Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Needed: A Tragic Hero. By Victor Davis Hanson.

John Wayne as Ethan Edwards in The Searchers.

Needed: A Tragic Hero. By Victor Davis Hanson. National Review Online, July 30, 2013.

In good times, the larger-than-life figure is an affront; in crisis, he is necessary.

Martin Scorsese on The Searchers. By Martin Scorsese. The Hollywood Reporter, March 8, 2013.

Religious Liberty Threatened. By Ryan T. Anderson.

Religious Liberty Threatened. By Ryan T. Anderson. National Review Online, July 30, 2013.

Advocates of same-sex marriage are classifying Biblical teachings as hate speech.

Ashamed of Patriotism. By Charles C. W. Cooke.

Ashamed of Patriotism. By Charles C. W. Cooke. National Review Online, July 30, 2013.


The 9/11 museum director’s revulsion at patriotism is part of a larger collapse in national confidence.
History shows that great and dominant societies can survive a great number of awful things without succumbing to collapse, but that they rarely outlast the gradual disintegration of national self-confidence. With this in mind, consider the words of one Michael Shulan, who “really believes” that “the way America will look best, the way we can really do best, is to not be Americans so vigilantly and so vehemently.” Mr. Shulan, who is the creative director of the 9/11 Memorial Museum, also expressed his distaste at what he called the “rah-rah America” instinct.
The news that a New York City–based “creative director” is disheartened by muscular American self-assuredness will presumably not come as a hefty surprise to many. Nevertheless, I might venture that if one’s sole job is to memorialize for the nation the revolting attack that unrepentant barbarians perpetrated on the United States on September 11 of 2001, one’s calculations as to what level of patriotism is and isn’t seemly should change a touch.
And yet they haven’t. In Elizabeth Greenspan’s new book about the rebuilding of the World Trade Center, Battle for Ground Zero, the author relates a disquieting incident in which Shulan huffily objects to a photograph of three ash-covered firefighters raising an American flag amid the mangled remains of the World Trade Center. Per Greenspan’s account, Shulan’s displeasure was mollified only after he and his colleagues reached a “compromise” and a couple of other photographs of the flag were added to the museum’s collection. “Shulan didn’t like three photographs more than he liked one, but he went along with it,” Greenspan reports.

The job of a curator is to curate, and nobody would expect Mr. Shulan to remain quiet if he had legitimate artistic differences. But the interesting question here is why Mr. Shulan — or anyone, for that matter — would find distasteful or “simplistic” the inclusion of photographs of American firefighters responding to mass murder in an exhibition that venerates the very same.
“My concern,” Shulan explained, “as it always was, is that we not reduce [9/11] down to something that was too simple, and in its simplicity would actually distort the complexity of the event, the meaning of the event.”
The never-ending search for complexity where it neither exists nor belongs is the unlovely signet of the pseudo-intellectual. What, precisely, are America’s flag-waving rubes missing about the events of September 11, 2001? What does the photograph show that “distorts” anything? If Mr. Shulan disagrees with Rudy Giuliani’s admirably Manichean statement that, the attacks of 9/11 being “an attack on the very idea of a free, inclusive, and civil society,” “we are right and they are wrong,” then he should say so. He might tell us also what he conceives to be the apparently unknowable “meaning of the event.” Absent an explanation, we should presume that the curator of the 9/11 Memorial Museum considers that there was a better time for firemen to be “vigilantly and so vehemently American” than the day their city crashed down around them. This is unacceptable.
Even America’s fiercest critics appear capable of treating as separate their wider political disapprobation and the innocent bystanders of lower Manhattan, rural Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C. Why not Mr. Shulan? One presumes, for example, that he would not object to a museum’s featuring L. Bennett Fenberg’s beautiful video of American troops blowing up the vast swastika that stood above the rally grounds at Nuremberg on the grounds that it “simplified” the complex Nazi state or abridged the Second World War? Is 9/11 really so different?
In recent years, “patriotism,” “ideology,” and “nationalism” have acquired a bad name among our betters. This is a dangerous shame. My first instinct upon reading about Shulan was, “Well, for goodness sake don’t put this man in charge of the Anne Frank Museum . . . ” Alas, that was before a reader wrote to tell me that even the Amsterdam museum honoring the young Holocaust victim has succumbed to such sloppy thinking: I am told that a display on the wall asks visitors to consider if they are “Guilty of patriotism or nationalism?”
Such a question might sound wise, but it is no such thing. The problem with the German people in the 1930s and early 1940s wasn’t that they loved a country or that they thrilled to an ideology but that they loved Germany and thrilled to Nazism. Even George Orwell recognized the dangers of nihilistic detachment. While Orwell was embarrassed that “God Save the King” continued to stir something primeval in him long after his conversion to socialism, he would, he wrote, still “sooner have had that kind of upbringing than be like the left-wing intellectuals who are so ‘enlightened’ that they cannot understand the most ordinary emotions.”
Previously, I have drawn fire for contending that the West is not only morally superior to the rest of the world but that, within the West, the Anglosphere is objectively better than the rest of the West and that, within the Anglosphere, the United States stands out. This is to say neither that the United States is beyond criticism nor that it is perfect. But a nation in which every man is Tacitus cannot and will not stand for long, especially if its cultural institutions are overrun by the hostile and the apathetic.
There is a pernicious school of thought in America that holds that the country cannot possibly be the “best in the world” because it is third in grain exports or seventh in state-run education or because the government doesn’t do exactly what one wishes that it would. This misses the point completely. The United States is paramount among nations because it is based on the best of values and because it is prepared to defend them for itself and for others with force. 

The photograph of the flag being raised at Ground Zero is of a piece with the film of George W. Bush embracing the firemen and with Rudy Giuliani’s immediate resolve to rebuild; and together they serve as the overture to a robust and admirable American defense of self. One rather suspects that it is this, and not a particular picture, to which Mr. Shulan ultimately objects. And that being so, one has to ask: What drew him to the job in the first place?

Rebuilding Life in the Aftermath of Grief. By Peter Wehner.

Rebuilding Life in the Aftermath of Grief. By Peter Wehner. Commentary, July 29, 2013.

The Tragedy of Isolation. By Thomas Sowell.

The Tragedy of Isolation. By Thomas Sowell. Real Clear Politics, July 30, 2013. Also at The American Spectator, National Review Online.


Isolation has held back many peoples in many lands, for centuries.
In the 20th century, Western intellectuals’ two most dominant explanations of disparities in economic, educational and other achievements were innate racial differences in ability (in the early decades) and racial discrimination (in the later decades).
In neither era were the intelligentsia receptive to other explanations. In each era, they were convinced that they had the answer — and dismissed and disparaged those who offered other answers.
Differences in mental test scores among different racial and ethnic groups were taken as proof of genetic differences in innate mental ability during the Progressive era in the early 20th century. Progressives regarded the fact that the average IQ test score among whites was higher than the average among blacks as conclusive proof of genetic determinism.
A closer look at mental test data, however, shows that there were not only individual blacks with higher IQs than most whites, but also whole categories of whites who scored at or below the mental test scores of blacks.
Among American soldiers given mental tests during the First World War, for example, white soldiers from Georgia, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Mississippi scored lower on mental tests than black soldiers from Ohio, Illinois, New York, and Pennsylvania.
Among other groups of whites, those with average mental test scores no higher than the average mental test scores among blacks included those in various isolated mountain communities in the United States, those living in the Hebrides Islands off Scotland and those in isolated canal boat communities in Britain.
Looking at achievements in general, people living in geographically isolated environments around the world have long lagged behind the progress of people with a wider cultural universe, regardless of the race of the people in these isolated places. When the Spaniards discovered the Canary Islands in the 15th century, they found people of a Caucasian race living at a stone age level.
Many mountain communities around the world have also been isolated, especially during the centuries before modern transportation and communications.
These mountain communities were often not only isolated from the outside world but also from each other, even when they were not very far apart as the crow flies, but were separated by rugged mountain terrain.
As distinguished French historian Fernand Braudel put it, “Mountain life persistently lagged behind the plain.” A pattern of poverty and backwardness could be found from the Appalachian Mountains in the United States to the Rif Mountains of Morocco, the Pindus Mountains of Greece and the mountains and uplands of Ceylon, Taiwan, Albania and Scotland.
Cultural isolation due to geographic factors afflicts not only peoples isolated in mountains or on islands far from the nearest mainland, but also peoples isolated by deserts or in places isolated by a lack of navigable waterways — or even by a lack of animal transport, as was the situation in the Western Hemisphere when Europeans arrived and brought horses that were unknown to the indigenous peoples.
Cultural isolation can also be due to government decisions, as when the governments of 15th century China and 17th century Japan deliberately isolated their peoples from the outside world. At that time, China was the leading nation in the world. But it lost that lead during centuries of isolation.
Sometimes isolation is due to a culture that resists learning from other cultures. The Arab Middle East was once more advanced than Europe but, while Europe learned much from the Middle East, the Arab Middle East has not translated as many books from other languages into Arabic in a thousand years as Spain alone translates into Spanish annually.
Against this background, racial and ethnic leaders around the world who promote a separate cultural “identity” are inflicting a handicap on their own people. Isolation has held back many peoples in many lands, for centuries. But such social and cultural isolation serves the interests of today’s ethnic leaders.
They have every incentive to promote a breast-beating isolation. It is a sweet-tasting poison.

The GOP: Rabbits or Tigers? By Jeffrey Lord.

The GOP: Rabbits or Tigers? By Jeffrey Lord. The American Spectator, July 30, 2013.

The GOP Divide On Immigration. By Michael Gerson.

The GOP divide on immigration. By Michael Gerson. Real Clear Politics, July 30, 2013. Also at the Washington Post.

Pamela Geller’s Intolerance Crosses Red Line on Bimah. By Rabbi Eric Yoffie.

Pamela Geller’s Intolerance Crosses Red Line on Bimah. By Rabbi Eric Yoffie. The Jewish Daily Forward, July 29, 2013.

Reuel Gerecht and Jeffrey Goldberg vs. Pamela Geller: Geller Wins. By Pamela Geller and Robert Spenser. Atlas Shrugs, October 13, 2010. Also at Jihad Watch.

Pamela Geller: Outraged, and Outrageous. By Anne Barnard and Alan Feuer. New York Times, October 8, 2010.

Pamela Geller: In Her Own Words. Interviewed by Anne Barnard and Alan Feuer. New York Times, October 8, 2010.

Reuel Gerecht on Pamela Geller’s Foul Anti-Muslim Ideology. By Jeffrey Goldberg. The Atlantic, October 13, 2010.