"Where are the Republican leaders who will reject pandering and prejudice?" wailed The Washington Post in its most recent editorial in support of Cordoba House mosque near Ground Zero.
Like the controversy over the mosque, the Post editorial reveals the two Americas we have become, uncomprehending of and hostile to each other, even as we drift apart.
To the Post, opposition boils down to three arguments, all of them "objectionable." The first is a wrong-headed belief "that the terrorists who destroyed the World Trade Center and killed almost 3,000 people there in 2001 really did represent Islam."
The second is that, as many families of 9/11 victims associate the terrorists with Islam, to build a mosque near the scene of the massacre would be sacrilegious and wounding.
The third is cynical politics. As two-in-three Americans oppose the mosque, siding with them and savaging supporters of Cordoba House is to run unconscionably with the crowd.
None of these arguments is acceptable, says the Post, for they represent misunderstanding, prejudice or "repugnant" politics.
What the Post is saying is that opponents of the mosque are all either bigoted ignoramuses or political panderers.
Quite a statement, when a Time poll finds that 61 percent of Americans oppose the mosque and 70 percent believe that to build it near Ground Zero would defile hallowed ground.
"(T)he right response to misunderstanding and prejudice," said the Post, "is education, not appeasement."
In short, rather than yield to ignorance, bigotry and demagoguery, the Post will undertake to tutor us on how to think correctly.
This is a pure extract of liberal ideology. Few better examples of faculty-lounge obtuseness to the feelings of the people among whom they live are to be found. Yet, the editorial has a point.
For, in Webster's, there are several definitions of "prejudice."
The most pejorative one is "an irrational attitude of hostility directed against an individual, a group, a race." Another definition, however, is simply a "preconceived judgment or opinion."
It is this idea of prejudice that Edmund Burke endorsed:
"Many of our men of speculation, instead of exploding general prejudices, employ their sagacity to discover the latent wisdom which prevails in them. If they find what they seek, and they seldom fail, they think it most wise to continue the prejudice, with the reason involved, than to cast away the coat of prejudice, and to leave nothing but the naked reason."