Monday, September 18, 2006

In a Wall Street Journal editorial, Brett Stephens quotes a Newsweek essay by a young woman named Rachel Newman that appeared about a month after 9/11:

"When I was 19, I moved to New York City. . . . If you had asked me to describe myself then, I would have told you I was a musician, an artist and, on a somewhat political level, a woman, a lesbian and a Jew. Being an American wouldn't have made my list. On Sept. 11, all that changed. I realized that I had been taking the freedoms I have here for granted. Now I have an American flag on my backpack, I cheer at the fighter jets as they pass overhead and I am calling myself a patriot."

Stephens wonders why more of us liberal freaks and weirdos aren't like Newman:

Here's a puzzle: Why is it so frequently the case that the people who have the most at stake in the battle against Islamic extremism and the most to lose when Islamism gains--namely, liberals--are typically the most reluctant to fight it?

... maybe Ms. Newman intuited that Atta's real targets weren't the symbols of American mightiness, but of what that mightiness protected: people like her, bohemian, sexually unorthodox, a minority within a minority. Maybe she understood that those F-16s overhead--likely manned by pilots who went to church on Sunday and voted the straight GOP ticket--were being flown above all for her defense, at the outer cultural perimeter of everything that America's political order permits.

This may be reading too much into Ms. Newman's essay....

Er, yeah, it might -- because what Stephens doesn't tell you is that Rachel Newman was a bit "reluctant to fight" the terror war as Bush defined it. Here's a part of her essay Stephens doesn't quote:

I don't believe that our leaders should be callous or bomb already ravaged countries like Afghanistan. I worry that the innocent civilians in that country will have a much different reaction to our fighter jets than I do.

... I've come to accept the idea of a focused war on terrorists as the best way to ensure our country's safety.

So she didn't even want the Taliban government overthrown as a response to 9/11. Not that that prevents Stephens from using her essay as a stick to beat those of us who didn't want the Saddam Hussein government overthrown as a response to 9/11.

Oh, and is it possible that the author of the essay is this Rachel Newman, an androgynous musician based in New York -- whose links page features, er, MoveOn, Air America, and Margaret Cho? Maybe, maybe not -- I'm really not sure. But the Newsweek essayist wrote,

When I was 19, I moved to New York City to be a musician. The first thing I did was get a tattoo on each hand: one was a treble clef, the other was the insignia for Silvertone guitars.

That hand tattoo sorta looks like a treble clef, no?


So why don't tattooed lesbian Gothamite singers and transsexual multiply pierced Wiccan wife-swappers and all the rest of us freaks and weirdos support the Bush foreign policy? (I mean, besides the obvious reason -- that it's a miserable failure.) Why don't we recognize that we're the evildoers' prime target?

Um, because we aren't the evildoers' prime target?

Look around. Islamicists curtail women's rights and gay rights in Muslim nations -- and Western liberals duly take note (even though nobody else does). Honor killings and other regressive practices take place in Muslim communities in the West as well.

But Islamicists aren't imposing behavioral restrictions to curtail Westerners' decadence. They're not seeking to take over any city or state to shut down gay bars or gambling casinos or hip-hop clubs. They're not launching terrorist attacks on Christopher Street or the Castro, Ibiza or Burning Man, the Oscars or Cannes or the Sundance Festival. Why would they? To them, we're all decadent. They don't see much difference between a women's business suit with a knee-length skirt and a dominatrix costume. A porn star and a mother of two who occasionally buys underwear at Victoria's Secret are seen as equally depraved.

Since we're all indistinguishable, they don't even try to target us based on lifestyle. What they do instead is kill us indiscriminately -- in the Twin Towers, on Madrid commuter trains, in the London Underground. Maybe they target an enemy, but not for lifestyle -- in Amsterdam they killed Theo van Gogh, who'd insulted them; they've left the red-light districts and the marijuana coffee shops alone.

We need to stop their attacks. But they don't find the tattooed lesbians any more depraved than they find the rest of us.

For that level of discrimination, you have to turn to the American right.

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