Saturday, May 28, 2011

In Praise of American Warriors

Considering that it's Memorial Day weekend, I thought I'd re-run a fitting piece I wrote for Big Hollywood on a different occasion two years ago, called "In Praise of American Warriors"...

My father Roger E. Tapson, a former United States Army Staff Sergeant and veteran of World War II, died five years ago and was buried near a small lake in the rolling, pastoral grounds of the Dallas-Ft. Worth National Cemetery alongside thousands of other veterans - their names, as poet Stephen Spender might say, "feted by the waving grass, and by the streamers of white cloud, and whispers of wind in the listening sky, the names of those who…left the vivid air signed with their honor." It’s exactly the kind of place my dad would have described – without a hint of Oprah-fied, feminized, New Age devaluation of the word – as “spiritual.” It was the way I once heard him describe a still, brisk, early autumn morning on a gorgeously wooded golf course, his favorite place to be.


Spiritual indeed, but not in the same degree or kind as "civilian” burial grounds. Not to diminish the final resting place of anyone interred in the latter; but to stand in a military cemetery among the unadorned, uniform white markers that stretch out in precise rows like an army-in-waiting, is to feel a spiritually heightened quality to your surroundings that demands humility, gratitude, and a more solemn reverence. The “vivid air” of a military cemetery is undeniably suffused with something extra, because it’s not merely a graveyard, but a memorial to qualities that constitute the best of humanity – honor, courage, dignity, service and sacrifice – and to warriors who once embodied them. Their grave markers stand as a challenge to those of us who remain.

Honor, courage, dignity, service, sacrifice – how many of us civilians can say that we commit to embodying those qualities in our daily lives? How many of us can say we are truly tested, body and soul, ever, much less on a daily basis, the way that the men and women of our military are? How many of us can say we are ready and willing to “do what is required,” as Warlord author Ilario Pantano puts it, for our country and our fellow Americans, even at the cost of our lives? Precious few if any, I would guess, and we civilians are all the lesser mortals for it.

And that makes us all the more fortunate that there are those who can and do rise to that challenge, on front lines around the world. It takes a special American to embrace that responsibility and earn a uniform of the United States armed forces, and it takes a special family – warriors too in their own way (“they also serve who only stand and wait,” as John Milton wrote) – to support their loved one from the home front. 

I was too young for the Vietnam War draft, and when I did come of age I was much more interested in playing guitar in a rock band than having my hair shaved off and being yelled at by a drill sergeant. Today, when America is engaged in an epic clash with worldwide jihad, in addition to facing threats from thuggish dictators to Central American drug armies to a re-emergent Russia, I’m frustrated and deeply regretful that I never served, and that the only way I can now contribute to the fight is through my writing.

Is the pen mightier than the sword? It sure doesn't feel like it – it’s pretty obvious which one I’d rather have in a fight – but the pen is what I'm stuck with. Meanwhile I'm grateful and humbled that the men and women of the United States military have the rare and noble qualities it takes to be the sword between me and America’s enemies.

Amnesty International: Complicity in Propaganda

Last Monday, the UK branch of Amnesty International (AI) hosted a London event called “Complicity in Oppression: Does the Media Aid Israel?Aid Israel? Considering the predominant bias of the world media against Israel, one could be forgiven for suspecting that an event with a title this absurd must have been an evening of standup comedy.

Alas, the agenda behind this event is no laughing matter. The discussion was co-sponsored by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) and the Middle East Monitor Online (MEMO), one of whose key propaganda strategies is to equate Israel’s necessary counterterrorism measures on the West Bank and in Gaza with the reviled policies of apartheid South Africa. The “Complicity in Oppression” conference gave voice to another strategy: promoting the twisted fiction that Palestinians are being bullied and silenced by pro-Zionist lobbies that have a stranglehold on media outlets. (To get a taste of actual media complicity and bias, please revisit the extraordinary al Dura hoax.)

Regarding Monday’s event, Michael Weiss of the UK’s Telegraph wondered specifically about MEMO, “Why is Amnesty hosting a Hamas-friendly publisher of racists?”

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Is Obama Our Chamberlain?

This Monday evening at the Skirball Center in Los Angeles, historian Bruce Thornton, professor of classics and humanities at California State University in Fresno and the author of The Wages of Appeasement, will be speaking and signing books. I interviewed him previously for FrontPageMag here.

I'll be introducting Dr. Thornton at the event, provocatively entitled "Is Obama Our Chamberlain," and moderating questions afterward. I hope all my Southern California friends can make it.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Horowitz and Intellectual Terrorism at UCLA

Last Wednesday evening the Freedom Center’s David Horowitz gave a much anticipated and ferociously opposed presentation before a crowd of more than 300 people at Moore Hall at the University of California at Los Angeles. The event was hosted by the Bruin Republicans, self-described as “the only officially right-of-center organization on the UCLA campus” – which is a good, albeit disheartening, indicator of the very issue Horowitz has been addressing on hundreds of campuses across this country, and which was the evening’s topic: the fact that our institutions of supposedly higher learning are utterly dominated by intolerant progressive academics who are ill-serving and mentally straight-jacketing their students.

Horowitz’s speech was as blunt as the title of his presentation – “Intellectual Terrorism: The Left’s War on Free Speech.” Pacing back and forth at the front of the hall, he was revved up right out of the gate and became even more impassioned as he went on. He began the wide-ranging, forty-minute speech with a condemnation of academics who indoctrinate rather than teach (“The students who suffer most are those of you who are on the left, because your assumptions are never challenged.”) Among other topics, he went on to decry campus anti-Semitism and to identify Islam as the greatest oppressor of women and gays in the world today. He delivered a myth-busting history of “Palestine” and a concise explanation of his opposition to slavery reparations a hundred years after the fact. And he attacked the Muslim Student Association, ubiquitous on major college campuses, as a creation of the Muslim Brotherhood, a supporter of the terrorist organization Hamas and the sponsor of Israel Apartheid weeks across the country.

He was flanked throughout the speech by very visible security – a tragic necessity for Horowitz, who is a lightning rod for some of the most bilious hatred that has ever been directed at a conservative public figure. He regularly receives threats prior to speaking engagements and has in fact been physically attacked. This is the inevitable result of his having once been a radical leftist himself, for the Left is only marginally more forgiving of its apostates than fundamentalist Muslims are of theirs.