Jewish World Review March 21, 2002 / 8 Nisan, 5762
I find Robert Redford to be the handsomest man who has ever lived (next to my husband, of course).
But the image is finally tarnished.
In the most recent issue of his Sundance Catalog, besides the Western clothes and outerwear, was Redford's monthly message, one that dealt with the Sept. 11 tragedy:
". . .Perhaps we were too closed, too preoccupied to see it coming" he wrote. "Were we too closed in our own self-absorption and self interest? Not open or interested in others - other cultures, other views, other voices? We seemed closed in our own success and greed." We need to have ". . . An open mind to other people's needs or suffering, other people's beliefs or cultural traditions, rather than just our own" he wrote.
Robert Redford has always been active on the playgrounds of the Left, of course. (I've willed myself to get over it.) But unlike truly obnoxious Hollywood Lefties like Alec Baldwin, Redford seems to be a really decent man. Which almost makes it worse that here he echoes the worst sentiments of American liberals: That somehow America is to blame whenever others hate us. That hatred these days, of course, comes most pointedly from the Islamic East.
We're selfish, we're greedy? America gives more in charity and foreign aid and consistently rushes faster to the site of foreign disasters than any other people on the face of the Earth. We saved the Arab nations from Saddam Hussein. We provided humanitarian aid to civilians in Afghanistan while ousting the horrific regime that ruled over them, all the while planning how to reestablish that country once that threat is truly gone. And this isn't just recent history. It's America that poured billions to help its former enemies rebuild after WWII.
Sure, such moves are often in our national interest, too - but so what? No other country in the world has our track record. Yes, we create tremendous wealth in America (something Redford knows about personally much more than I do). But here people can go to movies or buy clothes from a catalog or give generously to the causes they care about because they are not preoccupied with scratching out a living from dirt, thanks to our free economic and political system which in turn provides tremendous benefits to the world. After all, the Internet was not created in Zimbabwe or Syria, and cures for disease don't come from Angola or Libya.
(Though such things could be true of those places too, if their corrupt regimes were rightly replaced.)
An open mind to cultural traditions? There is no more tolerant country than America. On Sept. 11, 19 young Arab Muslim men horrifically killed 3,000 Americans, yet our first instinct has been to demonstrate our tolerance to Muslims here and around the world. Churches, schools, communities, our government have reached out to Muslim neighbors and declared Islam a religion of peace. In contrast, what we have heard from American Muslim leaders is little but complaints that we have not bent over backwards far enough.
But just for the record, there are a lot of cultural traditions I'm not open to, like the subjugation of women, the torture of dissidents and the total intolerance of other religions beside severe Islam - "traditions" that are practiced in many of those Muslim countries that hate us.
America is hardly perfect. From time to time we've made some really boneheaded moves in the world. But consider this: America is militarily stronger, by a factor of many times, than any other nation that has ever existed. Yet, we have no desire to use that force to subjugate or rule the world. What nation - in particular what Muslim nation that hates us - would wield such power with such restraint?
Of course we are willing to use our power to go after those who perpetrate evil against us. It's becoming sadly clearer that's the only effective way of handling the hatred. Because yes "they" do hate us. But the reason is that where the West has triumphed in establishing both widespread prosperity and personal freedom, the Islamic East has failed.
Please face the facts, my dear Robert: It is a hatred of their own