AmericaGovernment

Berkeley Grad and JFK admin member at age 80 calls for civility

By February 6, 2017 14 Comments

His letter to the Editor:

I am struck by the level of neurotic sound and fury, vitriol, misinformation, general ignorance, and pontifical certainty that is prevalent today in much of our body politic. Especially so as I observe the ongoing debate about the nature and varieties of Islam and the related US refugee resettlement policies that is happening between, on the one hand, the many Islamophobiacs on the Right and, on the other hand, the many Islamophiliacs on the Left, as well as the muddled opinions of those in the middle of this spectrum of views.

This is true not only on these troubling questions, but for virtually every other public policy question, foreign and domestic, facing us today.  Politically correct silencing, strident shouted chants, and death threats based on an underfed base of knowledge do not advance a civil dialogue, it only angers and then inflames opposing parts of the body politic.

Take the question of Islam, for example. Few people have read the Quran, any of the Hadith, the life of and practices of Muhammad, the history of Muslim territorial advances and retreats over the centuries, contemporary Islamic reform movements, or the widely differing theological norms and cultural practices among the some 1.6 billion Muslims in countries worldwide.

Just as there are varieties of scriptural interpretation and practice among Jews (Lubavitcher and Reformed) and Christians (Roman Catholic traditionalists and liberationists, the differing national Eastern Orthodox churches, and the many Protestant groups), so also is it in the case of Islam.

While there are many, many peaceful cultural Muslims (I have known several) there are also other Muslims who are not peaceful at all when it comes to unbelievers – tens of millions or more by several estimates. I wonder how many Americans have had time or inclination to study not only the differences between Sunnis, Shiites, and Sufis, but the more doctrinally literal and historically overlapping jihadi beliefs of the sub-sects of the Muslim Salafists, Islamists, and Wahhabists from whose teachings flow most of the actions of Sunni terrorists (al-Qaeda, ISIS, et al) around the world?

Few are aware of the key personalities, historic agenda, strategies,  and practices – covert and overt – of, say as one example, the Muslim Brotherhood salafists and their imitators since its founding in 1928.   How many know why September 11, 1683 at the Gates of Vienna was a significant setback date to Muslims historically in their failed attempt to conquer European Christendom and why, 318 years later, 9/11 was the date chosen in 2001 by al-Queda to symbolize the renewed Islamic Salafist’s imperialist attack on Western Civilization?

How many uninformed Americans, with no such awareness, nevertheless, have fixed and closed-minded opinions – dogmatic even – on Muslims and many other political topics of the day one side or the other?

A civil discussion about any public concern today is increasingly problematic given the rancor, snarky put-downs,  cherry-picking of facts (even “creating” them), screaming ever coarser language, and even riotous property destruction  and thuggish violence against persons on the streets of our radically fracturing and litigious country? When critical cognitive vigor is replaced by the intellectual feebleness of the Power of Positive Pigeonholing and community organized emotive agitprop tactics, the end will not be pleasant.

Now in my 80th year, I often wonder how America’s public square for civil discussion got to this point. Clearly, the political, social, and moral world around us is profoundly different from what I remember from the first half of my life in growing up, going to  college, working in JFK’s and LBJ’s State Department in DC and embassies in Turkey and India, traveling in other foreign countries, and teaching Middle East Politics and International Relations at Antioch University in Seattle. There has always been conflict to be sure (I was a young man in the 60s), but nothing like that of today.

As James Kalb, an attorney in Brooklyn, reminds us in an essay on America’s decaying political culture,  we used to base our political life on the will of the people or negotiations among interest groups, and we worked out, often painfully difficult, compromises. That is less and less true in recent years. Today the term “people” is more an abstract political slogan than it is a substantive on-the-ground reality. We are more than ever a splintering  pluribus, not a united unum.

Newer slogans like “tolerance” conceal more than they reveal. It is not clear how this happened or why. How did “inclusiveness” become the highest of virtues? How did any expressed reservations about the manifestation of any behavior whatsoever in our pansexual, sensate society, become “bigotry”? What could “celebrating diversity” possibly mean, when to celebrate a thing is to celebrate its special, uniquely particular, and differing qualities?

And why does “pluralism” mean, on the one hand, that everything should be viewed and valued as equally true and morally equivalent  and yet, on the other hand, not so for everything, but only selectively? Are “rights” now to be defined as “alienable” and to be created, then granted or withdrawn, by the State depending on who is in power, rather than “inalienable” as endowed by a Creator God? Why do many people make the judgment that no one should  make judgments? Just more examples of the widespread unreflective irrationalism so commonplace today.

Still, for all the talk of the need for pluralistic tolerance, we see that intolerance and blaming “The Other” is epidemic  and spreading like kudzu.

Thus Cultural Marxists blame everything on bourgeois culture, private property, economic inequality, the one percent, Wall Street, nation-states with borders, fascists, and the opiate of historically orthodox Christianity.

Liberals blame the intolerable and deplorable bigots, racists, misogynists, gun nuts, white supremacists, Nazis, Bible clingers, patriarchs, Fox false newscasters, and moralistic puritans they find hiding behind every tree.

Conservatives and populists variously blame bureaucrats, an imperious judiciary, college professors, jihadophile snowflakes, the mass media, Hollywood’s occultic sexual depravity and violent blood lust, partial birth abortuaries, Gaia worshippers, coastal elites, the UN, the Federal Reserve, and the Trilateral Commission.

But “Our” value judgments, whatever they may be, should trump those of the “Others”, period! Is that not correct?

And even the university home of the 1964 Free Speech Movement at UC Berkeley, my graduate and undergraduate alma mater, now becomes the new home of the Ban Free Speech Movement. A movement hugely widespread  in universities, high schools, and neighborhoods across our land.

In the aftermath of the bloody WWI and the Bolshevik Revolution, now a hundred years ago, the Irish poet W.B Yeats wrote as part of his memorable poem, Second Coming:

          Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
          Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
          The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
          The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
          The best lack all conviction, while the worst
          Are full of passionate intensity.

It was essentially true then and ever more so now. The future of respectful, but vigorous, rational, fact-based discourse and of tempered debate leading to compromise and the civil resolution of disputes does not look bright for our country. Quite the contrary.

To paraphrase from the conclusion of Yeats’s 1919 poem,

          A nightmare of a second bloody civil war,
          Now in its cradle, troubles my sight,
          A rough beast, its hour come round at last,
          Slouching its way toward us to be full born.

Victor Porlier

Join the discussion 14 Comments

  • Daryl Hunter says:

    You find and pass along the most insightful stuff ~ thanks.

  • TMichelle says:

    May God bless our current leaders with wisdom such as this.

  • Ennio R. Senese says:

    I am touched by the essay of Mr.Porlier and fully subscribe to what he wrote as i am fully aware of the historical context pod what is happening in the world in general and in the USA in particular today.

    The solution though does not seem to be with the current President, as far from being a bridge builder and a safekeeper of historical ( never mind Christian) values, he manages to enlarge the divide on a daily basis, antagonizing 52% of the people ( yes the same people to which mr. Porlier refers) and this goes beyond the USA, increasing the global insecurity, by his behavior and erratic statements. He is the elected President and that cannot be changed, what can be changed is that now more then ever responsible republicans have to stay vigile and act to steer this president in the right direction. The majority in house and senate have been doing that for the last three years by blocking and obstructing president Obama in each and every way: now they have their president, it should not mean he can just have a go at every ill conceived idea he comes up with, inspired by extremists such as Bannon.

  • Dan Clarke says:

    Thank you Foster and Victor… The approximate sequential steps leading to love are: awareness-tolerance-acceptance-respect-protection-companionship-affection-commitment-unconditional love. Most Americans could happily get to step 5 until the late 60’s, or so. In the alternate, I won’t go thru all the steps leading to hate, but I will suggest it starts with self pity-intolerance-envy. The sickness we’re dealing with today is grounded in the first 2 hate-steps. Thru self pity we can all become victims… our personal accountability is blurred and doesn’t hold as much personal value as it could. Additionally, intolerance is absolutely critical to the new, hateful, social rules. “Political Correctness” gives us the right, thru intolerance, to judge others in order to: ignore fairness, ignore legitimate authority, ignore law, ignore mores, ignore the value of alternate thought, ignore family values, ignore God, and more. Both paths are only faintly instinctive. Both are more learned behavior. Hate prevails when our children are taught to disregard history, ignore the contribution of courageous Americans, disobey parental guidance, and fortify it all with abuse of drugs. We’ll have a long fight trying to outlive the current strategies of the left wing activists because they’ve been trying to win in the USA for more than 50 years . We must renew the enforcement of law. Start with an education system that is too burdened with overrated personnel and obscene annual budgets (it’s the most expensive welfare program, per capita, ever conceived). We need a long term publicity campaign that promotes how remedies work. We need to arrest violent protesters who have been trained to disrupt, endanger, misinform, or malign peaceful Americans. Blessings on us all!

  • kate says:

    I especially like that Victor is in his 80’s. Maybe it is time to honor our elders instead of our celebrity youth?

  • Above all – truth will get us there. We have over time descended to political correctness and my way or the highway as motivation to obsess against differing opinions. People that love our country and our Constitution are endlessly plummeted by the “progressives” that want a free and open society at any cost. I look to the Roman Empire and what caused its downfall. Law and order are important to civility and when our representatives disregard these and make their own rules, as over the last eight years, we get chaos, with politicians pandering for their vote, rather then doing what is best for our country. I lament over the loss of compromise and doing what is best for the majority of Americans; while still maintaining our compassion for those truly in need.

  • Robert Jones says:

    Victor Porlier understands what is going on politically and socially in our country better than most and has described it elequoenty in this essay. I could not agree more with his outlook, and I wish I could describe what is happening as elequently as he.

    Those that pretend to support free speech are suppressing the free speach of those they don’t agree with. Those that argue for inclusiveness want to exclude those that don’t they don’t agree with. This is truly unamerican.

    Free speach can be offessive. When free speach is actually occurring the public is going to hear ideas expressed they agree with as well as ideas they profoundly disagree with. We should be intelligent enough to listen to what we disagree with and be able to POLITELY argue against those viewpoints we think are wrong. If we listen to the opposing views carefully we are far more likely to articulate an intelligent response. There is also a possibility that if we listen to opposing views carefully that our own viewpoint may shift a little.

    None of this is going to happen when people are screaming, throwing rocks, setting fires and assaulting people they disagree with. That kind of behavior just brings us a little closer to the next civil war.

  • Robert says:

    Above all – truth will get us there. We have over time descended to political correctness and my way or the highway as motivation to obsess against differing opinions. People that love our country and our Constitution are endlessly plummeted by the “progressives” that want a free and open society at any cost. I look to the Roman Empire and what caused its downfall. Law and order are important to civility and when our representatives disregard these and make of their own rules, as over the last eight years, we get chaos, with politicians pandering for their vote, rather then doing what is best for our country. I lament over the loss of compromise and doing what is best for the majority of Americans; while still maintaining our compassion for those truly in need.

  • Doug Boehr says:

    Victor’s understanding and comprehensive perspective merits full attention. I am inspired to make room in my schedule for more personal study of the histories of the challenges facing our nation and the world today. That said, I am keen to know his thoughts on the unseen influences.

  • Mila says:

    Excellent article with much to consider! I believe significant progress could be achieved if a greater effort were made to reach and teach young Americans their noble heritage, and the foundational knowledge, attitudes, virtues, skills, habits, etc. necessary to preserve that heritage. Much could be done in a creative online academy to give them purpose, and prepare them for their unique time in history.

  • Dan Clarke says:

    Thank you Foster- The key element to the agenda of 2017’s radical revolutionary left is political correctness. PC gives followers entitlement, without personal consequence. Obstructionist PC judgements are allowed because societies miseries are clearly the fault of the other guy and must be avenged. Entitlements must be guaranteed because the common man has no opportunity to provide for himself any longer. When we become more tolerant of one another the best spirit of humanity can flourish When we have more respect for constitutional law we can enjoy liberty and public safety. Blessings on us all.

  • Ralph O Williams says:

    But, are we to reap from this “diversity” diatribe that he who wins pushes the last red button? ( Writer age 82)

  • Fred says:

    Looking forward to reading more. Great blog article. Really Great.

    expressit.xyz

  • Raheel Chaudhry says:

    What an insightful, objective and fair observation of the current situation and the cultural groups involved. I salute Mr. Victor Porlier for penning his thoughts and publishing them. As a Muslim I can attest to the validity of his statements about Muslims and Islam. Yes, Muslims have problems but the majority of Muslims, as Victor pointed out, do not subscribe to any violent interpretation of Islam. They are however, subject to the same human weaknesses and shortcomings that plague us all. They struggle to stay Muslims because their newer generations are just as much inclined to walk away from religious and cultural traditions as are the Jewish and Christian youths. Just as America is struggling with it’s Christian identity, so are many Islamic countries. Just as degenerating societal and religious values have forced the violent side of Islam to force its hand, so is Christianity experimenting with radicalism, once again. It’s a human problem, not a Islamic problem or a Christian problem.

Leave a Reply

GET YOUR EMAIL UPDATES

Email address