We are all very lucky to live in the Civilization of the West
Clintonian and Cartesian Angst
I just arrived back to California after a wonderful five-week teaching stint at Hillsdale College in Michigan—to blue skies, raisins safely in the roll, the farm in good shape thanks to the renter and my son, and constant televised clips from Bill Clinton’s embarrassing, but staged rant.
Why when leaving office did we hear little, if any, second guessing—much less criticism of their successors—from Gerry Ford, Ronald Reagan, or George Bush, Sr.—but lots of self-serving revisionism from Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton? Ford and the elder Bush, after all, were both defeated at the polls and might have voiced hurt at their fates?
In contrast, Carter and Clinton, as self-appointed moral censors, have a bad habit of campaigning for international approval (remember Carter’s embarrassing lobbying for the Nobel Prize) by ankle-biting current American Presidents, and by extension their very alma mater. It was forgotten in the repulsion over Carter’s smug 2003 wartime criticism of George W. Bush, that after 9/11 Clinton lectured the world on American sins dating back to William Tecumseh Sherman, praised Iranian democracy, and from time to time went off on “right wingers.”
Three explanations explain this postpartum ex-presidential depression: one, the country has moved steadily rightward—Congress, the Presidency, the Supreme Court, and state governments. So much of the whining is from the out-of-power, know-it-all and self-anointed, who, like precious wounded fawns, resent deeply their perceived wounds and lick publicly their scrapes.
Second, there is a lot of acclaim and money to be made by jetting around the globe, finger-pointing about right-wing insensitivity, the environment (so much for the ecological consequences of flying on private planes), third-world poverty, and American hubris.
Third, we are nearing an election, and a blow-up by Clinton can be passed off as yelling out “truth to power” as an out-of-office, unapologetic Democrat takes on “Fox News,” thereby galvanizing the true believers. Clinton as either truthful or without resources is, of course, laughable; but then so were his other roles as serious historian, global humanitarian, lip-biting empath, professorial wonk, and sensual, caring alpha-male. He is what he is—a half-grown-up, but canny chameleon, blessed with considerable skills at the impromptu rant and instant repartee, with a sharp mind and little real knowledge that ensure he has a veneer of impressive knowledge about an inch thick.
Leftwing politics and hyper-privilege are a bad mix, winning hypocrisy as an additional wage to self-righteous impracticality—as we see from the likes of a John and Mrs. Kerry, George Soros, and Ted Turner.
The truth? Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton are both small-minded men, with a wide mean streak. And for all the smiles and deference to folksy Protestant religion, they display an un-Christian vindictiveness that makes us happy they are not in office. A psychiatrist would diagnose all sorts of neuroses of compensation and projection, their psyches finding overt ways of balancing (and hiding) some very dark emotions. When Clinton leaned over to Chris Wallace and ranted about his smirk, I was reminded of the deified Carter promising to kick Ted Kennedy’s ass and telling the world in 1988 that George Bush, Sr. was effeminate.
Will Latin American Politics Follow Illegal Aliens?
Hugo Chavez’s primordial rant, the antics of Evo Morales, the likelihood of a Sandinista victory, along with noises from the recent Mexican election and near insurrection in Oaxaca, should remind us that Latin America, for all its natural riches and hard-won democracies, is still dysfunctional.
Its poverty, as in the Arab world, is too often blamed on Yanquis, gringos, and foreigners, rather than the lack of property rights, transparent government, personal freedom, the rule of law, and open markets.
And this anger frames the entire ongoing debate over illegal immigration in new and disturbing ways. Does the United States really wish to allow in over a million illegal aliens per year, who flee the chaos south of the border, but not necessarily the endemic anger that someone else is responsible for their misery rather than their culture at large? In concrete fact, of course, aliens know that something north of the border results in a system of wealth, security, and freedom, but in romance they often cling to the notion that an oppressive foreign way of doing things owes them what they cannot obtain—as we see not just voiced in marches of illegal aliens, but in the antics of the open borders lobbyists and politicians here in the United States.
Move the UN?
Is there any reason for the United Nations to stay in New York? The combination of its affluence and celebrity-driven culture draws in an odious international cadre, one that hates the United States (witness the applause for Chavez) as much as it enjoys living here. Surely it could move to Nigeria, Dafur, Cuba, or Venezuela, where its sensitive membership would be closer to real problems, well away from the television studios and five-star restaurants? Once again, privilege and left-wing piety are a bad combo.
When Not Enough is Too Much
One of the most disturbing facets of the current war is the sinking realization that we are not fully mobilized against Islamic fascism, that we underplay its dangers—even as we are damned for being Islamophobes.
The Pope incident is a prime example of how the world should be outraged that Muslims are issuing threats and promises of retribution against someone who in academese referred to age-old Islamic propensities for violence. Instead, Europe scrambled to apologize.
What to do about such a syndrome? We saw it in the 1930s when Europe tried to appease Hitler when it should have been building far more tanks. It is indeed an entirely human phenomenon that when we confront a reality too awful to contemplate—that a large part of the world hates Western liberality for what it is rather than anything it has done, and has the wealth and thus soon the means to act on that venom—we construct mental escapes of denial, appeasement, and obsequiousness, turning on each other for insensitivity rather than on the perpetrators for their hate.
Let us hope that there is not another 9/11 which would shatter such a glass edifice rather quickly, but instead pray that the public can be educated about the danger and the unique exceptionalism of its culture of the West, which after all, is really humankind’s last and only hope.
The Benevolence of the West
Throughout these last crazy weeks, I have been struck by Western tolerance and benevolence. Can you imagine, as Pakistan’s Musharref does, a President Bush publishing his book in Pakistan and then touring the Hindu Kush, hawking its message of criticism of his host to local tribes?
Or can you imagine, thousands in the street in the US or Europe, chanting ‘Death to Islam’ over the latest theocratic rant from Iran or Saudi Arabia?
Or better yet, imagine how 15,000 American Christian students would be treated in Saudi Arabia, had 15 Americans blown up 3,000 Saudis.
Or contemplate enormous Christian Churches being built by expatriate Americans in Riyadh?
Or what if the Pope thought the Islamic exclusion of infidels from Mecca was a good idea worth emulating, and thus no non-Christians could enter either Rome or the Vatican?
The West really is the world’s life raft, and that is why immigration—civilization’s precious barometer of men’s innermost thoughts—always flows from East to West, never vice versa.
Article printed from Works and Days: https://pjmedia.com/victordavishanson
URL to article: https://pjmedia.com/victordavishanson/we_are_very_lucky_to_live_in_t