Don’t be fooled. The rain of scorn from the left currently being poured on Ann Romney is not about women’s rights or feminism. It’s not even about household economics or the impact of stay-at-home moms on education or the workforce. It’s about resentment.
Don’t miss the fact that liberals, all the way up to President Obama, are pushing the idea that what Ann did was a “luxury.” It’s just another jab in the class war, disguised as a feminist issue. What they’re really saying is women like Ann Romney can’t understand the plight of poor moms who have no choice but to work to support their families. On its surface it sounds like a women’s issue, but it’s also a subtle jab about how the “rich,” who can afford to do things like sacrifice one partner’s income, simply don’t understand the lives of people who struggle for money. And the imputation is that it’s unfair.
This is not about women. Like all liberal identity politics, it is never really about women/gays/minorities/whatever. It’s about “fairness,” which is really redistribution. And it’s about power — women are much easier to handle if they’re a uniform block that behaves a certain way. If you manage to diminish or ridicule stay-at-home moms enough that they’re driven out of the public debate, or if you dismiss Catholic women as a backward minority that doesn’t believe in medicine, then what you’re left with is a nicely manageable block of standard liberals that you can herd toward whatever policies you like. And that’s when the real fun starts.
I generally dislike pinning a political opponent’s views on purely corrupt motives. I don’t think that President Obama and his supporters’ policies are driven solely by resentment. But resentment is a political tool that they use to achieve their ends. The President’s uncritical support of the Occupy Wall Street movement is inseparable from his public derision of women who have the “luxury” of staying at home to care for their kids. It’s a calculated gesture to stoke resentment, which herds a political base together to ensure his reelection. None of this is news. But it is a great form of distraction. As long as conservatives and liberals are bickering over the role of women, who has the time or breath to spare to discuss entitlement reform, the administrative state, entrepreneurship, tax reform, Constitutional law, joblessness, welfare, school choice, public sector unions, missile defense, the UN’s powerlessness in Syria, Iran’s saber-rattling, the Eurozone crisis, North Korean brutality, or even a simple thing like what our president actually plans to accomplish if he’s granted a second term?
The moral dilemma accompanying Gilad Shalit’s potential release from Hamas captivity has no easy solution. The cruel reality boils down to this: what is the price of a single human life? Is it worth the return of one thousand captives who may go on to destroy more lives?
For some pious Jews, the answer can be found in the mitzvah of pidyon shvuyim, the mandated good deed of redeeming captives. I think one can begin to find the answer in a broader edict. The Mishna teaches, “Whoever destroys one life is considered by the Torah as if he destroyed an entire world, and whoever saves one life is considered by the Torah as if he saved an entire world.” This is a principle taken up by Christianity as well, embodied in some pious Christians’ opposition to abortion and the death penalty. But the concept of the infinite value of human life goes beyond the ethics of when it is appropriate to take a life. It also touches the ethics of the costs of saving a life.
The lives that might be taken by the terrorists who will be freed are also of infinite value. But their lives might still be protected; and in the meantime, there is another life that can be saved. The moral dilemma of Gilad’s release is still difficult, but a second dilemma has also been raised: the moral dilemma of how we react to it.
There were two waves of reaction on Twitter when the news broke about Gilad’s potential release. The first wave was bittersweet relief. The second wave, a few hours later, was simply bitter.
The current furor on Twitter over the potential guilt Gilad would feel, and the outrage about the deeds of the terrorists being released, saddens me, because it adds an unnecessary layer of shame onto a man who has already suffered more than enough. In some of the anguish people are expressing about the release of Hamas terrorists, it might be easy to forget that it is those terrorists who committed the wrongs that we mourn: not Gilad, not the Israelis who negotiated his return. You cannot commute their guilt onto the innocent parties involved. That also violates the principle that Judaism founded, and Christianity adopted, and that both contributed to modern law: that justice does not permit communal guilt.
The terms of Gilad’s release, though painful to many Israelis, are not totally unwarranted; nor do I think he ought to feel externally-imposed moral guilt about them. The people the Palestinian terrorists have killed are dead; Gilad is (supposedly) alive. I don’t think it’s justifiable to begrudge an attempt to save a living person because it involves a perceived insult to the dead; but I could be wrong.
This is sadly, as Alan Dershowitz has written, “why terrorism works” — because we (the supporters of Western, Judeo-Christian ethics) value life, and terrorists don’t. But that is also what sets us apart from the terrorists. It puts a hobble on efforts to deter and disincentivize terror; but to take the hobble off would be no freedom.