The parameters in which we allow ourselves to think about vital issues shrink remorselessly.
By Mark Steyn
One of the most ingenious and effective strategies of the Left on any number of topics is to frame the debate and co-opt the language so effectively that it becomes all but impossible even to discuss the subject honestly. Take the brothers Tsarnaev, the incendiary end of a Chechen family that in very short time has settled aunts, uncles, sisters, and more across the map of North America from Massachusetts to New Jersey to my own home town of Toronto. Maybe your town has a Tsarnaev, too: There seems to be no shortage of them, except, oddly, back in Chechnya. The Tsarnaevs’ mom, now relocated from Cambridge to Makhachkala in delightful Dagestan, told a press conference the other day that she regrets ever having gotten mixed up with those crazy Yanks: “I would prefer not to have lived in America,” she said.
Not, I’m sure, as much as the Richard family would have preferred it. Eight-year-old Martin was killed; his sister lost a leg; and his mother suffered serious brain injuries. What did the Richards and some 200 other families do to deserve having a great big hole blown in their lives? Well, according to the New York Times, they and you bear collective responsibility. Writing on the op-ed page, Marcello Suarez-Orozco, dean of the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, and Carola Suarez-Orozco, a professor at the same institution, began their ruminations thus:
“The alleged involvement of two ethnic Chechen brothers in the deadly attack at the Boston Marathon last week should prompt Americans to reflect on whether we do an adequate job assimilating immigrants who arrive in the United States as children or teenagers.”
Maybe. Alternatively, the above opening sentence should “prompt Americans to reflect” on whether whoever’s editing America’s newspaper of record these days “does an adequate job” in choosing which pseudo-credentialed experts it farms out its principal analysis on terrorist atrocities to. But, if I follow correctly, these UCLA profs are arguing that, when some guys go all Allahu Akbar on you and blow up your marathon, that just shows that you lazy complacent Americans need to work even harder at “assimilating” “immigrants.” After all, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan were raised in Cambridge, Mass., a notorious swamp of redneck bigotry where the two young Chechens no doubt felt “alienated” and “excluded” at being surrounded by NPR-listening liberals cooing, “Oh, your family’s from Chechnya? That’s the one next to Slovakia, right? Would you like to come round for a play date and help Jeremiah finish his diversity quilt?” Assimilation is hell.
How hard would it be for Americans to be less inadequate when it comes to assimilating otherwise well-adjusted immigrant children? Let us turn once again to Mrs. Tsarnaev:
“They are going to kill him. I don’t care,” she told reporters. “My oldest son is killed, so I don’t care. I don’t care if my youngest son is going to be killed today. . . . I don’t care if I am going to get killed, too . . . and I will say Allahu Akbar!”
You can say it all you want, madam, but everyone knows that “Allahu Akbar” is Arabic for “Nothing to see here.” So, once you’ve cleared the streets of body parts, you inadequate Americans need to redouble your efforts.
There is a stupidity to this, but also a kind of decadence. Until the 1960s, it was assumed by all sovereign states that they had the right to choose which non-nationals were admitted within their borders. Now, to suggest such a thing risks the charge of “nativism” and to propose that, say, Swedes are easier to assimilate than Chechens is to invite cries of “Racist!” So, when the morgues and emergency rooms are piled high, the only discussion acceptable in polite society is to wonder whether those legless Bostonians should have agitated more forcefully for federally mandated after-school assimilationist basketball programs.
As Ma Tsarnaev’s effusions suggest, at the sharp end of Islamic imperialism, there’s a certain glorying in sacrifice. We’re more fatalistic about it: After Major Hasan gunned down 13 of his comrades and an unborn baby, General Casey, the Army’s chief of staff, assured us that it could have been a whole lot worse:
“What happened at Fort Hood was a tragedy, but I believe it would be an even greater tragedy if our diversity becomes a casualty here.”
What happened at Boston was a “tragedy,” but it would be an even greater tragedy if there were to be any honest discussion of immigration policy, or Islam, or anything else that matters.
Speaking of glorying in blood, in Philadelphia the Kermit Gosnell defense rested, without calling either the defendant or any witness to the stand. As I wrote last week, “Doctor” Gosnell is accused of cutting the spinal columns and suctioning out the brains of fully delivered babies. The blogger Pundette listed some questions she would have liked the “doctor” to be asked:
“Why did you chop off and preserve baby hands and feet and display them in jars?”
There seems to be no compelling medical reason for Gosnell’s extensive collection, but bottled baby feet certainly make a novelty paperweight or doorstop. “I think we already know the answer,” wrote the Pundette. “He enjoyed it.”
Unlike the Boston bombings, even the New York Times op-ed team can’t figure out a line on this. Better to look away, and ignore the story. America is the abortion mill of the developed world. In Western Europe, the state is yet squeamish enough to insist that the act be confined to twelve weeks (France) or 13 (Italy), with mandatory counseling (Germany), or up to 18 if approved by a government “commission” (Norway). Granted, many of these “safeguards” are pro forma and honored in the breach, but that’s preferable to America where they’re honored in the breech and the distinction between abortion and infanticide depends on whether the “doctor” gets to the baby’s skull before it’s cleared the cervix. The Washington Examiner’s Timothy Carney sat in on a conference call with Dr. Tracy Weitz of the University of California, San Francisco:
“When a procedure that usually involves the collapsing of the skull is done, it’s usually done when the fetus is still in the uterus, not when the fetus has been delivered. . . . So, in terms of thinking about the difference between the way abortion providers who do later abortions in the United States practice, and this particular practice, they are completely worlds apart.”
Technically, they’re only inches apart. So what’s the big deal? The skull is collapsed in order to make it easier to clear the cervix. Once a healthy baby is out on the table and you cut his spinal column, there’s no need to suck out his brains and cave in his skull. But “Dr.” Gosnell seems to have got a kick out of it, so why not?
You can understand why American progressivism would rather avert its gaze. Out there among the abortion absolutists, they’re happy to chit-chat about the acceptable parameters of the “collapsing of the skull,” but the informed general-interest reader would rather it all stayed at the woozy, blurry “woman’s right to choose” level.
We’re collapsing our own skulls here — the parameters in which we allow ourselves to think about abortion, welfare, immigration, terrorism, Islam shrink remorselessly, not least at the congressional level. Maybe if we didn’t collapse the skulls of so many black babies in Philadelphia, we wouldn’t need to import so many excitable young Chechens. But that’s thinking outside the box, and the box is getting ever smaller, like a nice, cozy cocoon in which we’re always warm and safe. Like — what’s the word? — a womb.