I’m Now Blogging at The Minority Report…

…so check out my work there — and hopefully more places to come!

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From the Archives: Why the Left Can’t Oppose Islamists

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.

Why?

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.

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

“Tiger Mothers”: Training Kids to Be Submissive Drones

For whatever reason, I’m just now hearing about this deranged essay by Amy Chua in the Wall Street Journal, which could otherwise be titled “Raising Submissive, Obedient Automatons for Dummies.” The essay is not, in fact, a hymn to demanding parenting, but a serenade to government institutions, establishment mores, and passive obedience to authority. The one thing Amy Chua’s children are never allowed to do is think.

In case you’re not familiar with the ‘Tiger Mother’ style of parenting that Chua heralds, I would recommend at least skimming the essay. The gist of it is this: quality, demanding parenting is about restrictions and demands. No sleepovers, no grades worse than a solid A, no television or computer games, take away kids’ Christmas presents if they don’t learn their piano pieces (which they practice for two hours daily), etc.

The Religious Right has had its own version of this garbage for a while, and many conservatives might instinctually cheer the fact that Chua discards the mush and the self-esteem garbage of the past couple of decades. But the end result of such parenting is not success — not by any meaningful metric, anyway — but submission. Take Ms. Chua’s emphasis on grades:

For example, if a child comes home with an A-minus on a test, a Western parent will most likely praise the child. The Chinese mother will gasp in horror and ask what went wrong. If the child comes home with a B on the test, some Western parents will still praise the child. Other Western parents will sit their child down and express disapproval, but they will be careful not to make their child feel inadequate or insecure, and they will not call their child “stupid,” “worthless” or “a disgrace.” Privately, the Western parents may worry that their child does not test well or have aptitude in the subject or that there is something wrong with the curriculum and possibly the whole school. If the child’s grades do not improve, they may eventually schedule a meeting with the school principal to challenge the way the subject is being taught or to call into question the teacher’s credentials.

Chinese parents demand perfect grades because they believe that their child can get them. If their child doesn’t get them, the Chinese parent assumes it’s because the child didn’t work hard enough. That’s why the solution to substandard performance is always to excoriate, punish and shame the child…

Ms. Chua is certainly correct that children frequently fail to meet their natural potential — and she is also right when she implies that Western parents often place more of an emphasis on preserving the child’s fragile little ego than in demanding performance. But what sort of performance is Ms. Chua demanding? She balks in horror at the suggestion that the government may have gotten something wrong in shaping what children should be learning — let alone how children should be learning. She passively accepts both the curriculum and the methods of government schools as the gold standard of earthly success: master the list of items that the state tells you a schooled person ought to know, and Chua is a happy mother. From beginning to end, she is a passive servant to the whims of authority. She values schooling, not education.

Western mothers are equally oblivious to this truth, of course, and Chua is absolutely right that the majority of Westerners who call the school’s curriculum into question do so out of ego-preservation, not independent thought. But Chua’s medicine is worse than the disease: more obedience, more submission, less critical thinking. A quality parent should immerse her child in independent thought, critical thinking, and personal autonomy — and, vitally, all of the responsibilities that come with them — as soon as possible. The parent should seek to be a guide, not a master. She should seek to foster self-sufficient adults who aren’t afraid to ask ‘Why?’ — not drones who passively accept whatever is bestowed upon them by authorities. We want a society of independent, inquisitive, thoughtful adults — not a society of automatons whose well-being begins and ends with kind words from authorities. This is a model of authoritarianism, not of constitutional republicanism. (Compare the governments of China and America.)

Chua cites Confucius in her Journal piece as a possible precursor to ‘Tiger parenting.’ Does she actually plan to educate her children about the philosophy of Confucius? It is something that every culturally literate person should have a passing familiarity with — and government schools certainly don’t discuss his thought. Will Chua? Don’t hold your breath. She won’t discuss Confucius, Aristotle, Epictetus, or any other thinkers who had any independent thoughts whatsoever on the nature of the good life. She’s too busy whipping her kids into shape for not being just like her: a passive servant of the whims of authority.

Posted in Culture, Education | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Why Giuliani Can Win In 2012

It looks like Rudy Giuliani is all-in for another shot at the presidency. As evidence that he is not only serious, but gearing up for a smart, New Hampshire-centered strategy, one need only look to his headlining speech this March in Manchester. His non-denials to talk-show hosts like Piers Morgan only compound the evidence: Rudy is running. And while the Village Voice and New York Magazine may not appreciate it, yet, Rudy may be better-positioned in 2012 than he was in 2008 — perhaps even enough to eke out a win.

Before delving into 2012, let’s get something straight about the last campaign: there was never any such thing as a “Florida strategy.” This is fairy-tale mythology spun by apologists for the disastrous 2008 adventure that the gullible media ate up. Rudy had plenty of offices open in Iowa and New Hampshire, and he’d shown up dozens of times. His real problem was that he had no focus: what, exactly, was Rudy’s rationale for running? No one was quite sure. He seems to have just slipped into it, as something he was “supposed to” do; he, like Fred Thompson, seemed to walk onto the stage saying “If you want to give it to me, I’ll take it, but don’t expect me to work for it.” John McCain tirelessly campaigned day after day to gain momentum back. Rudy slouched, hoping that if he laid low with his national lead, the nomination would fall into his lap. It didn’t — and by the time he woke up to this fact, it was too late. He headed to Florida to ‘start over’ with a state that hadn’t been visited much, but by the time the actual primary rolled around, the McCain-Romney machine had steamrolled the other candidates and Rudy was left with a middling 15% for a weak third place.

Rudy’s key strength in 2012 is what handed McCain the resolve to win the nomination: it appears that he now feels liberated to be himself. Sitting pretty atop the national polls in 2008, Giuliani attempted to walk a tightrope with social conservatives and Jim DeMint-style activists. He downplayed his social moderation, leading to an inordinate focus on it. Now, he is actually itching for a contrast with the hardliners, declaring that he’ll even be more likely to run if hard-right candidates like Sarah Palin decide to take the plunge. He is, at long last, candid about the fact that many consider him a moderate, thanks to his views on social issues like abortion and gay rights. And with the ascension of Chris Christie’s tough-talking, fiscal-focused message, Giuliani has a new angle to play: I was Chris Christie before Chris Christie was cool. You want a tough-talking big-city executive who will take a razor to our budget? Been there, done that — and I can do it again.

The GOP was confused in 2008, looking for a way out of the darkness. But the light is back on, and it’s shining on fiscal issues. This benefits Rudy like no other candidate. And with the frontrunners all showing astounding weaknesses — Huckabee’s history of tax hikes and softness on crime (ding-ding-ding!), Palin’s unelectability (ding-ding-ding!), Romney’s health care problem — there is a real opening, especially in a state like New Hampshire, for someone who fits Rudy’s profile: the electable, secular, capitalist hawk. Every 2008 McCain voter and every Democratic-leaning independent is up for grabs — and there is no reason to think that Rudy wouldn’t be their first preference. A win in New Hampshire would be enough to carry him to Super Tuesday, where states like California, Illinois, and New York would lock him in for the nomination. His sole goal would be to stay viable until then.

Yes, Giuliani is pro-choice. But not only are 52% of New Hampshire Republicans and right-leaning independents pro-choice — and plenty more pro-lifers are willing to vote for a pro-choicer — there will actually be more pro-choicers voting in the New Hampshire primary this time, given the lack of a competitive Democratic primary. And the general is, quite frankly, nothing to worry about. The list of viable pro-life vice-presidential candidates that would mesh well with a Giuliani administration — Chris Christie especially comes to mind — is extensive. Besides: who else are social conservatives going to vote for? President Obama? Please.

If Giuliani has the proverbial fire-in-the-belly to make a real shot at it this time, he can pull this off. But he has to want it — and he has to be himself. Happily enough, I am optimistic about this — and I am eager to support him once again this time around.

Posted in 2012 Presidential Race, Rudy Giuliani | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Religious Conservatives Prove They’re the Problem

Here’s the thing about this GOProud/CPAC dust-up: John Bolton and Liz Cheney’s Keep America Safe did not exit the conference over the presence of Ron Paul’s anti-war Campaign for Liberty. The Club for Growth did not protest the conference over the presence of protectionists like Phyllis Schlafly and Pat Buchanan. Conservatives who focus on economic or national-security issues both see groups at CPAC who disagree with them, year after year, on issues that they believe to be fundamental to conservatism. But they know that — contra the Heritage Foundation’s sloppy statement on the issue — the movement has always been something of a cacophony: how, exactly, does one fit Ayn Rand’s disciples into the same tent as those who admire Jerry Falwell? How can a secular, metropolitan hawk like Rudy Giuliani fit into the same party as a religious, nationalist isolationist like Pat Buchanan?

Like a dysfunctional family — with an emphasis on both words — the conservative movement has always been about argument as much as it has been about an agenda. And for God’s sake, conservatism proper is not an ideology. It emerged in its modern form as a system of doubt — of skepticism toward claims of human ‘perfectability’ and aspirations to mechanically remake man from on-high in a color-by-numbers fashion. None of us in the coalition — center, right, or libertarian — herald any claims to remake human nature. And in the end, 90% of us unify around our party’s presidential candidate as a flawed but acceptable compromise. But because we are a coalition, we all must compromise and cooperate. Religious conservatives are not doing that — which is particularly audacious, given their short history in the movement: they weren’t even part of the coalition during the anti-Communist years. The Reaganities invited them in during the 80’s. This Frankenstein-style experiment has culminated in the petulant attitude that we are currently witnessing.

GOProud, of course, supports same-sex marriage and, like eighty percent of Americans, supported repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. They do not focus on these issues. When it is channeling its energies well, the group exists primarily to demonstrate that the free-market and a strong national defense — and, indeed, strong families, albeit without the harsh religious overtones — are good for gay people. Chris Barron has compared GOProud to the ‘Joe Miller’ of the gay community (as opposed to Log Cabin Republicans’ ‘Lisa Murkowski’). Clearly, there is nothing fundamentally unconservative about the organization.

By refusing to cooperate with this little group, religious conservatives, from the National Organization for Marriage to Jim DeMint, have proven themselves to be the only leg of the coalition that refuses to cooperate with people who disagree with them. Hence, they are the problem. They must change, not we economic and national-security conservatives. Everyone else is getting along perfectly well. Religious conservatives are throwing a temper tantrum. We must do what good parents do when children are having a tantrum. To wit: we should not give them what they want. We should tell them to sit down and shut up.

Posted in Conservatism, Gay Issues, Religion | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Anti-Male Double-Standards: Example #18,483

Try to imagine a commercial about a woman bringing a client home unannounced, featuring a husband screaming at her for not telling him what she was up to. “Mom really screwed this one up,” the young daughter intones, but cautions the viewer that as long as Mom cooks a good meal, she might get away with it without being sent “to the doghouse.” That would conjure up images of domestic abuse and women belonging in the kitchen, though, wouldn’t it?

Well, I just saw that commercial while I was sitting here watching the Golden Globes. But — wait for it! — it was about a man. The advertisement was for Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, featuring a woman screaming at her husband for bringing a client home unannounced. “Dad really screwed this one up,” the young son intones to the viewer. “But luckily, he has Kraft Macaroni and Cheese in the cabinet.” Still, that’s not enough, and dad remains “in the doghouse.”

If we’re so hellbent on absolute equality, why is this sort of thing acceptable? Will Jezebel.com have anything to say about this?

Posted in Culture, Feminism | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Is Katy Perry Responsible for the Giffords Shooting?

Taio Cruz’ “Dynamite.” (“We gon’ light it up/Like it’s dynamite.”) Bruno Mars’ “Grenade.” (“I’d catch a grenade for ya/Put my head on a blade for ya.”) Katy Perry’s “Firework.” (“Baby, you’re a firework/Come on show ’em what you’re worth.”)

When will these violent metaphors end? Maybe this shooting could have been avoided if he hadn’t heard so much destruction on his radio. According to Mediabase, “Grenade” and “Firework” (the latter the top-played song of the week) were played a total of 25,000 times last week on American radio. “Boom, boom, boom…come on, show ’em what you’re worth…it’s always been inside of you, and now it’s time to let it through.” Damn. If that’s not gonna motivate a shooter, what will?

More Americans knew about Katy Perry’s violent song than about Sarah Palin’s irrelevant flop of map. It’s time to point the finger in the right direction, here. Katy Perry, this is all your fault.

Posted in Stupid Bullshit | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment