If culture is moral order, then counterculture is a form of moral disorder – often driven by self-indulgence, but sometimes by self-hatred aimed conveniently outward, at the way of life which frames the hater. Violation of the home is liberation to self-loathers of this peculiarly abominable type.
We saw a living example not long ago in Kendall Myers, who lived a privileged life, worked at State Department, and gave away secrets to the Cubans. Let me submit another pair for your consideration.
Behold Adam Gadahn, son of southern California. Born Adam Pearlman, he was raised in some kind of alternative lifestyle goat farm in Riverside County, home-schooled, and protected by parents who wanted, like so many Californians, to rediscover Eden. His father, a counterculture hero in the Sixties, became a sort of Christian in the Seventies and changed his name to Gadahn or “Gideon.”
As a young man, Gadahn became a convert to “death metal,” then to Islam. Both groups looked unkindly on everyday American life. Before he was 21, he had disappeared into the back country of Pakistan and joined Al Qaeda’s war on terror against his country.
He had left behind the identity he so deeply loathed, and was now a new man: Azzam al-Amriki, or Adam the American.
His role has been that of chief English-speaking propagandist, star of a score of Al Qaeda videos. In these performances, Gadahn sounds angry and awkward. When he says “we” he means Muslims, but there’s something overly emphatic in the way he enunciates the pronoun. The rage against America, on the other hand, sounds perfectly authentic.
“We love nothing better than the heat of battle, the echo of explosions, and slitting the throats of the infidels,” he has proclaimed.
This kind of language has made a good impression on Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al Qaeda’s bloody-minded chief ideologist. He has called Azzam the American “a perceptive person who wants to lead his people out of darkness into the light.”
It would be more accurate to say that Azzam desperately wishes to wreak violence on his native land. In a new video performance released Sunday, he spoke of the “blessed operations of September 11” and urged American Muslims to strike, not only at US “military bases,” but also at “countless other strategic places, institutions and installations.” In this manner we will be led toward the light.
Azzam has called America “enemy soil.” We will return before long to this telling characterization.
But first, behold Colleen LaRose, late of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Less is known about LaRose than about Gadahn, but what is known is suggestive: first married at 16, twice divorced, last seen with a live-in boyfriend whom she abandoned – after years of online exchanges with unnamed Muslim radicals – to join the jihad.
She was, in fact, transformed into Jihad Jane on the web. She also called herself Fatima.
Given her history, it shouldn’t be surprising that J.J.’s conversion was linked to her wish to marry a Muslim man – one of her web chatters: “one day I will be at your side as your wife,” she wrote on a social network site. In her case, self-loathing mixed in equal amounts with what my kids’ elementary school used to call low self-esteem.
The would-be terrorists who friended her shared with her the love of jihad and a frequently expressed desire to become a martyr. She joined their conspiracy to murder a Swedish cartoonist who had poked fun at Muhammad. Last October, at age 46, Jihad Jane was arrested; she has now been charged with recruiting fellow Americans to commit acts of terror.
Most of the discussion swirling around Azzam and Jihad Jane has fixated on the danger posed by the boy or girl next door suddenly mutating into an Islamist mass murderer. This is natural but unhelpful, like worrying about a meteor strike.
I prefer to play moralist to these two lost souls.
Both Azzam and Jane began as one person and desperately tried to become another. Both embraced violence against the way of life that had been theirs: against their parents and families, against their neighbors and friends, against the past, against their memories, against themselves.
Both are ruled by self-loathing, manifested as rage. Both would slit the throats of every one of us, to atone for who they have been. They live in foreign skins. It isn’t America which is “enemy soil” to them: it’s the Gothic landscape of their own hearts, with its lust for anihilation, its hatred of integrity and everything wholesome, its murky obedience to human monsters like Ayman al-Zawahiri.
To the deepest circle of hell, Dante condemned the traitors: Judas who betrayed Christ, and Brutus who murdered Caesar. They can be found in a frozen lake, eternally pierced and wounded by the teeth of Satan.
I suspect – and, I confess without shame, hope – that Adam Gadahn and Colleen LaRose pierce and grind and wound the twisted hearts of the traitors, Azzam the American and Jihad Jane.