Friday, July 7, 2017

Now the Left is going to try to make the term "the West" into some kind of code for bigotry

I'd seen Peter Beinart's Atlantic piece about Trump's speech in Poland in my first round of news-and-opinion perusal this morning, and had resolved to blog about it when I got the opportunity. Now, at 12:30, I'm ready, and I see that it has come to the attention of some others as well.

Noah Rothman at Commentary makes a number of points I was going to put forth:

“The West is not an ideological or economic term,” wrote the Atlantic’s Peter Beinart. “The West is a racial and religious term.” “The ‘south’ and ‘east’ only threaten the West’s ‘survival’ if you see non-white, non-Christian immigrants as invaders,” Beinart insisted. “They only threaten the West’s ‘survival’ if by ‘West’ you mean white, Christian hegemony.” This is true only if we accept Beinart’s premise; that the West is only a racial and religious affiliation and not a set of political traditions. If we see the West as a champion of individual liberty, freedom of worship, reason and rationality, and republican governance—not to mention a bulwark against the forces of reaction, totalitarianism, and theocracy—Beinart’s definition is both narrow and incoherent.

Notice how disingenuous Beinart is in formulation his position. For one thing, he makes a point of using a couple of George W. Bush speeches as points of comparison, and then tries to say that just because Trump couched his remarks in geographical terms, he was somehow minimizing Christianity's universal message, or speaking of some different definition altogether:

To grasp how different that rhetoric was from Trump’s, look at how the last Republican President, George W. Bush, spoke when he visited Poland. In his first presidential visit, in 2001, Bush never referred to “the West.” He did tell Poles that “We share a civilization.” But in the next sentence he insisted that “Its values are universal.” Because they are, he declared, “our trans-Atlantic community must have priorities beyond the consolidation of European peace. We must bring peace and health to Africa. … We must work toward a world that trades in freedom … a world of cooperation to enhance prosperity, protect the environment, and lift the quality of life for all.”

In 2003, Bush returned, and in his main speech didn’t use the terms “West” or “civilization” at all. After celebrating Poland’s achievements, he said America and Europe “must help men and women around the world to build lives of purpose and dignity” so they don’t turn to terrorism. He boasted that America was increasing its funding to fight global poverty and AIDS because “we add to our security by helping to spread freedom and alleviate suffering.” And he said “America and Europe must work closely to develop and apply new technologies that will improve our air and water quality, and protect the health of the world’s people.”
Bush’s vision echoed Francis Fukuyama’s. America and Europe may have been further along the road to prosperity, liberty, capitalism, and peace than other parts of the world, but all countries could follow their path. And the more each did, the more America and Europe would benefit. In deeply Catholic Poland, Bush sprinkled his speeches with religious references, but they were about Christianity as a universal creed, a moral imperative that knew no civilizational bounds. By contrast, when Trump warned Poles about forces “from the south or the east, that threaten … to erase the bonds of culture, faith, and tradition,” he was talking not about Christianity but about Christendom: a particular religious civilization that must protect itself from outsiders.
Beinart employs the baggage of Trump's protectionist bluster in previous speeches to say that in this speech, his use of the word "defend" is fraught with paranoia:

When Bush spoke in Poland, America’s leaders still mostly discussed globalization as a process by which America improved the rest of the world. Trump generally discusses globalization—the movement of both goods and people—as a process by which the rest of the world cheats, weakens, and threatens America. In his two speeches in Poland combined, Bush used variations of the word “defend” five times. Trump used them 21 times in a single speech.
But the point here is not tariffs or intellectual property theft, it's a maniacal ideology enshrouded in a particular religion. A little further on, Beinart realizes he has to cover that base, and says this:

Jihadist terrorists can kill people in the West, but unlike Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union, they cannot topple even the weakest European government. Jihadists control no great armies. Their ideologies have limited appeal even among the Muslims they target with their propaganda. ISIS has all but lost Mosul and could lose Raqqa later this year.
Trump’s sentence only makes sense as a statement of racial and religious paranoia. The “south” and “east” only threaten the West’s “survival” if you see non-white, non-Christian immigrants as invaders. They only threaten the West’s “survival” if by “West” you mean white, Christian hegemony. 
Well, no, Peter, the jihadists don't have the resources to storm the meeting places of Western legislatures and declare coups d'etat, but we are already seeing a mindset spread that posits that frequent terrorist attacks are just something we're going to have to live with. There's a one-word encapsulation for that: demoralization. And it goes hand-in-hand with the acquiescence that accommodates sharia law and the performing of genital mutilation in doctors' clinics in Western nations.

The reason Trump mentioned the geographic angle is that it is from the south and east that immigrants, including no small number of individuals sympathetic to jihad, are poring into European nations.

Islam is not a Western religion, and making a high priority of "inclusivity" does not serve the cause of preserving Western values.

And let's add this fact to the mix: there are Western nations far removed from the geographic concentration of such countries. Israel is a Western nation. Japan, while by no means completely Western, has a great number of Western features: a basically free-market economy, a representative democracy form of government, and a balance between fealty to tradition and openness to advancement that ensures societal stability.

The extent to which Trump has thought any of this out is something we can't ascertain to any appreciable degree. Steven Miller wrote the speech. But neither is Trump some kind of white supremacist who secretly signals supremacist designs through his public remarks.

Rest assured, the way the term "the West" was used in the Poland speech is the way it's used by all serious people who understand that, yes, it must be defended: A body of thought distilled from a centuries-old conversation whose participants indeed did come from geographically Western nations, such as Greece, Italy, France, England, Germany, The United States, and Poland.

1 comment:

  1. Of xourse the West should be defended and it certainly is. If you want to puff your chest be your own guest. I think it shows fear and insecurity more than bravado, but hey, pride can be fine until it morphs into deadly sin, if you follow such antiquities of thought.