infected the left to a degree greater than its exponents know, views all conflict through the lens of power. The fundamental job of politics, in the eyes of the rank-and-file left-winger, is to lift up the oppressed, to empower the “wretched of the Earth.” This is why it can’t bring itself to vigorously oppose Islamic fanaticism. American leftists view Islam as a victimized culture under assault: Muslims, mostly non-white to begin with, are viewed with suspicion by much of America thanks to the acts of some of their co-religionists. Couple this so-called climate of fear with thepost-colonialist anguish nourished by 60’s radicals, and voila! — Islam is granted a blank check. Fundamentally, Islam is weak and the West is strong. Leftist ideology equates weakness with virtue. Ergo, Islam is good.
When your identity group is perceived as lacking power, the left’s standards change. The entry-level qualification for “moderation” in Islam has thus shape-shifted into nothing more than a simple proclamation that 9/11 might not have been cause for celebration. Anyone who thinks that publicly executing homosexuals might be a little archaic is now a “voice of reason” in Islam. That’s really all it takes. Imagine, by way of comparison, a priest who refused to condemn abortion-clinic bombers, explaining meekly that he was not in the business of politics. “It’s a complicated issue,” he’d say, and leftists would screech at Sarah Palin to condemn him. The left can’t bring itself to condemn the Muslim equivalent of this — the very imam leading the effort to build a mosque near Ground Zero — because good and evil on the left are determined by nothing more than who’s got access to power. To paraphrase Ann Coulter: take away the terrorism, and the left would hate Muslims; they’d just be another raving band of anti-choice, homophobic extremists. But through the left’s prism, they’re opposed by Christians and whites — the “power structure” — and are therefore victims.
It is imperative to understand that, for the left, the Christian Right exists in an air-tight compartment. Left-wing principles in dealing with Christian fanatics are insulated from all external concerns; the issues surrounding them have nothing to do with anything else. Pat Robertson and Mike Huckabee exist in a little box that, if one is feeling angry, he can insert knives into to blow off some steam. But there’s no way into the box and no way out. In the box, Mike Huckabee’s refusal to accept the truth of evolution qualifies him as a fanatic; if I point out that most Muslims refuse to accept the same, I’m deemed a “racist.” Muslims are outside of the aforementioned little box, because nothing on the left actually has anything to do with anything else. All that matters are identity traits: race, class, sex, and so forth. Do you qualify as a victim? Congratulations, you’ve earned a blank check to spew venom. It’s a disgusting perversion of liberal, secular values. And it’s why anyone who truly cares about secularism, pluralism, and the rights of minorities could never properly identify as a member of the left.