The Tar Pit

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Hugh Hewitt misses the Inaugural point he was meant to miss

About the President's Inaugural Address, Hugh Hewitt writes, "here's the paragraph that I think provides the key for understanding the speech:"

"From the perspective of a single day, including this day of dedication, the issues and questions before our country are many. From the viewpoint of centuries, the questions that come to us are narrowed and few. Did our generation advance the cause of freedom? And did our character bring credit to that cause?"

Hewitt explains:

"These are the questions that have not yet been fully answered and about which debate rages every day both here and abroad. But they are the crucial questions, and the president's speech was intended to and did in fact focus the country and the world on the right questions, and eloquently frames the view that matters most, that of generations not yet born."

The questions are indeed crucial, but Hugh glosses over the context of the President's two preceding paragraphs:

"In America's ideal of freedom, the public interest depends on private character -- on integrity, and tolerance toward others, and the rule of conscience in our own lives. Self-government relies, in the end, on the governing of the self. That edifice of character is built in families, supported by communities with standards, and sustained in our national life by the truths of Sinai, the Sermon on the Mount, the words of the Koran, and the varied faiths of our people. Americans move forward in every generation by reaffirming all that is good and true that came before -- ideals of justice and conduct that are the same yesterday, today, and forever.

In America's ideal of freedom, the exercise of rights is ennobled by service, and mercy, and a heart for the weak. Liberty for all does not mean independence from one another. Our nation relies on men and women who look after a neighbor and surround the lost with love. Americans, at our best, value the life we see in one another, and must always remember that even the unwanted have worth. And our country must abandon all the habits of racism, because we cannot carry the message of freedom and the baggage of bigotry at the same time."

I've analyzed the serious problems with the President's ill-advised reference to the Koran in a positive light here. Today a caller phoned in to Hugh's radio show and mentioned her unease with the President's remarks about the Koran. Hugh gave it a sort of an Allah's Family Values spin and the caller hung up relieved, but without cause.

The Koran is instrumental in building the kind of character that denies freedom rather than advances it. If the President and others shade the truth about Islam, then however our generation may have advanced freedom, millions will remain in or return to bondage.

In following his elevation of the Koran, the President admonishes that "our country must abandon all the habits of racism, because we cannot carry the message of freedom and the baggage of bigotry at the same time."

Bigotry against whom? In this context, the President can only mean bigotry against the followers of Mohammed who are building their characters on the poisonous words of the Koran.

Is it bigotry to state that Nazism and Communism are incompatible with freedom? Not in a thousand years. It would certainly be bigotry to say that Germans and Russians are incapable of preserving a free and democratic society, just as it would be bigotry to say that Arabs are likewise incapable. In our lifetimes the Lebanese enjoyed a free and open society before their Civil War, before the Muslims drove out the Christians.

Here is a real question for our Age:

Is Islam capable of a free and pluralistic society?

Turkey is the best attempt, but the Turks have driven out most of their Christian population in the last fifty years, and fifty years before that the waning Ottomans saved them the trouble of driving out Assyrians and Armenians by way of a series of genocides. Even today the Kurds bridle under Turkish rule. So, whatever one might list as Turkish accomplishments, pluralism and freedom for religious and ethnic minorities are lacking.

This is not bigotry, this is History.

So, let the democratic experiments in Iraq and Afghanistan proceed, because the experiment is noble though misguided, but not without our eyes wide open. The nations of the Middle East are plagued by a triumphalist and tyrannical religion. Even if Mohammedan passions abate for a time, the words of the Suras, the exhortations to jihad and the curses on Jews and Christians will await an inevitable rediscovery and revival.

On that day, the cause of freedom will not advance.