Voices

Deer in the headlights

The man who now reigns in Spain was once derided as "Bambi"

Issue: "Iraq: Liberation Day 2004," April 10, 2004

IN A MOMENT OF SHEER NAIVETE, I EXPECTED THAT Spain would cry out against Islamic terrorists after their 3/11/04 attack what Time magazine writer Lance Morrow cried out after the 9/11/01 attack: "Let's have rage! What's needed is a unified, unifying, Pearl Harbor sort of purple American fury -- a righteous indignation that doesn't leak away in a week or two."

Many Spaniards had rage, all right, and gave themselves no sleep till three days later they dispensed with the menace -- that is, Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, who had supported President Bush's war on terrorism. Now I know how Jeremiah felt. Israel, nursing fresh wounds and humiliation in Egypt as a result of forsaking the true God for idols, had this bizarre and logic-defying reaction when the prophet addressed them, hoping that they had finally gotten the point: "We will not listen to you ... we will ... make offerings to the queen of heaven and pour out drink offerings to her, as we did, both we and our fathers.... For then we had plenty of food, and prospered, and saw no disaster. But since we left off making offerings to the queen of heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have lacked everything, and have been consumed by the sword and by famine" (Jeremiah 44:16-18). Come again?

Just update the vocabulary and you've got it: "We will not listen to you anti-terrorist fanatics. Ever since we left off being nice to the Islamists we have had nothing but trouble." Throw in an element of spiritual exhaustion from Malachi 3:14: "It is vain to serve God. What is the profit of our keeping His charge or of walking as in mourning before the Lord of hosts? And now we call the arrogant blessed. Evildoers not only prosper but they put God to the test and they escape." (Translation: You're a fool to be too zealous for good against evil. The terrorists will leave us alone if we withdraw from Iraq.)

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Remind me to ask at the local Christian counseling center about the psychological phenomenon that makes people want to be good to those who abuse them and mean to those who love them. The Apostle Paul was no stranger to this brand of insanity: "For you bear it if someone makes slaves of you, or devours you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or strikes you in the face. To my shame, I must say, we were too weak for that!" (2 Corinthians 11:20-21).

According to The New York Times, before his miraculous rehabilitation in the upset Socialist victory in March, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero had been the butt of "Blandman" and "Bambi" jokes in the Spanish press. One columnist called him "an innocent and idealistic fawn." He is a man who last November called for troop withdrawal when seven Spanish agents were killed. Fending off criticisms of limp-wristedness by his election rival, Mr. Zapatero had retorted: "Mr. Rajoy says I have no principles or convictions. Well, I'm going to give you a few examples of my principles. My first principle: Thou shalt not kill." (Why can't these guys leave the Bible alone? It would be less unbecoming.)

Is it me? Even my European brothers here at the café say the reason Spain's reaction to 3/11 looks to me like appeasement (a videotaped message left in a garbage container not far from a mosque in Madrid called the Atocha train-station bombings "a response to your collaboration with the criminals Bush and his allies") is because I am hampered by an American mind.

Such a difficult objection to gainsay leaves me only one recourse. Here is the view from a superior -- and decidedly un-American -- mind: "The forces of Evil have begun their decisive offensive. You can feel their pressure...." (Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, 1978). "[Woe to national leaders'] self-serving rationales as to how realistic, reasonable, and intellectually and even morally justified it is to base state policies on weakness and cowardice.... When a government earnestly undertakes to root out terrorism, public opinion immediately accuses it of violating the terrorists' civil rights.... Who should now renounce [material well-being], why and for the sake of what should one risk one's precious life in defense of the common good and particularly in the nebulous case when the security of one's nation must be defended in an as yet distant land? ... Must one point out that from ancient times a decline in courage has been considered the first symptom of the end?"

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