New Editor's Note, September 5, 2002: In yesterday's New York Times, Tom Friedman called this classic Larry Miller column essential reading. In case you missed it, enjoy!
Editor's Note: I'm happy to introduce you to Larry Miller. You may recognize him from his work as a comedian and actor (he's been in everything--"The Princess Diaries," "Best in Show," "10 Things I Hate About You," and his turn as the sinister Doorman on "Seinfeld" stand out). Look for his essays in The Daily Standard every other week.
PEOPLE HAVE BEEN MAKING New Year's resolutions for a long time. Usually they're personal and last no longer than a smoke ring or one of Tom Daschle's smiles. You know the drill: "I'm going to cut down on my drinking, lose a few pounds, and read more books." Of course, by January 3rd, you get drunk, order a pizza, and buy a satellite dish.
This year, though, my resolutions won't be personal, and they won't look forward. They'll look back. Four months back. As you know, since September 11, our leaders and soldiers have done a fine job, frequently a brilliant job. (I mean, please, how about that Rumsfeld? If he were a woman, I'd--Wait. Come to think of it, I'd still do nothing.) I don't even care that so many of our fellow Americans have been contrary and mealy-mouthed. What makes me want to scream like an actress and throw things is this: Since the attack, I have seen, heard, and read thoughts of such surpassing stupidity that they must be addressed. You've heard them too. Here they are:
1) "We're not good, they're not evil, everything is relative."
Listen carefully: We're good, they're evil, nothing is relative. Say it with me now and free yourselves.
You see, folks, saying "We're good" doesn't mean "We're perfect." Okay? The only perfect being is the bearded guy on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. The plain fact is that our country has, with all our mistakes and blunders, always been and always will be, the greatest beacon of freedom, charity, opportunity, and affection in history.
If you need proof, open all the borders on Earth and see what happens. In about half a day, the entire world would be a ghost town, and the United States would look like one giant line to see "The Producers."
2) "Violence only leads to more violence."
This one is so stupid you usually have to be the president of an Ivy League university to say it. Here's the truth, which you know in your heads and hearts already:
Ineffective, unfocused violence leads to more violence. Limp, panicky, half-measures lead to more violence. However, complete, fully-thought-through, professional, well-executed violence never leads to more violence because, you see, afterwards, the other guys are all dead.
That's right, dead. Not "on trial," not "reeducated," not "nurtured back into the bosom of love." Dead. D-E--Well, you get the idea.
3) "The C.I.A. and the rest of our intelligence community has failed us."
For 25 years we have chained our spies like dogs to a stake in the ground, and now that the house has been robbed, we yell at them for not protecting us.
Starting in the late seventies, under Carter appointee Stansfield Turner, the giant brains who get these giant ideas decided that the best way to gather international intelligence was to use spy satellites.
"After all," they reasoned, "you can see a license plate from 200 miles away." This is very helpful if you've been attacked by a license plate.
Unfortunately, we were attacked by humans. Finding humans is not possible with satellites. You have to use other humans. When we bought all our satellites, we fired all our humans, and here's the really stupid part. It takes years, decades to infiltrate new humans into the worst places of the world. You can't just have a guy who looks like Gary Busey in a Spring Break '93 sweatshirt plop himself down in a coffee shop in Kabul and say "Hiya, boys. Gee, I sure would like to meet that bin Laden fella."
Well, you can, but all you'd be doing is giving the bad guys a story they'll be telling for years.
4) "These people are poor and helpless, and that's why they're angry at us."
Uh-huh, and Jeffrey Dahmer's frozen head collection was just a desperate cry for help.
The terrorists and their backers are richer than Elton John and, ironically, a good deal less annoying. The poor helpless people, you see, are the villagers they tortured and murdered to stay in power. Mohamed Atta, one of the evil scumbags who steered those planes into the killing grounds (I'm sorry, one of the "alleged hijackers," according to CNN--they stopped using the word "terrorist," you know), is the son of a Cairo surgeon.
But you knew this, too. In the sixties and seventies, all the pinheads marching against the war were upper-middle-class college kids who grabbed any cause they could think of to get out of their final papers and spend more time drinking. At least, that was my excuse.
It's the same today. Take the Anti-Global-Warming-Or-Is-It-World-Trade-Oh-Who-Knows-What-The-Hell-They-Want demonstrators. They all charged their black outfits and plane tickets on dad's credit card before driving to the airport in their SUV's.
5) "Any profiling is racial profiling."
Who's killing us here, the Norwegians? Just days after the attack, the New York Times had an article saying dozens of extended members of the gazillionaire bin Laden family living in America were afraid of reprisals and left in a huff, never to return to studying at Harvard and using too much Drakkar.
I'm crushed. I think we're all crushed. Please come back. With a cherry on top? Why don't they just change their names, anyway? It's happened in the past. Think about it. How many Adolfs do you run into these days?
Shortly after that, I remember watching TV with my jaw on the floor as a government official actually said, "That little old grandmother from Sioux City could be carrying something."
Okay, how about this: No, she couldn't. It would never be the grandmother from Sioux City. Is it even possible? What are the odds? Winning a hundred Powerball lotteries in a row? A thousand? A million?
And now a Secret Service guy has been tossed off a plane and we're all supposed to cry about it because he's an Arab? Didn't it have the tiniest bit to do with the fact that he filled out his forms incorrectly three times? And then left an Arab history book on his seat as he strolled off the plane? And came back? Armed?
Let's please all stop singing "We Are the World" for a minute and think practically. I don't want to be sitting on the floor in the back of a plane four seconds away from hitting Mt. Rushmore and turn, grinning, to the guy next to me to say, "Well, at least we didn't offend them."
SO HERE'S what I resolve for the new year: To never forget our murdered brothers and sisters. To never let the relativists get away with their immoral thinking. After all, no matter what your daughter's political science professor says, we didn't start this. Have you seen that bumper sticker that says, "No More Hiroshimas"? I wish I had one that says, "You First. No More Pearl Harbors."
I resolve to be more vigilant and watchful. A good warning sign that these mutts were nuts was when they started dressing their women in heavy-duty, baby-blue bubblewrap. Any man who doesn't want to glance at a woman is, by definition, already very easy to talk into killing himself. Then again, to be fair, we haven't seen their women.
To scream, "Keep going!" when everyone else says, "Stop."
I'll just cut down on my drinking next year. Hell, I really wasn't planning to, anyway.
Larry Miller is a contributing humorist to The Daily Standard and a writer, actor, and comedian living in Los Angeles.