When President Donald Trump, the New York Post and others criticized Representative Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) for describing 9/11 as the day “some people did something,” Democrats responded in near-robotic unison. Omar was under attack because of her religion and ethnicity, they said. Her critics were inciting violence.
The upshot of the Omar controversy is that the Left is so committed to multiculturalism when push comes to shove, they have little choice but to downplay the terrorist atrocities of September 11, 2001.
That the left cannot come down firmly on the side of their own country regarding the worst terror attack in U.S. history seems a natural enough development, given their embrace of diversity as the end of all politics.
For the Left, to describe 9/11’s perpetrators as Muslim or even “radical Muslim” is potentially exclusionary. To avoid giving offense, they end up taking marching orders from a freshman lawmaker who, quite openly, has expressed hostility to the country that generously gave her refuge.
Ennobling Illegal Immigration
It is not so much that the Left has chosen multiculturalism over country. For them, there is no country in the sense we mean it. Rather they see us as nothing but a patchwork of “identities.” To get a sense of the Left’s loyalties, look at how they talk about illegal immigration.
There is a broad, emerging agreement in the Democratic Party that American citizenship is an arbitrary and unjust distinction. This is the logic behind Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D.-N.Y.) famous formulation that illegal immigrants are more patriotic than Americans who favor limitations on immigration. For liberals, immigrants are very much the moral superiors of the reprobates who still believe in national sovereignty.
Omar’s politics articulates this vision of faux American nationalism. She is their ideal patriot. She advocates passionately on behalf of “comprehensive immigration reform,” labeling all who seek immigration restrictions as incorrigible racists and traitors. Omar’s idea of “immigration reform,” by the way, is abolishing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement service, ending all deportations, and mass amnesty.
Omar loudly proclaims the United States is a country born and living in evil. Her views of America’s history and destiny come straight out of academia: the United States was “founded on genocide,” and all true Americans have an obligation to overcome this shameful history to build a more inclusive, “diverse” future.
In a 2013 interview, Omar equivocated between al-Qaeda and the United States, placing them on the same moral ground. Westerners adopt a grave tone when they refer to terror groups, but “you don’t say America with an intensity,” she complained.
The irony, of course, is that Omar herself, as a former refugee from Somalia, is a beneficiary of America’s generosity. But no matter. For the Left, Omar is an exemplary American. Not only does she fight tirelessly for diversity, but as a hijab-wearing Muslim woman of color, she does so from a position of vulnerability and weakness that they find admirable, precisely because she is audacious and offensive.
So her glib remarks about 9/11 get a pass; Omar’s habitual carelessness is just her “being equal,” taking her rightful seat at the table of power. It is impossible for her to give offense; she can only receive it.
A Strange Sort of Patriotism
By this token, Omar’s disrespect is a virtue. Why? Because America is an evil place that is not worthy of respect, an evil place that discriminates against people like Omar.
Omar was talking about discrimination against Muslims when she made her flippant remark, her defenders note. The context is not exculpatory, but to the Left, this is what is really important: her victimhood washes away her offense.
But doesn’t Omar have some responsibility, as a lawmaker, an American citizen, and, yes, a Muslim, to speak with reverence, to put her best foot forward, to project a message of good will toward her country and her fellow Americans?
For the Left, it’s a resounding “no.” Omar owes nothing to the country that took her in, and to criticize her is “inciting violence” against all Muslims.
Omar’s defenders say she is being targeted because of her race and religion, but it is the other way around. She is being targeted because of her words; she is impervious to criticism because of her identity. Not only that, but she is considered more American than those attacking her.
Despite her patent hostility to the United States, Omar insists that she is a patriot, and her defenders happily agree. Omar fights for the real America—one of difference, not unity, porous borders, not sovereignty—a nation of identities, some more equal than others.
Choosing multiculturalism over country, the Left ends up with an absurdly backward notion of patriotism. The idea that Trump “used” 9/11 to attack Ilhan Omar shows a deep cynicism and a total inversion of values. Omar is proud to attack American identity, history, and sovereignty, and challenge conventional notions about, you know, who is to blame for 9/11, but Trump is the one who is being irreverent and “hateful.”
A Hateful Catch-All
South Bend, Indiana mayor and presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg had one of the more revealing responses to the Omar flap. The lesson of 9/11 that Trump allegedly missed was that America was supposed to let go of “hate,” he said. Trump missed this lesson about the “workings of hate,” and was stoking further division.
But hold on just a second. What is going on here? Was 9/11 really caused by “hate?” No, it was not. It was perpetrated by individuals—individuals who, however much it may offend people, belonged to a particular religion.
Who’s the victim here? The country that was attacked, or the marginalized “others” who potentially might be offended? And what lesson, exactly, is it that Americans were supposed to have learned on 9/11? To “reject hate?”
“Hate” is exculpatory. It’s vague. It doesn’t blame discrete individuals or ideas. It’s a cloudy abstraction, one that the Left would very much like the authority to define.
From what they’ve said so far—from what Omar has said—“hate” should be taken to be nearly synonymous with American patriotism and tradition. Forgive this cynical speculation: is the logical conclusion that 9/11 is really the fault of the United States? That America deserved it?
Given what Omar and others have said about America, its “hateful” history, and colonialism, this doesn’t seem too uncharitable an interpretation.
Some on the Left have gone further than excusing Omar by deflecting from 9/11 to right-wing extremism and “white nationalism.” This sleight-of-hand follows quite naturally from the Left’s commitments to multiculturalism and open borders.
The narrative seems to be this: forget about who did 9/11. Let’s not think too hard about who was behind that, OK? That might offend some people. What about all of these right-wing extremists?
Fox News host Tucker Carlson is right: if they could, progressives would blame 9/11 on “white nationalists.”
In response to one of her critics, Omar said that her “love and commitment to our country . . . should never be in question.”
No doubt her allies would agree.
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