Liberalism, as the recent attacks on La Ville Lumière have shown, cannot provide the basis for a sustainable society. By liberalism, I do not mean Democrats versus Republicans, or the ideology of invite the world versus that of bomb the world. I mean all of it together.
There must be some basis for saying no to things. That is what governments, civil authorities, do. Liberalism, whose Ground Zero historically is Paris, France, holds at its core the abstract notions of liberté, égalité, fraternité, while U.S. liberalism cherishes abstract life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
The President cited both liberal mantras in his address from the White House, given even as the Allahu Akbars were still executing concertgoers inside the Bataclan. This was an attack, he said, not just on Paris, or on the people France, but on “all of humanity and the universal values we share.”
The right seized on President Obama’s unwillingness to finger Muslims (or even “Islamists” or “Muslim extremists”) as the perpetrators of the killings. As the murderers’ ties to Syria emerged, conservatives began to point to the absurdity of the uncareful and massive acceptance and settlement of large numbers of “refugees,” Muslim peoples who have sailed in rubber dinghies to the Land of Yes, citing many reasons, legitimate and illegitimate, including the fact that Syria is not a pleasant place to live now, thanks to the Coalition of the Willing’s efforts to play god in Iraq.
The left predictably responded with shouts of racism and bigotry, demanding that Joe Muhammad not be lumped in with the terrorists who, despite their similarity in character to Muhammad himself, are not true Muslims.
Both sides want to know: Whom should we bomb next? We apparently cannot learn from anything.
These universal values, embodied in the Enlightenment mantras, gave the appearance of truth for as long as an increasingly post-Christian people still could coast on the fumes of natural law. But as the trappings of tradition began to peel off, the flotsam and jetsam of human decency into the stream of time, the deformed character of the Mass Man became increasingly obvious. Man is no longer born with a nature and a moral purpose defined by the very creation itself, the very Creator Himself. Man is a blank slate of limitless possibilities. To restrict him is to rob him of his humanity. Restrictions come in the form of traditional notions of private property, borders, marriage, maleness and femaleness, nations, just war, and the like. To hell with all of those—except that the notion of hell tends to reflect the natural-law concept of divine justice, so to hell with hell, too.
How do we say no to anyone or anything? We are left with only the threat of physical violence as a condition worthy of a negative response. And yet, and yet—we have to titter about that negative response, because we are afraid of contradicting our “universal values.” What’s your definition of jihad, Joe Muhammad? Which imam is your biggest influence? How far would you go in imposing sharia on others who think Muhammad was a delusional, malevolent ephebophile?
Answer these questions to our satisfaction, and you qualify as a Mass Man who shares our values. How could we possibly exclude you?
Answer these questions incorrectly, and we may bomb your village, because we fight them (you) over there so we don't have to fight them (you) here. But honestly, if you make it here to the Land of Yes, you’ll soon find that just about any answer to those questions will suffice, unless we catch you stabbing, shooting, or blowing up something or someone, because it is an open secret that we think every man is a Mass Man, entitled to liberty, life, equality, fraternity, and happiness. That is why President Obama can say that, essentially, the Muslim terrorists attacked themselves, as well as the Pygmies and the Mongolians, when they murdered scores of Parisians on a dark and bloody November night.
Aaron D. Wolf (1973-2019) was Chronicles' executive editor. His writings have appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers. He was a frequent guest on Issues, Etc. (Lutheran Public Radio) and The Paul Youngblood Show (nta.fm), and has appeared on several other radio programs, including The Tom Clark Show (Wisconsin Public Radio) and Extension 720 With Milt Rosenberg (WGN).