“Traitors, searchers after novelty, and those who err out of light mindedness”

Reading Paul Kengor’s piece “Is Ilhan Omar a Communist?” and Scott Johnson’s post “Wave of the Future” made me think about Maria Theresa, the Habsburg Empress. I’ll explain why momentarily, but first a word about Maria Theresa.

She reigned from 1740 until 1780, and was an incorrigible anti-Semite. But that’s not what made me think of her when I read about Ilhan Omar.

Maria Theresa was an excellent ruler, one of the very best the Habsburg line produced over the centuries. Upon her ascension, she found her domain in terrible condition. She proceeded to reform everything — the structure of government, the military, finances, law, education, the economy, etc.

Maria Theresa’s reforms were entirely pragmatic. They were not the result of a desire to bring about fairness or justice. Rather, the goal was to make the State run better.

Her pragmatic reforms stood in sharp contrast to the idealistic ones of her son, the enlightened Joseph II, a friend of the Jews. Because of her pragmatic approach, Maria Theresa’s reforms were effective and salutary while his were often ill-conceived and counterproductive.

Maria Theresa’s overriding ambition was to retake Silesia from Prussia which had wrested it from her in the early years of her reign. At the same time the young ruler was fighting the Prussians, her rule was challenged from within. Maria Theresa did not succeed in the war against Prussia, but was able to defeat her internal adversaries.

After that, it was time to mete out punishment. To do so, Maria Theresa divided those she believed had betrayed her into three categories: “traitors, searchers after novelty, and those who erred out of light mindedness.” Generally speaking, as I understand it, only the first group was punished severely.

It is this classification scheme that made me think of Maria Theresa when I read about Rep. Ilhan.

I’m not going to accuse anyone of treason, so for purposes of discussing the current political landscape in our country, let’s substitute true haters of America for traitors. People in this group aren’t radical because they are attracted to novel ideas; nor are they “light minded.” Rather, they are rational people who have concluded that America is an evil country.

Which category does Ilhan Omar belong too? She’s certainly not a “searcher after novelty.” And, although she doesn’t seem very intelligent, I don’t consider her “light minded.” Rather, she is a bona fide America hater.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez presents a more difficult case. At nearly 30 years of age, I think she’s past the stage of “searcher after novelty.” She comes across as rather light minded, but it would probably be selling her short to deny her the status of genuine hater of her country.

For me, the big question when it comes to America’s future is whether the intelligent high school and college students who embrace hard leftism are searching for novelty or are already well on the road to becoming haters. The hope, of course, is that they are searchers. If so, their radicalism is basically a phase and they can be expected to move away from it by the time they start families. Even if they continue searching for novelty, moreover, they will realize (if they are not light minded) that there’s nothing novel anymore about being a socialist and/or hating America.

I fear, though, that many young otherwise intelligent Americans genuinely hate, or at least dislike, their country. The hatred or dislike is already ingrained. It’s not a stage that will pass.

Between them and the light minded, America’s future many be less bright than that of Maria Theresa’s empire which, though it suffered blow after blow in the 19th century, muddled through for almost 140 years after her death.

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