Thursday, September 21, 2006

Wary of the Right, Wary of the Left

Continuing the "via Andrew Sullivan" trend this week, here's an essay by Sam Harris about liberals and terrorism. Harris has written at length about his desire to eradicate religious belief from the planet, so he's hardly a holy warrior. His take is worth reading:
Perhaps I should establish my liberal bone fides at the outset. I'd like to see taxes raised on the wealthy, drugs decriminalized and homosexuals free to marry. I also think that the Bush administration deserves most of the criticism it has received in the last six years —- especially with respect to its waging of the war in Iraq, its scuttling of science and its fiscal irresponsibility.

But my correspondence with liberals has convinced me that liberalism has grown dangerously out of touch with the realities of our world —- specifically with what devout Muslims actually believe about the West, about paradise and about the ultimate ascendance of their faith.

On questions of national security, I am now as wary of my fellow liberals as I am of the religious demagogues on the Christian right.

This may seem like frank acquiescence to the charge that "liberals are soft on terrorism." It is, and they are.
I sometimes tell people that I feel more conservative in New York than I otherwise would, just like I feel more liberal in Texas than I normally would. Some people think this makes me unconnected to some deeper principle. No. Contrarianism is a deeper principle, as long as it doesn't lapse into sheerly reflexive antagonism. I don't like orthodoxy, and while I understand there's an awful lot of it (and increasingly so) on the right, Harris has a point: where I live, you would think the only dangers in the world are those posed by the Bush administration, which, despite the very real domestic mess we're in, is absurd.



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