Is America Doomed?

The “Hood” Over Our Eyes: Are We Doomed As a Country?

By Fr. James V. Schall, S.J., Professor of Political Philosophy at Georgetown University
November 30, 2009 | Ignatius Insight
The day after the killings at Fort Hood, a friend wrote, with some prophetic import: “What could have been the shooter’s motive? The FBI is still searching, I know. It’s just traumatic stress disorder, even though the man had not been to Iraq, or Afghanistan, even though he shouted ‘Allah Akbar’ while opening fire. We’re doomed as a country.”
This action is intelligible to any reasonable person in terms of the killer’s statements and deeds. It does not take a genius to understand him. But it does take a genius to come up with a theory that excuses him from responsibility. Our land, even in the highest places, and not only ours, is populated with not a few such geniuses with their exonerating speculations.
This latter phrase—”We are doomed as a country“—is what interests me here. Are we?
Is it possible we have crossed a mental line beyond which we are no longer able to understand the very word “enemy”—even when he acts as one? This line is not military, but one of mind with the theories that swirl through it. Thus, the phrase—”We are doomed—was “haunting.” It gets to the real problem. The issue is not Fort Hood as such, or even why this killer was not detected or stopped.
Rather, the problem is the cultural “hood” over our eyes. It prevents us from seeing a quite intelligible thing for what it is.
To change the metaphor, our “minds” are tied behind our backs. Our own philosophy, as it is used to explain such violence, is now itself a useful instrument of the terrorists, as they are inaccurately called. The actions of those who commit these “crimes” we explain in terms of victimhood, sociological categories, economic or psychological depravities. Yet, they are not “crimes” but acts of war. Those who carry out these attacks, at least, are not confused about what they are doing.
With a sophisticated knowledge of our mind and how it works, the enemy knows that he will be free to use these methods with relative impunity and considerable success to further his ends. At the same time, he will be excused by most and praised by many for doing so. Those who commit the slaughters are not the enemy; we are. The theme recurs. The enemy himself insists that it is our existence, our way of life that causes his reaction. He knows how we treat human life when we accuse him of barbarity.
The president, with much of the Congress and media, acts as if these cold-blooded killings are basically a problem of American origin. On reading his comments, it sometimes seems like the only land that the President has not visited is his own. If we could blame the “right” Americans for these violent acts of justly enraged “foreigners,” the problem would disappear.
We should not be what we are. It is our existence that causes these opponents. The Muslim army officer is driven to this terrible—but to him, heroic—deed by our culture not, as he himself claims, by his religion. We, on our part, will not take religious motives seriously, especially ones that legitimize the use of force against the innocent.
Suppressing the real reason, we search for some other way of understanding. Since, according to our philosophy, no one could think the way the major did, therefore, we conclude, neither could anyone else. So it was merely irrational or mad. Our leaders cannot wrap their minds around the idea that we may have here a real enemy, an ancient one, in fact, who is not motivated by any of the things modern psychology, economics, or culture regard as motives of human action. Our failure is as much of mind as of will. And even if religion is included as the cause, it is a “religion” that is not really what the average “terrorist” believes. We read his actions through our lenses. We think it must be this way; therefore it is this way.
The Georgetown Philodemic Debating Society recently posed as the topic of their program: “Resolved: The War against Terrorism has been a Failure.” The only problem with this formulation is that the “terrorists” do not recognize themselves as terrorists. They witness the depths of their faith. They die for it. The peaceful religious category is how Western thinkers, because of their preconceived ideas, have to think of it.
The Western mind is not allowed to call it what it is, which is a religious crusade designed to “convert” the world to Islam. Its origin is a certain kind of piety. So long as we think of it as anything else, as my friend said, “We are doomed.” We may even be doomed if we finally remove the hood to recognize that a war has in fact been declared against us, something we do not acknowledge.
I have often argued that the Muslims themselves need not have to resort to war tactics to win the world, or most of it. They can, if patient, gradually but fairly rapidly, take over each Western country through a higher birth rate. They use Western law principles of freedom of religion, press, and movement to assemble islands of Islamic rule within Western cities and countries. These are quickly or gradually infiltrated by the view of Islam that pursues the holy war as a matter of faith and conscience. Much of this initial expansion is already in place, as we see in Europe. I do not think this approach will disappear. Many Christian shrines will become Muslim by default.
No one doubts that some Muslims would like to modify this fierce side of their co-religionists. Some think that “westernization” or “secularization” will do it. But these notions usually make matters worse. For the most part, the actual Muslim states that stretch across Africa, the Near East, and Asia are family oligarchies and military juntas, but nearly all within them are believers.
But sufficient numbers of Muslims in the world do agree with and follow those who think the time is right to strike. They see a moral weakness of will in post-Christian regimes. The whole world is to pay its homage to Allah as in Muslim states which, once in control, are never open to any real influence from the outside. The pattern of conquest and subjection is long developed and continues unabated unless prevented.
…The Danish and Dutch experiences are warnings. In many liberal countries, event to speculate on these things, as I have, would be called, not a sensible effort to see what is happening but “hate language,” subject to severe penalties. Freedom of speech about such issues is under grave threat here. But I speak, in fact, out of grudging respect for the militant Muslims who are convinced that now is their hour. They are often contemptuous of the tepidity of their own fellow believers. We write them off in various ways as either inhuman or mad. I suspect they are neither.
They are believers following clear outlines of legitimate interpretations in their Koran. We would like to think that they can be “dialogued” out of these views. I doubt that is possible. We are more likely to be “dialogued” into them. If their goal looks achievable, nothing in their religious tradition prevents them from inaugurating throughout the world more and more Fort Hoods. That was not really an isolated action if viewed in the context of worldwide terrorist attacks in the past decades.
Can we expect much help from “peaceful” Muslims? I think, in the end, they have to make the same analysis as I did. They have one advantage over us. They already know what it means to live within the “peace” of Islam. They have already seen their share of analogous Fort Hoods in their histories. The only “hoods” that need concern them are those that protect them from the sun. They have already seen the doom.

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In philosophy, you learn the importance of clear specificity, especially in defining terms and issues. The leadership in our country, not the American people, have become “sophisticated” in attempting to appear to be intellectual giants in covering all of the bases so as not to offend anyone’s sensibilities. Sophisticated comes from the word, “sophism,” which encourages personal agrandisement and a false sense of reality which leads to pure stupidity. The leadership of our country needs to listen to the simplicity of the American people, and simplicity is the opposite of sophisticated, meaning straight-forward and direct-pure. We need to come out… Read more »


Thank you, Eowyn, for reminding me of what Sarah Palin said. I always start my day saying what St. Thomas More said, his last words before he was beheaded, “I am the king’s good servant, but God’s first.” And, I also think of what St. Joan said, “As long as Our Lord is first served!” One of the prayers I say in the morning comes from the Book of Samuel, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening, please show me the way…”