By Lawrence Brown
August 19, 2011
In one form or another, conservative movements have accused liberals of having either an inability or an unwillingness to defend their country and its values.
The Nazis promised to undo the effects of liberalism on Europe and defend Christianity, even while they contemplated removing the Old Testament from the Bible. At the Nuremburg war-crimes tribunal, Hermann Goering explained how the Nazis came to power. "It's always a simple matter to drag the people along. All you have to do is tell them they're being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."
So the claim that liberals are "exposing the country to danger" may be sincere, but it's often an artifice to gain political advantage.
Meanwhile, most of us are not politicians; we are neighbours, citizens of one country. Although we may be partisan, we can be wrong without being traitors.
We have Muslims living in America; Europeans have theirs. Recently a Norwegian bombed a civic building and shot down dozens of children, hoping thereby to shock his countrymen into an awareness that their Muslim population put European civilization at risk. Because he believed "liberal elites" defended the Muslims, he shot as many of their children as he could find at a summer camp.
No politician Left or Right is excusing the assassin's murderous behavior, but we do have an argument still. Was the assassin's concern justified “and is the American Left in any way aiding and abetting a radical Islamist takeover of the West?
If the assassin was concerned that Norwegian society was being subverted by Islam, it's worth noting that its population is about 3 percent Muslim. Muslims make up a scant 1 percent of our population here.
While we know that even a few dozen terrorists are capable of inflicting serious damage anywhere, let's try a simple reality check. Check the content of movies, TV, magazines, Yellow Pages. How many mosques are in your area and how many churches? How many Muslims are in government? Have we Islamicized our court procedures anywhere in the country? What you'll find is that America remains American to its fingertips. Only in the hermetically sealed chambers of political extremism do the assassin's fears make any sense at all.
It is true: liberals have historically defended minorities and the beleaguered. But the liberal impulse got us the weekend, available contraception, the Civil Rights Act, and turned America into an increasingly generous and open society. Now the argument is being made that this tolerant impulse protects Islamic terrorists. For that to make sense, we have to argue that even so-called "moderate" Muslim groups are fronts for international terrorism “and by extension, all Muslims constitute either an immediate or potential threat.
Should all that be true, then the liberal tolerance of Islam is misguided at best — and treasonous at worst.
If true, since there are more liberals than Muslims, liberals would pose the greater threat. That's why the assassin went after liberals, not Muslims. Virtually every major right-wing media pundit has accused both Islam of sedition and liberals of complicity — and claim that nothing less than Western civilization hangs in the balance. This was the assassin's logic also.
Terrorism remains a serious threat, but most of the world's Muslims will tell you that radical Islam poses a greater danger to them than to us. (Al-Qaida kills eight times more Muslims than Westerners.)
Every country has the right to insist that its immigrants are not only seeking a better life but have come to embrace the core values of the host country, including tolerance of racial, ethnic differences, and the Western approach to freedom and law.
"With candles and roses," said Norwegian politicians, "we will send the world a message that we will not let fear break us. We will come together to punish the killer “with more generosity, more tolerance and more democracy."
That's how it's done.
Lawrence Brown of Hyannis teaches humanities at Cape Cod Academy. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.