Liberalism for everyone else

That seems to be the foreign policy of the American Right.  Consider two recent articles on the First Things website.

First, George Weigel is outraged that Ukraine is, for its coming presidential inauguration, replacing its bland multicultural interreligious service with a religious comemoration that reflects the country’s actual culture and history.

Second, David Goldman attacks Sharia law for not being as totalitarian as western law, i.e. it recognizes in the family a sovereign who doesn’t derive his authority from the state.  With the customary dishonesty of a neoconservative talking about Islam, Goldman only discusses patriarchal authority in the context of its abuse.  He says

More than the Koran’s sanction of wife-beating, the legal grounds on which the Koran sanctions it reveals an impassable gulf between Islamic and Western law. The sovereign grants inalienable rights to every individual in Western society, of which protection from violence is foremost. Every individual stands in direct relation to the state, which wields a monopoly of violence.Islam’s legal system is radically different: the father is a “governor” or “administrator” of the family, that is, a little sovereign within his domestic realm, with the right to employ violence to control his wife and children. That is the self-understanding of modern Islam spelled out by Muslim-American scholars – and it is incompatible with the Western concept of human rights.

Let’s take this apart:

  1. Rights are granted by the will of the sovereign.  (It’s not clear, then, how they can be inalienable.)
  2. The “Western concept of human rights” requires the destruction of all authority outside the state.  All individuals must stand naked before the all-powerful State.
  3. The “Western concept of human rights” thus regards all tribal and feudal authorities as illigitimate.
  4. The “Western concept of human rights” doesn’t allow parents to spank their children.

Now, I don’t object to the claim that fathers should not have the power of life and death over those in their household.  There is good reason to reserve the harshest forms of physical punishment for the state.  What is missing from this piece is any acknowledgement of the legitimacy of patriarchal, or even paternal, authority at all.  Instead we get a Jacobinical insistance that each man, woman, and child stand alone and naked before the State.

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