California, land of crackpots and crap thinking
– I used to live in San Francisco. Loved it. I was a columnist on the Examiner, six days a week, man about town, the latest would-be Herb Caen of the Pepsi Generation. Beautiful views, great food, nice weather, good bars, hills, fog. I defended the place when it was called the capital of crackpots, back in the days of Jonestown and the Moscone/Milk murders. I said it was just bad luck that San Francisco attracted a few nuts.
But the inanity from the Left Coast simply won’t end. Now San Francisco is embracing — not just sympathizing with or defending but embracing — its native son John The Rat Traitor Superdoofus Walker as one of its own. Every blogger on earth has cut apart every syllable of this piece from the Chronicle, which called Walker “a product of the Bay Area culture.”
Those willing to sacrifice for their beliefs deserve respect — even if what they believe in is foolish. As a teenager, American Taliban fighter John Phillip Walker gave up a comfortable life in Marin County and traveled halfway around the world to put his life on the line for his religious convictions. How many of us are that courageous?
It is one matter to be tolerant. It is quite another matter to be stupid. And somewhere along the line, the capital of the state of Political Correctness lost that distinction. In this upside-down society, democracy does not rule; everyone rules. Any opinion is as good as the next if it’s held with self-righteous passion; that is the ultimate virtue. And in this world, “offending” is the ultimate crime; if you dare say something that offends anyone you are wrong even if what you say is right. Thus anything — even Walker — is tolerated for fear of offending anyone — even Walker.
So, yes, Walker is a product of the Bay Area culture, but it’s certainly nothing to brag about. He is a product of a place where tolerance — which is a good thing, a damned good thing, an American principle, something to treasure and nourish, to be sure — has become synonymous with just not thinking, with tolerating anything for the sheer sake of tolerance: the orthodoxy of everything. We are not supposed to criticize or ridicule or even wonder about what Walker did because that might offend him, because being different is “courageous.”
What a crock of crackpot crap. A little criticism and ridicule might have stopped this kid from giving his soul to the devil. A little bit of truly free speech — unafraid of “offending” someone or questioning someone’s “convictions” — might have shown him a different way, might have made him think, ferchrissake (oh, pardon me, I should say: fermuhammadsake).
But no amount of tolerance can erase the truth that John Walker is responsible for his actions. Doesn’t matter why he did it. No Twinkie defense for this one. He fought with despots. He fought against us.
If San Francisco wants to claim this man as a product of its culture then it is time for that culture to ask what went wrong.
The real analysis of Walker
– Newsweek tomorrow analyzes the fall of Walker better than a Mill Valley shrink could:
Most teenagers, when they rebel, say they want more freedom. John Walker Lindh rebelled against freedom. He did not demand to express himself in different ways. Quite the opposite. He wanted to be told precisely how to dress, to eat, to think, to pray. He wanted a value system of absolutes, and he was willing to go to extreme lengths to find it.
– Frank Rich goes after the frightening John Ashcroft (the man who’s holding the job Rudy Guliani should be holding, damnit!):
While I wouldn’t dare call it treason, it hardly serves the country to look the other way when the Ashcroft-Ridge-Thompson-Mineta team proves as inept at home as the Cheney-Rumsfeld-Powell-Rice team has proved adept abroad. In the Afghan aftermath, the home front is just as likely to be the next theater of war as Somalia or Iraq. Giving a free pass to Mr. Ashcroft and the other slackers in the Bush administration isn’t patriotism ó it’s complacency, which sometimes comes with a stiff price….
The attorney general keeps boasting that he is winning the war on terrorism at home and keeping us safe. But he provides no evidence to support his claim, even as there’s much evidence that he’s antagonizing his own troops (the F.B.I., local police departments) and wasting their finite time and resources on wild goose chases that have pumped up arrest numbers without yielding many (or any) terrorists.
If questioning our leaders’ competence at a time of war is treason, take me to the nearest military tribunal. But the one thing we learned on that Tuesday morning, I had thought, is that it’s better to raise these questions today than the morning after.
‘The living remains’
– A quite wonderful story in the Washington Post this morning looking past the flags and speeches and politics to the lives that have been changed by 9/11, every day and forever.
September 11, nearly three months gone, is now a shared American narrative, a communal myth, based largely on fact, that tries to make sense of what seems unexplainable. A cast of everyday heroes. Pure good versus satanic evil. Common purpose and resolve. The myth comes wrapped in a neat package and is sold on the street. The coffee table photo books rushed for Christmas sales, the flag lapel pins, the tourists buying their FDNY caps in Times Square, these are for the outside consumers of legend. But those on the inside know harder truths that accompany and at times collide with the myth. They are real people facing the rawness of what happened and what it did to them. The debris of September 11 keeps rolling through their lives…
For a Sunday
– Beliefnet.com just published a good and wise book — all the more amazing because it’s a quick book — about 9/11 with brief essays and sermons from clergy and spiritual leaders, along with comments from the site’s community. I’m halfway through and I’m finding plenty worth thought and quote. A few lines from Rabbi David Wolpe of L.A.:
I am angry. I am angry at God and at human beings. I am angry at the manifold idiocies and indifference that have permitted such hatred to flourish.
Don’t tell me we should not blame God since human beings did this, because even though God gave us free will and we are culpable, I also know that God fashioned our hearts and our world. Must we be angry with those who do evil? Absolutely. We must also be angry at God, for to be angry with God, as Elie Wiesel has taught us, means to be in a relationship to God. I feel God in my fury and love God in my bewilderment….
We must be careful. We have great power. Power means moral choice. We should feel gratitude that we have such choices. To be powerless is not moral, it is merely powerless. Jews remember too vividly the days we had no power…. Do not lament power. We know too much history. It is the only bulwark blocking the abyss. Powerlessness in the face of evil leads to Auschwitz.
And from Shmuly Boteach, celebrity rabbi, more wisdom from Weisel:
Once, when I hosted Elie Wiesel at Oxford, a teary-eyed student asked him, “Mr. Wiesel, why did God allow the Holocaust?” Wiesel just looked at the student sympathetically and said, “I cannot — I dare not — answer your question. Because if I do, I fear that you will sleep easier tonight.” And truth be told, I would rather stay awake being angry that God has allowed this devastation to happen, than to sleep easier that those who suffered deserved what they got.”
And there is a piece by Bishop John Shelby Spong arguing that it is a childish wish to look for a God who would “intervene in human history to accomplish miraculous rescue. We know intellectually that such a God is but a phantom of human hope.”
Now this is not all angry and hopeless. It all says that the responsibility to act is ours. It all calculates the same moral equations we’ve seen in political discussions here in Blogdom — left v. right, sensible left v. left, anti-anti-war v. anti-war, everybody v. Chomsky — and comes to the same answers but from a different direction: from above. I find that comforting: politics and religion — that is, sane religion, not fundamentalism — meeting at the same place.
No stinking — er, I mean, stinky — terrorists here
– The Washington Post found a guide to infiltrating the infidel West with lots of useful tips: Shave… Play evil Western music to fool them… Wear used clothes so you look lived in… And best of all, use deodorant — on your skin, not on the clothes.
It’s not as if we needed more evidence of his guilt but the Washington Post reports the government has a tape of bin Laden talking about the 9/11 attacks and giving proof he planned them. They’re debating whether to release it. Well, of course, you release it. What the hell are you protecting us from? We have a right to see our enemy.
– Robert Fisk, self-hating Brit journalist, writes his first-person load o’ crap about being beaten by Afghan thugs: “I couldn’t see for the blood pouring down my forehead and swamping my eyes. And even then, I understood. I couldn’t blame them for what they were doing. In fact, if I were the Afghan refugees of Kila Abdullah, close to the Afghan-Pakistan border, I would have done just the same to Robert Fisk. Or any other Westerner I could find. So why record my few minutes of terror and self-disgust under assault near the Afghan border, bleeding and crying like an animal, when hundreds ñ let us be frank and say thousands ñ of innocent civilians are dying under American air strikes in Afghanistan, when the ‘War of Civilisation’ is burning and maiming the Pashtuns of Kandahar and destroying their homes because “good” must triumph over ‘evil’?” Why, indeed?
Of course, it’s my fault you’re mugging me
– Tim Blair, blogger from down there, tears apart Robert Fisk (below) for excusing the mob of Afghan thugs who beat him up, believing that he has more kinship with them — his obvious enemies — than us because he, like them, is anti-American.
Dead or alive
– Britain opposes the death penalty for bin Laden. Can’t disagree, I’m afraid.