Obama’s not so high horse

Staff Columnist

Last week President Obama, at the National Prayer Breakfast, found it necessary to chide a room full of religiously inclined people with: “Unless we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our own country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.”

Forgive my predilection to rant on occasion but how long is Mr. Obama going to reduce our public discourse to the lowest level of sophomoric, faculty lounge disassociation with reality. Historian Michael Beschloss appeared on the Don Imus show on FOX Business News shortly after the election in 2008 and, in answer to Imus’ query about Mr. Obama’s IQ, told us, “I would say it’s probably – he’s probably the smartest guy ever to become President.” Beschloss enjoys the reputation as one of our leading presidential historians; so is it too much to ask Mr. Obama to back up Beschloss’s claim and actually start talking like a smart guy?

It is ridiculous in the extreme to tell us we shouldn’t get on our high horse about what the Islamic State is doing in February 2015 because Christians did some bad things in February 1215. As Mark Steyn wrote, “Gee, thanks, I’m sure that’s a great consolation when they’re reaching for the scimitar and readying you for your close-up.”

The real quarrel with Mr. Obama’s high-horse declaration is the lack of historical context. The Crusades kicked off in 1095 for the purpose of restoring Christian access to Jerusalem and, according to Bernard Lewis, as quoted by Jonah Goldberg, “The Crusades could more accurately be described as a limited, belated and, in the last analysis, ineffectual response to the jihad − a failed attempt to recover by a Christian holy war what had been lost to a Muslim holy war.” Just for the record, Bernard Lewis is regarded as the greatest living English-language historian of Islam.

The Crusaders were capable of terrible cruelties, just as were the Islamic Jihadists but, what Mr. Obama appears to discount is that both were acting within the fundamental ethical bounds of the medieval world. The world’s quarrel with Islamic radicals is that their ethical bounds still seem to be tied to a former millennium.

Slavery is an evil that afflicted the world from the beginning of recorded time and slavery remains a stain on America’s history. America ended slavery in a Civil War that, as President Lincoln suggested in his second inaugural address, seemed to require that every drop of blood drawn by the slaver’s lash be paid in exact measure with blood drawn by the sword. But, slavery continues in the world today, almost exclusively among several Islamic groups in the Middle East and Africa.

The British deserve first place in the effort to end slavery. Prior to 1807, Britain had an enormously profitable slave trade and it is rather remarkable that they would end up leading the world-wide effort to end slavery. Something akin to a Christian movement ended with anti-slave trade legislation in 1807 and the British proceeded to get on their high horse and lead the effort to end slavery world wide. The dominance of the British navy in the 19th century is in no small part due to experience gained by a multitude of young officers who commanded the British ships that patrolled African waters in the hunt for slave ships

It took America a century to end the Jim Crow laws that followed emancipation in 1865, but it did end and the final needed push was delivered in 1965 by the leadership of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., who, it will be informative to note, was a Baptist minister who based his crusade on the Bible and the Constitution.

But, Jim Crow laws and customs are not dead in the Islamic Middle East, Africa and Asia. “I doubt,” writes Victor Davis Hanson, “whether a Jew of any nationality would be allowed to immigrate and buy real estate in too many corners of the Islamic Middle East. Outside of the West, women and homosexuals are often treated no differently than in the Seventh Century.”

New York Times columnist David Brooks, defended Mr. Obama’s venture into self-induced humility, claiming that we should always be aware of our own shortcomings. I agree with Brooks to the extent we ought to be very careful if we find ourselves inclined to lecture the members of the European Union, Great Britain, Australia or Canada. Indeed, we might be well advised to ask the Australians and Canadians for a bit of advice.

One has to ask oneself, what twisted logic would force us to reflect on our own sins when dealing with ISIS, or Boko Haram, or Hamas, or the twisted rulers of Iran? We are better than the Islamic terrorists and better by an incredibly wide margin. I don’t think we have to agonize over real or imagined failings before observing that it is really bad form to bury small boys alive, rape their sisters and burn anyone alive who survives those depredations.

American history is a blending of meanness and greatness. Mr. Obama would do well to focus once in awhile on the greatness rather than dwelling on how bad he thinks we have been. In other words, he should get on a higher horse once in a while.

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1 Response for “Obama’s not so high horse”

  1. Bruce Erickson says:

    Thanks for saying what is so true….more media needs to speak up..

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