Friday, March 15, 2002

YOU REALLY SHOULD read this essay by Michael Walzer, editor of Dissent (pointed out by Andrew Sullivan and on The Corner). Some choice quotations:
The left sets itself apart. Whatever America is doing in the world isn’t our doing. In some sense, of course, that is true. The defeat of facism in the middle years of the twentieth century and of communism in the last years were not our doing. . . . Even the oppressed have obligations, and surely the first among these is not to murder innocent people, not to make terrorism their politics. Leftists who cannot insist upon this point, even to people poorer and weaker than themselves, have abandoned both politics and morality for something else. They are radical only in their abjection. . . . The world (and this includes the third world) is too full of hatred, cruelty, and corruption for any left, even the American left, to suspend its judgement about what’s going on. It’s not the case that because we are privileged, we should turn inward and focus our criticism only on ourselves. In fact, inwardness is one of our privileges; it is often a form of political self-indulgence. Yes, we are entitled to blame the others whenever they are blameworthy; in fact, it is only when we do that, when we denounce, say, the authoritarianism of third world governments, that we will find our true comrades--the local opponents of the maximal leaders and military juntas, who are often waiting for our recognition and support. If we value democracy, we have to be prepared to defend it, at home, of course, but not only there.
His indictment of the American Left is brief, clean, and damning. His prescription for remaking the Left would probably end it.

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