»  National Review Online

February 5th, 2002

  How Much Has Really Changed?


Better tread carefully here. I am starting to get a reputation as the wet blanket of NRO — the guy who believes we are doomed, doomed, and that the current war effort will fizzle out with nothing much accomplished but a change of government in Afghanistan. A change, that is to say, from a gang of cutthroats who thought America was the Great Satan to a gang of cutthroats who perceive us as being more of a Great ATM. My assertion last Thursday that "democracy is no match for terrorism" didn't help. Am I on board with this war, or not? readers are asking. Who gave me permission to sickly o'er the native hue of resolution with the pale cast of thought? What kind of lily-livered chattering-teeth party pooper am I?

It is, of course, bad form to express doubt about the nation's determination to see this through. But see, that's why NRO has me on the payroll. When the site needs to be garlicked up a bit with a dash of bad form, bad taste or bad attitude — send for Derb! So here I go, telling you something else you most likely don't want to hear.

Let's start with my colleague Victor Davis Hanson on last Friday's NRO. Victor makes the case that September 11th triggered a sea change in American attitudes — in the attitudes of the large general public — towards that complex of ideas that goes under headings like "political correctness,"  "multiculturalism,"  and so on. People (says Victor) just aren't going to swallow that stuff any more. Ordinary Americans now know that: "Regimes that are autocratic and theocratic … are not merely different, but murderous." Prior to September 11th we were in a posture of cultural cringe towards the older, wiser and more worldy nations of Europe; we now know that "our allies, though they sometimes mean well, remain continually weak." We used to genuflect to those love-the-world do-gooders at the UN, the Hague, Geneva, Kyoto … Now we know they are just a bunch of gassy hypocrites. The whole silly business of educating kids in multiculturalism was, says Victor, "based on romance, ignorance and isolation" — on the cosmetic prettying-up of cultures where human life, and especially female human life, was in fact nasty, brutish, short and cheap. But the American public, he claims, will be no more deceived. September 11th woke us up.

Now, if you've read much of my stuff, you know how desperately I want this all to be true. I yield to no-one in my loathing of the whole PC-multiculti-"diversity" racket, and have said so many times. I think western civilization is the bee's knees and the cat's pajamas, far superior to any other, and that the Anglo-Saxon model of that civilization, as developed across the four or five centuries of the modern age, is its apotheosis. I favor a strong assimilationist ethic for newcomers to America, reinforced in the public schools, with periodic moratoriums on immigration to help assimilation along — the next moratorium being long overdue.

So I'm with Victor in what he's wishing for. It is, however, a well-known fact that if wishes were horses, beggars would ride. So here's the question: Is Victor right? When the Twin Towers fell that terrible day, did the scales fall from America's eyes along with them? Is it really the case that:

All is changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

(There should be a question mark here somewhere, but I'm not going to mess with William Butler Yeats.) Let's take a look and see if we can plot a graph.

Data point:  I was reading Victor's piece for the second time — I'm a huge Hanson fan — in the Saturday New York Post, which printed it as an Op-Ed essay, when one of my neighbors phoned. What, she asked, is the Chinese for "one hundred"? I told her, then asked her why she wanted to know. "Oh, next week is Multicultural Week at the school, and the kids have to find out how different cultures say things." Later I asked Rosie, who keeps track of school affairs, if she knew about this. Yes, she said, it's a regular thing at the school.

Data point:  This is also, of course, Black History Month, when the kids, having just had a full week of Martin Luther King, get a full month of Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass. The first two are names only to me; but I read Douglass's book as part of my own personal Americanization program, and thought it, and him, very admirable. If Tubman and Truth were of that same caliber, then certainly these are people I'd want my kids to know about. At least they're all American. My little angels, however, are in first and third grade; and at this point in their academic careers, I can, without trying very hard, think of at least 100 names that, in my opinion, it's more important for them to get acquainted with, let alone have an entire month devoted to.

Data point:  One of the guests on O'Reilly's show last week was a New York City schoolteacher, a sane and well-spoken person, as far as one could judge, who has been suspended from classroom duties and may be fired because she told her class that the perpetrators of the September 11th attacks were Arabs.

Data point:  Norman Mineta, who is on record as believing that if we practice ethnic profiling, we are "no different than [sic] the despicable terrorists who rained such hatred on our people," remains Secretary of Transportation. Which means, among other things, that if the President, Vice President and twelve other Congressional and cabinet officials should be wiped out, Underperformin' Norman becomes the acting Chief Executive of the United States of America. Think about that in the dark watches of the night!

You see where I'm going with this. No, I'm not against the war. I'd cheerfully go fight the shining-eyed ululating little bastards myself, if there was any place in the ranks for a middle-aged out-of-condition bookworm with flat feet and corrective lenses. Yes, I'd cheer along with Victor if I thought the hate-America bedwetters had been routed from our schools, colleges, law schools, governments, media, courts, lobbies, churches … The question is: Have they?

Is it now much more difficult for a young man from Egypt or Saudi Arabia to enter the U.S.A.? Is it really? Are this nation's borders far more secure now than they were five months ago? Are they? Is the federal government engaged in an all-out no-expense-spared effort to track down and deport illegal immigrants? (Starting with the 115,000 illegals who, according to the Census Bureau, come from the Middle East. And, come to think of it, including legal immigrants who are found to have criminal records, unsavory connections, or opinions that Americans are no longer willing to tolerate among guests in this country.) Is it? Do Hollywood air-heads now think twice before making their vapid anti-American "thoughts" known to their adoring fans? Do they? Shall I see, the next time I go to Rockefeller Center, that sign directing citizens to the passport office in English and Spanish replaced by a sign printed in English only? Shall I?

Have the pests who clamor for portraits of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and other great Americans to be taken down from municipal offices crawled away to sulk in their rat-holes? Have they? Will the next college brochure I see not contain that weasely text asserting that while the school does absolutely not, no not ever! discriminate in any way, shape or form against anybody at all on the basis of race, gender, disability, orientation, etc., etc., they are none the less most especially anxious to hear from minority applicants? Will it? Are our defense labs going to stop assigning highly sensitive research projects to people known to have personal connections in unfriendly countries? Are they? The next time a gang of man-hating feminist ideologues decides to trash an old, proud, tradition-encrusted military school, will the Supreme Court not say: "Go ahead, girls! Hey, break a few windows for us while you're down there! It's all on Uncle Sam!"  Will it? Look, I'm only asking.

Back in the late 1980s, there was a judge in New York City named Bruce Wright, known to all as "Turn 'Em Loose Bruce"  for his lenience towards the criminals who came up before him. This was one of those liberal judges who had an excuse for every felon, even for those too stupid or obstreperous to have prepared an excuse for themselves. Well, one day Judge Wright got mugged in the street near his home. He was off work for a few days. It was a big story in the tabloid newspapers, and a lot of people were making jokes about it. When Judge Wright returned to the bench, he made a point of starting off that day's session with an announcement: "As I'm sure you all know, I was the victim of a criminal assault the other day. I want to make it clear that this experience will in no way change my sentencing policies on this bench!"  As he paused to let this sink in, someone called out from the back of the courtroom:  "Mug him again!"

The atrocious mugging America got on September 11th should have woken us from our opium-dreams of multiculturalism, historical guilt and national self-abasement. Did it, though? Vic Hanson thinks so, and I hope with all my heart that he is right. God forbid we need to be mugged again to bring us fully to our senses. God forbid! … Yet still, I can't help but wonder.