Peggy Noonan: Dowager Empress of Blame America First

Not long ago it occurred to me that I haven’t been throwing up nearly often enough since I quit drinking in 1983. To remedy that problem I’ve taken to reading Peggy Noonan’s Wall Street Journal opinion columns.

Last Friday’s detritus was a veritable treasure trove of gastric distress. Seems that the amenability of disillusioned young men to recruitment by terrorist organizations has little or nothing to do with the Bush Administration’s reckless onward-Christian-soldiers-cowboy-on-crystal-meth foreign policy. Instead, it’s all about the “limited and dispiriting” view of ourselves that we put out there:

The only thing I’d add is that all modern young people come from two environments. The first is the immediate family, which is human and therefore by definition imperfect, sometimes to a serious and destructive degree. The other is the broader culture in which we all live, and which includes everything from schools to the neighborhood to the media. It’s not a new thing to say but it’s still true that the latter, which is more powerful than ever, is wholly devoted to the material. People are money winners or luxury item enjoyers. They just want stuff. It is soulless.

The view we show of life to ourselves, and to whatever lost young men are watching, is not broad and inspiriting. It is limited and dispiriting. It is every man for himself.

We make it too easy for those who want to hate us to hate us. We make ourselves look bad in our media, which helps future jihadists think that they must, by hating us, be good. They hit their figurative garbage bin lids on the ground, and smirk, and promise to make a racket, and then more than a racket, a boom.

Good Lord. First of all, setting aside the ludicrous analogy posited at the article’s outset, when did “every man for himself” thinking become a bad thing in the strange little world of conservative punditry? It used to be an article of faith.

Moreover, I doubt that denouncing materialism and portraying ourselves as prim and proper paragons of Protestant probity will do anything to slow down terrorism recruitment while our armed forces continue occupying and killing people in Muslim countries as our companies turn handsome profits as a direct result thereof.

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