Thursday, January 25, 2007

D'Souza: Denial on the Right

Last April I broke the D’Souza story by carefully analyzing his National Review article of the year before. On Dec 12 I briefly wrote a followed-up before the book came out and others have commented since (see links in my Dec 12 post.) D’Souza 15 minutes of fame is almost up but in the last few seconds it is worth reading Jamie Glazov’s “debate” with D’Souza. Case closed!

Update: A final nail on the coffin from "George Mason."

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Speech

To recall the image of true intellectual leadership, masterful oratory, and real statesmanship, re-read Patrick Henry's speech, "The War Inevitable." I haven't read it in years ... powerful and profound. To comment further would require rhetorical skills to match Mr. Henry's and I must decline the temptation. Read it all. ... Oh, you thought I meant another speech?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Freedom of Speech: Going, Going ...

Ed Cline has a few thoughts on the continual erosion of our right of freedom of speech.
"The First Amendment has been abridged, and the issues that have nickeled-and-dimed it to bankruptcy have so atomized the subject -- one might even say vaporized it -- by such a prodigious volume of non-conceptual thought and politically-biased interpretation by theorists, jurists and legal philosophers, that one is virtually stopped in one's mental tracks by the plethora of sub-issues generated by those kinds of thought and interpretations: political speech, hate speech, corporate speech, commercial and non-commercial speech, obscenity, campus speech codes, balanced viewpoints, the "Fairness Doctrine," content-neutral speech, employer and employee speech, harm-based restrictions on speech, government-mandated product warnings, high- and low-value speech....the list goes on.

On what moral principle is the First Amendment based? On the sovereignty of one’s mind, a sovereignty given value in reality by the recognized and protected liberty to say what is on one’s mind. … Man lives by his mind, by thinking, and by taking actions based on his thinking. If he is prohibited from taking action – in this instance, from speaking – then the freedom of thought is nullified …

What is censorship? Most dictionaries agree, in their definitions, that it is the practice or system of officials suppressing or deleting material in books, films, letters, news, and so on. Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary and the Oxford Concise Dictionary (6th Edition) both imply, in their use of the term "official," that censorship is strictly a government action."

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Ahora en Español

Las gracias a Martinito usted puede leer mi resumen de la ideología del Islam en español. Y los gracias a BabelFish sé hablar español.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Dictators Discover Religion

Saddam Hussein’s embrace of Islam was an example of the power of the Islam Revival. The Baathist dictators, who were once thought to be bulwarks against Islamism, no longer had the power to resist the revivalist movement that’s sweeping the Muslim world.

Even Communist dictators can’t ignore religion. We no sooner hear that Hugo Chavez calls Jesus “the greatest socialist in history” (HT Classical Values) but we read that Daniel Ortega has found religion. The January 13th issue of the Economist, says the candidate of “peace and love” has “made his peace with the Catholic church, backing a ban on abortion even in the cases of rape or when the mother’s health is in danger” (page 34.)

The leftwing cements its ties with the Jihadist enemy in what David Horowitz calls an Unholy Alliance; Ahmadinejad is embraced by Chavez and Ortega. One the right, D’Souza calls fundamentalist Muslims soul mates. And the Church enters the political fray, not to condemn Chavez, Ortega, or Ahmadinejad (who has genocide in his heart), but the execution of the vile and vicious ex-dictator of Iraq.

What's happening here? Perhaps the old dichotomies weren't as solid as many once thought.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Napoleon and the Arabs

The exhibition “Napoleon on the Nile” has on display prints, books, paintings, and letters of the period. Napoleon saw himself as spreading the ideals of French civilization. One proclamation had the following explanation next to the display:
Napoleon brought to Egypt an Arabic font requisitioned from the Vatican, along with people who knew how to set it. This proclamation to the Sheiks of the province of Bahire from General Auguste Marmont, Napoleon’s commander in Alexandria, is printed in both French and Arabic. In it, Marmont asks the Sheiks why they flee from the French troops, explaining that “they come not to oppress you, but to offer you help and protection against the Arabs who are bothering you.” He goes on to explain that he will be coming to their province and that they will witness his friendship for them. The proclamation closes urging the sheiks to make the inhabitants of their villages hear Marmont’s words of peace, and to tell them ‘I love those that love us, but I can punish our enemies.’”

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

What does Judeo-Christian mean?

There is probably no term used so often without any explanation, description, or definition than the term Judeo-Christian. What does it mean? A search on the internet shows that few writers clarify the meaning of this term. Dennis Prager, the conservative commentator, is an exception. With the claim that Judeo-Christian values are under attack, might one explain what those values are? And what is Judeo-Christian about our civilization?

Let’s consider what Prager says: “Along with the belief in liberty — as opposed to, for example, the European belief in equality, the Muslim belief in theocracy, and the Eastern belief in social conformity — Judeo-Christian values are what distinguish America from all other countries.” For Prager, the Judeo-Christian is not liberty itself, but along with liberty, it is a distinguishing characteristic of our culture. What is it?

Prager believes the founding fathers saw themselves as Jews and “probably studied Hebrew, the language of the Jewish Bible at least as much as Greek.” Actually, they studied Latin to get into college and read the Ancient Latin authors in addition to the Greeks as their core liberal arts curriculum. Roman Republicanism was in vogue with authors singing their editorials with names such as Publius (for the Federalists) and Cato (for the anti-Federalists.)

Prager believes the founders modeled themselves on the Hebrews, which “accounts for the mission that Americans have uniquely felt called to — to spread liberty in the world. … It is why those who today most identify with the Judeo-Christian essence of America are more likely to believe in the moral worthiness of dying to liberate countries — not only Europe, but Korea, Vietnam and Iraq.” Apparently the founding fathers were neo-conservatives with an altruistic mission to “make the world safe for democracy,” to use Woodrow Wilson’s phrase.

While I give Prager credit for addressing the issue, his description of our culture eliminates the centrality of individual liberty. Our posture abroad has traditionally been one of self-defense: avoiding entangling alliances, hesitant of becoming the global policeman, shying away from conquering nations and establishing colonies, etc. His commentary on American principles is wanting. But back to the main question, is Prager correct in his definition of Judeo-Christian?

The term itself is only one hundred years old. It appears to be a replacement for “the West,” “the American way,” “the free world,” or, for some, Christendom. The rationale is clear: to define an alternative to communism, which is atheist and materialist in nature. But the problem with communism isn’t that it is non-Christian – so were Aristotle, and Cicero – but that communists were collectivist and dogmatic utopians. Their pseudo-science was a rejection of science and reason; they concept of collective will was a rejection of natural law; their concept of democracy was everything the Ancients (and founding fathers) hated about democracy: mob rule.

Prior to the phrase Judeo-Christian, our Protestant heritage in general, and Calvinism in particular, was often touted as a key to the uniqueness of the Anglo-sphere. Instead of atheism let’s play Devil’s Advocate and ask if Catholicism is a problem.

In the last two centuries, Catholic nations have been poor bulwarks against tyranny. All the major Catholic nations have succumbed to dictatorship. Italy had Mussolini; Spain had Franco. Argentina, Chile, Brazil, and Mexico had dictator after dictator. Mussolini invented the term totalitarianism. Italy was clearly not anti-religious nor did we see anything like the anti-clerical hysteria of the French Revolution. Argentina, one hundred years ago, had the same standard of living as America and given its climate appeared to be our southern mirror image.

Would we not say that Catholic nations are Judeo-Christian? If excessive immigration (i.e. beyond the assimilation rate) from south of the border threatens our culture, then it can’t be because Latin Americans aren’t Christian. Is it because they aren’t Protestant? Clearly not!

It would be better to ask what is it about the British culture that has spawned so many civilized off-springs: the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, etc. That’s an ambitious topic but let’s note the tradition of law, liberty, private property, and an empirical disposition. Most of all, it is individualism: self-responsibility, self-reliance, independent spirit, and individual liberty. Without an explanation and extensive exposition these notions can only hint at the total picture.

Surely someone has written a better defining article of the essence of Judeo-Christianity. Has anyone found one?

Update: Michael Marriott takes issue with the idea that America was founded on Judeo-Christian principles because he says they were found on Enlightenment principles. It isn't clear that he defines Judeo-Christian. Does he need to?

Update2: defines Judeo-Christian as "of or pertaining to the religious writings, beliefs, values, or traditions held in common by Judaism and Christianity." Isn't that just another way of saying Jewish? Does Judaism and Christianity both have Jesus in common? Does a Judeo-Christian founding mean Jesus' teachings have no influence on our country's founding?