November 30, 2023

Rewarding Bad Behavior

It’s the modus operandi these days.

At this writing, the “ceasefire” in Gaza continues while Hamas dribbles out hostages (who depart the territory amid the bellowing and threats of Palestinian civilians calling for their deaths). How long will this go on? As long as Hamas can stretch it out.

John Hinderaker over at Powerline blog has expressed concern that Israel may be losing its momentum in the war against the terrorists who attacked on Oct. 7, slaughtered 1,200-plus people and took hundreds more hostage. As well he might. If one wonders why Hamas (and their sister group Hezbollah) keeps up the relentless attacks on Israel, the answer should be obvious — because it works; numerous commentators have remarked that the terrorists seem to be winning the “battle for hearts and minds.”

Frankly, it isn’t much of a battle. In fact, I’d wager that even Hamas did not anticipate the ease with which they could drum up support for their position that the slaughter of innocents in the most horrific ways imaginable is somehow “justified” as a mechanism for obtaining their purported political objectives. They are profiting from the ignorance of the American public and the widespread antisemitism that has taken root here, especially among so-called intellectuals and on college campuses.

These terrorists’ tactics strike me as bloodier, more vicious and more lethal versions of the schoolyard bully who hits another kid repeatedly; when the bullied kid finally gets fed up and punches back, the antagonizer runs to the recess monitor and demands that his victim be punished: “He hit me!”

In another, more sensible era, grown-ups would have recognized the persistent provocation for what it was and told the bully to knock it off. But grown-ups with sense are harder to find in today’s culture.

Despite Islamic fundamentalists’ expressed intention to kill all Jews and wipe Israel off the map, our international “recess monitors” cluck their tongues and start talking again about “proportionality” and a “two-state solution,” as if this conflict were merely a matter of land or economics.

It is not, a fact that even former President Bill Clinton was forced to admit in 2016. It is a function of an ideology of hatred.

If Hamas stopped attacking Israel, they could cease being an “open-air prison” and have peace tomorrow. It’s inscrutable that this isn’t obvious to those demanding that Palestine must be free.

But in truth, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that so many of America’s leading lights are willing to effectively reward Hamas’ deplorable behavior. That is the modus operandi these days.

When mobs looted and burned swaths of U.S. cities down in the 2020 riots, we were told that these “mostly peaceful” protests were legitimate acts against “systemic racism.” States like New York and Illinois have eliminated cash bail for most crimes, putting hundreds of criminals back on the streets. And even in states where they have bail — like Wisconsin — state officials release dangerous criminals on de minimis bonds. Darrell Brooks, who killed six people and injured 62 others when he plowed into a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin two years ago, had been released on a paltry $1,000 bond just three weeks prior, after having tried to run his girlfriend over with his car.

Millions of migrants pour across our southern border in violation of our immigration laws. There are few if any consequences, including for those who exploit the non-enforcement of immigration laws to traffic sex slaves, children or drugs. Our Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas — whose job it is to keep illegal immigrants out — insists that they should be rewarded with amnesty and citizenship.

Hundreds of thousands of homeless people sleep in the streets of our major cities, many using drugs, urinating and defecating in public places. City officials do nothing. (Except, apparently, when the leader of a communist countries pays a visit.)

Every day, videos are posted to social media showing mobs of shoplifters brazenly stealing inventory from stores. Theft cost U.S. retailers more than $112 billion in 2022, an amount that more than doubled in just four years. Nothing is done. (California leads all states for amount of stolen goods; the state reduced shoplifting of $950 or less to a misdemeanor just a few years ago.)

Cellphone videos also reveal the widespread student disrespect and violence in our schools. Last week, a riotous mob of high school students in Queens forced a Jewish teacher to hide in a locked office until police could escort her from the building safely.

Politicians run on promises to solve the country’s problems, but once in office, double down on the policies that caused the problems in the first place. Why? Is it about money? I don’t think so. I think it is far more fundamental than greed.

Proclaiming a belief in objective standards of right and wrong is unpopular. It is an acknowledgement that there are principles that supersede our own wants and decisions. This is anathema in an era when people are told that everyone can decide for themselves what is “right” and “wrong,” “good” and “bad,” “true” and “false.”

This is nothing more than setting ourselves up as God.

The carnage wrought by these attitudes should have long since proven to even the biggest skeptic that an objective moral order is not merely a matter of personal preference, like deciding what dish to order at a restaurant. An objective moral order is scientifically rooted in the nature of human beings and therefore necessary for human society to flourish. Like all demonstrable scientific laws, it is immutable. You can decide you “don’t believe in” gravity, but if you throw yourself off a building, you’ll be dead nevertheless.

Similarly, decisions to reward — or at least, not to sanction — those who engage in bad behavior have terribly unpleasant results, including punishing those who do not.

The sooner we admit our errors, the sooner we can reclaim a civilized society.


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