9/11 WAS JUST THE OTHER DAY
Two years on from Concord, from Bull Run, from Pearl Harbor, our country still had a lot of fighting to do to finish the job. Two years after Churchill’s Iron Curtain warning, the free world faced another 40 years of struggle before the Soviets would be defeated.
I worry that two years after radical Islam brought war to NY, DC, and PA on September 11, 2001, America already shows symptoms of short memory, thin patience, and wavering realism. We must persevere—not only on the central front, as Bush correctly calls Iraq, but also on other fronts such as Israel. Susan Barnes-Gelt and I clashed about that on TV the other day:
JA: If the US is serious about the war on terrorism, let’s allow the Israelis to move for total victory against Yasir Arafat and the PLO, who invented terrorism. We lose much of the benefit of taking out the Iraqi gangsters unless we hold the Palestinian gangsters to the same standard. for that region and the world.Without that, the so-called Middle East roadmap does not lead to peace, but to increased danger
SBG: What does “total victory” mean in the context of an endless cycle of violence where both sides have ancient and legitimate claims? The entire region from Baghdad to Jerusalem is now ablaze, and extremists everywhere are cackling in delight. The roadmap to peace is the only route to moral high ground—and it’s also the blueprint for survival.
JA: The claims are not equal; Jewish roots in the Holy Land go much deeper. Nor is the violence a cycle; Arafat is always the aggressor. Victory would mean he ends up like Saddam—dead, exiled, or jailed for life. Nothing less will save his own people, whom he has misled so murderously for so long. Only with Arafat’s forces smashed can the Israelis and the Palestinians begin building a peaceful future together.
SBG: Arafat’s death won’t dissuade Hamas extremists any more than toppling Saddam deterred Iraqi guerrillas. True believers will prevail where there is neither logic nor reason, fed by centuries of hate, ignorance, and poverty. If our powerful nation abandons alternatives to violence, the failure will be of monumental and devastating consequence. The cost of the war on terrorism in Iraq, both in dollars and casualties, has only increased since Saddam’s been on the run.
JA: What we must not abandon, as the world looks to us for leadership, is realism and resolve. It’s unrealistic to expect peace until the Palestinians accept genuine coexistence with the Jewish state. It’s irresolute to forbid the Israelis from crushing Hamas and Islamic Jihad as we crushed the Taliban and the Baath Party. They are all one nest of snakes, which the democracies must join in cleaning out.
[From our daily spot on Colorado Public Television. Click to www.HeadonTV.org for airtimes and scripts]
TIME FOR AN ACADEMIC BILL OF RIGHTS
Quotas at our universities are never justified for any reason. Discrimination is always wrong, no matter whether it's based on race, religion, or political beliefs. It is to prevent such discrimination, to provide fairness for students and faculty of whatever political or religious persuasion, that I favor an academic bill of rights on Colorado campuses. Academic freedom is the lifeblood of higher education. To guarantee it, public policy should affirm that:
1. Students have a right to be graded on the merits of their work, without regard to their political or religious beliefs.
2. Students have a right to expect that course content in all fields—especially those most easily politicized, the humanities and social sciences—will reflect diverse scholarly viewpoints.
3. Students have a right to expect that speaker invitations, as well as funding for speakers and other student activities, will respect academic freedom and reflect intellectual diversity.
4. Faculty have a right to expect that decisions about hiring, firing, promotions, and tenure will be based on the merits of their work, without regard to their political or religious beliefs.
5. Faculty have a right to expect that there will be intellectual diversity in the makeup of committees that conduct searches, hire applicants, and grant tenure.
These guarantees could be enacted by governing boards or the legislature. Remedies could be administrative or judicial. But left and right alike, devout and atheist alike, could only benefit from such impartial safeguards as years pass and the ideological pendulum swings. After all, political pluralism, open debate, and tolerance of all viewpoints aren’t the property of any party. They are simply the American way.
INGRATITUDE AS A CIVIC PRINCIPLE
“Whose bread I eat, his song I sing.” That proverb pretty well describes how the world works. You give me something and expect something in return. I receive benefits from you and am inclined to reciprocate. It’s a sensible if hardly invariable truism: obedience tends to follow obligation. But those who object to a daily ceremony honoring our country and its flag in public classrooms ignore this. They want government-provided schooling with no reciprocity from its beneficiaries—the students who are being educated and the teachers who are being paid. They seek to exalt ingratitude into a civic principle. We shouldn’t let them.
Colorado this year joined 33 other states in legislating for all our public schools to do uniformly what many were doing already—start each day with recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. The new law made exceptions for religious objectors and non-citizens, carefully following Supreme Court interpretation of constitutional free-speech provisions. But the ACLU sued to block it anyway, and US District Judge Lewis Babcock obliged. The law is now suspended, pending possible revisions when the legislature meets next year. Banner headlines crowed: “No forced Pledge. State backs down, for now, on making students vow allegiance.”
What nonsense. There was never going to be any forced Pledge. Students and teachers alike were free to opt out. In addition, students are al-ways free to attend a nonpublic school—though not to quit school, if under 16. Teachers likewise are always free to work somewhere else. For those who chose to be there, however, and who then chose to participate, our law would have instituted a regular observance of that patriotic custom which most Americans not only accept but cherish—saying “thanks, I’m with you,” to this republic that makes possible our liberties and privileges. What’s so tyrannical about that?
One way in which our nation extends “justice for all” is by offering universal free education, which brings us back to the truism of bread and song. Though education isn’t indoctrination, it does impose obligations on the learner —not only study and exploration, but also socialization into certain customs. Why shouldn’t one of those be a ceremony honoring the flag? The learner is at school to master a body of knowledge, skills, and attitudes. Citizenship has to be part of that. Standing and saying together the Pledge of Allegiance is a logical place to begin, not as a substitute for studying civics, but as an experiential complement to it. In court, the judge opined that any such experience is devoid of instructional value. He was wrong. When you and I said the Pledge in school, it helped us gain the knowledge that freedom is not free; the skill of subordinating ourselves in cooperating with legitimate authority; plus an attitude of respect and gratitude for the country in which we were so fortunate to be growing up. That’s a lot.
Here in Colorado, the left talks mostly about broadening the opt-out provisions for a daily Pledge ceremony in schools, but their ultimate goal is to ban it from schools entirely. That’s clear from the California decision imposing such a ban, now headed for US Supreme Court review. The left hopes to gain by judicial power what they never could with votes—the absolute divorce of rights from responsibilities and of children from parental authority. Even their libertarian rhetoric toward this end is selective and hypocritical, as I found in an interview with Alan Colmes, one of the house liberals at Fox News.
When a caller suggested that a Pledge ceremony with an opt-out is no more coercive than sex education with an opt-out, Colmes pounced. “Is that a deal?” he asked. “We get sex education and you get the Pledge?” I observed that the deal was done long ago, forcibly, with liberals getting condom lessons, anti-American curriculum, and much more, while conservatives got nothing. But Colmes wouldn’t engage on that, or on my offer that we go down the free-market road together and establish education vouchers, perhaps even abolish compulsory school-attendance laws. He dodged—understandably, since the status-quo approach of forcing kids into classrooms while forcing traditional values out has worked so well for their side.
Colorado legislators will keep fighting that status quo. We want kids to grow up in the 21st century as most of us did in the 20th, honoring the Republic each day. And we believe that if the citizen who chooses to be a legislator must swear an oath, one who chooses to be a tax-paid teacher can reasonably be asked to lead the Pledge. Eat America’s bread, sing her song.