OpinionTrending Commentary

Lives Bereft of Meaning

Last week, writers Francesca Block and Suzy Weiss co-authored an article in The Free Press describing the phenomenon of (largely progressive) Western women converting to Islam.

On the same day, Teri Christoph published a piece on RedState in which she remarks on how many of the recent displays of antisemitism (ripping down posters of kidnapped children; calling for the elimination of Jews at protests; denying accounts of the horrific sexual abuse, torture and death inflicted upon Israeli women and girls during Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel) have been perpetrated by women.

To add further salt to a wound that has never fully healed, social media exploded last week with TikTok videos made by young people expressing support for Osama bin Laden, the Saudi terrorist responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks that killed thousands in New York City, Washington D.C. and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Hundreds of TikTokers forwarded links to a letter bin Laden penned in 2002 justifying the mass murder, along with comments like, “Wow, Osama bin Laden had a point,” “This will blow your mind” and “I look at everything differently now.”

What all these stories and others have in common is a population searching for meaning in lives that have become utterly bereft of it.

We are witnessing the consequences of the West’s self-immolation: the dumbing down of American education and resulting ignorance; the demonization of prominent historical figures, destruction of statues and renaming of buildings and monuments; the absurd oversimplification of history into “oppressors” and “the oppressed,” and the equally ahistorical beliefs that human beings who trace their lineage to Europe bear disproportionate responsibility for slavery and other human ills throughout history.

Indeed, the currently popular attacks on “whiteness” — “white privilege,” “white fragility,” “white supremacy” — aren’t really about skin color (which is why a Black man like Larry Elder who does not hew to the leftist party line can be called, with no trace of irony, “the Black face of white supremacy.”)

What the so-called anti-racist race-baiters are really attacking is Western civilization itself.

A perfect example is the display that the National Museum of African American History and Culture put up in 2020 (only to remove it after a firestorm of controversy). The poster attacked as “Aspects of Whiteness” concepts like “independence and autonomy,” “the nuclear family,” “rational thinking,” “hard work,” “respect for authority,” “planning for the future,” “private property,” being “on time,” problem-solving and “decision-making.”

These practices are not unique to “whites,” nor are they problematic. They form the bases for successful individuals, stable families and prosperous societies.

While no civilization is perfect (and that is not the standard against which any can be measured), the West was founded upon some of the greatest principles identified or revealed in the history of human civilization: Greek and Roman definitions of good citizenship and ordered liberty, British notions of individual rights, justice and due process dating back to the Magna Carta, and — above all else — Judeo-Christianity, with its emphasis upon natural law, the inherent dignity of the individual, personal accountability and public charity.

When we remove those principles that formed the foundation of America, other, more malignant notions will take their place.

As we see in the tumult around us, people need meaning and transcendent truths in their lives. Without direction, they are adrift. In a culture that preaches nonstop self-indulgence, some will fall into destructive behaviors like drug and alcohol abuse or a life of meaningless sexual encounters, with all the attendant chaos and heartache those choices produce. The damage this has already caused to our country is immeasurable.

For others — particularly on the left, which is abandoning organized religion in droves — politics has seeped in to fill the void left by the absence of religious faith. Arguments about political, cultural and social issues take on the fervor of religious zeal, complete with the vocabulary of faith (“Don’t you believe in ‘climate change’?” “Are you an election denier?”) and threats of being shunned. “Correct” viewpoints are morally superior, and those holding “incorrect” ones will find themselves doxxed, “canceled,” censored or estranged from loved ones.

Hypocrisy is not an insurmountable obstacle for those who have unshackled themselves from Western notions of philosophical consistency. The same “progressives” who mock — if not outright condemn — Judaism for its practice of circumcision seem to have no trouble supporting the mutilation of children’s bodies if they claim to have a gender different than their biological sex. And, as Block and Weiss describe in their Free Press article, self-identified feminists critical of Christianity for its “subjugation” of women now find comfort in Islam, a belief system that is orders of magnitude more oppressive of woman than Judaism or Christianity have ever been.

The lost among us are seeking reasons for self-sacrifice in a time of self-indulgence; certainty in a climate of moral relativism, truth in a culture that professes none exists, and a sense of belonging to heal their sense of alienation.

Why aren’t we there for them?

Because we have abandoned our identity. We are losing our young people — and much more. Americans have spent decades apologizing for our culture, thinking it made us more “enlightened,” only to watch the younger generations flock to politics and philosophies that are more violent, more oppressive and more likely to promote human suffering.

There have always been and will always be those for whom the Western/American way of life holds little appeal. They should be free to seek meaning and purpose in other traditions (as long as those do not entail self-destruction or the destruction of others’ lives or property). But their choices should be grounded in truth, not propaganda.

We should not be giving the next generation a reason to abandon their own heritage by allowing it to be continually maligned and misrepresented, thereby disavowing it ourselves.

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Laura Hollis

Laura Hirschfeld Hollis is a native of Champaign, Illinois. She received her undergraduate degree in English and her law degree from the University of Notre Dame. Hollis' career as an attorney has spanned 28 years, the past 23 of which have been in higher education. She has taught law at the graduate and undergraduate levels, and has nearly 15 years' experience in the development and delivery of entrepreneurship courses, seminars and workshops for multiple audiences. Her scholarly interests include entrepreneurship and public policy, economic development, technology commercialization and general business law. In addition to her legal publications, Hollis has been a freelance political writer since 1993, writing for The Detroit News, HOUR Detroit magazine, Townhall.com and the Christian Post, on matters of politics and culture. She is a frequent public speaker. Hollis has received numerous awards for her teaching, research, community service and contributions to entrepreneurship education. She is married to Jess Hollis, a musician, voiceover artist and audio engineer, and they live in Indiana with their two children, Alistair and Celeste.

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