WASHINGTON — “Culture and demographics are our destiny.” Stop.
But Iowa Rep. Steve King didn’t stop there. He continued to feed his foot deep into his gullet: “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”
Well, now. Let’s pause to parse.
First, one never speaks of “somebody else’s babies” except to exclaim how precious they are — each and every one. For a politician to say this, the exclamation is best accompanied by a warm smile and an unmistakable tone of admiration for the infant’s heroic mother. (Note: All mothers are heroic.)
Second, what’s all this about restoring civilization? Did we lose it? Is civilization crumbling beneath our noses?
Admittedly, I’ve mentioned more than once that civilization hangs by a thread, which for me means Americans must promptly learn the difference between “your” and “you’re.” You’re proud of your baby, though heaven knows why (I’m not a politician).
Of equal urgency, it’s “fewer than,” not “less than,” when speaking of things that can be counted. As in, fewer than one in a million Americans know who Steve King is.
King’s comment came in the form of a tweet, apparently in support of Geert Wilders, the Dutch nationalist politician hoping to become prime minister of the Netherlands after Wednesday’s election.
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Both Wilders — who once called Moroccans “scum” — and King do seem cut from the same cloth. Both men are apparently concerned that immigrant encroachment is posing a danger to civilization-as-we-know-it, especially among certain recurring arrivals, including: (1) Muslims, whose faith is sometimes used by certain fanatics to justify murdering the rest of us; (2) people from a variety of nations who, importantly, do not have white skin, or, inferentially, Western values coursing through their veins.
To the Kings and Wilders (and Trumps?), the problems are obvious and undeniable. Even to the less knee-jerk, the fast-changing demographic landscape has created at least some level of discomfort and uncertainty. Suddenly, the majority has to ponder the imponderable: Who, me, a minority?
I’m as happy as anyone to dismiss extremists of any sort as this -ist or that -phobe. But such labeling seems both facile and unproductive. Swaddling ourselves in righteous indignation, we settle by the fire, cooing to our superior intellects, and noticing too late the hungry mob building a pyre beyond the window.
King speaks stupidly and carelessly, to be sure. His ineloquent tongue could reduce the Gettysburg Address to a cartoon caption. But he’s addressing an idea that is far from alien to a large percentage of Western civilization’s acolytes and beneficiaries.
Wilders, too, is a symptom of something real and profound. He didn’t invent himself out of nothing. His “scum” comment followed the shocking 2004 murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh by a Dutch-Moroccan Muslim claiming to defend the name of Allah.
Just as 9/11 caused the United States to lose its rose-hued glasses, van Gogh’s fatal shooting and throat slashing ruptured the Netherlands’ long-standing and proud tradition of tolerance. Loss of innocence becomes its own empty vessel that is quickly filled with lust for revenge born of ultimate betrayal. As in: We welcomed you to our home and you turned our goodwill against us. Or killed our artists. Or blew up our buildings — and destroyed our hearts.
The forces that escort people such as King, Wilders and Donald Trump to the dais are not, in other words, primarily hateful, though they easily can so evolve. At their root, they’re Something Else. It is this something else that slips into the gulf of deferred aspirations when labels are substituted for the hard work of thinking.
Undergirding King’s remarks, of course, is the false notion that “those people” come to the U.S. only to propagate and take advantage of our generosity without contributing in return. In addition to being ignorant, King’s words are mean — and possibly speak more to his sense of women as “breeders” than to Latinos, Hispanics and others as freeloaders. Too much time on those Iowa sow farms, perhaps?
What is needed are new voices to articulate these fundamental concerns, recognize them with respect and work toward solutions that don’t require that our neighbors be marginalized. This would seem especially compelling to those now considering what it might be like to become a minority “in their own country.”
In the new age upon us, our best hope is that our nation’s values linger on through coming generations of all varieties of Americans. Who knows? Maybe a more enlightened future actually is in gestation, eventually to be fashioned by somebody else’s baby.
Kathleen Parker’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.