by: R.J. Moeller
A devout Muslim officer in the United States military screams “Allahu Akbar!” before shooting 50 people on an Army base in Texas, murdering at least 13. It is soon learned that the man had a clear track-record of religious zealotry, threatening public statements directed at non-Muslims, and repeated attempts at contacting Al Qaeda.
The response and analysis from Right-of-Center commentators, pundits, and columnists included:
What a surprise — that someone who shouts “Allahu Akbar” (the “God is great” jihadist battle cry) as he is shooting up a room of American soldiers might have Islamist motives…But, of course, if the shooter is named Nidal Hasan, whom National Public Radio reported had been trying to proselytize doctors and patients, then something must be found. Presto! Secondary post-traumatic stress disorder, a handy invention to allow one to ignore the obvious…Have we totally lost our moral bearings? Nidal Hasan (allegedly) cold-bloodedly killed 13 innocent people. In such cases, political correctness is not just an abomination. It's a danger, clear and present. –Charles Krauthammer
President Obama honored the (Fort Hood) victims by immediately warning Americans not to "jump to conclusions" -- namely, the obvious conclusion that the attack was an act of Islamic terrorism. As conclusions go, it wasn't much of a jump. –Ann Coulter
What happened to those men and women at Fort Hood had a horrible symbolism: Members of the best-trained, best-equipped fighting force on the planet gunned down by a guy who said a few goofy things no one took seriously. And that's the problem: America has the best troops and fiercest firepower, but no strategy for throttling the ideology that drives the enemy – in Afghanistan and in Texas. –Mark Steyn
Similar sentiments, condemning Major Hasan’s rampage as a heinous act of Islamic terrorism, were echoed almost across-the-board among conservative writers, thinkers, and politicians.
Then from the Left-of-Center crowd, again almost across-the-board, we heard things like this:
I wish his name was Smith. –Martha Radatz, ABC News
I cringe that he's a Muslim. I mean, because it inflames all the fears. I think he's probably just a nut case. But with that label attached to him, it will get the right wing going and it just -- I mean these things are tragic, but that makes it much worse. –Evan Thomas, Editor of Newsweek
How do we know when someone like Hasan is going to make his move and do we know he's an Islamist until he's made his move? He makes a phone call or whatever, according to Reuters right now. Apparently he tried to contact al Qaeda. Is that the point at which you say, 'This guy is dangerous?' That's not a crime to call up al Qaeda, is it? Is it? -Chris Matthews, Hardball
To one set of people Major Hasan was a misunderstood, disgruntled man whose motivations for slaughtering innocents was a tragic combination of stress and American foreign policy set in to motion by George W. Bush. To another, he was a jihadist terrorist whose perverted understanding of Islam fueled his unforgivable actions.
It is commonly accepted that “politics” is to blame for basically all of the disagreements between Republicans and Democrats, Conservatives and Liberals, Right and Left; but I am not so sure that jockeying for votes in 2010 and beyond is the driving, motivating factor in such divergent opinions as these on the exact same set of facts regarding the Fort Hood murders.
Dr. Thomas Sowell, for my money the wisest economist and conservative commentator alive today, has a theory that he believes helps to explain the uniformity with which Right and Left in this country disagree with one another. Writing in his magnum opus Conflict of Visions, Sowell begins:
One of the curious things about political opinions is how often the same people line up on opposite sides of different issues. The issues themselves may have no intrinsic connection with each other. They may range from military spending to drug laws to monetary policy to education. Yet the same familiar faces can be found glaring at each other from opposite sides of the political fence, again and again. It happens too often to be a coincidence and it is too uncontrolled to be a plot. A closer look at the arguments on both sides often shows that they are reasoning from fundamentally different premises. These different premises – often implicit – are what provide the consistency behind the repeated opposition of individuals and groups on numerous, unrelated issues. They have different visions of how the world works.
I completely appreciate the frustration and weariness that many Americans feel when they hear yet another back-and-forth, party-line fight on Capitol Hill. With 24-hour news channels, unprecedented access to information via the internet, and an entertainment and media industry that never ceases in pushing its own progressively “green” worldview, significant numbers of American voters and taxpayers can end up with CWBF (Culture War Battle Fatigue).
People hear the one political side oppose the other time and again, and eventually this causes them to stop the admittedly arduous (but vitally important) task of wading through which issues and disagreements matter more than others. They stop thinking for themselves and fall back upon party-line voting habits and talking point sound-bites to determine their political, cultural, and economic positions.
And on one hand you can fully understand this. When in doubt, you rely on what your “gut” tells you.
But what is your “gut” filled with? The things that the small voice in your head has to say to you are not spontaneous in the sense that they originate then and there when you need them. They are spontaneous in the sense that you have filled your heart and head with certain and specific beliefs and convictions, and what comes out is what you have already put in. Your “gut” is more like a mirror, which can only reflect what is already there.
Visions are not mere emotional drives. On the contrary they have a remarkable consistency, even if those devoted to these visions have seldom investigated that logic. Nor are visions confined to zealots and ideologues. We all have visions. They are silent shapers of our thoughts.
When President Obama and his Attorney General, Eric Holder, announced last week that the mastermind of 9/11 and four of his co-conspirators would be brought from Guantanamo Bay and the military tribunal that awaited them to New York City where they would be given the same trial American citizens are privy to, the ideological line-in-the-sand was drawn yet again.
Liberals cheered the decision as being the breath of international fresh air the world has been waiting to inhale after years of polluted foreign policy under the Bush-Cheney administration. We’ve been told that these trials will be the best way to prove to the world that the United States is fair and humane. And since these “criminals” want to be martyred, the thinking goes, it is also best that we do not execute them when they are presumably found guilty.
Conversely, conservatives are frustrated with the decision to revert back to the pre-9/11 strategies and policies President Clinton employed to deal with what are clearly non-uniformed “enemy combatants” (who have absolutely no rights under the Geneva Convention) and not common criminals (who are still citizens and have access to the precious rights being a citizen of the freest, most humane nation in human history offers).
There are also logistical and national security complications involving the release of classified information during a federal trial here in the U.S. that are appropriately avoided in military tribunals at Gitmo. The inane argument that we must avoid making martyrs out of radical Muslim killers implies that the United States of America should have its legal and military policies dictated to it by insane people living in caves in Waziristan, and contradicts the Left’s own stance that these “criminals” are not driven by religious zealotry of a particular faith.
The Fort Hood attacks and civilian trials for terrorists in New York City are just two examples of what I’m talking about. Run down the list of the most contentious issues in the culture today and you’ll beat the house betting on ideological regularity in response to whatever the topic may be.
Cap-and-trade: conservatives oppose it for the disastrous impact on our already-disastrous economy, and liberals fervently champion it because Nancy Pelosi told them it will help polar bears. Abortion: conservatives demand life be protected, and liberals uncomfortable with what actually happens to the innocent life in the womb insist that “choice” is the paramount virtue. School vouchers: conservatives desire a de-federalization of the education system, and liberals believe the federal government running the education system (into the ground) is the 11th Commandment Moses forgot to write down.
The list goes on and on.
While it is important to acknowledge that not everyone falls so neatly in to specific ideological camps, it does not take Solomon’s wisdom to recognize that there is a clear, distinct, and reliable view of the world that falls along the ideological lines that generally define conservatives and liberals; Right and Left.
Visions may be moral, political, economic, religious, or social. In these and other realms, we sacrifice for our visions and sometimes, if need be, face ruin rather than betray them. Where visions conflict irreconcilably, whole societies may be torn apart. Conflicts of interests dominate the short run, but conflicts of visions dominate history.
We will do anything for our visions, except think about them.
So, what is your vision? What is the vision of the man or woman you have lent a portion of your Creator-endowed rights (power) to in order that they might represent you at the local, state, and federal level? What is the vision of the people and places you get your information from?
The awkward silence you just heard in your own head is the sound of a nation dying in its sleep.