Coulter and communal grief
Ann Coulter, I imagine, considers herself an individualist, not a collectivist. Which is why her views on grief perplex. About certain September 11 widows Coulter has written the following: “These self-obsessed women seem genuinely unaware that 9-11 was an attack on our nation and acted as if the terrorist attacks happened only to them.” (Emphasis added.)
Nations don’t grieve; individuals who incur loss do. The nation, following September 11, can legitimately lay claim to the confusion that comes with a loss of a previous sense of security and to the sorrow that accompanies the deaths of compatriots. However, only the immediate relatives of the victims were in fact bereaved. The nation might be shocked, reeling, but only the families of the dead were utterly devastated. With every day that dawns, they alone face the kind of pain the rest of us cannot fathom.
The line, “letting the community grieve and get on with the healing process,” is standard in liberal locution (adopted, sadly, by many Crunchy Cons); it’s straight out of Oprah’s vernacular.
The idea that people not directly affected by a tragedy ought to perform the rites reserved for the bereaved conjures the image of a tribe in the paroxysmal throws of a grief ritual. It’s inspired by the equally primitive specter of Oprah’s televised group therapy sessions, in which every individual’s pain is equally weighted.
In the abstract, September 11 was an attack on “our nation.” In reality, some felt it more than others.
Annie, get Abu Berg, instead
A much worthier object for Coulter’s contempt is Michael Berg, the late Nicholas Berg’s father. Berg recently lost a friend: Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. He offered the following pious homilies for the man who personally sawed off his son’s head:
“I’m sorry whenever any human being dies. Zarqawi is a human being. He has a family who are reacting just as my family reacted when Nick was killed, and I feel bad for that. … I have never indicated anything but forgiveness and peace [toward Zarqawi].” (Emphasis added.)
Berg, a pacifist who thinks Nick was “killed” by some cosmic force – not beheaded by a barbarian – went on to disgorge that pacifist’s plumb line about violence breeding only more violence.
While it can include violent methods, reasonable punishment is not the same as violence. Following an unprovoked act of aggression with a proportional act of retribution, and punishing only the guilty – is justice, not violence.
Justice must be done not only for the purpose of vindicating the dead, but because justice, like liberty, is the foundation of a peaceful and orderly society. By rejecting proportional retribution – in Zarqawi’s case, two 500-pound bombs sounds about right to me – Berg has rejected justice.
About the carnage we’ve created in Iraq, H. L Mencken, always impeccably savoir-faire, would have agreed: there is no justice to be had in that orgy of blood and destruction. Nevertheless, as a reader deliciously described Zarqawi’s demise, “That so and so needed killing.”
And that enabler of evil, Abu Berg – he is a worthy object for Coulter’s contempt, not the September 11 widows.
Coulter vs. Mencken
Speaking of Mencken, on the “Lou Dobbs Tonight” show, Coulter anointed herself as the Right’s H. L. Mencken. Coulter is certainly sui generis, but she’s no Mencken.
First, while not-quite “Godless,” Mencken held “that religion, generally speaking, has been a curse to mankind – that its modest and greatly overestimated services on the ethical side have been more than overcome by the damage it has done to clear and honest thinking.”
“In America,” he contended, “[religion] is used as a club and a cloak by both politicians and moralists, all of them lusting for power and most of them palpable frauds.”
More material, Mencken was a libertarian. He hated government with all his bolshy being and was deeply suspicious of power – all power, not only liberal power. To Mencken, all government was evil, and “all government must necessarily make war upon liberty.” Therefore, the only good politician was “one with a pistol at his head. Put it in his hand and it’s goodbye to the Bill of Rights.”
Mencken certainly would have had few kind words for dirigiste Dubya, the ultimate statist. Coulter, conversely, has shown Bush (who isn’t even conservative) almost unquestioning loyalty, other than to protest his Harriet Miers indiscretion and, of late, his infarct over illegal immigration. Such singular devotion would have been alien to Mencken.
Nor would the very brilliant elitist have found this president’s manifest, all-round ignorance endearing – Bush’s penchant for logical and linguistic infelicities would have repulsed Mencken.
About foreign forays, Mencken stated acerbically that “the United States should mind its own business. If it is actually commissioned by God to put down totalitarianism, let it start in Cuba, Brazil, Mexico, Santo Domingo and Mississippi.” Mencken believed that “waging a war for a purely moral reason [was] as absurd as ravishing a woman for a purely moral reason.” Not in a million years would he have endorsed Bush’s Iraq misadventure.
Since he was not a party animal, but a man of principle, conformity to the clan would not have seen Mencken fall into contradiction as Coulter has: She rightly condemned Madeleine Albright’s “pre-emptive attack” on Slobodan Milosevic, as having been “solely for purposes of regime change based on false information presented to the American people,” but has adopted a different – decidedly double – standard regarding Bush’s Iraq excursion.
To repeat: Coulter is sui generis, but Mencken she is not.
Related special offer: