In a disastrous interview with the New York Times last week, Iowa congressman Steve King put his foot in his mouth (and not for the first time) by asking this imprudent question: “White nationalists, white supremacists, Western civilization, how did that language become offensive? Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?” Put charitably (and I have no reason to attribute malice as opposed to stunning verbal ineptitude to the speaker), Congressman King wished to tell us that at one time, our teachers spoke with respect about the merits of our shared civilization. No one back then when he and I were in school attacked our civilization because it was created mostly by white men.
Establishment conservative journalists have gone after King as a vicious bigot, who has no place in their conservative movement. They also tried to set matters right by underlining the supposed fact that, in the words of John Podhoretz, “Western civilization isn’t a white thing.” But then the counter-model being proposed doesn’t really seem to work. Podhoretz, writing in the New York Post, informs us that whites could not have singlehandedly given us our civilization because “ancient Jerusalem is the birthplace of Judaism and Christianity and its residents were certainly of a darker hue.” Further, Alexander Hamilton, who came from Nevis in the West Indies, “might either be of a Jewish or black stock.”
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One looks at these statements with wonder. Ancient Semites who lived in Jerusalem were Caucasians, but not Indo-Europeans (which I think is the term Podhoretz might…