If you’re like me, you probably think the Gross National Cynicism meter has the needle pegged on overload these days. Still, I can always count on humanity to set the bar higher. Let me cite three recent examples:
First, just when we’d all gotten "used" to the idea of suicide bombings, along comes the latest manifestations, in Britain, involving doctors. Yes, medical doctors: people who’ve sworn the Hippocratic Oath (which, in this new Islamist version, apparently includes the admonition, "First, do all possible harm.") On June 29, two cars packed with gas cylinders and nails were discovered in London’s entertainment district. The next day, a flaming jeep smashed through security barriers at the Glasgow airport in Scotland. Of eight people detained so far, the only one formally charged is Bilal Abdullah, an Iraqi doctor who was a passenger in the jeep. Another suspect is Sabeel Ahmed, a doctor from India. In Australia, police have questioned six Indian doctors regarding the British plots, and detained one: Mohamed Haneef.
Personally, I’ve always had trouble empathizing with anybody who’d take part in such actions. I’d like to think that I’d give my life for my country, an offer which fortunately I didn’t have to make good during my one year hitch with the 199th Light Infantry Brigade in Vietnam. But if asked to just kill as many people as possible, we don’t care who, while killing yourself, I believe I’d have to raise my hand at that point and ask why. And if the answer was that I could cash in my 72 virgin voucher, I’d have several more questions:
How do you know there are 72?
Why 72? If I’m a better martyr, or kill more infidels, shouldn’t I get a virgin bonus?
How do you know they’re virgins?
Are virgins really going to heaven at a ratio of 72-1 over glorious martyrs?
Are they really nice virgins?
If they’re all covered up, how would I know?
If they’re all dying young and sexy, what’s killing them?
If they’re dying of old age, still virgins, what are my chances of lifting that veil and finding Scarlett Johannson?
And above all, I’d ask my friendly neighborhood mullah: If this is such a great deal, why don’t you join me on the next mission? Ah yes — hypocrisy enters the picture.
But those are just my thoughts for your general, run of the mill suicide (really homicide) bombers. What can we say about those who embark on such mayhem AFTER devoting many arduous years of discipline and training for the purpose of saving human life and improving the human condition. I know, doctors tend to make a good buck and not everybody in med school is altruistic,. And I’ll grant that doctors are human, subject to the same passions and psychoses as the rest of us. But I haven’t seen any evidence to date that the doctors in question are all mentally ill, or all got up on the wrong side of the bed on the same day. What I see are fanatic scum who decided to repudiate their solemn word. I see hypocrites.
Second, I find a more benign form of hypocrisy right here at home, and unfortunately, it affects a whole lot more of us. The debate over Iraq has many disputes involving the war on terror, timetables, and President Bush’s view that all we are saying is give surge a chance. But everybody supports the troops. We support the troops because we don’t want them killed. Or we support the troops because we don’t want a whole lot more of them killed in a far worse conflict if we don’t win this one. But either way, we support them. Either way, we support THEM. And WE’RE all glad THEY are sacrificing for our country, even as THEY embark on THEIR third and fourth tours of duty with worn down equipment.
Not that WE intend to sacrifice, of course. WE are far too involved in business as usual. WE certainly aren’t going to suffer sugar rationing or gas rationing or tire rationing as the greatest generation did. And goodness knows WE are absolutely not going to share the burden of service by contemplating the D word. No need for the draft, as long as WE can get THEM to serve in our place. Not as long as WE can treat some of our fellow citizens like hired mercenaries. Because, after all, it isn’t OUR burden. No, that would be THEIRS. And that’s why we called our parents and grandparents the greatest generation. The hypocrite quotient was a lot lower back then.
Third, I’ve noticed a strain of hyprocrisy appear in the debate over illegal immigration. (note that I didn’t refer to undocumented workers. I’ll call them undocumented workers the day we start calling bank robberies unauthorized withdrawls, or government fraud collateral taxation). No less prominent a person than Mario Cuomo has publicly wondered how many of our ancestors were properly documented before entering the country, as if that somehow excuses people who break in now.
One of the most prominent legal minds of our time, Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, countered my thoughts on this on my late night radio interview program by noting how many of us cheat on our taxes. And CBS correspondent Dave Ross recently did one of his quite humorous pieces on illegal immigration and the number of us who break the speed laws. These are three very bright people who love their country very much.
Still, I find it odd that people of this caliber would invoke the spirit of the Spiro Agnew defense of nolo contendere (latin for "I didn’t do it and I had every right to"). I’m sorry that some of us cheat on our taxes and break the speed limit. I’m sorry that some of our ancestors didn’t play by the rules in arriving here. But none of that excuses people who break the law here and now. And that’s what the immigration debate is about, really: Law breaking. Let’s say I break into your house, and while passing through the kitchen I see the toaster has started a fire, which I extinguish. I pass on to the backyard, where one of your kids is drowning in your pool. I dive in and rescue him. And while I’m there I wash and wax your car and weed the garden. I STILL BROKE IN.
This country is a magnet to the world for a lot of reasons: Our freedoms, our prosperity, and our stability among other things. And all of those things are dependent on the fact that we operate under a system of laws. Not perfectly, and not with perfect laws, but that’s the basis of the system. By the standards of the world we do pretty well. And it’s why people really want to come here, whether they’d articulate it that way or not. And for people to come for all of those benefits granted by the rule of law, and to do so by, as their first act, breaking those laws, is very hypocritical.
I won’t claim that hypocrisy is always bad. Goodness knows, I know the answer when aunt Bertha asks, "does this dress make me look fat?" Some lies are little white ones, make no mistake. But today’s world has far too many big ugly lies, and I wish the people behind them would stop the hypocrisy. Or at least fake it better.