Minnesota, Answer Me
Being not of a cryophilic bent, I’ve not made it a priority to visit the state of Minnesota. The environment, even at its most welcoming, seems to me wholly inhospitable. Of course, that’s no judgment of its people—gregarious and lovely as I assume them to be—but rather its weather and its weather alone.
Indeed, in the mind of an adopted and now terribly softened Floridian, there’s woefully little to recommend this great northern state to me. I say this even at this putatively vernal point of the year, when the season should be turning for the better, for the warmer. Yet as these fingers patter away in nearly ninety degrees (for what it’s worth, unseasonably sunny even for this time of year in the Sunshine State) the snowfall up there keeps accumulating. It’s the middle of April, very nearly Tax Day eve and a week before Easter, and Minnesota has been covered in over twenty inches of snow.
But at the expense of a chill, my curiosity is dauntless. It, unlike my body, knows no climate of which the latter is so afraid. Reasonably and biologically fearful, I might add as a caveat, but nevertheless, I feel a great compulsion to travel up to that wild, pine-laden state of the north and abridge myself of its famously polite and civil people. Specifically, I want to travel to the fifth district, comprising the towns of Minneapolis, St. Louis Park, and New Hope and speak with the electorate there whose choice it was to send to the United States Congress as its representative the increasingly noxious, unabashedly odious, and unfailingly vile Ilhan Omar.
In so doing, I’d hope very much to find a population whose character is far different from that of the woman in whom it placed its trust. I simply can’t imagine Omar’s radicalism on matters of policy and haughty irreverence toward the country at-large as being positions commonly held among a people of such humility and warmth.
Are the Minnesotans of whom that district is composed as avowedly, overtly, and tenaciously anti-Semitic as is she? Though the Democratic Party as a whole has become increasingly ill-disposed toward Israel in general and the Kosher-keeping people by which its populated in particular, few contemporary congressmen on the left have equaled Omar’s unmitigated and vociferous antipathy toward the Jews. Enough to arose in me, a shameless semi-Semite, a feeling of profound disquiet, I’m struck by the fact that the anti-Jewish utterances born of Omar’s mouth have become almost banal. So regular and nearly diurnal are they that in the course of a few more months, I’m convinced that they’ll cease even making the news.
She’s borrowed from antiquity literally timeless canards, the likes of which blame Jews for their purchase and control of the intelligentsia and political elite. What’s more, her position on the state of Israel has been, to put it mildly, ungenial. To put it more accurately, it’s been unabashedly hostile. Indeed, she’s no friend to the concept of a two-state solution (however presently unfeasible so hopeful an idea might be) whereby Israel and Palestine might live as neighbors in relative peace. Instead, implicitly or expressly, she prefers rather to boycott, divest, and sanction the Israeli state and eventually to clear from its ill-acquired territory any impediment to a Palestinian sprawl. She seems to want to trade “hegemony” for hegemony—if not outright extinction of the Israeli state.
Perhaps there are Minnesotans in the district of which she’s a representative who agree with her on this point. They may see Israel as a repressive bully of Near Eastern provenance in need of corrective action. They may see that tiny, besieged Mediterranean state of which America is a fervid sponsor as an odious, incorrigible actor on the world’s stage. Reliant externally upon American subventions and internally on brutalizing and incommensurate force, Israel may be the region’s cudgel-wielding Goliath—a lavishly-funded state perpetuating the pauperization of the Arab race.
Weak though they may be, an argument or two can be made to this end. What’s indefensible, though, is what Ilhan Omar was recorded as having said about the 9/11 attacks. Speaking before the Council on American-Islamic Relations, an organization for which the acronym “CAIR” ironically serves, Omar referred to the Islamic terrorists responsible for planning and executing the suicidal attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in her current home of Washington D.C. as “some people” and their actions as them having done “some things”. (It might be well noted here that Omar claimed in this speech that CAIR organized itself after the attacks of 9/11. In fact, it did so in 1993 after the Oslo Accords).
So accustomed are we to the bombardment of hyperbolic speech, that we tend not to hear things that are uttered sotto voce or when they’re discreetly understated. Strung so tightly as we’ve become over the duration of these past three years, understatement appears to have become a pitch to which we’re no longer tuned. Like an elderly individual dumb to certain ringing frequencies, it almost completely escapes our detection. But this statement was much more than an understatement, and as such, was heard with the sobriety and lucidity so often lacking in our country’s ears.
It was discourteous, horrible but more importantly, loud and clear. It was entirely insensitive to the victims and the families who were on the receiving end of the terrorist’s murderous designs. To trivialize the horrendous actions that “some people” carried out is to lessen the severity of their unforgivable act. By saying what she does, Omar distorts and diminishes the single cause of nearly three thousand Americans’ deaths.
While she easily may have rectified her tactless remark by quickly apologizing for the looseness of her speech, Omar did nothing of the sort. As is her wont, she became exceedingly indignant to learn that anyone might be offended by her remark, much less criticize her for saying what she said. It should be noted that it’s not only her who sees in this political climate the act of doubling-down as vitally de rigueur (and, as a corollary, apologizing as fatal), but had she chose to do that, she would’ve been forgiven. Whether or not she’d be deserving of such clemency is another question.
While on the subject of the issuance of mercy for someone who’s done wrong, Omar sought exactly that for two young men reared in her home state. After attempting and failing to join the terror organization ISIS, nine Somali-born men—now adopted sons of Minnesota—were looking at sentences in excess of three decades apiece. Sympathetic to their plight and therefore intervening on their behalf, Omar—then a state representative in Minnesota—supplicated the presiding judge to go easy on the boys. With a mawkish and nearly conniving tone, she explained to the judge that the best “deterrent to fanaticism is a system of compassion” and that a “long-term prison sentence for one who chose violence to combat direct marginalization is a statement that our justice system misunderstands the guilty”. The above italics are my own addition. This “direct marginalization” of which she speaks surely needs some fleshing out. Certainly, if it’s to absolve nine men from the guilty sentences they so justly deserve, she ought to explain exactly how these young me—living, one might add, in the freest, most cosmopolitan, most culturally multitudinous and unprejudiced country in the world—have been marginalized, much less marginalized to the point of seeking succor in the world’s deadliest terrorist organization. She can save her talk of “systematic alienation” as a legitimate rationale for leniency.
Staying on the topic of terrorism, when speaking with the host of an Islamic television program a few years ago, Omar intimated that America and England were basically, categorially the same as Al-Qaeda. The thrust of her point was that we Anglo-Americans have ugly and often violent and exploitative pasts about which we ought to feel sorry.
Doubtless, each country has had its share of unprepossessing moments through its past on which it’d rather not reflect, but to place the sins of America and England in the same league as those of Al-Qaeda, or the base, is to slander the former in hopes of legitimizing the latter. Such egregiously baseless attempts at moral equivalence mustn’t be accepted without a word in response.
Yet her antipathy toward America didn’t stop there. In response to an article published for Time magazine, Omar expressed the idea that America was founded on genocide, that our current foreign policy is redolent of “neo-colonialism”, and that our infatuation with Islamic terrorism abroad is a tactic used to avoid thinking about our own domestic terror regime at home—by another name she might call the U.S. government. Not only is this concept of America historically inane, it’s supremely offensive in the here and now as well.
For one, America—at least as we once knew it—was founded on an idea. Nothing more, nothing less, but so much is caught up in the recognition of this simply profound fact. The American idea was, in that time as well as in ours, the apotheosis of man’s political thought. It was the efflorescence of a deep-rooted plant—one whose growth sprouted from the shared earth of Athens, Rome, Jerusalem, and the British Isles. And of course, I can only presume that by “America” she means the America of the seventeenth rather than the fifteenth century. It was of course in the second of those two centuries when the Spanish first arrived to this Edenic “New World” and the Columbian exchange made possible civilization in the West. Is she criticizing that age, or that of our Founding Fathers?
It’s this question among many others that I would pose to my Minnesota friends in seeking an explanation of their congresswoman. Their best defense may be distance (with Omar now having settled in the capitol and on media platforms across the nation), but that only counts for geography. What is the ideological distance between the two? The former is reasonable, genial, and inviting to all people and religions. The latter is jaundiced, angry, and steeped in anti-Semitism, invective, and hate. How does one represent the other?