I’m glad for him, really. Lecturing Americans about “who we are” has always seemed to be the part of the job that he enjoys most, even though it’s really not part of the job. He’s got nothing better to do in year eight either, if we’re being honest. His time is probably best spent at this point delivering aspirational weekly talks on who we are, and aren’t, as a nation.
On the one hand, this is a prosaic reminder that you shouldn’t blame a group for the worst actions of its most degenerate members. On the other hand, political actors do that all the time, including and especially members of the left after that lunatic shot Gabby Giffords in Tucson five years ago and somehow the “climate” among conservatives took the rap. The debate about taking the Confederate battle flag down from the statehouse grounds in South Carolina was premised upon the idea that retrograde cultural customs tolerated by nonviolent people can embolden dangerous cranks in their midst. To find a similar argument being made in non-conservative media about jihadis and Muslims, you can watch Bill Maher’s show or … actually, that’s pretty much it. None of that undermines Obama’s point condemning harassment, but the fact that he chose to stage this at a mosque which itself isn’t free of radical associations ironically underscores why so many people worry about Islam, as though there’s nowhere you can go among the ummah and be certain that you’re exclusively among “moderates.” What he says about the “American family” has the same problem: It’s well-meaning, and he’s right that America’s Muslims are more a part of “the family” than Europe’s Muslims are, but there’s a clanging disjunction between the sentiment here and the news over the past few months of Europe’s wrenching problems trying to assimilate Middle Eastern refugees, starting in Cologne. It feels like another case (a la Bush before him) of addressing serious cultural conflicts essentially by papering them over. What’s going to happen when France is 20 percent Muslim? “Don’t harass people.” How much should we worry about homegrown jihadis attacking America again after San Bernardino? “We’re all one family.” Are critics like Maher right that Islam is fundamentally illiberal and therefore destined to forever conflict with western values? “Religious freedom is a cherished American value.” Okay, thanks for the chat.
I wonder how many Americans feel they’re part of a national “family” anymore.