Jewish World Review Jan. 9, 2002 / 25 Teves, 5762

Thomas Sowell

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Enemies within -- OUR war against terrorism is just a few months old, but already we have had two well-publicized young American traitors. One was captured fighting for the Taliban in Afghanistan and the other deliberately flew a plane into a building in Florida, leaving behind a note in support of the Taliban.

These are more than just isolated individuals. Other Americans who have not gone so far have nevertheless rejoiced at our tragedy in public statements on college campuses around the country and still others have hastened to blame us for bringing the September 11th attacks on ourselves.

A former President of the United States has depicted the terrorist attacks against Americans as somehow due to slavery and past wars of conquest against the Indians. And he was applauded at one of our most prestigious universities for saying it.

Nothing like this happened during World War II. Even those who had grievances knew, as Joe Louis put it, "There's nothing wrong with this country that Hitler is going to cure."

But just putting the issue in those terms was radically different from the mindset that pervades much of our educational system, the media, and the intelligentsia today. Too many people today compare the United States, not to other countries, but to their own ideals.

No country can pass that test -- if only because some people's ideals conflict with other people's ideals. Even the same person has some ideals that cannot be realized along with his other ideals.

What this means is that the most privileged people, living in the freest and most prosperous country on earth, can go around discontented. Worse, they can turn to some foreign country or foreign ideology as embodying what they want, even if they know pathetically little about what such countries are really like and what such ideas have actually led to.

Most Americans today of course remain loyal and patriotic. But they also remain largely unaware of the anti-American bias of our own educational establishment and the classroom brainwashing of whole generations of young Americans by people who glory in considering themselves agents of "change."

Such a bias toward generic "change" might make sense in a bloody dictatorship, where almost any change would be for the better. But what sense does it make in a country whose existing institutions and traditions have produced far more freedom and prosperity than any of the alternatives that have been tried around the world?

Many of those who run our education establishment, and those who control what we are told by the media, are not interested in having the next generation understand the benefits they have inherited from American and Western institutions and traditions. Instead, the whole orientation is that of compiling grievances to complain about, often combined with a sanitized and romanticized vision of the glories of other countries and cultures.

Do you wonder that some of the young succumb -- some tragically? The history of the 20th century is full of examples of treason by privileged people in free countries, on behalf of totalitarian dictatorships that murdered millions in cold blood.

Just think of the American and British traitors who stole nuclear secrets and turned them over to the Stalinist dictatorship, which had slaughtered more of its own people than Hitler killed in the Holocaust. Many of these were "the brightest and the best" -- or at least the most self-infatuated.

While we are rightly concerned about enemy aliens in our midst, the deeper and longer lasting problem of alienated Americans may be more dangerous and harder to solve. Conceivably, we may someday get around to tightening our recklessly loose immigration policies and practices. But we cannot expel our homegrown enemies within.

We have rightly been concerned about the educational failures of our schools. But that may turn out in the end to be overshadowed by their heedlessly poisoning the minds of the young in their zeal to be propagandists for generic "change." What too many educators call "critical thinking" is uncritical negativism toward American society and hopelessly naive praise of other societies, including those that are enemies of ours and enemies of human freedom in general.

JWR contributor Thomas Sowell, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, is author of several books, including his latest, The Einstein Syndrome: Bright Children Who Talk Late.


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© 2002, Creators Syndicate