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People like Sean Gallagher are the reason I am disillusioned with the world. Granted, he is the last child of a tired mother. Granted, he is damaged. Still, in The Submission, he is the voice of the ignorant mob. This comes across most clearly on page 129 when he challenges Paul Rubin over Mohammad Khan’s right to build the memorial. Paul tells Sean that Khan “has rights, including the right not to be denigrated for his religion,” and Sean comes back with “What about my rights? The families’ rights? The victims’ rights? Don’t they count for anything?” as if this whole debacle isn’t about how much store should be put by the families’ feelings, prejudiced though they may be. Sean’s word choice is revealing. He uses the term “rights” in a context where “feelings” would be more appropriate. The “right” to which Sean refers in one I have heard a lot about in American politics since I started paying attention to the news years ago. It is our “right” to have our own way. Our right to get what we want. Politicians are fond of telling constituents that their rights are being denied when what the constituents are actually angry about is that they aren’t getting something they want. Even in America, it is not actually our right to drive whatever car we want or to pollute as much as we want. We should not confuse that which we want with that to which we are entitled, and we are entitled to a lot less than we tend to think we are. But people are inherently selfish and arrogant, and politicians are inherently manipulative. This assertion, that it is an American citizen’s right to have whatever he or she wants, has therefore become an easy and convenient way for politicians to gain power. However, that is in the short-term. The longer-term trend is different: in this way, the leaders of the free world are becoming the followers of the lowest common denominator.

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