The Corner

America, the Decent

My views on the mosque are pretty well aired out now. I think it’s a bad idea to build right there (though not the end of the world), and — as I argue today — if Bloomberg and Obama had more talent and statesmanship this mess never would have come to pass in the first place.

But there’s one point that I haven’t seen made that I think is really worth reminding people of. Simply: This is an incredibly tolerant country and, it has shown remarkable tolerance since 9/11. There has been no “anti-Muslim” backlash.

And yet, to listen to the proponents of the Cordoba House tell it, you’d think this country desperately needs to prove its tolerance. That this is some important gesture, some critical test of our ability to treat Muslims fairly.

This is a crock.

This is an incredibly, amazingly tolerant country. That’s one of the reasons why we grow so many fewer (which is not to say none) homegrown Jihadis than they do in Europe. The openness of our country is how and why the 9/11 terrorists were so successful. And, despite that fact, this country remained astoundingly open and tolerant. The supposedly “crusading” and bloodthirsty President Bush could barely finish a sentence without saying “Islam means peace.” And, contrary to the perversely disfigured narrative  constructed by the Left and much of the media, the overwhelming majority of Americans, including the overwhelming majority of supposedly bigoted conservatives, have acquitted themselves honorably and decently. Whatever excesses, real or alleged, that have come from the justice system or from main street, are by any historical standard — including any previous analogous period in American history — trivial.

And yet, every time there is an Islamic terrorist attack, we’re told that we must brace for yet another anti-Muslim backlash, which never arrives.

Indeed, listening to all of this talk about “crowd” politics from liberals these days, you get the distinct impression that there are a lot of 20-something liberal bloggers, MSNBC talk-show hosts, and newspaper editorial writers who honestly believe that they are not only better than the American public but that they are in fact the duly anointed conscience of this, our embarrassingly backward and bigoted nation. They must stand ever vigilant, lest America’s deep reservoirs of hatred and bigotry burst their levees and spill out through the sluices of the Republican Party.

How does this river of hate manifest itself? The supposedly anti-Muslim 70 percent of Americans who don’t like the idea of building the Cordoba House near Ground Zero mostly also believe the owners have the right to do it if they can’t be persuaded otherwise. Wow, that’s some crackdown on Muslims.

In any decent society, tolerance must work both ways. If the majority is expected to show respect for a minority, the minority must also show some tolerance for the values of the majority. I’m no strict majoritarian –  one with right on his side is the majority as far as I’m concerned. But this isn’t a clear-cut issue of right and wrong. It’s more complicated than that. It’s about deference and decency and common sense. And one of the things common sense should tell us is that it is not only unfair but terribly ill-advised to portray 7 out of 10 Americans as bigots when they are anything but.

Jonah Goldberg — Jonah Goldberg holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute and is a senior editor of National Review. His new book, The Suicide of The West, is on sale now.

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