Hardly a week passes without a local writer taking a potshot at social and religious conservatives. Some of these writers seem almost sadly obsessed. They loll at their computers all day in their pj’s, scouring local Web sites for any departure from leftist orthodoxy, then, with smug self-satisfaction, outing the source. At Moscow social gatherings, a surefire conversation starter is the benighted kirkers. Condescending digs at Mormons — made under the arrogant assumption that everyone present agrees — are de rigueur among sophisticates..
Now debate cuts both ways. Conservatives, to be sure, regard leftists as wrong. But leftists for their part too often dismiss conservatives as fascists, Nazis and racists, as they did during a recent encounter with the College Republicans at Washington State University, where one professor, reaching instinctively for racist vulgarity rather than insight, allegedly called a Republican student a “white s--tbag.” In this climate, anything said about conservatives is justified if it fosters the correct view, so a local gossip columnist apparently feels comfortable smugly retelling tittle-tattle about a conservative political figure’s sexual orientation, then compounding the bigotry by making a smirking, wink-wink remark to the effect that he needn’t worry because “Roman Catholics” hold the franchise on sordid sex.
(Sidebar: Folks, it isn’t necessary to specify “Roman” unless you need to make a relevant distinction between the Church of Rome and Catholicism’s Eastern Orthodox branches. “Catholic” is a designation; “Roman Catholic” is a veiled sneer, code for the belief that Catholics abduct Protestant women to convents and force them to take the veil.)
But this kind of smug superiority has become the left’s coin of the realm, debasing the currency of public discourse. The absurd charge that prisoners are tortured at Gitmo is tossed off knowingly as fact. One recent letter writer spouted the line that the United States, because it possesses nuclear weapons, has no right to tell North Korea that it can’t — a point of view that’s nothing more than leftist cliché and corrosive relativism masquerading as citizen-of-the-world sophistication. I guess not wanting nukes in the hands of psychopaths and jihadists makes us imperialists.
But we need look no further for smugness than John Kerry’s recent remark to students that failure in school dooms them to exile in Iraq. Hairy-Kerry apologized for the remark, but the apology — “I regret my words were misinterpreted” — was a textbook nonapology apology. It expressed regret not for what he said but for the doltish public’s inability to grasp the keenness of his wit. At least Mel Gibson had the decency to acknowledge that he was an ass and apologize for what he said rather than how others interpreted it.
But here’s the deeper problem with Kerry’s remark: It betrays a fundamental elitism about the military and the women and men, few of whom are married to heiresses, who proudly hold attitudes the far left despises, like the desire to serve their country in a world where real enemies make no bones about wanting to kill us. It dismisses the people who stand in the line of fire as toothless dupes, as administration shills, too ignorant to form their own opinions
From my own military experience, I recall encountering a young enlisted man in distress. I asked what was troubling him, thinking he’d gotten bad news from home, but he explained that he had FUBARed something on his job. He then looked at me with tear-stained eyes and said something that 35 years later still astounds me. Nothing in self-justification, nothing about facing his CO’s wrath. He murmured, “I let everyone down … even my country.” I don’t know who’s letting whom down these days. This was a guy who would have proudly worn his country’s medals, not smugly thrown them away like so much rubbish. If this is ignorance, I’ll take it — and I’d take one of him over 10 Lt. Kerrys any day.
People who oppose a point of view have every right to speak out and offer alternatives. Our nation is great because we sharpen our pens rather than our scimitars, berate rather than behead. Some of those ignorant students will choose to defend that right, even on behalf of those who exercise it irresponsibly. Some will make the ultimate sacrifice. No calling is higher, the smug senator from Massachusetts notwithstanding.