Freaking Out the Left

Cliff May’s must-read column documents the mainstream media’s abysmal failure (even hostility) to explore the views and plans of the Ground Zero mosque builders. Instead of sharp questioning about their funding and justification for their provocative act, they have been granted platforms to impugn America and to claim they are the victims of smears. May responds:

Let’s say it one more time loudly for the media moguls in the cheap seats: Most Muslims are not terrorists. But in the 21st century, most of those slaughtering women and children in the name of religion are Muslims. This is a movement. This is a reality. And it is a problem. It ought to be seen by Muslims as very much their problem — a pathology within their community, within the “Muslim world,” within the ummah.

May wonders what explains the media’s duplicity in the gussying up of the mosque builders’ moderate bona fides: “Is this moral posturing or cowardice or self-delusion or the byproduct of the multicultural ideological mush that so much of the media has been both eating and dishing out?” These are not mutually exclusive explanations, of course.

Near hysteria on the left has greeted the suggestion that, in this case, a mosque raises unique concerns and valid objections precisely because it is a mosque and precisely because the location is the worst slaughter in our history after Antietam. This is indicative, one suspects, of something more than the usual liberal moral preening.

What the Ground Zero mosque controversy demands is that we choose, we distinguish, we make value judgments,  and we deploy moral reasoning. What if legalities are not the end-all and be-all? What happens when a claim of victimhood cannot shut down questioning of the ethical conduct of the supposed victims? Nothing could be more horrifying to the left. By goodness, if we go down that road, where will the inquiries lead?

Much of the left’s template — from hostility toward Israel to support for racial quotas and statist health care — is built on the premise that the have-nots own a trump card. They have claims on money, land, college slots, or health-care because they have inherited grievances that absolve them of the normal scrutiny that others must endure. (What are your grades? What violence have you engaged in?) If we begin to operate in a rule of personal responsibility (Forget what race you are, have you studied?) and moral accountability (Forget what hovel your grandfather left 60 years ago, will you stop maiming children?), then the equation for many issues changes in ways the left certainly doesn’t welcome.

The reason the left likes to talk of “rights” — the right to health care, the right to housing — is that it bars discussion of the equities, which entails a different sort  of “right.” (Is it right to take money from the middle class to subsidize others’ mortgage payments?) In the case of the mosque, the left wants the discussion to end at: do they have a right to build there? That the rest of us refuse to take that as the final word and want to engage the builders in terms of what is decent, what is respectful, and what really is the basis for tolerance and reconciliation horrifies the left. And well it should.