Politics, Culture, the Public Square
“. . . And beer was drunk with reverence, as it ought to be.” — G. K. Chesterton
Monday, October 31, 2005
“What indeed would it mean for Notre-Dame to become Hagia Sophia on the Seine? The victory of Mohammed over Christ is what it would mean; the Incarnate Son of God displaced by the desert seer with the multiple wives.”
— William Murchison, Touchtone.posted by Paul Cella | 10:53 AM |
This little piece of absurdity reminds me of two facts often neglected.
This is not the place to begin an extended critique of pluralism. But I think we can make a sketch of the real problem by noting the contradiction inherent to it. When a society makes its guiding ideal “all questions are open questions,” makes itself, in theory at least, an Open Society, it has entangled itself in one of the great blunders of modernity. For to pronounce that all questions are open, is to close at least one question of supreme importance — the question, namely, of whether all questions are open. It is to cast religion from the public square, and adopt a kind of implicit theology of noncommitalism or indifference; and every sincere believer, who hears the clear sounding of trumpets calling him to a service which transcends the troubled settlements of the ephemeral City of Man, cannot easily abide this public theology. He knows that his final allegiance cannot be given here below, and this, off at the end, is what the pluralist cannot abide.
A satisfactory solution to this ancient problem is not on offer. We are talking here about one of the oldest and most intractable of all political problems, which has exercised the great minds of philosophers and theologians and historians since we became self-aware. The pluralist’s conceit is that he has solved it for good.posted by Paul Cella | 10:41 AM |
The actor Omar Sharif played Saint Peter in an Italian film. Afterward he was quoted as saying: "Playing Peter was so important for me that even now I can only speak about it with difficulty. It will be difficult for me to play other roles from now on."
The response from some of his fellow Muslims:
Anyone content to regard this threat as empty should consider the fate of Theo van Gogh.
Anyone given to agonizing over "why they hate us" should consider the mentality that makes a man marked for death for speaking tenderly of another religion.posted by Paul Cella | 10:33 AM |
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
Dr. Andrew Bostom is a physician specializing in Epidemiology. Since 1997 he has been part of the full-time medical faculty at one of the two major teaching hospital affiliates of Brown University. His current research focuses on the relationship between kidney and cardiovascular disease. Bostom is also the editor of the newly-released book The Legacy of Jihad, a compendium of writings, both modern and ancient, on the uniquely Islamic institution of Jihad. I interviewed him for Redstate via email over this past week.
PC: Dr. Bostom, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Your new book, The Legacy of Jihad, is a rich and chilling catalogue of the horrors visited upon peoples across the centuries and continents by the Islamic doctrine of holy war and its attendant corollaries; it is scholarly in form and execution, including a number of texts never before available in English; yet you yourself are by profession a medical doctor. Can you tell us about how you became interested in Islam, and how that interest developed into so ambitious a book?
AB: September 11, 2001 shocked me out of the complete absorption in my career in medicine and an accompanying uninformed complacency about world affairs. I grew up in New York City, spending the first 34 years of my life there, and the wife of one of our nephrology fellowship trainees barely made it out of the second World Trade Center tower before it collapsed. The cataclysmic events of 9/11 had very little context for me, so I set out to learn about Islam, reading voraciously. Starting with the writings of Karen Armstrong and John Esposito (how naïve and ironic it seems in retrospect!), I became thoroughly dissatisfied, in short order, with the entire genre of thinly veiled, treacly apologetics, sadly characteristic of modern popular and “academic” works on Islam. So I began what has become a ceaseless endeavor to educate myself, making liberal use of the vast research resources of the Brown University system. Learned, patient mentors, in particular Bat Ye’or and Ibn Warraq, facilitated my efforts. They encouraged me to complete what became The Legacy of Jihad, sharing the view, expressed so appositely by the prominent Middle East Studies Professor, Dr. Raphael Israeli, that the book filled a “yawning gap” in the literature on jihad. That is why in one rather large volume I combined a comprehensive analysis of both jihad theory and practice, the latter being a detailed survey of the brutal way jihad campaigns have always been waged — using a physician’s favorite learning and teaching tool, the mnemonic, in this case “MPED” — massacre, pillage, enslavement, and deportation.
PC: The Legacy of Jihad begins with “A Note on Cover Art” that alone is probably enough to shock and disturb readers unfamiliar (as many will be) with the centrality and antiquity of jihad in Islamic doctrine. Why did you choose the painting you did? To what extent is the event depicted there a pattern for how the Islamic religion came to understand itself?
AB: Tedious research lead to a wonderful discovery. In pouring through each written entry from an enormous catalogue of Persian miniatures held by the British Library (via The British Museum), I came across an item entitled, “The Prophet, Ali, and the Companions at the massacre of the prisoners of the Jewish tribe of Beni Kuraizah [Banu Qurayzah].” Three months later when a CD-ROM arrived in the mail, I was ecstatic to learn that the British Library staff had responded to my special request — based only the title of the miniature — and reproduced what turned out to be this striking image.
September 622 C.E. marks a defining event in Islam — the hijra. Muhammad and a coterie of followers (the Muhajirun), persecuted by fellow Banu Quraysh tribesmen who rejected Muhammad’s authenticity as a divine messenger, fled from Mecca to Yathrib, later known as Medina. The Muslim sources described Yathrib as a Jewish city founded by a Palestinian diaspora population which had survived the revolt against the Romans. Distinct from the nomadic Arab tribes, the Jews of the north Arabian peninsula were highly productive oasis farmers. These Jews were eventually joined by itinerant Arab tribes from southern Arabia who settled adjacent to them and transitioned to a sedentary existence.
Following Muhammad’s arrival in Medina, he re-ordered Medinan society, eventually imposing his authority on each tribe. The Jewish tribes were isolated, some were then expelled, and the remainder attacked and exterminated. A consensus Muslim account of the massacre of the Qurayzah — one of the Jewish tribes of Medina — has emerged as conveyed by classical Muslim scholars of hadith (putative utterances and acts of Muhammad, recorded by pious Muslim transmitters), biographers of Muhammad’s life (especially Ibn Ishaq), jurists, and historians. This narrative is summarized as follows: Alleged to have aided the forces of Muhammad’s enemies in violation of a prior pact, the Qurayzah were subsequently isolated and besieged. Twice the Qurayzah made offers to surrender, and depart from their stronghold, leaving behind their land and property. Initially they requested to take one camel load of possessions per person, but when Muhammad refused this request, the Qurayzah asked to be allowed to depart without any property, taking with them only their families. However, Muhammad insisted that the Qurayzah surrender unconditionally and subject themselves to his judgment. Compelled to surrender, the Qurayzah were lead to Medina. The men with their hands pinioned behind their backs, were put in a court, while the women and children were said to have been put into a separate court. A third (and final) appeal for leniency for the Qurayzah was made to Muhammad by their tribal allies the Aus. Muhammad again declined, and instead he appointed as arbiter Sa’ad Mu’adh from the Aus, who soon rendered his concise verdict: the men were to be put to death, the women and children sold into slavery, the spoils to be divided among the Muslims.
W.H.T. Gairdner, the renowned early 20th century scholar of Islam, also relying exclusively upon Muslim sources, highlights the pivotal role that Muhammad himself played in orchestrating the overall events, concluding:
In the immediate aftermath of the massacre, the Muslims benefited substantially from the Qurayzah’s assets which they seized as booty. The land and property acquired helped the Muslims gain their economic independence. The military strength of the Muslim community of Medina grew due to the weapons obtained. The captured women and children were sold for horses and more weapons. The Jewish tribe of the Qurayzah ceased to exist.
Abu Yusuf (d. 798), the prominent Hanafi jurist who advised Abbasid Caliph Harun al-Rashid (d. 809), made the following observations about the Qurayzah massacre in his writings on jihad, which highlight how the Qurayzah’s grisly fate became a normative model in Islamic Law:
PC: In a recent speech President Bush insisted that the “ideology” of the terrorists, who “distort the idea of jihad,” is “very different from the religion of Islam” and indeed “exploits Islam to serve a violent, political vision.” In your view, is the President’s assessment sound?
AB: The President’s comments regarding jihad were a profound disappointment. Indeed, such words could have been written and uttered by the most uninformed, or deliberately disingenuous apologists for this devastating institution, which is uniquely Islamic, well over a millennium old, and still wreaking havoc today.
The origins of the Muslim institution of jihad are found in the Qur’an. Sura (chapter) 9 is devoted in its entirety to war proclamations. There we read that the Muslim faithful are to “slay the idolaters wherever you find them. . . . Fight against such as those who have been given the scripture as believe not in Allah. . . . Go forth, light-armed and heavy armed, and strive with your wealth and your lives in the way of Allah. That is best for you, if ye but knew.” From such verses in the Qur’an and in the hadith, Muslim jurists and theologians formulated the Islamic institution of permanent jihad war against non-Muslims to bring the world under Islamic rule (Shari’a law).
The consensus on the nature of jihad from major schools of Islamic jurisprudence is clear. Summarizing this consensus of centuries of Islamic thought, the seminal Muslim scholar Ibn Khaldun, who died in 1406, wrote:
Only Islam, Ibn Khaldun added, “is under obligation to gain power over other nations.”
Muhammad himself waged a series of proto-jihad campaigns to subdue the Jews, Christians and pagans of Arabia. For example, within a year after the massacre of the Banu Qurayzah, referred to earlier, Muhammad, according to a summary of sacralized Muslim sources,
Ali (later, the fourth “Rightly Guided Caliph”, and especially revered by Shi’ite Muslims) asked Muhammad why the Jews of Khaybar were being attacked, since they were peaceful farmers, tending their oasis, and was told by Muhammad he must compel them to submit to Islamic Law.
The renowned early 20th century scholar of Islam, David Margoliouth, observed aptly: “Now the fact that a community was idolatrous, or Jewish, or anything but Mohammedan, warranted a murderous attack upon it.”
Within two years of Muhammad’s death, Abu Bakr, the first Caliph, launched the Great Jihad. The ensuing three decades witnessed Islam’s most spectacular expansion, as Muslim armies subdued the entire Arabian peninsula, and conquered territories which had been in Greco-Roman possession since the reign of Alexander the Great.
The essential pattern of the jihad war is captured in the classical Muslim historian al-Tabari’s recording of the recommendation given by Umar b. al-Khattab (the second “Rightly Guided Caliph”) to the commander of the troops he sent to al-Basrah (636 C.E.), during the conquest of Iraq. Umar reportedly said:
By the time of al-Tabari’s death in 923, jihad wars had expanded the Muslim empire from Portugal to the Indian subcontinent. Subsequent Muslim conquests continued in Asia, as well as Eastern Europe. The Christian kingdoms of Armenia, Byzantium, Bulgaria, Serbia, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Croatia, and Albania, in addition to parts of Poland and Hungary, were also conquered and Islamized. Arab Muslim invaders engaged, additionally, in continuous jihad raids that ravaged and enslaved Sub-Saharan African animist populations, extending to the southern Sudan. When the Muslim armies were stopped at the gates of Vienna in 1683, over a millennium of jihad had occurred. These tremendous military successes spawned a triumphalist jihad literature. Muslim historians recorded in detail the number of infidels slaughtered, or enslaved and deported, the cities and villages which were pillaged, and the lands, treasure, and movable goods seized. Christian (Coptic, Armenian, Jacobite, Greek, Slav, etc.), as well as Hebrew sources, and even the scant Hindu and Buddhist writings which survived the ravages of the Muslim conquests, independently validate this narrative, and complement the Muslim perspective by providing testimonies of the suffering of the non-Muslim victims of jihad wars.
It is the consensus view of orthodox Islamic jurisprudence regarding jihad, since its formulation during the 8th and 9th centuries, through the current era, that non-Muslims peacefully going about their lives — from the Khaybar farmers whom Muhammad ordered attacked in 628, to those sitting in the World Trade Center on 9/11/01 — are muba’a in the Dar ul Harb. And these innocent non-combatants can be killed, and have always been killed, with impunity simply by virtue of being “harbis” during endless razzias or full scale jihad campaigns that have occurred continuously since the time of Muhammad, through the present. This is the crux of the institutionalized ideology that we are fighting, i.e., jihad, notwithstanding President Bush’s unfortunate public mischaracterization.
PC: The term dhimmitude has entered general parlance in many intellectual circles, due in large part to the work of Bat Ye'or. You rely on it in your book as well. Can you give us a description of its genesis and development?
AB: In The Laws of Islamic Governance al-Mawardi (d. 1058), a renowned jurist of Baghdad, examined the regulations pertaining to the lands and infidel (i.e., non-Muslim) populations subjugated by jihad. This is the origin of the system of dhimmitude. The native infidel population had to recognize Islamic ownership of their land, submit to Islamic law, and accept payment of the poll tax (jizya). al-Mawardi highlights the most significant aspect of this consensus view of the jizya in classical Islamic jurisprudence: the critical connection between jihad and payment of the jizya. He notes that “The enemy makes a payment in return for peace and reconciliation.” Al-Mawardi then distinguishes two cases: (I) Payment is made immediately and is treated like booty, however “it does, however, not prevent a jihad being carried out against them in the future.” (II). Payment is made yearly and will “constitute an ongoing tribute by which their security is established.” Reconciliation and security last as long as the payment is made. If the payment ceases, then the jihad resumes. A treaty of reconciliation may be renewable, but must not exceed 10 years. In the chapter “The Division of the Fay and the Ghaneemah” (booty), al- Mawardi examines the regulations pertaining to the land taken from the infidels. With regard to land taken through treaty, specifically, he indicates two possibilities: either the infidels convert or they pay the jizya and their life and belongings are protected. And the nature of such “protection” is clarified in this definition of jizya by the respected Arabic lexicographer, E.W. Lane, based on a careful analysis of the etymology of the term:
Another important aspect of the jizya is the widely upheld view of the classical schools of Islamic jurisprudence about the deliberately humiliating imposition and procurement of this tax. Here is a discussion of the ceremonial for collection of the jizya by the 13th century Shafi’i jurist an-Nawawi:
Two remarkable accounts demonstrate the humiliating conditions under which the jizya was still being collected within the modern era. An Italian Jew traveling in Morocco in 1894, reported the following:
And in a letter from January 30, 1911 by Avram Elmaleh, Head of the Fez boys' school, to the President of the Alliance Israelite Universelle, Paris, we learn the degrading conditions imposed upon the rabbinical leaders of the Moroccan Jewish community, in connection with “community business” (i.e., such as payment of the jizya), even into the second decade of the 20th century:
The “contract of the jizya,” or “dhimma” encompassed other obligatory and recommended obligations for the conquered non-Muslim “dhimmi” peoples. Collectively, these “obligations” formed the discriminatory system of dhimmitude imposed upon non-Muslims-Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians, Hindus, and Buddhists-subjugated by jihad. Some of the more salient features of dhimmitude include: the prohibition of arms for the vanquished non-Muslims (dhimmis), and of church bells; restrictions concerning the building and restoration of churches, synagogues, and temples; inequality between Muslims and non-Muslims with regard to taxes and penal law; the refusal of dhimmi testimony by Muslim courts; a requirement that Jews, Christians, and other non-Muslims, including Zoroastrians and Hindus, wear special clothes; and the overall humiliation and abasement of non-Muslims. It is important to note that these regulations and attitudes were institutionalized as permanent features of the sacred Islamic law, or Shari' a. The writings of the much lionized Sufi theologian and jurist al-Ghazali highlight how the institution of dhimmitude was simply a normative, and prominent feature of the Shari'a:
Bat Ye’or is the most informed and insightful contemporary scholar of those unique Islamic institutions which regulate the relations between Muslims and non-Muslims: jihad, and its corollary institution, dhimmitude, the repressive and humiliating system of governance imposed upon those non-Muslims (i.e., dhimmis) subjugated by jihad. Although she coined the term dhimmitude, Bat Ye’or’s characterization of the salient features of this institution is entirely consistent with the views of important scholars from the early 20th century, for example, Sir Jadunath Sarkar, and Ivo Andric. Sarkar, the pre-eminent historian of Mughal India, wrote the following in 1920 regarding the impact of centuries of jihad and dhimmitude on the indigenous Hindus of the Indian subcontinent:
Andric, a trained historian and Nobel Prize winning historical novelist, analyzed the “rayah” (meaning “herd”, and “to graze a herd”) or dhimmi condition imposed upon the indigenous Christian population of Bosnia, for over four centuries. Those native Christian inhabitants who refused to apostasize to Islam lived under the Ottoman Kanun-i-Rayah, which merely reiterated the essential regulations of dhimmitude originally formulated by Muslim jurists and theologians in the 7th and 8th centuries. Andric mustered
Andric cites a Bosnian Muslim proverb, and a song honoring Sultan Bayezid II, whose shared perspectives reflect Muslim attitudes toward the Christian rayahs:
These prevailing discriminatory conditions were exacerbated by Bosnia’s serving as either a battlefield or staging ground during two centuries of Ottoman razzias and formal jihad campaigns against Hungary. Overcome by excessive taxation and conscript labor,
Moreover, those Christians living in towns suffered from the rayah system’s mandated impediments to commercial advancement by non-Muslims:
Christians were also forced to pay disproportionately higher taxes than Muslims, including the intentionally degrading non-Muslim poll-tax.
The specific Kanun-i-Rayah stipulations which prohibited the rayahs from riding a saddled horse, carrying a saber or any other weapon in or out of doors, selling wine, letting their hair grow, or wearing wide sashes, were strictly enforced until the mid-19th century. Hussamudin-Pasa, in 1794 issued an ordinance which prescribed the exact color and type of clothing the Bosnian rayah had to wear. Barbers were prohibited from shaving Muslims with the same razors used for Christians. Even in bathhouses, Christians were required to have specifically marked towels and aprons to avoid confusing their laundry with laundry designated for Muslims. Until at least 1850, and in some parts of Bosnia, well into the 1860s, a Christian upon encountering a Muslim, was required to jump down from his (unsaddled) horse, move to the side of the road, and wait for the latter to pass.
Christianity’s loud and most arresting symbol, church bells, Andric notes, always drew close, disapproving Turkish scrutiny, and, “Wherever there invasions would go, down came the bells, to be destroyed or melted into cannon.” Predictably,
The imposition of such disabilities, Andric observes, extended beyond church ceremonies, as reflected by a 1794 proclamation of the Serbian Orthodox church in Sarajevo warning Christians not to
Andric concludes, “For their Christian subjects, their [Ottoman Turkish] hegemony brutalized custom and meant a step to the rear in every respect.”
The degrading and discriminatory system of dhimmitude has never been acknowledged let alone condemned by either the governments, or elites of the (more than 50) contemporary member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Thus, not surprisingly, dhimmitude has survived into the present era, wholly intact in the most repressive Muslim theocracies like (Sunni) Saudi Arabia and (Shi’ite) Iran, but also at least as a forme fruste, in every other Islamic nation. As a result, religious persecution against non-Muslim minorities remains endemic to Islamic societies, on an unparalleled scale.
PC: Given the nature of Islam as laid out by the Islamic authorities you have quoted, what is a Western policy toward Islam, including the sensitive issue of Muslim immigration to the West, consistent with these Islamic realities?
AB: I agree with the thrust of what Dr. Raphael Israeli described in his seminal analysis of modern jihad terrorism published in 2003. He proposes the creation of an Alliance of Western and Democratic States (AWADS), consisting of a nucleus of the United States, Canada, Australia, and Western Europe (and these core nations can sponsor other countries proven to conform to its rules and standards, for example, India), with the following six avowed “rules of engagement”:
PC: Given the resistance among Americans to anything that smacks of discrimination, what steps might we take to emasculate the doctrine of jihad?
AB: Fifteen years ago (September, 1990), Bat Ye’or made these prescient observations regarding what needed to be done by the Muslim leadership and clerical and intellectual elites to initiate an Islamic version of Vatican II, a sort of “Mecca-Cairo-Qom-Najaf One (I)” self-examination, mea culpa, and reform process:
Sadly, a decade and one half later, most Muslim (and many Western) intellectuals continue to justify the concept of jihad as an inoffensive spiritual engagement with one’s own evil instincts, or purely “defensive” combat for “justice,” and dhimmitude is still completely denied, ignored or obfuscated. Therefore non-Muslims of all kinds who have been victimized and continue to be victimized by these heinous Muslim institutions must abandon their silence and be encouraged to describe this history openly in the hope that this process will elicit a sincere movement of acknowledgement, reform, and reconciliation within the world Muslim community. Admittedly, we seem generations away from such an overall process now. Thus in the interim, those preaching the bigoted and murderous doctrines of jihad within the West should be deported. Moreover, we in the West must press our political and religious leaders to demand that such bellicose, hate-mongering “educational” practices be abolished in all Islamic nations, without exception, under threat of severe, broad ranging economic sanctions.
Friday, October 14, 2005
A fellow Redstate Editor, who goes by the pen-name Streiff, has given some thought to the implications of the Zawahiri letter, and his analysis, while cautious, is encouraging.
There is some question about the authenticity of the letter. But even if it is a fake, one is inclined to wonder whether it is a “good” fake. Few things are more important than disturbing the confidence and equanimity of the enemy, of making him doubt his allies and question his means. The psychological character of this war should not be dismissed.posted by Paul Cella | 11:03 AM |
Thursday, October 13, 2005
The fine publishing house Liberty Fund generously sent me another of its handsome volumes. Liberty, Order and Justice by James McClellan. In my own opinion, and quite aside from the formidable fact that virtually everything published by Liberty Fund is worth reckoning, the aesthetic quality of these books is quite unparalleled in modern publishing. They are simply a pleasure to read. Rarely, however, are they particular easy to read; for Liberty Fund is not afraid to bring out something that will work the reader hard — by which I emphatically do not mean the sort of fabricated hard work that our brassbound literature professors, in their pompous obscurity, have been foisting on unsuspecting students for the last twenty-five years, but rather the kind of serious and exhilarating hard work that serious books once demanded, and occasionally still demand, of readers.
But I mention all this in order to take note of the quotation that greets the reader upon opening this book:
Now that, friends, is the way to open a book on American government.
This reminded me, by one of those strange indescribable flashes of memory, of the prefatory note that the historian Paul Johnson appended to his grand book A History of the American People:
It occurs to me that many books have striking and powerful prefatory notices; the sort of thing that really grabs hold of your attention by telling you something at once defiant and reassuring about the book before you. I open this to my readers: Do you have any other examples? Leave a comment or email me and I’ll post them.posted by Paul Cella | 9:40 PM |
My reply to the next GOP fundraising letter I receive: link.posted by Paul Cella | 11:15 AM |
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
There is, I suppose, some hope in the analysis of this article. That there is evident dissension among the ranks of the jihadists is cause for, if not optimism, at least a certain satisfaction. We read, for example, of one Abu Baseer al-Tartusi, a Londoner and “major jihadi ideologue,” who has dissented from the dominant position that the massacre of civilians is justified by Islamic doctrine. Well and good. But then we get this:
In other words, we have one principled dissent from a scholar credible with our enemies in four years.posted by Paul Cella | 9:16 AM |
Thursday, October 06, 2005
A question that all of us on the Right are now wrestling with, and that many of us have been wrestling with for some time, is, Do we trust the leadership of President Bush and the governing coalition he leads? The proximate cause of the new intensity surrounding this question, of course, is the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. I will not rehearse the specifics of the dispute over this nomination (any reader of this website, and a hundred others, will be familiar enough with them), except to say again that it comes down to an issue of trust — trust in its very special application to the political leadership of a republic. The Right has seen its men carried in victory to the highest governing authority in America, has seen its leaders become the nation’s leaders, in politics and to some degree in the vast apparatus of opinion and public discussion surrounding politics, and yet the Right finds itself facing a lacerating question: Can we still trust them?
This question is one of no mean importance, nor is it one that admits of facile solution. It is, indeed, a reformulation in contemporary terms of one of the most basic and ancient of the political problems confronting mankind. It is the problem of patriotic allegiance. All great things — freedom, for instance, or justice — when they enter into human politics become problems. They become elusive and controversial and baffling; they cannot be perfected or perfectly preserved; yet neither can they ever be abandoned. They are problems: this one is among the greatest. And I think much of the passion and even ferocity of the debate over the President’s Supreme Court nomination can be better understood, and hopefully mitigated, when we recognize that the debate has managed to implicate the much larger problem of patriotic allegiance.
Now let us have no illusions about the terrible weight suggested by that phrase, “patriotic allegiance”: If we begin from the premise that no earthly leader can possibly fulfill the longings for true Leadership which lie within the hearts of all men, then we can quickly reason to a tremendous and likely insoluble dilemma. The problem of patriotism must always take into account the particular character of the leadership of the nation; and the answer it will give must always descend to the final prudence and judgment of the citizen. The citizen, having thought deeply about the quality and integrity of his nation, and in that context, the leadership of his nation, is called upon to decide for himself lineaments of his allegiance. It cannot be that his nation commands his allegiance absolutely; I think everyone will recognize that a patriotism which knows no moral limits is fanaticism. Patriotism is not the highest good. Thus the problem can be put this way: How does the citizen ultimately balance his loyalty to his city, his nation, his country, his homeland, with his loyalty to a transcendent order of justice?
At the very heart of the predicament of this nation — a predicament characteristic of all the Western world — is the firm resolution of many citizens, unspoken and unexamined though it may often be, that the balance is settled against their country; that, in short, their country has departed so far from obligations of justice that patriotic allegiance is no longer defensible. This resolution, I fear, very often rests on one of two dreadful blunders, the first about the nature of man, the second not so much a blunder as a derangement: (1) Many have implicitly imbibed that blunder which, imagining that man and society are perfectible, goes by the name utopianism. (2) Still more have fallen under a kind of displacement psychosis, where a single man (Bush) becomes the foil for all their burning resentments and bitter disappointment about their country. Led by these two blunders — and of course some are influenced by not one or the other but both — men have resolved that America is unworthy of allegiance, except in the most nebulous regions of abstraction. The resolution, moreover, is seldom uttered openly but rather whispered or hinted, or clung to in brooding silence; and being concealed and suppressed, it is all the more poisonous. But beyond any doubt a significant minority of Americans have given up on their country; they no longer love her, because for them she is no longer lovable. They are predominantly but not exclusively men of the Left, and while their sincerity is not to be suspected, their good faith is.
Whatever we may think of these poor souls — and most of us, let us say candidly, are horrified and disgusted by them — it cannot be said that the dilemma which broke them as patriots, the principled dilemma of allegiance, is easily dismissed. No indeed: we can see it ourselves, off in the distance, looming as it has over the human condition since the beginning; and now aggravated by a crushing disappointment on a matter of the profoundest gravity. We do not share our opponents’ confusion of the character of the nation with the character of its leadership, do not, in brief, allow President Bush to become a stand-in for all that we despise in our country; but we do emphatically share their dilemma. We do emphatically know, (1) that a good patriot might be forced to choose for his country even at the expense of the leader who seems to speak for her; and (2), off at the end, that the good man might be forced to choose between allegiance to his native land and loyalty to natural right. We do emphatically sense that oldest of conflicts between politics and philosophy.
To bring this discussion — which threatens by my own hand to race off into bewildering abstractions — back down to earth, I will set down four propositions. (1) The United States Supreme Court has established itself as the final constitutional authority on a great swath of the most perplexing and difficult issues before us. (2) Everybody realizes this and thus the nomination and confirmation of a new justice to the Court has become a principal drama in our political life. (3) This drama must, if we are to remain a republic, include not merely the influence, but the decisive influence of the sovereign people. (4) If it does not — if, that is, the people are removed from the position of sovereign, then a great many of the discerning among them will find themselves, almost against their will, forced to wrestle with that old and pulverizing question of allegiance: They will be forced to wonder whether a republic that is no longer a republic merits full loyalty; whether an illegitimate aristocracy of attorneys is a regime deserving of reverence; whether the usurpation of republican politics by the judiciary shall be allowed to continue with the acquiescence of both parties.
By no means do I say that President Bush precipitated this crisis alone by his nomination. Nothing could be further from the truth. The crisis has been growing on us like a cancer for forty years at least. It might even be that the possibility for this unique doom was unknowingly embedded in the very framework of our constitution as a people. Whatever be the truth, there can be little doubt that we will continue to have crises akin to this one so long as we suffer the Supreme Court to be our final authority on matters of great importance.posted by Paul Cella | 2:11 PM |
Monday, October 03, 2005
National Review reprints its obituary for Tolkien, now thirty years old.posted by Paul Cella | 1:16 PM |
8:18 AM |