Questioning their patriotism

Posted: Jun 24, 2005 12:00 AM

Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., has, under extreme pressure, tearfully retracted his comparison of American behavior at Guantanamo to the Nazis, Soviets and Pol Pot. Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., has not retracted his barb following disclosures of detainee mistreatment at Abu Ghraib, about Saddam's torture chambers being "under new management, U.S. management." Michael Moore has not regretted his remark, uttered in the days after September 11, that "we have orphaned too many children . . . with our taxpayer funded terrorism . . . [so] we shouldn't be too surprised when those orphans grow up and are a little wacked in the head."

 These comments are not aberrational. A measure of anti-Americanism has come to infect the left worldwide, and American liberals not only partake, they are the most assiduous popularizers of America hatred this side of Al-Jazeera.

 I know that I have just committed a faux pas. We are all supposed to indulge the polite fiction that "no one is questioning their patriotism." And certainly it would be over-generalizing to suggest that all liberals are anti-American. But neither can there be any doubt that hostility to, suspicion of, and cynicism about this country are positively mainstream in liberal precincts; the Democratic Party, the universities liberals control, and in many crucial areas of American cultural life.

 It continues to defy explanation why liberals, who theoretically love liberty, equality, tolerance and moderation, should find so much to despise in their own country, which represents the fullest expression of those virtues anywhere on the globe. Perhaps it is because, as Robert Frost said, "A liberal is a man too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel." Some have speculated that the jingoism of World War I permanently soured the intellectual classes toward nationalism and inclined liberals toward reflexive criticism of their own societies. But this is unsatisfying because 1) it hasn't seemed to have this effect on the French or the Russians, and 2) liberals have shown great tenderness toward politically correct nationalisms, like Vietnam's and the Palestinians'.

 This brings us to the latest clash between those who despise this country and those who don't. Debra Burlingame is the sister of Charles Burlingame, the pilot who died on Flight 77 when it crashed into the Pentagon. A member of the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation, Burlingame published an account in The Wall Street Journal of the foundation's plans for memorializing 9/11. The liberal leadership of the International Freedom Center (as part of the memorial will be called) includes one-time Marxist Columbia University Professor Eric Foner and Michael Posner of Human Rights First, and receives advice from George Soros and Anthony Romero of the ACLU. The IFC plans, writes Burlingame, not a moving evocation of that catastrophic day, but instead "a high-tech, multimedia tutorial about man's inhumanity to man, from Native American genocide to the lynchings and cross-burnings of the Jim Crow South, from the Third Reich's Final Solution to the Soviet gulags and beyond. This is a history all should know and learn, but dispensing it over the ashes of Ground Zero is like creating a Museum of Tolerance over the sunken graves of the USS Arizona."

 Actually, if liberals had been in charge of the Arizona memorial, it would probably have featured an exhaustive exhibit about the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II and little about the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

 Consider a thought experiment: Suppose we were planning a memorial to honor murdered civil rights workers James Chaney, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, whose killer was finally convicted last week (and, by the way, a memorial is good idea). But what if the proposal included a section on black-on-black violence? Wouldn't liberals be quick to object that such a display is beside the point, not to say antithetical to the spirit of a memorial? They would, and they'd be right.

 Richard Tofel, president of the International Freedom Center, denies that the exhibit will malign the United States. As proof of his bona fides, he quotes Judge Learned Hand: "The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which seeks to understand the mind of other men and women." Feel reassured? Neither do I.