In one of the more bizarre stories I’ve read so far, right-wing commentators are up in arms about remarks made by New York Philharmonic music director and conductor Lorin Maazel, who responded to criticisms about the visit to North Korea by his ensemble as being a possible endorsement of NK’s abysmal record on human rights by saying:
“People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw bricks, should they?” demanded Mr. Maazel. “Is our standing as a country â€” the United States â€” is our reputation all that clean when it comes to prisoners and the way they are treated? Have we set an example that should be emulated all over the world? If we can answer that question honestly, I think we can then stop being judgmental about the errors made by others.”
Perhaps not the most eloquent statement, but he does make a good point that our credibility in the world on the matter of human rights is a bit eroded in the wake of Abu Graib and Guantanamo Bay – not that we’re nearly as bad as some of these notorious states out there, but certainly we’ve not got an unblemished record.
Here’s the response that baffles me, and makes me wonder what these right-wingers actually do in the world [emphasis mine]:
“Lorin Maazel’s comparison of America”s lawful treatment of its prisoners to North Korea’s unlawful mistreatment of theirs, bespeaks a mind so befuddled and corrupted by the poison of multiculturalism that it should dishearten us all,” says Arkansas writer Paul Lake, current poetry editor of First Things, whose new novel, “Cry Wolf: A Political Fable,” is due out in late spring.
Should we only know about what transpires within our own national boundaries? Is that what this guy is saying? Clearly, this sends the message that knowing about other cultures is dangerous – you might actually see things in context, and start to make your own decisions about what is right and what is wrong. “Poison of multiculturalism” – and this is from a poet!
The critical mistake is that understanding and context do not equal condoning or endorsing. Just because I might understand why someone might undertake to do a despicable act of terror doesn’t mean that I in any way think that it is right. On the other hand, if I have a better understanding of what motivated this person or persons, then I can implement policies that might prevent further such acts.
Fear is what is truly insidious and poisonous – and it befuddles and corrupts more completely than almost anything else, with the possible exception of greed – and it’s too bad that it is where the right wing often bases its rhetoric.