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“The secret of happiness is freedom. The secret of freedom is courage.”
— Thucydides

“A civilization that feels guilty for everything it is and does will lack the energy and conviction to defend itself.”
— Jean-François Revel

An Encouraging Election Day in Iraq

Friday, December 16, 2005

Omar and Mohammed have aggregated election reports over at their weblog, Iraq the Model (many pictures included).

Starting from 7 am all the polling centers in Babylon opened their doors to receive the voters, the turnout was light in the first three hours but it increased after that in a good way. The first voter was a disabled man, Jasim Hameed (65) he attended at 6:30 am and insisted on being the first one to vote. When he put the paper in the box said “I'm here at this early hour to challenge the terrorists who want to kill the democratic process in Iraq and I want to encourage the healthy people to vote.”

Some would say I'm overly optimistic. I'd say I'm in good company.

UPDATE: Mohammed has added a post-election follow-up that includes some reflections sent in by a friend of his:

From 59 to 64 to one year our people have proven that the future belongs to them and not those whose claws scarred Iraq’s neck.

A few bombs and some bullets, that’s all what the terrorists could do to interrupt the carnival in Baghdad. The people heard the explosions but those weren’t loud enough to distract the marching hearts from their destination. I saw our policemen yesterday showing their hearts too when they refused to wear their armors, maybe because they didn’t want to let anything stand between our hearts from theirs.


It was a day of happiness for Iraqis and a day of loss for the strangers who thought their camels brought them to a land void of patriots.

It is a day we will await to come again for four long years…to do the right thing again or to correct the mistake if we did one yesterday. Anyway, I believe we left a mark on the face of history, a purple mark that will not be forgotten easily.

God bless Iraq and Iraq’s friends throughout this world. It wasn’t our day alone; it was your day too.

My Tribe is Grey. What Color Is Yours?

Monday, December 12, 2005

One important thing I've been meaning to do, and had originally planned to get to in due course while telling my own story, has been pointing out some of the absolute best stuff I've had the pleasure of reading in the past few years — on topics ranging from the 9/11 attacks and the War on Terror, to the economics and politics of liberty, to the characteristically American way of life and its critics and ideological opponents foreign and domestic.

I'm now thinking I'm going to try to get to that sooner rather than later, since it's become clear that it may otherwise take an indeterminate amount of time for me to get around to it if I stick to strict chronological order. We face serious dangers to our culture and way of life now, and I think we desperately and urgently need an attitude change if we're going to have hope of successfully tackling them.

So far I've been quietly stocking my sidebar with top-level links to sites that I feel especially merit readers' attention, but I haven't yet written much of anything about them beyond the brief descriptive comments I placed beside the links. It's my intention to now begin assembling, and soon post, a “top however-many-it-takes” recommended reading/listening list — which at this point will involve sifting through a few years' worth of browser bookmarks and jotted-down reading notes to make sure I don't miss anything important...

Meanwhile, I'll start with a positively easy first recommendation: If you haven't already read every bit of Bill Whittle's work, I can only say that you are missing out tremendously — by all means head over to his site and choose any essay at random from his “Silent America” series. (I hope to write more about specific pieces among them in the not too distant future.) Or, go straight to Bill's most recent piece, “Tribes” (link updated 2009-10-13), which I pointed out when he posted it back in September, and which I just had the supreme pleasure of re-reading again with fresh eyes. No writer I have yet encountered speaks so eloquently or clearly about the American idea and way of life, and why they are every bit worth risking one's life and security to defend and preserve. Bill lifted me up from the depths of despair when I needed it most, and for that I will be forever and gratefully in his debt. I can't speak to whether his arguments would be persuasive to someone coming from a strongly different ideological bent, but I would certainly recommend his work as offering some of the most coherently presented and meritorious advocacy in favor of the American path in general and our present course in particular. I urge anyone who may be undecided on such matters and open to considering a different point of view to give audience to Bill's ideas and expression of them. In my at least somewhat humble opinion, one's time can hardly be better spent.

More to come...

On cultural confidence, cohesion, and the "melting pot"

Saturday, December 10, 2005

(This post is no longer quite as timely as it was when I began it as a draft over a month ago — by the timescales on which the blogosphere operates, at least — but it's still relevant I think, so please bear with me while I dredge up a bit of the semi-recent past on which to ruminate.)

Back in August, I bookmarked this article by Michael Barone that appeared in the wake of July's London subway bombings. For such a brief piece, it managed to touch on several compelling points, but there was one 20-word quotation in particular that really reached out of the page (or browser window, as it were) and seized my attention. Citing Australian journalist Tony Parkinson quoting French author Jean-François Revel, Barone penned:

“A civilization that feels guilty for everything it is and does will lack the energy and conviction to defend itself.”

I was floored — in the way that I'm floored on reaching The Moment, the gem of expression that many a Bill Whittle essay seems to contain. Revel's comment hit the mark succinctly and precisely, and in so doing it gave me a chill.

Revel made his remark in reference to Cold War attitudes in the West. Yet it seems as relevant as ever today, when we face enemies committed to our destruction at a time when we seem more heavily burdened than ever with one massive guilt-trip after another about our culture (both in the U.S. and, more broadly, in the West), the way we live our lives domestically, and the role our country plays in the world.

I fully believe that we can endure and prevail in the fight against violent Islamic extremism if we want to. The key question seems to be: Do we want to? Having seen everything from apparent indifference to some pretty clear “no” answers from the domestic left in the years since 9/11, I have gotten to be far more worried about our own frame of mind than anything that al-Qaeda and its brethren have in store for us.

Revel's statement expresses so clearly what I've come to believe is the primary danger facing us today, and makes a point so central to my motivation for starting this blog, that I feel it belongs at the top of every page — so there I have placed it.

Barone's article came to mind again as I followed blogospheric and mainstream news outlet coverage of the recent riots that began in Clichy-sous-Bois and subsequently spread across France for two dismal weeks — this time for reasons more closely related to the article's central theme. In it, Barone posed a rather un-PC but seemingly very important question: Is multicultualism's tendency to segregate and isolate people a source of problems? To which I would add a further question that I imagine Barone might have had in mind but didn't explicitly state: What happens to a “multicultural” society that becomes so tolerant that it allows itself to be a host for people who are anything from indifferent to it or alienated from it (as in the poor, predominantly Muslim suburbs of Paris) to committed to its subversion and destruction (as in the case of the U.K.-raised London bombers, or the transplanted 9/11 hijackers)? The answer seems as relevant to the current situation in France as it does to the broader war on terrorism or violent Islamic extremism.

Multiculturalism holds wide appeal in part because it is embodies a kind and noble sentiment: allow for people's differences, respect them as unique individuals and let them live their own lives in their own ways.

The seming problem with multiculturalism lies not in the abstract idea but in its reduction to practice. Multiculturalist critics of the characteristically American “melting pot” approach to immigration have long complained about its expectation that people adapt or “assimilate” into their adopted host culture, in spite of the demonstrable benefits that doing so confers — both for the individuals doing the adjusting, and for the society that in turn benefits from their contributions, productivity, and solidly founded feelings of inclusion and investment in the culture's survival and success. America may offer immigrants a place to succeed, but (there's always a “but”, isn't there) it exacts an unfair price, multiculturalists allege, by asking them in return to adopt and incorporate into their lives certain American attitudes, traditions, or ways of doing things. Multiculturalists' intended purpose seems to be to spare immigrants' feelings and offer sympathy for the challenges that go with building a new life in a foreign place. By asserting as their axiom that all cultures are unquestionably of equal value, and opposing the expectation that people adapt to succeed, multiculturalists ostensibly seek to suppress inter-cultural conflict and simultaneously improve immigrants' lot in life. But it's become apparent to me that this approach can and does backfire in many ways, and I suspect that the unfortunate events we've seen unfold in Clichy-sous-Bois and its environs are evidence of that. The social fragmentation that can result from applying such thinking has been aptly termed “Balkanization”, and it doesn't appear to be good for anyone.

Multiculturalist ideology also provides another rhetorical tool or set of justifications with which contemporary social critics can continue to disparage us. I suspect it holds special appeal among intellecutals because its obsession with cultural equivalence provides a way to denigrate or gloss over the pronounced achievements of contemporary Western society, which competing ideologies cannot allow to stand as objects of admiration or aspiration.

Though multiculturalism claims as its axiom the notion that all cultures are morally equal, “In practice,”, Barone notes, “that soon degenerates to: All cultures all morally equal, except ours, which is worse.” I have all too frequently seen the phenomenon that Barone describes in action, and the clear hypocrisy of it has been one of the many motivators for my move away from contemporary American liberalism over the past several years. People of other cultures are to be pandered to apologetically, it seems, but it's open season when it comes to criticism of America and her culture and lifestyles. I hate to have to say it, but I've really lost patience with the double-standard that others should be encouraged in celebrating their cultures but we in the United States, or in the Western world at large, should be constantly shamed. I feel justifiable pride in my own culture too, and I simply won't abide that disingenuous double standard anymore, pretenting not to feel the glow that I do feel in the core of my heart.

I declare here and now that I have every confidence in, and every hope for, our country, our culture, and our way of life in the United States. I feel deeply proud and deeply grateful to be in the company of such a courageous group of people, who would carve a life not out of guarantees of safety but out of raw, untamed frontier. I pledge to do my utmost to contribute to America's continued thriving and success, that she may remain a congenial home to those who cherish freedom and an authentic beacon of hope to all who choose this life of liberty that I hold so dear. To stand here and make this delcaration clearly and unequivocally — well, that in itself has been a significant part of my purpose in starting this blog, so it seems an appropriate segue for the end of this post.

Thanks for tuning in folks! Thanks for being witness to my small, but to me vitally important, declaration concerning who I am and how I will live. Hope to see more of you in the future as I get this project out of the shipyards and off to sea... Best wishes.

This is harder than it looks

To any few readers I have who might be stopping by periodically to check for updates here: I thank you sincerely for your too-kind interest, and I apologize. I've been itching to write more, and have a few almost-finished drafts that have been circling in a holding pattern for far too long, but I haven't yet managed to figure out how to fit this project in as a regular part of my life and land them. It is quite simply beyond my miniscule intellect's comprehension to understand how blogopheric giants like Glenn Reynolds manage to succeed in their full-time day jobs, have time for family, and simultaneously write (or even “link-blog” with brief, insightful comments) so prolifically. My work life isn't even at its most intensely demanding right now, so I would think I should be able to fit an allowance for writing into my still-existent free time now if ever. No doubt part of the problem is that I'm just plain slow at this when I do manage to sit down and get to it — a situation that I can only hope will improve as I gain more experience as a writer. In the meantime, to any who may be reading this, thank you for your patience! I hope to soon get the hang of what I'm attempting to do here and manage to produce some worthwhile prose on the burning issues that have motivated me to start this project. I'm going to try to put some time into finishing up one or two new posts today. Hope to see you again soon on the other side!