The Fox Knows Many Things
‘The fox knows many things,’ Archilochus wrote, ‘but the hedgehog knows one very big thing.’ The quip became the basis for one of Isaiah Berlin’s most famous essays; writers and thinkers, he wrote, fall into one or the other category. Hedgehogs see the world through one grand concept, perspective, or idea. They write books like The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. Whereas foxes integrate various perspectives, producing a nuanced, messy picture of the world.
There are also two types of fools. People who misunderstand one very big thing, such as for example climate change, but otherwise get along reasonably well in other departments; I’m sure you’ve met the person who has one strange conspiratorial idea about one particular world event, but otherwise seems rational, sensible, and unembarrassing. And then there are the foxes, universally idiotic. (I swear this has nothing to do with any particular television channel, although it’s nice that it doesn’t have anything to do with… Never mind.)
Though Islamophobia is real, we are fortunate that Islamophobes are foxes. Linda Sarsour ably dismantles Brigitte Gabriel here, for example—but that’s a conversation about Islam. It doesn’t suggest Gabriel is lost in the rest of her endeavor to understand the world. The best way to defeat anti-Muslim sentiment is to simply allow the hater to continue hating—soon enough, that venom that is directed towards Islam is revealed to be equally concerned with Latinos, science, foreigners, Jews, people of color, and so on and so forth. The people who hate us seem to hate almost everyone unlike them.
On the other hand, I cheer certain countries in the World Cup for various reasons. Sometimes out of national solidarity (USA! USA!), sometimes out of cultural sympathy (I love Persian, and so I have a soft spot for Iranians), and sometimes for reasons of historical redress (we need good news). The Bosnians, for example, have had a rough past few decades—I am happy for their country, happy that Bosnia can field a united team and bring different peoples together. The Algerians, too, have had a very terrible 1990’s. That these countries have large Muslim populations, too, is good…
As a Muslim, I know we lack for good news. I’d rather see Algerian players prostrating after a goal, and folks asking, ‘why do they do that,’ than see ISIS’ fighters marching around with their morbid black flags. But I propose that we cheer for the United States soccer team not just because we are American, but because of its effect on America, and likewise America’s disproportionate impact on the world. American soccer co-presents with cosmopolitanism; if you watch the World Cup, you either care that there is a world out there or, more importantly, are aware there is a world out there. See, Ann Coulter is not just ignorant about Islam—which would make her a hedgehog.
She is ignorant about soccer and, through her recent lament thereof, she reveals herself to be among the most generically uninformed persons I have yet seen given a media platform. She is wholly foxy, if you pardon the expression. Her column onsoccer may be the silliest and strangest column anyone has believed was worth publishing. Coulter seems to think that the popularity of ‘soccer is a sign of a nation’s moral decay,’ as opposed to, say, the violence and brutality she has supported and cheerled. ‘Invade their countries,’ she urged us. But most amusingly, she tells us she hates soccer because ‘blame is dispersed.’
Ms. Coulter, you are right.
Let’s play the blame game.
You are your bigoted kind led this country off a cliff. You supported and sustained a war that was fought on false premises, that destroyed an entire country, and that leaves the United States still broken and profoundly distrusted. Hundreds of billions of dollars could have been invested in our future, or hell someone else’s—we tortured Iraq, and we deprived ourselves. We should not pull punches. That you are still writing, and believe yourself a voice of moral authority, suggests the true depth of moral decay that has afflicted our intellectual class. Which may be the ultimate sign of our ethical collapse.
Say, like when she tells us soccer is un-American because sometimes no one wins. Kind of like the Iraq War, I suppose. Or perhaps when she tells us soccer is un-American because it is foreign (African-Americans, she notes, are not falling over themselves to watch—as if African-Americans are all about Ann Coulter); she closes her essay with a statement so vile, offensive, and dismaying, that I should think all of us who care for a democratic America would go out and buy soccer jerseys immediately merely to refute her: ‘I promise you: No American whose great-grandfather was born here is watching soccer. One can only hope that, in addition to learning English, these new Americans will drop their soccer fetish with time.’
And that’s why you shouldn’t like soccer. Because what makes you American is how long not just you’ve been here, but your family, which is precisely the kind of moronic and self-defeating argument you would expect from a white conservative who seems to forget that certain people’s grandfathers were here before other people’s grandfathers. Think before you speak? Think before you write. Also: Speak English! Other things, incidentally, that are foreign include English and, incidentally, Christianity.