Tuesday, April 05, 2005

What Causes Terrorism? Terrorists...

Okay, after going all touchy-feely on that last post, I'm shifting into attack mode. The Bernoulli Effect reminds me of one of my biggest beefs with 'progressives': the desire to 'understand the roots' of terrorism. This, of course, is famously the same disagreement that resulted in the rupture between Christopher Hitchens and the Left. I spoke in the previous post about questioning assumptions; the assumption here, and I believe it is greviously mistaken, is that if the United States were somehow more just, more of a good global citizen, we wouldn't have people flying airplanes into skyscrapers. Bull, I say, and bull again.

Talk about your slippery slopes...it doesn't take much imagination to see how an 'understanding' view of terrorism leads quite quickly to a Ward Churchill with his 'little Eichmanns' and 'coming home to roost' garbage. I'm not interested in painting a hagiographic portrait of a U.S. that's faultless; of course, we've made mistakes, and we've been on the wrong side a few times.

Far more frequently, though, we've been on the right side. The United States has, for a couple of centuries, stood as a beacon of freedom and opportunity that draws in immigrants likes moths to a flame. How many millions have left behind oppression and found their dreams here, we will never know...yes, some fail, and yes, at times, there is injustice, but I'll take my chances here over anywhere else.

My favorite foreign language movie is 'Au Revoir, Les Enfants' (Goodbye Children) by the great French director Louis Malle. It's a beautiful movie about a private school run by monks in German-occupied France that is secretly sheltering Jewish children from the Nazis. The monks, as a treat for the children, arrange a screening of Charlie Chaplin movies. The boys are greatly entertained, laughing at the antic's of Chaplin's Little Tramp, and cutting up as only young boys can.

Then the Chaplin short 'The Immigrant', from 1917, is shown, and as the Statue of Liberty comes into view in New York Harbor, a hush comes over the room. The reverent awe in the eyes of the immigrants on the screen is matched in the eyes of the young boys in the audience. The scene is one of the most powerful in all of cinema, pregnant with emotion made all the more vivid when one imagines the horror of living under Nazi occupation. This is what America has meant to the world, more often than not. I don't care to attempt to understand the motives of those who fly airplanes into skyscrapers; I'm not about to be lectured on morality by a fiend who beheads his victims; and I won't indulge in abdication of my humanity in a misguided attempt at empathy.

Terrorism is not an argument, not a response, not a cry for help, not a tactic, but an atrocity. It deserves our condemnation, nothing more.

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