Jewish World Review August 11, 2005/ 6 Av,
Apple pie, pot roast and survival
That's what the culture wars are all about. Men and women will sometimes
die for an abstract idea, but it's usually the specific way of life they
love and their love for it that drives them resolutely into harm's way.
"The intelligentsia," writes Lee Harris in Policy Review, "has no idea
of the consequences that would ensue if Middle America lost its simple faith
in G-d and its equally simple trust in its fellow men. Their plain virtues
and homespun beliefs are the bedrock of decency and integrity in our nation
and in the world."
Whether you agree with the president's policy to take democracy to the
Middle East or not, it's about defending a way of life, so our children and
grandchildren can build their futures on what we cherish. Like it or not,
the threat of distorted Islam is a threat similar to the Nazi menace of the
1930s. Franklin D. Roosevelt understood the menace of Nazism, but he was
unable to persuade the American people to go to war against Germany until
Pearl Harbor. Hitler declared war on us the next day. December 7, 1941, was
the date that united us all.
Our generation got the wake-up call on September 11, but the enemy was
not nearly as clearly defined, and the war against the new enemy requires
new tactics. We're still figuring out how to wage it, but George W. Bush was
on the money last week in Texas when he reminded us that we're at war with
an enemy that gave us a new date to live in infamy: "We're at war against an
enemy that since that day has continued to kill."
Few scholars defend the Crusades, but one mistake the intellectual
critics of the Iraq war make, here and in Europe, is to suggest that our war
is the equivalent of those medieval religious clashes. With an incredible
twist of logic, they argue that it's the West, not the radical Muslims, who
are on a religious mission today. Daniel Johnson, in an essay titled "How to
Think About the Crusades," points out how many intellectuals, being
irreligious themselves, are unable to recognize religious distinctions, and
create a moral equivalence of very different religions that makes it
difficult if not impossible to identify the threat.
Holy war in Islamic theology, for example, is a "religious duty"; no
Christian church or Jewish synagogue teaches anything like that. "For the
fact is that whereas the Crusades were a temporary phenomenon that
flourished for some two centuries and had quite limited purposes, jihad is
and has been a permanent and ubiquitous fact of Islamic life," writes Daniel
Johnson in Commentary magazine. "Islamists know exactly how to exploit
post-imperial, post-Christian guilt the West's Achilles' heel." In this
scenario, jihad is offered as a justifiable response to aggression, both in
ancient times and today.
If we believe as V.S. Naipaul does and I do avoiding the fight
against the terrorists is to abandon our obligation to the next generation.
Any society or culture reproducing itself must take care to pass on the
ingredients for survival. "It's not enough to pass on the good china,"
writes Lee Harris. "You must also pass on the family recipe for making the
We went to war to save the world 65 years ago yearning for Mom's apple
pie, symbolizing what we were fighting for. The farther our intellectuals
insulate themselves from the plain virtues and homespun beliefs of Middle
America, pushing themselves away from the dinner table and the pot roast and
apple pie, they rob succeeding generations of the appetite for what's great
about America. Theirs is a recipe for starvation.
Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in Washington and in the media consider "must reading." Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
Comment on JWR contributor Suzanne Fields' column by clicking here.