- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 2, 2005

Identity questions

“An unintended and beneficial consequence of the [July 7] London bombings is the transformation of the debate in Britain over multiculturalism and ‘Britishness.’ The discovery that the original four bombers were cricket-playing native sons of Yorkshire has alarmed people who had reasonably assumed that the children of Muslim immigrants would assimilate to ‘Britishness’ as a natural result of growing up in the country.

“The bombings on the London underground shocked everyone out of this complacency, at least temporarily. None of the usual explanations seemed to apply. The bombers were not poor; they were not ‘marginalized’; they were not from disturbed or broken homes; they were not living in a culturally separate world. …

“These unsettling facts inevitably raised questions of political identity and allegiance. What had transformed ordinary young Brits into jihadists and mass murderers?”

—John O’Sullivan, writing on “The real British disease,” in the September issue of the New Criterion

Radical ideal

“One of the casualties of the attack on the Vietnam War was the bourgeois ideal of moderation. Before the ‘60s, entry into the middle class required a disciplining of desire on behalf of family, church, and nation. When political radicals began persuading America’s youth that it took more courage to evade the draft than to serve their country, they substituted the ideal of self-fulfillment … for self-sacrifice. Moderation was out. Excess was in.

“The pleasure of middle-class life is found in its respect for limits. … Sixties radicals saw this conformity as the source of every social ill, from nationalism to sexism. They believed that the pursuit of personal freedom could transform society. They hoped they could end the Vietnam War by undermining the bourgeois ideal of moderation.”

—Stephen H. Webb, writing on “The Path Less Beaten,” in the October issue of Touchstone

Aging image

“Nowadays, Bush bashing is the last refuge of the has-been scoundrel, the panacea for pop stars of the past. …

“The antiwar gimmick is not a gimme, however, as the Dixie Chicks and Madonna taught us in early 2003. In the days leading up to the U.S. intervention in Iraq, Madonna decided at the last minute to pull a controversial music video depicting a George W. Bush look-alike getting blown up by a grenade. Having seen the backlash created by Dixie Chicks singer Natalie Maines’s comment that her band was ‘ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas,’ Madonna evidently feared similar recriminations of being called anti-American at a time when a majority of Americans strongly supported the war. …

“It was not long after this flop that Madonna reverted to her old playbook for her next publicity stunt when, during a performance at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards, she and the younger Britney Spears kissed onstage. This time her message was, like her, an old one: Make love not war. …

“Given her penchant for reinventing herself, Madonna, who celebrated her 47th birthday last month, is probably in better shape, physically and professionally, than are most of her contemporaries. Fortunately for her, sex sells. And selling sex rather than politics is something she can always fall back on whenever she is falling off the charts — or out of bed. Madonna’s image, like a virgin, always seems to be doing something for the first time.”

—Windsor Mann, writing on “Rock the Dubya,” Thursday in National Review Online at www.nationalreview.com

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