So many Americans
expressed astonishment after 9/11. "Why do they want to kill us?"
We, in America, have become so accustomed to the open debate made possible
by freedom of speech (the cornerstone of democracy) that we forget where
to draw the line between "just a difference of opinion" and an ideological
threat to that freedom.
David Horowitz, a red diaper baby and a proclaimed left wing radical until
he saw the light in his thirties, explains how Communists used to hide their
identity, their methods and their goals. That is, until the early 1970's,
when they realized they could exploit the very strength of the American Constitutional
right of free speech and convert it into America's weakness. They didn't
need to hide anymore. In fact, they could come out in full regalia and proclaim
their desired demise of America and her values while at the same time being
protected by her constitutional right of freedom of speech and assembly.
It hasn't always been an easy line to discern, but it's becoming increasingly
blurred and we have to draw the line more clearly. Let's take the example
of 'political correctness' vs. free speech. Most would agree that deliberately
insulting someone is inappropriate; it's just plain bad manners. Someone
with such bad manners is usually reprimanded and/or shunned and eventually
gets the message. We could debate forever whether any given remark
was a deliberate insult or not but, when activists want legislation that
makes it a crime to insult someone, then we're talking about different ideologies.
There is a clear-cut distinction between freedom of speech and dictating
how someone must speak. The outcome of this ideological battle will
have a profound influence on the society we live in.
Let's take another example. The war in Iraq. We can debate for
hours and days whether we should have prosecuted this war now or later or
continued with containment. However, when the conversation turns to
whether we should protect our nation, it's a battle of ideologies.
Also, we can debate whether we should include allies in our plans for national
defense, what role to give to allies, how much counsel to give to allies,
but when the subject changes to giving up our sovereignty to the United Nations
(which includes nations who have no intention to be our allies, but rather
seek our demise), it's a battle of ideologies.
It seems, as a society, we're used to speaking of battles, but we seem reluctant
to acknowledge that battles are an aspect of wars. Wars to gain territory
are a thing of the past. Wars to win minds and hearts are the norm these
days. Culture wars are raging all around us, and these have long term
implications for our society as a whole.
It has been said of John Walker Lindh, the American Taliban, that he was
just expressing a difference of opinion. That's putting it too mildly.
In fact, he was siding with our enemies and fighting for the downfall of
the United States. It has been said that, with the greatest military
strength on earth, no nation will defeat us militarily, but that our downfall
will come from within. By allowing our internal debate to embrace as
"equally valid" the opinions of the enemies of freedom and democracy and
the very foundation of the United States of America, we're blurring the lines
between a sincere debate among friends and a compromise with enemies.
This is exactly what the enemies of freedom want.
& Helen Evans, international teachers and authors, write articles and
teach a philosophical approach to conservatism. Their website is http://peterandhelenevans.com.