Friday, November 30, 2007

Crowd Calls for Execution In Mohammed Bear Case

Whew. Really, seriously, liberals need to keep this sort of thing in mind. Many liberals I know have a tendency to try to ignore or excuse this sort of thing. They point out that most Muslims are non-fundamentalists. They correctly point out that our godawful Mideast policy has contributed greatly to the region's problems, and to the growth of fundamentalism. True, all true. But be that as it may, and for whatever reason, Islam has a problem. And so we have a problem.

I mean, many of these folks make Pat Robertson look downright sane.

Liberalism has been locked in a struggle with religious totalitarianism of one form or another since its emergence. We've entered another phase of that struggle. It's hard to keep this in perspective given the hyperbolic, apoplectic, ethnocentric (sheesh I hate that term) responses to Islam by many on the American right. Yes, many on the right are ethnocentric and many are hostile to any faith other than Christianity. But one shouldn't let the irrationality of one's political opponents push one toward an equal but opposite type of irrationality. In this case: one shouldn't try to excuse the inexcusable. My opponent's opponent is not always my ally.

Perhaps I dwell too much on the fact that some of my liberal friends, immediately after 9/11, steadfastly refused to consider the possibility that OBL might be motivated even in part by anti-liberalism. But I don't think I'm deluded in believing that, in general, liberals somewhat underestimate the badness of Islamic fundamentalism. Perhaps I'm wrong about that. Or perhaps this is a natural reaction to the right's overestimation. But 'natural' does not necessarily mean 'inevitable.' And, furthermore, I think we should also ask to what extent the right's over-estimation is a reaction to our under-estimation.

Perhaps you--like me--are tired of the self-serving "they hate our freedom" mantra. But there's a sizable kernel of truth in it. Fundamentalists of all stripes have never been wild about liberty. Our fundamentalists have been tamed by hundreds of years of emerging liberalism. Their fundamentalists haven't yet. To ignore this--or so I'm suggesting--is to ignore something very important about the current situation.


Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Liberalism has been locked in a struggle with religious totalitarianism of one form or another since its emergence.

Very good point. At the heart of liberalism is the emphasis on the individual, where totalitarianism, religious or otherwise, gives the primacy to the greater whole.

Now, religion, beginning specifically with medieval Christian thought, has also been a champion of the individual, the dignity of the "human person," so we cannot paint with too broad a brush. Still, liberalism in its broadest and best sense is the enemy of "unity" movements, which is a good thing, as unity movements are most concerned with eating their own.

3:35 PM  
Blogger matthew christman said...

The reason I think a lot of liberals and lefties don't want to emphasize the "badness" of muslim fundamentalists is that it is largely self evident, and because, in American political circles, constant emphasis on the evils of muslim fundamentalism are usually the rhetorical hallmarks of people looking to excuse American government crimes ("sure, we torture, but we don't BEHEAD!"), or looking to drum up support for endless war against whatever muslim country they feel needs to be destroyed this week ("the only thing these people understand is FORCE!"). And that makes sense, because once you've pointed out the evils of muslim fundamentalists...well, what next? In terms of policy prescriptions, what does the badness of muslim fundamentalists tell you about what American foreign policy should be? Since everyone agrees that terrorists are bad and should be defeated, the real debate is about tactics, and emphasis on evil and craziness tends to support militaristic and wrongheaded policies. Yes, they're bad people, but unless you think that their badness means that the countries they live in need to be bombed and/or invaded, so what?

10:01 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

The reason I think a lot of liberals and lefties don't want to emphasize the "badness" of muslim fundamentalists is that it is largely self evident, and because...

Or it could be that acknowledging the badness invokes some sort of moral duty to actually do something about it, which is outside their moral vocabulary since bad things inevitably accompany even the best of outcomes and intentions.

They just don't do moral ambiguity. Better to condemn "American government crimes," which is clean, feels great, and best of all, has a villain that doesn't hit back.

10:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can remember when I heard about the Taliban's destruction of the giant Buddhas at Bamiyan. I said to myself, "Holy crap! These people don't care a damn about what the rest of the world thinks of them. We're going to end up having to fight these clowns." That was only months before 9/11.

Howard Bloom, in "the Lucifer Principle," makes what I consider a good case that Muslim culture is, all political-correctness aside, genuinely inferior to ours and we shouldn't be ashamed to say so. At its very root it is based on the ultra-sexist and constantly warlike nomadic tribes from which its founder sprung. Muslim society is based on a 'tournament species' social model (like walruses, say, or kangaroos) where males fight to the death for ownership of all the females. As pointed out in Psychology Today, excess males with no chance of finding a wife are that much more likely to strap on a bomb and walk into your restaurant.

Having said all this, it is also true that we Americans never had to lose sleep over the Middle East until oil policies got us utterly embroiled there, and over the last 25 years that is all the fault of the Republicans.

(logges as anon. 'cause I don't have a blogger account: Tom Buckner)

12:03 PM  

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