A day rarely goes by when I’m not accused of “dual loyalty” — or worse — by someone who doesn’t like Israel, America’s involvement with Israel, or bagel-eaters of any kind. Hell, if I even mention Israel in a column, I know the “you Zionist bastard!” salvos will be raining down on my position in short order. It doesn’t matter in the slightest what I say or how I say it. I could write, “There’s a Puerto Rican busboy named Israel who walks his dog the same time as I do. I think he might be gay” — and somebody will e-mail me saying, “I read your article defending Israel, why can’t you Jews just move there!”
While the anti-Semitism that usually accompanies such silliness isn’t much fun, what strikes me the most is how bigotry and multiculturalism are really two sides of the same coin. One group of Americans claims diversity is the greatest thing in the world — that differently hued and gendered people each have a unique perspective that pale penis people can never comprehend. “I am an albino hermaphroditic lesbian indigenous American, and you can never understand where I’m coming from.” Meanwhile, another group of Americans — allegedly opposed to identity politics — says, “You people are trapped in your perspective and you can never be ‘real’ Americans because you’re Jews” (or blacks, or Asians, or whatever).
Fundamentally, there’s no difference between these two positions. Both sides claim that ethnicity is an iron-bar prison. It’s just that one group thinks they’re superior for being in a cage, and the other group thinks they’re superior because they put other people in a cage. But both are playing the same identity-politics game; they just play on different teams. It’s the difference between those who say “colored people” and those who say “people of color” — each side is still valuing and sorting people according to their color.
But, I really want to talk about this idea of dual loyalty.
Of course, Jews aren’t the only people who’ve been charged with dual loyalty. Catholics have for centuries faced the charge that they’re more loyal to the Pope than to their own countries. It used to be called ultramontanism (derived from the Latin ultra montes or “beyond the mountains” — not to be confused with ultra montes pectore, which means “over Pamela Anderson”). This meant that Frenchmen, say, would look over the Alps to Rome, rather than to Paris, for instruction. With the obvious exception of Gore Vidal — who still believes Antonin Scalia is operating on direct orders from John Paul II — this idea has largely disappeared. Besides, as Lord Acton pointed out, “The Catholic is subject to the correction of the Church when he is in contradiction of her truth, not when he stands in the way of her interests.”
Disloyalty Is the Issue
What’s funny is that nobody means “dual loyalty” when they use the term. It’s a misnomer. (After all, loyalty is a good thing, so twice as much loyalty should be even better.) No, what people actually mean is that some people — Jews, Catholics, whoever — are loyal to someone or something else, and disloyal to America. But we never hear about disloyalty anymore. Isn’t it weird that anyone willing to make such a hurtful charge would be squeamish about using the more appropriate word, disloyalty?
I think it was the McCarthy era — or, more accurately, the constant demonization of it by liberals — that first made discussion of disloyalty so unpopular. Never mind that the McCarthy era was a response to the fact that this country was confronted by a good number of people who were truly disloyal. Remember: It was a horrible witch-hunt, but there were some witches deserving of the hunt.
The Vietnam War further helped to purge the word from polite conversation. So many baby boomers and celebrity Leftists were so conspicuously disloyal to their own country that it became politically incorrect to point out this obvious truth (like mentioning that blacks are disproportionately on welfare, Jews are disproportionately in the media, or gays disproportionately participate in men’s figure skating).
For example: To this day, if you mention in polite company that Jane Fonda should have been tried for treason, eyes will roll at you for being a political troglodyte. After all, the fact that she allowed herself to be photographed at an enemy antiaircraft gun, applauding the North Vietnamese, is so much old news. As is the fact she offered help to enemy radio broadcasts, saying things like this to our soldiers and POWs: “I don’t know what your officers tell you… but [your] weapons are illegal and… the men who are ordering you to use these weapons are war criminals.”
Sorry, I’m still one of those trogs who can’t let go.
Getting back to uses and abuses of McCarthyism, the somewhat unfortunate fact is that, today, asking people if they are loyal to America is considered fascist. I can understand the squeamishness. If someone asked me — going solely by the fact that my last name is Goldberg — if I was loyal to America, I would take offense.
But just because a question can be inappropriate, doesn’t mean it’s never appropriate. If, out of the blue, I asked you if you had had sex with a dog, you would have every reason to take offense. But if I was your doctor and you had some bizarre canine venereal disease, you would be wrong to take offense. Context matters.
Consider this: British Muslims are reportedly leaving their country to fight for the Taliban. The extremist groups say “thousands” have left, though it could be a lot fewer than that. But enough are leaving, or talking about leaving, that British politicians feel the need to warn them they will be prosecuted for treason if they go to Afghanistan to fight on the side of the enemy.
According to the London Telegraph, a radio station conducted a poll of 500 Muslims, mostly Pakistani, between the ages of 20 and 45 living in the greater London area. Ninety-one percent said this is a war between the Christian West and Islam, and 98 percent said they wouldn’t fight for Britain. Forty-eight percent said they would fight for bin Laden or for Islam.
Let us be clear. These are not the objections of pacifists. These are people who not only would take up arms, but would take up arms in this cause — just not for their country. In other words, even if this poll is a huge exaggeration of the reality, a significant fraction of British Muslims are simply disloyal. Period.
I haven’t seen any similar reporting about Muslims in America. That may simply be because no Muslims in America want to fight on the side of the Taliban. But it may also be because American journalists believe it is wrong to even ask the question.
The spinning of McCarthyism has gotten us to the point where disloyalty is actually defined as a higher and more pure form of loyalty. We are told, for example, that flag burning should be celebrated as quintessentially American — because it expresses our tolerance of dissent. Of course, the reality is that flag-burners are left-wing brownshirts who would be just as likely as any cross burners to squash dissent of any kind, if they were running the show.
It is the accepted intellectual fashion, on American campuses, to assume that America is a force of evil and that, in turn, saying so is wonderfully American. Recall the college professor who announced to his class that “anybody who blows up the Pentagon gets my vote.” In this atmosphere of hogwash, it’s hardly surprising that few people even think to ask whether disloyalty is a real problem. If you read Frank Foer’s excellent piece in the latest New Republic, or Jake Tapper’s authoritative expose in Salon, the unspoken question remains: Are these people reliably loyal to the United States and, if not, what should we do about it?
I certainly don’t think you can’t be an American and a good Muslim. Nor do I think every Muslim-American should be asked to take a loyalty oath (unless, that is, everyone is asked to). I do, however, think it is a perfectly legitimate question to ask of the leaders of some of the more extreme American Islamic groups. Groups like CAIR and the American Muslim Council have leaders who’ve endorsed terrorist groups. They get mumbly when asked to denounce Osama bin Laden. There are powerful imams in the United States who refuse to admit that the people who attacked the World Trade Center weren’t Jews.
I have no problem with American Muslims who demand that American tolerance and acceptance be extended to them. What I do have a problem with are those who wrap themselves up in the American language of tolerance and acceptance when, in their hearts, they are sworn opponents of the society that offers it.