THE KLINGHOFFER OPERA AND POSTMODERN LIBERALISM’S BLIND EYE
A Moral Analysis
By Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law
Also posted at – http://jaygaskill.com/PostmodernBlindness.htm
John Adams, the composer, is an American genius. Among his truly remarkable achievements are the operas, Nixon in China (1977 and Doctor Atomic (2005). His orchestral works include The Transmigration of Souls (2002), commissioned by the New York Philharmonic as a memorial to the 9-11-2001 attacks on the USA. That work received the Pulitzer Prize.
His opera, Death of Klinghoffer (1991), was picketed in New York recently, in a revival performance at the Met. The problem was not with Adams’ music but with the libretto. In key passages singers emphasize with the Palestinian cause, and romanticize the murderers of the wheelchair-bound Jew, Dr. Klinghoffer.
The protesters’ charges are not unreasonable, although other works – thinking of Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, have been given a pass.
I choose not to go farther with the libretto, except to say that the Met chose the worst possible time for this performance. The opera struck a particularly offensive note in the context of the recent eruptions of rampant anti-Semitism in Europe, and even here in the USA.
THE PROBLEM, HORATIO, IS NOT IN OUR STARS, BUT IN OUR COMPASS
Old fashioned liberalism had a strong moral compass rooted in traditional American values. Harry Truman, who was the first to support Israel at its inception, is a perfect example of a morally-centered old fashioned liberal.
Our culture’s problem is postmodern liberalism. The litmus test is the failure of the postmodern ethos to recognize of evil as a relevant, central moral category. Hitler and bloodthirsty child killers, mass murderers and those ruthless jihadists who single out infidels for beheading, belong to a special category of evil, one not amenable to medical treatment, one not worth an ounce of our precious empathy – and, yes, empathy is a limited resource.
My fiction writing (see the thriller, Gabriel’s Stand*) is rooted in a moral system that recognizes the existential and moral danger of evil (narrowly defined, but terrible to behold) and the concomitant moral duty of all civilized persons to resolutely oppose.
Dr. Klinghoffer’s murder (and any murder is more than a death) was the outcome of an evil force, perhaps less well understood and recognized in 1991 than now), but true evil nonetheless.
Copyright © 2014 by Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law
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* Gabriel’s Stand is a compelling and entertaining thriller for intelligent readers. More at