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Bestiary: The American Infidel

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Posted on Jan 2, 2013
mikecogh (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Born of the last decade of aggression against theocratic regimes many thousands of miles away, the American infidel “is a rebel for laissez-faire capitalism, an anarchist for the law, an enforcer of the established order,” writes Harper’s Magazine columnist Thomas Frank.

Before it entered the parlance of pop-patriotism, the label appeared as graffiti and was tattooed across the chests of American soldiers stationed in Afghanistan as a signal of hostility against locals. Since its stateside importation, the term has undergone an inversion of meaning, shedding its historical anti-Christian connotation and becoming a brand of defiance against Islam and for neoconservative values.

But another group stands as a likely target of this in-your-face aggression, Frank says: American liberals.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

Thomas Frank:

Who in this hemisphere is offended, then, by these proclamations of infidelity? Muslims, of course, but also Islam’s clueless proxies at home: liberals. Think about it. Liberals are similar to Muslim extremists in their clucking disapproval of things (vegetarians, like the Taliban, turn up their noses at pork). Both liberals and Muslims are thought to be united in their extreme sensitivity, supposedly offended by everything. And according to the popular stereotype, liberals are forever giving in: bowing to Saudi kings, surrendering to those who would build a mosque in downtown Manhattan, capitulating to the zealots who are slowly converting Oklahoma into Shari’ah Central. In fact, giving in to bad guys, whether Communists or Islamofascists, is simply what liberals do, even as they use the media and the schools to stigmatize the “bigotry” of true patriots.

And there is no better way to trigger a liberal’s screeching, schoolmarmish ire than to declare yourself an infidel—a rebel against his politically correct orthodoxy. It tweaks his quivering fear of guns, while putting in his uptight Ivy League face the word that proves Islam’s supposed hatred for us. That’s why the opening line of the catchy “I Am the Infidel” song is “I can’t sing and I can’t play, but I piss off a liberal every day.”

The infidel knows something the liberal does not, for all the latter’s vaunted learning. He knows that the world is a dangerous place, that people hate us, and that their enmity must be met with force of arms. What’s more, he understands that the “war on terror” is exactly the grand crusade that George W. Bush first said it was; that it is in fact a new Cold War, pitting us against the same sort of remorseless, cunning foe that we faced last time around. Just like the Communists of old, this enemy bores from within, talking “peace” while insinuating his alien ideas into our culture.

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