NOTHSTINE: Ignoring evil at a political convention

Democrats in Philadelphia offered a much more optimistic view of America and the world than their Republican counterparts. Overall, their speeches were better and their celebrities are the elite and well known to an America enthralled by entertainment culture. When they had to be dour, it was usually when highlighting their sacred commitment to identity and grievance politics.But a telling moment came when one of the more substantive speeches was loudly booed and shouted down. In his address, Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta mentioned Rev. Jacques Hamel by name. Hamel, 85, was the Roman Catholic priest who was essentially decapitated by Islamists in Normandy, France. Hamel was celebrating mass while ISIS-pledged cowards ransacked the church Tuesday and slit his throat. It was one of many attacks aimed at the Western world this month. During his speech, Panetta, a strong advocate for Hillary Clinton, was shouted down by many of the delegates yelling, “No more war!” After Hamel’s savage murder, Pope Francis, certainly not known as a voice of militarism, declared, “The world is in a state of war.” French soldiers are now patrolling beaches along their coast to protect citizens and tourists from terrorist attacks. Besides a few lines here and there, ISIS and terrorism was largely ignored at the Democrat convention until Panetta’s address. Donald Trump accused Democrats in a Wednesday press conference of not mentioning ISIS, “Because they grew it.” While there certainly may be some truth to that accusation, the problem of the rise of ISIS and ignorance of the threat is, of course, much more complex. Panetta’s remarks and the hissing delegates combined with what appeared to be a bland inattentiveness by some of the assembled was indeed a poignant moment. It transcended politics and exposes the deep discord in this country about who the enemies actually are in the world. Clinton, who offered platitudes on national security, is unable to name the threat herself. It’s not just Clinton, and it’s far bigger than politics. Large swaths of Americans are unable to fully recognize or even name the evil that aims to achieve a worldwide caliphate. Secular elites in Europe and America struggle to grasp the depth of what is occurring, still believing the Islamic State can perhaps be reasoned with or wished away through appeasement and multiculturalism. That we are unable unify against such stark evil signals our collective decline.In a landmark 1978 address to Harvard that was widely panned by the media (that’s how you know it was a good speech), the Russian writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn declared, “The forces of Evil have begun their decisive offensive, you can feel their pressure, and yet your screens and publications are full of prescribed smiles and raised glasses.” Solzhenitsyn offered the West a warning and a strong indictment that a lack of spiritual and moral clarity blinds us to evil in the world. Perhaps it was telling that it was a Catholic cardinal outside of the Western world who best summed up our predicament. “How many more dead before European governments understand the situation in which the West finds itself? How many more decapitated heads?” asked Cardinal Robert Sarah of the Republic of Guinea. Unfortunately for Americans too, it’s a question that will go unanswered without naming and understanding the enemy that faces us.