Liberalism 101: Denial

By | May 18, 2015 | 0 Comments

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When I was a medical student, I was assigned a patient who complained of something wrong with her breast. She stated that the problem had been going on for a week. She went on to list several minor complaints that bothered her more than the breast problem.
But examination showed a large, hard tumor in her breast. It had broken through the skin and begun to smell bad. There were hard lymph nodes under her arm. Obviously, the cancer had been there for months, perhaps years. But despite my prompting, she insisted that it had appeared in the past week.
The woman had felt, and then watched, the cancer grow. But she did nothing. Finally the cancer grew so large and destructive that it could no longer be denied, so she went to the doctor. But even then, she spent more time on her minor complaints than on the life-threatening condition.
The problem wasn’t stupidity − she was intelligent. The problem wasn’t ignorance − she was educated. The problem wasn’t a cultural or language barrier − she was American. The problem wasn’t extreme youth or old age − she was middle aged. The problem wasn’t poverty − she had access to a university hospital.
The problem was denial.
This incident stayed with me all these years. It taught me the power of denial. It taught me that apparently normal people can ignore life-threatening conditions until it may be too late. But denial applies to areas other than health.
Many liberals act as if it’s still Sept. 10, 2001, and 9/11 never happened. They deny the collapsing Twin Towers, the smoking ruins, and the almost 3000 dead. They deny the lifelong grief of the survivors. They especially deny the obscene joy of the thousands who danced in the streets of the Middle East.
But their denial didn’t begin on 9/11. Like most psychological problems, it developed slowly, over years:

● Our embassy in Iran was seized in 1979, legally an act of war. Our diplomats were imprisoned and mistreated for 444 days. Our response was a pitifully inadequate rescue attempt, and boycotting the 1980 Olympics. We punished our athletes, not the hostage-takers.

● Our Marine barracks in Beirut was bombed in 1983, killing 241 Americans who were there to protect Yasser Arafat’s PLO. Our response was to lob a few shells into the hills and withdraw. The lesson was clear − kill some Americans, and the rest will run away.

● The USS Stark was hit by two missiles “accidentally” fired by an Iraqi plane in 1987, killing 37 crew members and wounding 21 others. Saddam’s response was to promote the pilot and reward him with a Mercedes. Our response was to launch an inquiry and accept the Iraqi “apology.” Which response showed strength, and which revealed weakness?

● The first World Trade Center attack occurred in 1993, when six died and over 1000 were injured, but the buildings did not collapse as planned. Those directly responsible were arrested, but the attack was treated as a domestic crime. Our response was as weak as possible.

● Terrorists bombed the Khobar Towers barracks in 1996, killing 19 Americans and injuring many more. Our troops were there to protect Saudi Arabia from Saddam. Our response was to indict low-level suspects. This attack on our military was treated as a crime, not an act of war. Even then, those who directed the operation were not identified, much less punished.

● Our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed in 1998 − again acts of war − causing hundreds of deaths. Our response was to arrest a suspect and sentence him to life in prison (the jury refused the death penalty), and to launch cruise missiles at a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan and at Afghanistan. We bounced some rocks and frightened some camels, but we surely didn’t frighten the terrorists.

● Suicide bombers attacked the USS Cole in October 2000 as it docked in Yemen. The ship almost sank, 17 sailors were killed, and many more injured. FBI bomb experts were called, a reward was offered, and Yemen arrested low-level suspects. An attack on a U.S. warship in foreign waters was treated as if it were a bank robbery in Boise, not an act of war. If the attack had not been on water, yellow tape would have been put up.

● A suicide bomber destroyed New York-based Sbarro’s pizzeria in Jerusalem in August 2001, killing 16 and injuring over 90. Among the dead was a visiting American. She was pregnant, so two Americans were killed. Terrorists attacked an American business known to be frequented by Americans, and Americans were killed. But our government did nothing to show that it takes a dim view of the murder of its citizens. We didn’t even pretend to do anything.

And then came 9/11. That catastrophe was almost too huge to be denied. Almost. But after years of practice, some people had become so skilled at denial that they could ignore even 9/11.
Like my patient, they practiced denying the threat when it was small. They became so proficient that they could deny it even when it grew large. And also like my patient, they distracted themselves by worrying about minor complaints:

● They worried about President Bush, whom they compared to Hitler.

● They worried about the Patriot Act, which they claimed took away their freedom, though they couldn’t name any freedom they themselves lost.

● They worried that the government was checking what books they took out of the library, though they couldn’t give one example of this being done.

● They worried that the government was imposing censorship, though bookstores, newspapers, and the Internet were filled with anti-Bush commentaries.

● They worried that dissent was being stifled, though the fabricated “Fahrenheit 9/11” grossed over $100 million and won prizes as a “documentary.”

● They complained that they were being forced to conform, though film and TV personalities vied with one another to make the most anti-Bush, anti-war, or frankly anti-American statements, often laced with profanity.

● They complained that they were afraid to complain − a huge self-contradiction − while books, newspapers, magazines, films, TV, and the Web were filled with anti-Bush rants.

They obsessed about lesser problems, so they didn’t have to deal with life-threatening problems:

● They worried about conservatives, so they didn’t have to remember what Daniel Pearl, Nicholas Berg, and Paul Johnson looked like as they were beheaded.

● They worried about being too hard on terrorists, so they didn’t have to think about terrible oppression of women.

● They worried about theoretical dangers, so they didn’t have to remember the Americans mutilated and hung from a bridge in Fallujah.

● They concentrated on hypothetical loss of freedom, so they didn’t have to recall the total loss of freedom of the 3000 who were murdered on 9/11.

● They lost sleep over racial profiling of airline passengers − which hardly exists − so they didn’t have to have nightmares about nerve gas, anthrax, or nuclear bombs.

● They fretted about imaginary problems with library books, so they didn’t have to grasp the ultimate problem faced by those trapped on the upper floors of the Twin Towers – being incinerated at 2000 degrees, or jumping and taking 10 seconds to hit the ground at 120 miles per hour. That’s a problem.

And now they obsess about Tea Partiers and opponents of Obama’s amnesty. But they don’t worry about fanatics in Iran building nuclear weapons. They aren’t concerned with the real loss of freedom that will surely result from ObamaCare, Net “Neutrality,” and the multitude of other stifling regulations being imposed on us.
They worry about being “intolerant,” so they tolerate the intolerable − “honor” killings in our own country. They tolerate building a mosque in New York City at Ground Zero. Instead of worrying about the mosque, they want to investigate those who oppose it. They refuse to recognize the mosque for what it is − a monument to our enemies’ victory, similar to erecting a Japanese Shinto shrine in Pearl Harbor at the USS Arizona memorial.
They cannot even call the Ground Zero mosque “the Ground Zero mosque,” and instead call it “the mosque near the World Trade Center site.” They deny what is staring them in the face
They insist on being “politically correct,” so they don’t worry about terrorism inspired by extremist Islam. They refuse even to mention these words, calling terrorism “man-caused disasters,” and calling the war on terrorism “overseas contingency operations.” President Obama refers to the murder of four Jews at a kosher market as “…randomly shoot a bunch of folks at a deli in Paris.” Just “a bunch of folks”? What kind of folks? Who shot them? Why were they shot? Who knows? Who cares?
Glib, folksy talk is no substitute for the truth. Euphemisms can hide reality temporarily, but sooner or later we have to deal with it. As my patient discovered, unpleasant reality has a way of becoming even more unpleasant, and even harder to deal with, as time goes on.
How can we have the courage to fight what we are afraid to name?
Denial of evil is a key characteristic − probably the key characteristic − of modern liberalism.

Author’s note: This is the third of four columns in which I attempt to describe the roots of what is now called liberalism.
Contact: dstol@prodigy.net. You are welcome to publish or post these articles, provided that you cite the author and website.
www.stolinsky.com

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