What do the names Hannafin, Iskyan, Mojica, Vamsikrishna, Yuguang, Shuyin, and Pappalardo all have in common? They were all victims of September 11th. Far from anti-Western terrorism having a coherent and noble rationale so often excused by media liberals or naive but out of their depth idealists--that terror is "bred" by poverty or imperialist hegemony or American trash porn culture or the white man's endless colonial sins or, of course, the Zionist entity and its worldwide conspirators--these names bring to light how thoughtless opinions are now endlessly recycled in the guise of wisdom.
Because the families of these men and women had, at some point, come to North America to live in freedom and economic possibility. Far from America being the Great White Satan oppressing other cultures, it is the refuge of those who seek liberation. Only in democracies can there be handwringing over a possible backlash against Muslims in the wake of 9/11. Only in places that have free speech can Israelis write newspaper columns savaging their own government. As Mark Steyn once noted wryly, "if Washington treated Arabs the way Damascus does, you'd never hear the end of it at UN conferences."
The mendacity of what one hears and reads can be breathtaking. The Apartheid wall is a lie. The West as the cause of Africa's crippled status is a lie. When Mugabe thugs his way through Zimbabwe and leads it to absolute ruin but an EU poll cites Israel as the greatest threat to world peace; when North Korea, Iran, Syria, and Sudan smother their populaces with fear and intimidation, but French diplomats pontificate about that "shitty little country", you're in the presence of the Big Lie.
Four fingers have become an Orwellian five.
Worst of all, some of my students and academic colleagues echo these platitudes. Now from veteran self-loathers like Noam Chomsky this might be tragically predictable, but from otherwise intelligent and sensitive Jews who are not enraged or carrying an agenda, the trend is more troubling. Their self-mutilation stems from a curse that often befalls Jews when they talk about Israel - a feeling that we are not entitled. Like a beautiful and intelligent woman who somehow consistently dates men who are destructive for her, because she unconsciously does not feel she merits better, the problem of entitlement lies at the core of the Israeli discussion. The fainthearted (and historically clueless) among us ask, "Israel really ours? Did we steal it from the other guys?" And not Arafat's Swiss bank accounts, not suicide bombers, not even Hamas' stated goal of destruction of the Jewish state and its replacement with a Muslim theocracy, none of these nasty facts gets in the way of the feeling that we are undeserving. A.B. Yehoshua once called exile the neurotic solution of the Jews to their deep unconscious fear of living in Israel. His poignantly funny solution was that the Jewish people, require collective psychotherapy for this neurotic problem. In the same way, we need to work through our crippling guilt over entitlement. Or perhaps we just need to embrace Peter Finch's immortal words in Network : we're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore.