Muslims and Christians: A Email Exchange
January 18, 2015
Here is an email exchange with a friend and former student. Seems worth publishing here.
On Jan 17, 2015, at 4:44 PM, email sent:
First, I want to clarify what I meant by my post....liberal class in the way that Chris Hedges would say it--a privileged group of white people who wish to balance a genuine concern for equality, social justice, etc with a comfortable life within the economic paradigm they claim to critique (not pejoratively like a Republican) . Though I too am concerned with bigotry, I just hope the liberal response is honest enough about the real threats posed by the public display of religion in general, never mind one based on a capricious deity, who was willing to be violent to gain submission. It seems that though all religions can be debased, Islam's debasement can be especially bad for everybody.
The Oklahoma City bomber was Christian in the sense that he liked social control that a certain modern interpretation of Christian morality provides, but he was a decidedly political actor. The Unabomber gets a pass in some way because he had really good points (unlike Muslims) he just carried out his protest poorly--not that an occupation link is enough to morally require you to distinguish yourself, any more than a mailman would have to explain why he's different than his "gone postal" brethren.
I'm not sure if "Je Suis Charlie" or not....I take the Pope's stand that the violence was horrendous, but that the publication had long since passed the line of offensive and derision. I don't want to align with either of them.
As for your remarks on the United States and fascism, I couldn't agree more. I find no comfortable element of popular, conventional culture to participate in. The Sniper movie is a perfect example....I can't believe it's not being questioned, and I'm surprised A list "liberal" Hollywood types are participating with clear minds.
I struggle with how to proceed with my young boys. If i want them to succeed in the conventional sense I'll have to dilute the intensity of my views, but I'm only so good at compromising in that way....One thing's for sure, there's no coming back from this. Even if we suspend the economic decline with last minute down the road can kicking, we are culturally moribund.
Be well, and enjoy the what I assume is the freedom of your retirement. All the best,
Interesting and thoughtful. But I am uncertain of some things. (1) Did you mean to say that Islam has no "really good points" as did the Unabomber? As you write of Islam's "debasement" I am assuming you did not.
(2) Is your reference to "a capricious deity, who was willing to be violent to gain submission" a reference to Catholicism or Islam or both? Seems to me that a religion that flaunts a bloody crucifixion as its central image fits this description rather well, as violence comes in many forms. Or is this a reference to Judaism and the rather violent capricious deity it worships, ala' the Old Testament? This may be wrong but if you mean to single out Islam as a violent religion with a capricious deity, then I must say I remain unpersuaded, that is, to it being uniquely or uniquely different than Christianity or Judaism. Religion and violence go together very well, as Machiavelli might say, while pointing out that religion does not know how to properly, that is, proportionately, use violence or disguise it by "civilizing" it. Our revealed religions all seem to be "willing to be violent to gain submission" on behalf of a "capricious deity." [And did you really mean to describe the Unabomber's actions as a "protest" conducted "poorly?" I describe him, as I describe those who killed in Paris, as murderers, plain and simple.]
One issue is: Is there a campaign that is anti-Islamic? Note: I don't think the issue is an academic one, Is Islam more or less violent than, say, Christianity? This is an issue but not a pressing one, it seems to me, because it is one that is being used for political purposes, to justify and fortify US imperialism especially in the Middle East, as well as the totalitarian-like measures such as the Patriot Act and the actions of the NSA. And, of course, as should be all too obvious today, politicians and other political actors like the media are willing to use academics and academic arguments to their advantage. It is interesting to me how so many academics don't get this and actually think they are in charge, when in fact they are merely pawns.
You may criticize the examples used by the wife of a friend but she stated the issue, at least for me: Is our solidarity directed at Islam, ala' Boston and Paris? Let me say that I find the Boston bombing most illustrative here or rather the reaction to it revealing: The "attack" was relatively minor, but the city was shut down (!), the hysteria was remarkable, and some things very revealing such as the fact that the date of the bombing did not become the number used in connection with the mantra, "Boston Strong," as that would detract from what was clearly the intentional use of "9/11" to describe "ground zero" in NYC. [The original "ground zero" was in Nagasaki and Hiroshima!] Rather, the number used, which seemed comedic to me, was "617" or the area code for Boston! Of course, this number faded from view as it made no sense at all.
And then again, here is something that has struck me recently: Why is it that when a fundamentalist, born again Christian like George Bush - a description he embraced during the campaigns willingly and frequently, saying that his Christianity defined him, even "saved" him, and played a role in his "deciding" - wages a war that kills thousands, even hundreds of thousands of civilians, as happened in Iraq, a war he called " a crusade," he is not described as a born again, fundamentalist Christian? Whereas when any Muslim kills, even when they kill a relatively few people, they are described as "Muslims" and we go looking for that allegedly intricate and cunningly hidden "network" of "Muslim terrorists?" You may say Bush was " a decidedly political actor" but when he spoke of "eradicating evil" or of "a crusade" he is revealing the importance of his religion and its impact on his "deciding." But it could be said of those we label "terrorists" are acting in "a political capacity." And if attacking the "World Trade Centers" and the Pentagon - and trying to get the White House or the Congress - isn't political, I don't know what is as those are political targets. They did not, e.g., target churches as some, especially in Europe, have targeted mosques. And bin Laden was opposed to our policies, e.g., stationing troops in Saudi Arabia. And, more generally, opposing policies seems pretty political to me and yet, again, it is his religion which receives top billing, while Bush's religion does not. This "story," that our politicians act from non-religious motives or that their religion does not facilitate violence serves a political purpose, namely, it facilitates and strengthens our imperialism, at least among those who reject Bush's fundamentalist, born again religion. And, of course, this allows Bush to appeal to both the religious and the non-religious while propagandizing that it is only "some" Muslims who are "savages." He only needs to condemn "some" to condemn all, ala' the frequently heard refrain that "Muslims need to stop Muslims from committing violence/'terrorism'!"
So, yes, I do agree with the wife of a friend: The solidarity we are urged to embrace is against Islam. [And your email kind of confirms this when you say, as many have said, that Charlie Hebdo is hardly a unifying force; in fact, it's agenda is to disrupt while "dissing" the downtrodden, the despised. I am not Charlie, no thanks. And if it disappeared today, the world would be a much improved place. It could hardly support a rally for solidarity.]
And, more generally, this sounds to me like a replay of the rhetoric used during the Cold War against communism. I have heard it all before only then it was "Kill a commie for Christ." Now, it is, although disguised, "Kill a Muslim for Christ." A newsperson on Fox News actually said we have to "Kill, kill, kill!" and there was no doubt she was referring to Muslims. Truly astounding.
I went to see "American Sniper" and it was more of the same. It was such good propaganda that even Chris Kyle's description of the Iraqis as "savages" seemed to make sense. But then if one remembered that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, that it had never attacked the US, that it in fact had been an ally once, that it had no WMDs as claimed, you had to ask, "Who is more savage, the insurgents in Iraq or the US?" Is it more savage to kill a young boy with a drill [the insurgents] or blowing him to bits with a drone or missile? Both seem pretty savage to me. And if you wish to, watch a movie entitled "The Wind That Shakes the Barley," about Ireland and the IRA in the 1920s and you can see how American troops in Iraq acted just like the Brits did in Ireland in those days and how the IRA acted like the insurgents in Iraq. And I would bet the Brits attributed the IRA's "savagery" to Catholicism.
Retirement is great. I can read what I want. So glad I quit when I did. I am glad to see you and Tina prospering together. It is never easy to live with a Yankee fan from Jersey.......so it is good that you are a Sox fan without strong opinions! ;-) Your children will do fine despite you and my prediction is: When you express your opinions, at least while they are teenagers, they will sneer at you........and this is good and should not surprise you. As my mother use to say, "the fruit don't fall too far from the tree!"