The Judicious Mr. Gerson

There are commentators whose name for me is always an imperative to read their reflections. Though I may finally disagree with their view, I always find their writing illuminating and an incentive to explore and question my own position. David Remnick of the New Yorker is one such, as is Peter Steinfels (whom some of you may know); a third is Michael Gerson of the Washington Post.

Here is the conclusion of the column Gerson published today:

Our ideal of democracy is not an endless cable television shouting match. It is a free society in which citizens have a decent regard for the rights and views of others. This requires a measure of self-restraint, something we teach to our children as tolerance and manners. And such self-restraint is not self-censorship; it is respect. A free country should unapologetically defend the right to jeer and taunt. This does not require everyone in a free country to find jeering and taunting admirable.

 

These distinctions are relevant to the broader fight against Islamism. It is important, first, to separate this violent political ideology from the faith of Islam, which an overwhelming majority of adherents find to be a source of comfort and compassion. It is also important to clarify the contending alternatives in a great struggle. It is not Islamism against the Christian West. And it is not Islamism against the secular West. The United States is animated by a vision of democratic pluralism that is fully compatible with strong religious belief, fully committed to free expression — and fully prepared to defend its ideals against fanatics.

Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is the author of Rekindling the Christic Imagination.

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