On Friday my phone was blowing up with messages, asking if I’d seen the news. Some expressed disbelief at the headlines. Many said they were crying.
None of them were talking about the dozens of people gunned down in Sousse, Tunisia, by a man who, dressed as a tourist, had hidden his Kalashnikov inside a beach umbrella. Not one was crying over the beheading in a terrorist attack at a chemical factory near Lyon, France. The victim’s head was found on a pike near the factory, his body covered with Arabic inscriptions. And no Facebook friends mentioned the first suicide bombing in Kuwait in more than two decades, in which 27 people were murdered in one of the oldest Shiite mosques in the country.
They were talking about the only news that mattered: gay marriage.
And what of the outside world?
Moral relativism has become its own, perverse form of nativism among those who stake their identity on being universalist and progressive.
How else to explain the lack of outrage for the innocents murdered on the beach, while vitriol is heaped on those who express any shred of doubt about the Supreme Court ruling? How else to make sense of the legions of social-justice activists here at home who have nothing to say about countries where justice means flogging, beheading or stoning?
How else to understand those who have dedicated their lives to creating safe spaces for transgender people, yet issue no news releases about gender apartheid in an entire region of the world? How else to justify that at the gay-pride celebrations this weekend in Manhattan there is unlikely to be much mention of the gay men recently thrown off buildings in Syria and Iraq, their still-warm bodies desecrated by mobs?
It is increasingly eerie to live in this split-screen age. Earlier this week I received an email from a progressive Jewish organization about how Judaism teaches “that the preservation of human dignity is important enough to justify overriding our sacred mitzvot.” The rest of the email was about respecting dignity by using preferred gender pronouns.
On my other computer screen, I looked at a photograph of five men in orange jumpsuits, their legs bound. They were trapped like dogs inside a metal cage and hanging above a pool of water. They were drawing their final breaths before their Islamic State captors lowered the cage into the pool and they drowned together.
What was that about human dignity?
Universalism is a pose for most progressives. When it comes to acting in a way that can balance the economic scales in the world, such a supporting free trade, they become nativists indeed.