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A Moral Victory Greeted with Honor

Daniel Krauthammer  writing today at NRO is not to be missed.  He writes the most adept piece I have seen, to date, that comes to grips with all the strange sniping (coming from otherwise rational sources) directed at those who celebrated bin Laden's death with jubilation. 

Because it happened on a Sunday, I was out with my family and away from all the usual sources of news when the story broke.  In a sign of the times (and in keeping with the youthful developments of the last decade) I first heard of it via Facebook.  There I read reports from young friends in Washington, New York and other places who noted that they would be heading out to celebrate, have drinks and otherwise make merry at the news of the death of Osama bin Laden.

It must be a sign that I am getting old because my first reaction was to smile at them and think of them as blessedly young.  I was glad we got him, of course.  But it was not my instinct to make merry.  I was so accustomed to our NOT getting him, that I began to believe the non-nonsensical mantra that it didn't matter if we did.  He is just a symbol, yadda, yadda, yadda.  But, darn it!  Symbols matter.  I know that, but I had chosen to forget.  Then I turned on the TV and watched the burgeoning crowds.  My husband and I both remarked, "My God!  They are so young!  Look at them!  They are so happy!  Are we missing something, here?"   And, as Krauthammer describes, though jubilant, they were respectful.  They chanted, "USA! USA! USA!"  They did not worship death.  They celebrated life--a life they could now live knowing that evil does not always go unanswered.  For if you consider the timetable of their lives, you must forgive them for only now coming to this conclusion!

As I watched, I grew envious of them and of their youth and I yearned to join them.  For I was young like that once, too.  I had forgotten what it felt like.  On the other hand, I realized, I absolutely do not envy them.  Because I don't think that today's young people have ever felt their youth so vividly as they did last Sunday--whereas I have a number of such memories.  I think it was a new and a fresh experience for them, and more's the pity.  For those beyond, even, my advanced (ha!) years . . . you must strain not to do the math (which is easy here as even I can do it), but you must strain to remember to do it.  That's the biggest thing I see missing from all the sanctimonious commentary about the celebrations on the right.  Consider the American experience as it exists for those now under 30.  If they are 20 now, they were 10 in 2001. 

The last time I was young like they are now--that is, the last time I really believed that evil could and would be punished without flinching--was in September 2001.  I was in the beginning of my third decade, had one baby in tow and had another one very much on the way.  I woke up on that fateful morning--8 months pregnant--to the cries of my husband watching the news as he was getting ready to go to work.  I spent the rest of that day draining myself of all that youth and filling myself up with worry and the cares of a burden-laden adulthood.  Determination, to be sure.  But not an ounce of certainty in the result.  How would we avenge this great injustice?  Could we?  It seemed impossible.  And, indeed, it is impossible in many ways.  But it could not go unanswered. 

And yet every answer has been met with a counter-answer and self-flagellation.  Those now in their early twenties have grown up in this constant beating down of hope; this constant berating of the possibilities of their country serving justice.  This beast of man unleashed this madness that has turned us, not only onto an almost impossible task of beating back terror, but also in on and against each other.  To the young people of today, the country that could competently take on evil and defeat it must have seemed like an echo of a lost world belonging--possibly--to their grandparents but beyond us today.  And yet . . . in the end, who was it taking out that evil man?  Navy Seals who, no doubt, were young Americans watching those towers collapse while they were in school.  

While flaccid, flabby, calcified and unoriginal commentators like to tell us that our best days are behind us . . . that America's power, greatness, and capacity to serve justice are a thing of (false) memory, this generation of young Americans is rising up to prove them wrong.  They are proving that they mean to show themselves equal to the task.  And they are right to celebrate it.    

As I watched their joy, I washed away the last ten years of worry.  I reflected that I have raised children who have known nothing but the kind of terror this bastard unleashed on the world but who, I am now certain, have no good reason to be afraid.  There is nothing that we Americans cannot accomplish when we mean to do it and stick to it.  I didn't begin to chant, "USA! USA! USA!" but I did shed some tears of joy and sheepishly ask my husband if we couldn't dig out some sparklers for the kids so they could share in it.  But we are no longer young and they are, in fact, too young to fully understand.  So we skipped the exercise, put them to bed, and I slept a sleep I haven't really slept since September 10, 2001 (though now without the discomfort of heavy pregnancy!).  It is not that I am deluded into thinking that the task ahead of us is that much easier.  It isn't.  But because of those beautiful young people,  I remembered, again, who we are.  We are Americans.  God bless them for standing up. 
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Discussions - 21 Comments

You have a habit, it seems, of injecting your commentary with elements of personal judgmentalism:

... sanctimonious commentary

... flaccid, flabby, calcified and unoriginal commentators

It does you no honor.

We've hashed over the subject of this debate in another thread. I won't bother again.

I am curious ... is Daniel Krauthammer any relation to Charles? I didn't see anything on NRO that indicated lineage.

I have to call them as I see them and I do judge much of the commentary I've read that condemns our young people to be full of what I described. It is shameful, hurtful stuff that assumes the worst in our young people. They deserve defending. Much of it compares their celebrations to those of the crazies who celebrated in the streets the deaths of thousands of innocents on 9/11. I think that is sheer lunacy and a kind of sick, twisted, moral equivalency that will be the death of our country if we persist in it. Though, again, I repeat that my judgment in this instance was not directed at you or anything you have said. Though we differ, I think you are more measured than that. I am sorry you are taking personal offense at comments not directed at you.

And gee whiz . . . I'm certainly not talking about you here: "... flaccid, flabby, calcified and unoriginal commentators" or, in fact, anyone on the right. That's obviously Tom Friedman and his acolytes.

I am sorry you are taking personal offense at comments not directed at you.

I'm not necessarily taking personal offense. I just think such wording sounds a false note in an otherwise beautifully written piece.

and I slept a sleep I haven't really slept since September 10, 2001

I honestly and sincerely do not understand this. I am not being condemnational when I say that. I am expressing what is in my heart and mind, which is a very strong sense that nothing really has changed. My very strong sense is that in a few weeks time this will all be forgotten.

And, God forbid, if another terrorist strike occurs of sufficient magnitude, what will the young people do who have invested such hope in a world changed by the elimination of Bin Laden?

You argue that clearer eyes prevail. I'm not so certain.

I don't think anyone (well, possibly some poor fools . . . but not sensible people) believes that the elimination of bin Laden means the end of terrorism. Most people are suggesting that it may mean more of it in the short term. What I think it does signal is an end of the overwhelming amount of feeling cowed about it--or helplessness in the face of it. It's not exactly "bring it on" (which I never really liked, either) . . . it's something even more manful than that, because realistic. I don't want them to bring it on, of course. But I feel confident now that if they do, Americans will rise to the occasion. That we can prevail and keep the thing managed. (We may never "end" it, of course . . .) But we are the still who we have ever been. The young--for all their problems (which are not new)--are still Americans and everything that that has always implied still holds. We still adhere to the same basic creed of justice. They are not complete moral relativists cowed into self-doubt and insecurity. I say, "Amen."

They are not complete moral relativists cowed into self-doubt and insecurity.

Ah ... okay ... I begin to see your point.

I would still urge caution in where and how much of one's hope one invests where. But I do begin to see your point.

. . . and my indignation comes at a sense I get from talking with them that they felt the over-reaction to their reaction as something of a slap in the face . . . they meant well and thought they were celebrating good. Now some are telling them that they are bad. I don't want them to give up and go home and play video games . . . follow?

It's like we're having this cozy little private conversation ... :-)

I see the point you're trying to make. I do not necessarily agree with some elements at the very core of your concerns, however. I will refer simply to this ...

I don't want them to give up and go home and play video games

That's a telling concern. I mentioned in an earlier post that I don't have much sympathy for the particular struggles of today's youth. The general sentiment conveyed by your sentence -- not video games per se -- is what prevents me from having much sympathy.

But that's a whole different topic.

I don't know . . . I sense we're probably not very far apart even there. I think our difference might be more one of emphasis and semantics. But thanks for a spirited and thoughtful exchange.

I think our difference might be more one of emphasis and semantics.

No, you're a lovely young lady and I'm on the fastpath to chairman of my local curmudgeon's club. :-)

You are sweet to say otherwise, but I have critics smiling now as they reflect that you are likely to cross my path there in the hall!

Don: with all due respect, someone with a job has to buy the children their video games and allow them to play. Hmmm? A generation abdicating its duty to raise their children to be good, productive citizens does not lead me to condemn the young for the results. It seems to me that you choose to, while Julie celebrates the fact that in spite of this they can still sense when it's right to be proud of America.

A generation abdicating its duty to raise their children to be good, productive citizens does not lead me to condemn the young for the results.

*sigh* ... yeah, okay ... whatever.

The victim card is rarely an effective tool.

Mr. Don in Ariz, the young have their work cut out for them re a project of social and cultural reconstruction. I would not expect to see much accomplished, though I do note that the cohorts born in the 1940s in institutional authority have done good work as well as bad re the work of their elders. Please note, though, that it would be a work of re- construction, repairing damage. It is not 'playing the victim card' to remark what has been bequeathed to them.

1. Expressive divorce. Began not with these youths but with the cohorts born around 1938.

2. Indulgent attitude toward bastardy: point of origin (with some qualifications) around 1970 in the black population and around 1986 in the larger society. Every age cohort was implicated.

3. Indulgent attitude toward abortions: varied from one subculture to another, but around the time it was imposed by judicial ukase. Every age cohort still in their child-bearing years was implicated, and some older.

4. The disappearance of a saving reticence toward matters sexual. Just about every post-war cohort was implicated in this, and some older.

5. Indulgent attitude toward sexual perversion: the ,point of origin was my contemporaries, and some older though it is much worse among the young today.

6. Chronic self-deception and indiscipline in personal and public finance. The point of origin was among the cohorts born in the early 1940s.

Young people who wish to evade and dissent from much of the above have to make sacrifices that my parents contemporaries did not. They have lived in a much more affluent world than the one my parents came of age in, a softer and sweeter world. Half a generation ago, Christopher Lasch gave an address in which he said the young he taught had inherited what was, in many respects, "a perfectly terrible world". His words remain true.

Every generation has its complaints about those who bore and raised them. Every generation has its complaints about what was bequeathed them.

There are two sides to this coin -- what is, and what one chooses to do about it.

I do not diminish the issues facing the young of today. It is a cesspool. But they are not helpless victims trapped in every aspect of it.

There are many examples of young people today who are doing just that -- choosing to step away from some of the more egregious examples of self-absorbtion and sloth. I credit those young people with full throat. Bravo to them.

And there is some reason to believe that those around the age of 20 today are seeing the issues of continuing down that path. But there are many other examples that illustrate the opposite.

Andrew credits me with condemning the young of today. Only to this extent -- for that portion of them that choose to adopt an attitude of entitlement and pity, then yes, I condemn them. Those that choose to understand that there's virtue in hard work with deferred gain, and actual practice it ... those I applaud. Loudly.

This is the end of the semester and I am grading papers written by the young. In one class, the great research topic of choice this semester has been how divorce affects children; these are written by children of divorce. The underlying complaint is that divorce has crippled them, thereby leaving them incapable of virtue. Their research proves their point, but they only are looking at the research to prove to themselves that their experience is not anomalous.

I speak to each about having a choice in how to proceed in life. They are like secular Calvinists, or sometimes out- Calvin Calvin in believing God has selected them out as vessels for destruction. They believe future personal virtue is impossible because of the lack of it in their antecedents. Maybe most sad to me is that this is not an inner city bunch, but from a branch campus in rural Ohio.

Most of these papers are like apologies for not doing well in the course. And I cannot help but notice that those who did well have papers on topics outside of themselves: the health problems of the elderly homeless, the ethics of auditing, the virology of RSV and one "Save the Rainforest!". It was a small class, mostly women, and therefore more intimate than usual; those latter students' lives were no less complicated than the others'. But they were not self-absorbed and floundering about in life. Yes, bravo to them. I suppose we could condemn the others, but their excuses are like armor. Weighed down like that, they just sink. It is very hard to watch.

I admire and applaud those who seek to help the young see past this victim mentality.

"the ethics of auditing" -- oh, now that just piques my interest. Auditing what? Financials? Classes? And what are the ethical pros/cons?

The young single mother works in the accounting department of a small business. After an audit she decided that might be something she would like to do. The paper was all about research, but did not have to have an argument and could merely answer a question. "What are the ethics of auditing?" was hers. Really, it was an extended job description and unless she specializes in forensic accounting, what she is looking for (excitement in accounting) will be rare.

I think the point of origin of cultural shift/decline was the mass entrance of Americans into the university systems, and the dominance of crazy Leftists in those institutions. In 1940 only about 10% of young people went on to college, but this increased to 24% by 1960. Our young people were brainwashed by educrats (and each other), pure and simple. Oh, and of course television contributed to all this.

The bill of particulars against higher education is long and severe, but I am a bit mystified as to how degraded tertiary schooling generated our most severe problems. The ratio of divorces to extant marriages tripled in a twelve year period (1967-79). The professoriate (e.g. Andrew Cherlin) sometimes provided apologias for this and certainly did not resist it. Then again, neither did anyone else. Bastardy is pretty much the norm for a segment of the population nowadays, but that segment is composed of impecunious wage-earners whose engagement with higher education generally does not exceed vocational programs at community colleges.

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