If you read this article in the SF Chronicle about the cancellation of the Mozart opera that featured the severed heads of Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, and Poseidon, you will be hard put to tell whether it was cancelled from fear of enraged Buddhists, Christians, Muslims, devotees of the Greek Gods, or even Jews. The theme of the article is that there is just an inexplicable widespread sensitivity on the part of all religious and ethnic groups that can erupt in violence at any time for any reason. Remarkable. Another symptom of the slow-motion capitulation of Western civilization. This is what the Pope is talking about.
Archive for September, 2006
It does look more and more like the Pope knew exactly what he was doing and did it on purpose. I applaud him for it. I only wish he had been more direct. I think that a challenge by the world’s foremost Christian spokesman, calling for world-wide Islam to renounce conversion by the sword and to embrace our God-given reasoning faculty, is a breath of fresh air. The Muslim reaction to it is proof of its necessity. Clarity is good. Everyone is so afraid of saying anything that might be offensive to Muslims, partly out of a rational fear of explosions and beheadings, but also from a fear of being accused of cultural intolerance. Good on the Pope for courage in the face of the enemy. I guess he’s had to beef up his security as a result, but then haven’t we all.
I’m not sure where I stand on the current debate over legislation to conform to the Hamdan Supreme Court decision. I believe that some of the “coercive interrogation techniques” that have been used by the CIA on a half dozen or so detainees, do amount to torture, and I don’t like the idea of the U.S.A. condoning it. On the other hand it seems more than likely that the plot to blow up nine or ten airliners leaving London was broken up because of the use of such techniques, or worse, on the part of the Pakistanis. Was it worth damaging our moral authority, which nobody believes we have anyway, except for American Republicans, to prevent the planes from being blown up? How will the torturers who prevented this obscenity be dealt with on Judgment Day? If you were God, how would You judge them?
There are infinite alternative universes that could have replaced this one, had we not gone into Iraq. Some might be better than the current reality and some might be much worse. Which one would have happened is impossible for anyone to know. We don’t even know how this one is going to turn out. Arguing about what might have been is of no use. Arguing about where we go from here is essential. Some people think that we will have the best outcome if we get out of Iraq as quickly as possible. Others think that we should send more troops to Iraq and confront Syria and Iran as well. And there are all shades of opinion in between, on both the left and the right, mostly on the right. Nobody knows for sure what the best possible course of action is.
Given all that, given the ultimate unknowability of it all, it would seem that the conversation should be more civil. All this “Bush lied”, “cooked up in Texas”, “betrayed his country”, makes as little sense as arguing about what might have been. I don’t mind a little heat, but the vehemence and paranoia of the national conversation is alarming to me, as alarming in a way as the jihadists.
I have to say I do think it is unpatriotic. Not the proposed policies. God only knows what the right policy is. There is nothing unpatriotic about advocating withdrawal from Iraq, if you honestly believe that is the best thing for your country. It’s the vitriol, the hatred, the loathing, and the lies directed at the President and his cabinet during wartime that seem unpatriotic to me. And there’s a lot of it. I know where they’re comin’ from, been there, done that, but those who poison the conversation in this way are not only unpatriotic, they are nuts, except for those who are merely cynical. How many are there? How many Americans, secretly, in their heart of hearts, are hoping that George Bush gets his comeuppance in Iraq, the way we all used to hope that America would lose in Vietnam? Maybe not as many as during Vietnam, but we lost in Vietnam, arguably because so many of us wanted to lose. And that’s the only way we can possibly lose this war. It’s the way the North almost lost the Civil War.
This is not a generic, everybody does it, kind of problem. It is a problem on the Left. Of course there has been some return fire from the Right, but surprisingly little, considering. The most egregious example the Left can cite currently is the use of the word “appeasement” by Donald Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld did not ascribe the sentiment to anyone in particular. He merely asserted that such a body of opinion exists. The use of this single word has launched howls of outrage in thousands of columns, blog posts, TV punditry, and calls for Rumsfeld’s resignation. Of course his use of the word was political, but it is certainly within the bounds of civil discourse to say that such a sentiment exists and that it is harmful.
The kind of poisonous rhetoric coming from the left is not good politics. Many more votes are lost than are gained by it. It is a distorted religious impulse, not a political one. Maybe we should rename the War on Terror, the War on Distorted Religious Impulses.