Monday, April 4, 2011

Holy Crap

Without question, that preacher Jones guy in Florida is an idiot, an appellation appropriate for religious zealots of all stripes. What's his name in Wichita. Pat Roberston, Osama. His stunt, aided and abetted by a Christian TV station, confirms a stupid, egocentric, deluded, and hateful person. And persons. But I gotta say: people who riot and kill on behalf of their religion when some idiot does something stupid -- and entirely harmless to life and limb -- half-way around the world are a kind of crazy I simply can't fathom.

I know a few Muslims. I have no blanket concept of who they are, other than hard workers and competent at their jobs, pleasant people. But that particular brand of Islam, the kind that takes murderous umbrage at cartoons, at non-violent acts, is insanity.

Such horror isn't limited to Islam. After all, we've had some pretty deadly people in this country, also acting in the name of their religious beliefs, about homosexuality, about abortion; about liberals, for that matter. In the US, the people who kidnap and lynch, who blow up children in churches, tend to claim the mantle of Christianity, too. There are sects of Jews in Israel who have no compunction over the overt killings and slow murder of Palestinians.

So, clearly, it's the kind of people to whom their fundamentalist religious beliefs are so vital to their ability to live in the world, facilitating their need to ignore reality, finding reality too much to take, that are doing their harm. But -- correct me if I'm wrong -- it's been a long time since we've seen rioting and random murdering of innocents because of long-distance perturbations from any but that sort of Muslim. What it means is, radical Islam is a real (if not apocalyptic) threat. What it means is, trying to force democracy on tribal Muslim countries with significant numbers of zealots is a fool's errand: it was when Bush did it twice, it will be if that's the goal of our Libya intervention. (The only good news about the latter is that Obama seems to be following through on his plan to reduce US involvement as quickly as possible, and not to make it a nation-building proposition. If so, there's hope he understands, too. [David Brooks, annoying as he often is, seems to think so.])

But let's not lose sight of this: there's only a difference in style and speed and, possibly, small orders of magnitude between the crazy and existentially angst-filled in Afghanistan, who bring their hateful needs out in the open, fatally and quick, and the ones in this country who relentlessly aim to destroy people on the basis of their sexual preferences; who need to force creationism as the only explanation for the world in which they live, whose realities they find too challenging to bear without confirming their prejudices and yielding to their fears at every turn. How different is it, really, in terms of motivation -- fear and hatefulness and perverse belief -- willingly to dehumanize an entire category of human beings (god's creatures who've existed in every society since earth was formed lo these thousands of years ago), to make preventing them from enjoying civil liberties a foundational commitment?

In neither case is the hated activity damaging to the people whose umbrage is so easily taken. If the one is manifestly murderous, the other, ultimately, is only less destructive to lives in that it doesn't immediately snuff them out. People who can engage in one, can engage -- have engaged -- in the other. Dehumanization is contagious, and deadly, no matter of whom, by whom. In each case, the actors consider their inhumanity blessed by their god, and I'm equally as fearful of both types of intolerance and hatred. It's just that the destructive insanity in Afghanistan is easier for everyone to see.

[Meanwhile, here's a pretty chilling take on the events by a UN worker in Afghanistan:

Foreigners have been killed in Afghanistan before, and today’s attack was not the first fatal attack on UN staff. But it was different than previous fatal attacks. Very different. The killers were ordinary residents of a city deemed peaceful enough to be one of the first places transferred to the control of Afghan security forces. The men who broke into the UN compound, set fires and killed eight people weren’t Taliban, or henchmen of a brutal warlord, or members of a criminal gang. They weren’t even armed when the protests began –they took weapons from the UN guards who were their first victims.


This is not the beginning of the end for the international community in Afghanistan. This is the end. Terry Jones and others will continue to pull anti-Islam stunts and opportunistic extremists here will use those actions to incite attacks against foreigners. Unless we, the internationals, want our guards to fire on unarmed protesters from now on, the day has come for us to leave Afghanistan.

God protect us from such believers as these, on all sides.]

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