Tuesday, July 06, 2004

I never sang for my father

In a recent article, Dennis Prager tries to analyze the roots of Jewish and liberal American self-hatred. A couple of his explanations attract particular interest:

"Many leftists are psychologically adolescents. And one feature of adolescent psychology is anger at a parent who claims very high ideals and turns out to be flawed. Many on the Left are angry at America and Israel for being imperfect and therefore disappointing them."

"Many American leftists base a large part of their case against George W. Bush on his having increased anti-American sentiments around the world. This makes leftists livid—again, like adolescents, they yearn to be part of the in-crowd (meaning America- and Israel-haters) and fear being disliked."

http://www.townhall.com/columnists/dennisprager/dp20040706.shtml

What makes these two explanations to be especially interesting is that they invite a deeper, doctrinal grounding. Many leftists don't believe in God. But all this means is that they transfer their natural, irrepressible belief in God to some mundane object of veneration. In this case, the state becomes their God. For the state is another authority figure. Indeed, the liberal would like the state to take the place of divine providence.

There are a couple of ways in which you can see the liberal apotheosis of the state. One example is the manner in which liberals personify the state, as if it were a living, immemorial agent. They rehearse all of the historic "crimes" of "America." When a current administration breaks with past policy, they accuse it of hypocrisy.

On the face of it, this is a very odd way of characterizing what is, after all, just an abstraction. "America" is not a person with a life-history. The "government" is not a person with a life-history. Why should I feel guilty for what someone else did? Why should I feel bound by what someone else did? Their past is not my past. Their evil is not my evil.

Another instance is the sense of betrayal and indignation when "America" lets them down. They react just the way an adoring son might react when he discovers that dear old dad is cheating on mom, or lands in jail for tax evasion. Suddenly his worshipful attitude turns to bitter disillusionment and open rebellion. It is embarrassing, even demeaning, to be his son. He feels abused and ashamed.

But, again, this is a rather peculiar way of relating to the state. Why take it so personally? Most politicians are strangers, not fathers. And why expect a politician to be above reproach?

Yet if you deify the state, if the state is your subliminal surrogate for God, then any declension from godlike perfection is unpardonable. Isn't God supposed to be omniscient, omnipotent, benevolent, just and wise? And, indeed, he is. But the state is a poor substitute. And the state will inevitably dash their inhuman expectations.

Like some sons who can never forgive their fathers for being finite, fallen and fallible—living in a life-long state of rebellion and resentment—many liberals can never recover from the shocking revelation that their country, that their government, fell short of divine fidelity, foresight, and rectitude. Liberal ideology is arrested adolescence, transposed to a political key.

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