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The Wrong Kind of Politeness



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In today’s Impromptus, I spend a little time talking about the reaction to the Boston bombing: Our president connected the bombing to Tax Day, according to David Axelrod. There were many similar reactions. I’d like to do some further musing here in the Corner.

One of the things we’re taught is that we’re no better than anybody else — and that’s a good teaching, by and large. (You may remember a line from Oklahoma!: “I don’t say I’m better than anybody else; but I’ll be damned if I ain’t just as good!”) What we should watch, I think, is false equivalence.

In 2010, the Obama State Department engaged in “human-rights talks” with the government of China. China, as you know, is a one-party dictatorship with a gulag (laogai). It is a country that routinely “disappears” people. That routinely tortures them to death. A country that imprisons the 2010 Nobel peace laureate (Liu Xiaobo).

At a press conference, our representative, Michael Posner, was asked, “Did the recently passed Arizona immigration law come up? And, if so, did they bring it up or did you bring it up?” Posner answered, “We brought it up early and often. It was mentioned in the first session, and as a troubling trend in our society and an indication that we have to deal with issues of discrimination or potential discrimination, and that these are issues very much being debated in our own society.”

The American side also talked to the Chinese Communists about our “treatment of Muslim Americans.”

You may remember something more recent — from just a couple of weeks ago: A U.S. Army instructor issued a list with the heading “Religious Extremism.” At the tippy-top of the list was “Evangelical Christianity (U.S./Christian).” Al-Qaeda was at No. 5. Well, at least they made the list.

I’m all for politeness. I’m all for not being too big for your britches. I’m all for casting out beams from our own eyes, before turning to the motes in others’. What I’m not for is stupidity, and a potentially suicidal stupidity at that.



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