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Steyn: The Fetish of Tolerance

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Mark Steyn asks, “Are there no grown-ups left in Rhode Island?

When Chariho Regional High School art teacher Lynn Norton set her pupils the task of expressing an idea three-dimensionally, Jeffrey Eden immediately thought of a diorama comparing Bush to Hitler. You might think that ought to be disqualified on the grounds that characterizing Bush as Hitler is about as two-dimensional as you can get, and it’s less of a diorama than the diarrhea of leftist rhetoric, as poured forth by millions of moveon.org drones and nude Marin County feminist protesters and European activist puppeteers. But there’s always room for one more, and Jeffrey’s schoolmarm was thrilled at the way he did it so cutely, draping a swastika on one side and the Stars and Stripes on the other, and putting in little plastic soldiers — Nazi and American, though who can tell the difference, right? — and then adding his own penetrating observations on both Bush (“Saddam had no affiliation with the Taliban”) and his predecessor as Fuhrer (“Hitler’s own justification was his own hatred.” Hmm. What a testament to the quality of Rhode Island’s “Social Studies” curriculum).

Well, Jeffrey’s 17. One day, with a bit of luck, he’ll realize Bush isn’t Hitler. If he were, Jeffrey would be in the Bush Youth doing patriotic exercises in shorts every morning and singing the special Texan lyrics to the Horst Wessel song, and he wouldn’t have time to do dioramas of dissent. But what are we to make of everyone else in this sorry story? The art teacher who gave him an A. The 15 judges in the Rhode Island Scholastic Art Awards who awarded him their “silver key.” The proprietor of Alperts Furniture Showroom in Seekonk where the winning “art” work is proudly on display. Are there no grown-ups left in Rhode Island?

I’m not worried about Iraq. As they demonstrated on Jan. 30, they’ll be just fine. The western front is the important one in this war, the point of intersection between Islam and a liberal democratic tradition so mired in self-loathing it would rather destroy our civilization just to demonstrate its multicultural bona fides. It’s not that young Eden knows nothing, but that neither his teachers, judges nor furniture showroom proprietors do. By contrast, our enemies know us very well, at least when it comes to courtroom strategies and canny manipulation of the fetish of “tolerance.”

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