Comedian Bill Maher has been getting more out of step with the far-left progressives of his party lately. Afghanistan may have put him over the edge.
Tom Wolfe once opined: “If a liberal is a conservative who has been arrested, a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged.”
Wolfe reminds us in his pithy way that our experiences and life circumstances tend to inform our particular worldview, not the other way around. It is also a timely reminder that violence, and the abuse of citizens by public officials- in any capacity- is a great galvanizing force in politics.
It is the specter of former Senator Barbara Boxer assaulted while out for a walk in her California neighborhood, kicked in the back, robbed, shouting impotently at her assailants as they fled: “How could you do this to a grandmother?!”
It is Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, who has been assaulted in public several times now, macing one would-be attacker after, perhaps foolishly, making light of another. Wheeler, it might be added, was hounded out of his former condo by an angry mob who didn’t just threaten to burn down his apartment building- they actually gave it a shot.
Then there are Wolfe’s words as applied to Afghanistan, and the heartbreaking stories of grief and tragedy which have accompanied the even more devastating photos and videos. There is the grievous loss of 13 American service members and countless innocent bystanders. Bearing witness to this level of violence is bound to change a few political viewpoints.
For Bill Maher, a life-long outspoken progressive- long before it was cool, or cool to cancel people for not being outspokenly progressive enough- being told to shut up has long been his bread and butter. So the calls soon to follow his most recent, “problematic” comments aren’t going to surprise Maher overmuch.
What might surprise him are the fundraising appeals he starts receiving from Republicans. Maher probably hasn’t moved right; but the Democratic Party has moved sharply left. Republicans, too, have moved left. On a number of important sociopolitical issues, Republicans have become more progressive over the past decades.
Is that the zone in which Maher, and other moderate Democrats like him, now find themselves? They are certainly sounding more like, and finding more common cause with, progressive Republicans these days. Is Maher finally saying what he, and others like him, really think about the direction in which the far-left portion of the Democratic Party is going?
“I have never been a rah-rah America type, and in fact, have often made fun of Republicans in the past for being overly sentimental,” Maher began on his show this week; “but liberals, as usual in this era, have now gone too far in the other direction. They under-romanticize America. They have no perspective.”
“Last week, the Taliban murdered a comedian,” Maher told his audience. “His name was Nazar Mohammad, and he made up funny songs on TikTok. They forced him into a car, tortured, and then executed him, a comedian, a thing like that hits a little close to home for me.”
Mentioning his own tendency to provoke the ire of certain presidential administrations, Maher reflected that he “didn’t have to worry about being dragged until I’m dead behind a Toyota Tacoma.”
He asked his fellow liberals to, “have a little perspective about the stuff we howl about here [in America].”
“I’m sorry your professor said something you didn’t like,” he continued, “that won’t be a problem with the Taliban. Because you’re not allowed to go to school.”
“In Saudi Arabia, grown women can be jailed for doing the kind of things we think of as routine without the permission of a male guardian,” Maher pointed out. “China rounds you up if you’re the wrong religion and puts you in camps,” he went on before pointing out other examples.
“If you think America is irredeemable, turn on the news or get a passport and a ticket on one of the sketchy airlines that puts its web address on the plane,” Maher said. “There’s a reason Afghan mothers are handing their babies to us.”
“And we should take them,” Maher exclaimed. “Americans, right now, should take in Afghan refugees into their homes and into their neighborhoods. And I’m sure everyone who just clapped is thinking the same thing: ‘Yes, someone who isn’t me should definitely do that.”
“We’re not the bad guys,” Maher said about U.S. efforts in Afghanistan. “Oppression is what we were trying to stop in Afghanistan. We failed, but any immigrant will tell you we’ve largely succeeded here. And yet the overriding thrust of current woke ideology is that America is rotten to the core, irredeemably racist from the moment it was founded and so oppressive, sexist and homophobic we can’t find a host for the Oscars or ‘Jeopardy!’.”
“I’m sure you heard, the new ‘Jeopardy!’ guy is out because he said ‘boobies’ in 2014,” Maher complained. “And this is where your new Afghani roommates that you took in will prove so valuable. Because they’ll turn to you and say; ‘Have you people lost your [expletive] minds? Have you ever heard of honor killings? Public beheadings? Throwing gay men off roofs? Arranged marriages to minors? State-sanctioned wife-beating? Female genital mutilation? Marriage by capture? Because we have.’”
“What’s the lesson of Afghanistan?” Maher reflected. “Maybe it’s that everyone from the giant doom room [expletive] session that is the internet should take a good look at what real oppression looks like.”
“America may not be the country of your faculty lounge and Twitter dreams, but no one here tries to escape by hanging on to an airplane,” Maher finished.
It is interesting in this context that Maher mentions the Afghans who died after falling from U.S. airplanes to which they had clung at takeoff, in a desperate attempt to escape the Taliban.
One of those who died was a 17-year old soccer player in Afghanistan’s- now disbanded- national youth league. Zaki Anwari was a young man who had never known life under the Taliban. He played and loved a sport outlawed by the Taliban when last they ruled Afghanistan.
Just a few short weeks ago, Zaki Anwari played soccer on a field where once the Taliban held public executions. As Maher would certainly agree, he fell to his death last week after daring to dream of a better life in America.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)