I recall a discussion I had with a Syrian Arab. We were in a language school together in Germany in the early 1980s. The first two months we were together he came on hard with the Arab anger and Mulism militant act. He hated Americans and he hated “Jews” (Israelis). He bullied the other Americans at the school with this moral castigation hustle, but I flat told him to stuff it. If he hated Americans, well, I’m a Texan, get over it. That perfect wisecrack puzzled him for 24 hours and once he figured out I was playing Texas cowboy in response to his angry Arab, it amused him. This fellow was also smart and witty and both of us enjoyed making puns in German (we were both in an intermediate class, didn’t speak it well, but what German we did speak we both played with). He also liked jazz and hung around when I played piano (blues and bop, mostly). I got the facts by osmosis: he had had family jailed by Assad, but in Syria who hadn’t? His family lived in fear. Well, the brilliant Syrian and I are sitting in a German cafe one afternoon–quaint side street, great light– and he finally breaks. “How do you do it?” he asked me, meaning “How does America do it? How does America succeed in so many ways?” I told him his real question was why Syria, or for that matter, a majority of Third World countries, were in such terrible and terrifying conditions. “Yes,” that’s the deep subject. “First you have to off your autocrats,” I told him. “But we can’t do this,” he said–and his face was a work of pain. “Then, until you do, you will continue to eat dust,” I replied. “To eat dirt.”
Michael Novak didn’t make it up. There is a universal hunger for liberty. It exists in Syria, and my brilliant, frightened, pseudo-militant friend attests to that. He was a sincere Muslim– but I am certain his “Sunni militancy” act was a response to the Allawite dictatorship in Syria. It was an outlet.
Is changing the conditions that spark migration Mark’s happy ending? No. It’s a long, bitter struggle. But changing those conditions changes the calculus that leads to Mark’s Number One: “Europe will simply become Muslim.”
The Austin Bay v Mark Steyn smackdown continues: