Above: a 1919 postcard image of a Jew stabbing a German soldier in the back. Source: Wikipedia Commons.
The dolchstoss (dagger thrust) legend was a canard perpetrated by German conservatives after the first World War. The claim was that the German army would have won the war, but it had been undermined—stabbed in the back—by its enemies within, and this is why the country lost World War I. To the hypernationalist, one’s military and one’s country can be responsible only for victories, never follies or losses.
This past week, Sarah Palin put out her own little dolchstoss meme, telling Greta Van Susteren that President Obama, by supporting the right of Muslim Americans to build a mosque two block down from ground zero, has joined them in placing a dagger into the heart of all true Americans:
“It’s sounds cliché to say that He just doesn’t get it. This is an insensitive move on the part of those Muslims who want to build that mosque in this location. It feels like a stab in the heart of collectively American who still have that lingering pain from 9/11.”
Setting aside Sarah Palin’s characteristically strained syntax and poor grammar, what is she trying to rhetorically accomplish here? I would suggest two things:
- She cloyingly turns President Obama, in his upholding of his oath of office to protect the Constitution, into an alien who just “doesn’t get it”; and
- She distances Muslim Americans from other Americans; by building a mosque two blocks down from ground zero, Muslim Americans show that they don’t really share “that lingering pain from 9/11.”
Nevermind that these same Muslim Americans might not accept Sarah Palin’s running premises, which are these:
- Islam is a religion of violence and a symbol of violence; and
- Muslim Americans, by their very existence as Muslims, bear collective guilt for 9-11, and ought to go around ashamed of themselves.
Sarah Palin has also put Muslim Americans in a tidy double bind:
- If you agree with Sarah Palin that Islam is an inherently violent religion, then you shouldn’t be a Muslim; but
- if you don’t agree with Sarah Palin that Islam is an inherently violent religion, then you’re full of shit because all true Americans know that Islam is not a religion of peace (like Christianity is). True Americans don’t have blinders on about the actual vile nature of Islam. They’re not naive.
So, on Sarah Palin’s terms, the Muslim Americans applying to build this site on Park Place in lower Manhattan should either stop being Muslims or stop pretending to be true Americans. And, since they are doing neither, it’s quite obvious that they are deceiving the country about their true intentions, and are enemies within.
Muslim Americans, in short, are akin to the devilish characters in Nathaniel Hawthorn’s Young Goodman Brown.
And so, even if the mosque ends up being a place where only apparently nice, low-key things take place, we nevertheless know that bad things are really happening in secret. And so it still carries a stab into the heart of every American who is unwilling or unable to make distinctions between peaceful Muslims and violent Muslims. For the sake of these bigoted and immature Americans, Muslim Americans must not exercise the rights guaranteed to them in the Bill of Rights. You know, for us. The true Americans.