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Of all the things that bother me about the way our culture in America has changed during my lifetime, the tendency to be so easily offended is probably at the top of my list. It’s something I don’t understand, and, unfortunately, I don’t see it changing anytime soon.
You don’t dare say something that might “offend” anyone, even if it is the truth. This goes hand-in-hand with our culture’s lawsuit mentality – another thing that drives me crazy. People live their lives in fear that they might accidentally say or do something that someone will sue them over, and it has become absolutely ridiculous.
I worked in the political arena – as a volunteer and as an employee – for several years, and I saw this all the time.
In the political world, people allow party lines to be roadblocks to open communication. In the legislature, simply knowing that a bill was written by someone of the opposite party can mean that it won’t pass, despite its merit and worth to society. People choose to be offended simply because someone sees something differently than they do. This is especially amusing because our culture says that everything is relative…
One of my favorite quotes about this topic is from the movie The American President – which is one of my favorite movies of all time.
‘America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say “You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.”‘
– The American President
Our Founding Fathers didn’t agree on everything, but they didn’t let these differences prevent them from coming up with solutions. They had reasonable discourse, even if heated at times, and they were respectful of different ideas (as evidenced in many documents from that time).
They realized that we all come from different backgrounds and have different ideas, and all of them are worthy of consideration. If we all thought the same way and believed the same things, life would be incredibly boring and we would have nothing to discuss. Yet, our culture has lost the ability to respectfully dialogue and discuss issues with the intent of truly learning from the other side.
Our country was founded on the concepts of several freedoms, one being the Freedom of Speech – and that freedom only works if you are willing to respectfully listen to those who disagree with you (as the quote above says). History aside, this is a significant problem in our culture today.
In terms of the Freedom of Religion, the best example I can come up with at the moment is Christmas: Christmas is a holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus. It is a religious holiday – more specifically, a Christian holiday. But, don’t you dare mention Jesus or have a Nativity scene set up to celebrate, because you might offend someone.
Yes, I realize our culture has largely changed Christmas into a secular holiday as well and has made it all about gifts and Santa and whatever else, but it is supposed to be about JESUS. It’s not called “Christmas Vacation” anymore in schools because you might offend someone who doesn’t celebrate the holiday (which, really, is a very small amount of people since it has become so secularized). People say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” for the same reason (even though holiday comes from “holy day” so it’s essentially the same thing).
When did we become so sensitive, and why?
This is something I simply cannot understand, because I have never been offended by a Jewish menorah or Star of David. I have never been offended by Kwanzaa or Ramadan. I have never tried to secularize these holidays so that I can benefit from the celebrations. Why? I recognize the right of these groups to celebrate what they believe in openly and publicly. As long as what they are doing is not destructive or harmful, then why does it matter what they celebrate? It doesn’t. So why are Christians and Christian holidays singled out as being so offensive?
From a theological standpoint, I understand why people are offended by Jesus. The Gospel offends because it acknowledges sin in our lives and we don’t like to be told that we are wrong. There is also a very real enemy who roams around the earth trying to turn people against Jesus. I get all of that. But it seems like the only religion that brings offense in our culture is Christianity.
I maintain that it is a choice to be offended. It is a choice to refuse to listen to the other side of the issue and discuss things rationally. And the root of this is selfishness – “it’s all about me, so don’t you dare do anything that I don’t like.”
We have forgotten how to love our neighbors. We have forgotten that each person has value and deserves to be respected. We have forgotten that there’s a huge difference between tolerance (“the ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with“) and acceptance, and we let our emotions and selfishness rule our behavior.
This is a dangerous path and if we don’t take the time to instill within the younger generations what true tolerance is, and encourage them to not be easily offended, things are only going to be worse in the future.
February 17, 2009, 4:00 a.m.
The Audacity of Irony
“Hope and change” meet reality. The ironies bring us back to the unlamented days of Jimmy Carter.
By Victor Davis Hanson
We have seen irony before, when the moralist Jimmy Carter chastised us with sermons about our paranoid, inordinate fear of Communism and our amoral unconcern with human rights, even as the dividends of his policies were the Soviets in Afghanistan and the Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran — and even greater global misery than before.
For the last 24 months a youthful Barack Obama has daily offered unspecified “hope and change” idealism — all set against the supposed cynical wrongdoing of the tired Bush administration. In the unhinged manner in which his supporters turned a center-right president like George Bush into some sort of sinister reactionary, so too they deified a rookie senator as the long-awaited liberal messiah.
How could irony not follow from all that?
For the past seven years the United States has seen no repeat of 9/11, although plots were uncovered and threats from radical Islam were leveled in serial fashion. The ability to intercept and hold terrorists overseas, to tap into cell-phone calls abroad, to detain terrorists caught on the field of battle, and to ensure that intelligence agencies freely swapped information was critical to our unexpected salvation.
Like Lincoln, Wilson, FDR, Truman, and other wartime presidents (though none of the above witnessed 3,000 Americans butchered on the soil of the United States by foreign agents), George Bush, with strong bipartisan support, enacted new wartime protocols in the effort to protect the security of the United States. Only a fool would suggest that these homeland-security efforts were unnecessary, or that, in unprecedented fashion, they shredded the Constitution.
But such foolish criticism was exactly the sort leveled against the Bush security protocols by candidate Obama. And so almost at the minute he assumed governance, the now President Obama discovered that his Bush the Constitution-shredder had been a clumsy caricature of Bush the sober commander-in-chief. For Obama on the stump, the choices were endless; in the Oval Office suddenly only bad and worse. So the new president, the favorite of the ACLU, is now in the ironic position of maintaining the hated Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act reforms, keeping the repugnant Patriot Act, retaining “extraordinary renditions,” and continuing — task forces and promises aside — operation of the Gulag at Guantanamo.
There were many legitimate critiques of the Iraq war. But insisting, as Barack Obama did, that we invaded recklessly and in haste was not one of them. From the fall of the Taliban in December 2001 to the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, the Bush administration deliberately and in public fashion sought debate in the Congress for over a year, received bipartisan authorization, and tried for months to win sanction from the United Nations.
In contrast, Barack Obama immediately upon entering office demanded the largest government expansion in the history of the nation. The staggering debt program will require nearly a trillion dollars in borrowing to fund all sorts of entitlements and redistributive efforts, and in revolutionary fashion redefine the role of government itself. Obama pronounced the current economic crisis the moral equivalent of war, and he wanted a national mobilization to meet it — pronto.
But unlike the Bush administration, which took 15 months to prepare the country for a real war in Iraq, the Obama administration gave the public only a few hours to read the final draft of the legislation before it was made into law. Where the polarizing partisan George Bush managed to obtain the vote of majorities in both parties to remove Saddam Hussein, the healing bipartisan Barack Obama lacked the support of even a single Republican in the House and won over a mere three Republicans in the Senate.
Liberals who once screamed that congressional opponents of the Iraq war were being unfairly tagged as unpatriotic by the Bush administration now yelled louder that the opponents of the Obama debt program were, in fact, unpatriotic.
Bush was pilloried for supposedly hyping al-Qaeda in order to create a security state. Obama trumped that by proclaiming that the present recession is a catastrophe, a disaster, a Great Depression. He ceased his scare-mongering only when he had exhausted the vocabulary of doom. “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste,” bragged Rahm Emanuel, reminding us that the envisioned Obama socialism could take root only if a climate of fear was created.
In foreign policy the irony is more telling still.
Obama on the campaign trail either did not grasp that Bush’s second-term foreign policy was largely centrist — or found it politically advantageous to ignore that fact. Either way, irony followed. The problem with Europe’s failing to get tough with Iran, or failing to fight in Afghanistan, or appeasing Russia, was not George Bush, but the nature of Europe. Bush inherited, he did not create, Osama bin Laden, Putin’s authoritarianism, Ahmadinejad’s Iran, Chávez’s Venezuela, Kim Jong Il’s North Korea, Qaddafi’s Libya, or the Dr. A. Q. Khan laboratory.
More often, Bush ameliorated, rather than exacerbated, these problems, by being both tough and, yes, multilateral — as friendly governments in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, and India attested. Yet by demonizing George Bush — and that is how Team Obama prefaces each announcement of a new initiative — Obama has only set himself up for more irony. He can continue his first few weeks of damning Bush and emulating Jimmy Carter. But if he does, he will soon see another 9/11-like strike, more Russian pressure on Europe, more North Korean missiles, a bomb in Iran, the restarting of Dr. Khan’s nuclear franchise and its appendages in Libya and Syria, and a theocratic nuclear Pakistan.
One can make many criticisms of the Bush administration — occasional hubris, an inability to communicate its ideas, excessive federal spending, unnecessary bellicose rhetoric not matched always by commensurate action — but corruption is not really one of them. While the Republican Congress gave us Duke Cunningham, Larry Craig, and Mark Foley, the Bush administration itself was one of the most corruption-free in recent memory — no Monicas, no serial Clintongates, no pay-to-play presidential pardons, no shaking down donors for a library and a spousal Senate campaign.
So when Barack Obama of Chicago lineage — with former associates like Tony Rezko, Gov. Rod Blagojevich, Mayor Richard Daley, and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright — began offering moral platitudes about his soon-to-be-enacted revolutionary ethics, we expected the irony that always follows such hubris and brings in its wake nemesis.
Now we are witnessing one of the most scandal-plagued incipient administrations of the last half-century. And these ethical embarrassments are doubly ironic. The Treasury secretary and nominal head of the IRS is a tax dodger. The egalitarian liberal Tom Daschle, who was going to make health care accessible for the masses, was caught hiding from the tax man tens of thousands of dollars in free limousine service. Reformist cabinet nominees like Bill Richardson (who has already withdrawn) and Hilda Solis cannot themselves follow the laws they were asked to enforce. The would-be performance czar, Nancy Killefer, did not perform on her taxes. We are now awaiting a third try for commerce secretary. The more Obama railed about his new no-lobbyist policies, the more he issued exemptions for the dozen or more insider lobbyists he hired.
The list of ironies could be expanded. Reps. Maxine Waters, Barney Frank, and Gregory Meeks — infamous for their Fannie Mae laxity — now interrogate supposedly incompetent or greedy bank CEOs. Nancy Pelosi, who demanded that the Speaker of the House in novel fashion receive a government-financed private jet, rails against government-enabled private jets. Bush supposedly politicized the White House, so in reaction Obama moves control of the census — the very linchpin of the American political system — for the first time into the White House. Big Brother comes not through tapping a terrorist’s phone, but, perhaps soon, through having the state collect and centralize everyone’s medical records or monitor the content of talk radio.
Why again the audacious irony of Barack Obama?
First, George Bush was not Judas Iscariot nor was Obama Jesus Christ. In the vast abyss between those two caricatures was plenty of room for hypocrisy. The more Obama claimed moral culpability on the part of the sober Bush, the more he proved his own — either by ratifying in hypocritical fashion many of the Bush policies or by reminding the public that if Texas perennially gives us spurs, six-guns, and bring-’em-on lingo, Chicago entertains us with the likes of Tony Rezko, the Daley machine, Rahm Emanuel, and Blago.
Second, Obama did not duly appreciate the sort of pernicious culture that permeates Washington in general, and the Democratic Congress in particular. While it was easy to say that Jack Abramoff and Duke Cunningham typified a culture of Republican corruption, the truth was always that they were just the flip side to Sen. Chris Dodd and Rep. Barney Frank taking cash from Fannie Mae as it exploded, or Rep. Charles Rangel overseeing the tax code that he serially ignored, or Rep. William Jefferson stashing payoff cash in his fridge. A true messiah would have lamented the bipartisan rot in Washington, and then in Lincolnesque fashion figured out a way to clean up his own party first, and the opposition second.
The truth is that Americans don’t take well to self-appointed holy men like Woodrow Wilson or Jimmy Carter. Yes, we’ve had our rare saints, but they were reluctant moralists like Washington and Lincoln, who were recognized as such only after they had saved the nation and stoically endured slander by enemies in war and at home.
Obama can end his irony only when he accepts that he and his supporters were never saints, and his predecessor not a notable sinner, and then accepts that history will judge him on what he does rather than what he says he might do.
— NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.
— Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal.
© 2009 TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.
In Gingrich Mold, a New Voice for Solid Resistance in G.O.P.
WASHINGTON — The last time Congressional Republicans were this out of power, they turned to a college professor from Georgia, Newt Gingrich, to lead the opposition, first against President Bill Clinton in a budget battle in 1993, and then back into the majority the following year.
As Republicans confronted President Obama in another budget battle last week, their leadership included another new face: Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, who as the party’s chief vote wrangler is as responsible as anyone for the tough line the party has taken in this first legislative standoff with Mr. Obama. This battle has vaulted Mr. Cantor to the front lines of his party as it tries to recover from the losses of November.
As Republican whip, Mr. Cantor succeeded again on Friday in denying the White House the support of a single House Republican on the stimulus bill. That was a calculated challenge to the president, who, in his weekly address on Saturday, hailed the bill as “an ambitious plan at a time we badly need it.”
Mr. Cantor said he had studied Mr. Gingrich’s years in power and had been in regular touch with him as he sought to help his party find the right tone and message. Indeed, one of Mr. Gingrich’s leading victories in unifying his caucus against Mr. Clinton’s package of tax increases to balance the budget in 1993 has been echoed in the events of the last few weeks.
“I talk to Newt on a regular basis because he was in the position that we are in: in the extreme minority,” he said.
The Republicans can certainly count some victories, although symbolic ones. Even White House aides said Mr. Cantor and his team had been successful in seizing on spending items in the stimulus bill to sow doubts about it with the public.
The fact that House Republicans have stood firm against Mr. Obama suggests just how unified the caucus is, though Mr. Gingrich, in an interview, said Democratic leaders like Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Representative David R. Obey of Wisconsin, the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, did more to unify Republicans than anything Republicans did.
“I’d like to tell you Cantor did a brilliant job, but the truth is that Pelosi and Obey pushed the members into his arms,” Mr. Gingrich said. But, he added, “They have been good at developing alternatives so they don’t leave their guys out there chanting no.”
The Republican Party is arguably weaker today than it was in 1993, given Mr. Obama’s popularity and the enormous weight Republicans are carrying after eight years under President George W. Bush. Even as Mr. Cantor was urging Republicans to oppose Mr. Obama on this signature plan, he offered praise of the president, suggesting that Republicans should be careful to avoid being labeled obstructionist.
“I think people out there across the country elected this president because he inspired the notion that we can change,” he said. “Not to be so trite as to invoke his campaign slogan, but I do think there was some substance behind it in terms of what people thought in voting for him.
“Banking off that mood of the country right now, I think it’s incumbent upon us to reach out to him and see if we can work together.”
Mr. Cantor, along with the House minority leader, Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, faces the challenge of trying to lead a shrinking and increasingly conservative caucus. The party also faces the burden of trying to advance what Mr. Cantor describes as its bedrock value — smaller government — in the face of considerable evidence that the American public wants an increasingly active government to deal with the economic crisis.
And it is Mr. Cantor who is pushing the party in a direction that Democrats, and some Republicans, say is risky: almost lock-step opposition to Mr. Obama’s economic plan. Democrats have already made clear that they intend to use those votes against Republicans in 2010, and sooner, with advertisements noting the middle-class tax cuts included in the bill.
Mr. Cantor’s increasing prominence is in many ways a reminder of the difficult time the party faces after losing the presidential election and in the absence of any high-profile Republican leaders in the House or the Senate. Mr. Boehner routinely defers to him at news conferences, reflecting the concern of Republicans that they put forward new and relatively young faces. (Mr. Cantor is 45, but looks younger.)
Mr. Cantor, who has exhibited an eye for winning attention, has rushed in to fill the leadership vacuum with a daily diet of news conferences, interviews, speeches on the House floor and television appearances. “ALERT: Cantor Holds Economic Recovery Roundtable,” a news release from his office announced, in describing an economic forum he will hold on Wall Street this week.
He is the only Jewish Republican in the House. This has created a thoroughly unlikely circumstance for the Republican Party, given that its other most prominent face these days is the new chairman of the Republican National Committee, Michael Steele, the first African-American to hold the post.
Mr. Cantor, who grew up in Richmond, is soft-spoken with a whisper of a Southern accent. A lawyer, he served in the Virginia House of Delegates before being elected to Congress in 2000, filling the seat once held by James Madison, as he likes to remind people.
In discussing the Republican defeat, he said: “I don’t think it was an outright rejection of what I call common sense conservative principles. And as a Virginian, holding James Madison’s seat, I don’t think it was a rejection of the principles upon which this country was built.”
Mr. Cantor is certainly different from Mr. Gingrich in some significant ways. “He’s not Newt — giving off sparks every 15 seconds,” said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax reform, an influential conservative group. “While I never bought the criticism of Newt that being an ideas factory meant he suffered from A.D.D. — I think it was an unfair rap on him — to his advantage, Cantor is seen as both an ideas person and steady and stable.”
Beyond that, friends of both say that Mr. Gingrich is more intellectually adventurous than Mr. Cantor, but also more prone to overreach.
“I would say my manner is such that it would seem to be a little more demure,” Mr. Cantor said.
Demure or not, Mr. Cantor’s press secretary was forced to apologize last week after e-mailing to a reporter a video filled with vulgar language making fun of labor unions, in response to an advertisement from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees pressing Republicans to support the Obama plan.
Mr. Cantor acknowledged that Mr. Obama had won points from the public for appearing less partisan than Republicans in this battle, but he warned that the president should not draw the wrong lesson.
“I think it would be short-sighted for him to take away from a zero vote that he shouldn’t even mess with us anymore,” he said.
An article by Camille Paglia that I really enjoyed:
I couldn’t resist…this is so true! The media is (increasingly) unashamedly biased.
Found on http://www.pawatercooler.com