January 04, 2007
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Is it just me, or is there in fact a palpable wave of anti-Islamic bigotry among conservatives? From CNN Headline News host Glenn Beck confronting newly-elected Muslim Congressman Keith Ellison to "prove to me that you are not working with our enemies," to Right-wing pundit Debbie Schlussel painting Barack Obama as a Muslim "when we are fighting the war of our lives against Islam," to Congressman Virgil Goode of Virginia melting down over Ellison's election as if Muslims are within an inch of taking over the country... and so on and so on.
Republicans often seem content these days to brand the entire religion of Islam to be an evil enemy which must be eradicated--or, as right-wing queen Ann Coulter said, "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity." Her views seem to be coming into the right-wing mainstream these days.
Am I wrong on this?
Posted by Luis at January 4, 2007 04:14 PM
I missed Glenn Beck's interview, but how insanely over the top can you go? Beck was mildly amusing when his show started, and I now see that was an act to lure viewers, such as myself, in to watching his BS. Yes Glenn, we know you were an alcoholic, you don't need to remind us daily...yes Glenn, we know you could be easily lured by porn if your moral convictions weren't so strong...yes Glenn, we know you will get choked up at the drop of the hat...and on and on and on and on. (hmmm I smell a blog post coming out of that.)
As for what he said to the newly elected senator...so now amazed when you boil it down. He is one of the worst of the new breed of "I believe all of Islam is evil" conservative faction. If you judge each group by it's bad apples, what must people think of us based on this current administration?
Posted by: Sean P. Aune at January 5, 2007 01:01 AM
Of course not, of course you're not wrong.
I just finished up a pretty good book called "Our Inner Ape". The guy who wrote it is a primatologist who specializes in chimpanzees and bonobos.
He uses those two species- the most closely related to us in the entire animal kingdom- to contrast the impulses that drive us. Chimps tend to be more aggressive, bonobos tend to be a lot more mellow (and have a lot more sex).
The book lays out how our family structure was created through evolution and contrasts it with how chimps do it, and how bonobos do it.
What's interesting is the discussion of how we (and our primate cousins) tend to see "outsiders".
For example, after 9/11, New York went through a period where racial tensions were considerably lessened. Pretty much nothing concrete and real had changed; it wasn't like the city had a big new program to get various races and cultures talking to each other, or exchange programs, or anything like that.
But the attacks on 9/11 were widely seen as being against New Yorkers- and New Yorkers bonded together against this "other", this enemy. The thinking goes roughly like this:
The black guy who lives in the ghetto lost someone who was working in the food court in the Twin Towers, so naturally the rich WASP whose husband was killed is going to see herself as having more in common with him than she does with those horrible Arab terrorists.
What I wonder is whether or not these uber-right wingnuts consciously make the choice to do this- to try and whip up sentiment against "the enemy"- for political gain and to attain their goals, or if it's a subconscious process, or if it's a combination of the two. (I vote for combo, myself.)
I'm struck by the example of someone that you and I both hvae read quite a bit of- Orson Scott Card. In his books in the Ender series, the notion of an outsider who cannot possibly be understood is a dominant theme.
He even explicitly uses the theme of the aliens forcing the nations of Earth to bond together to fight as one human race, then when the threat is eliminated (as Ender destroys the hive queen and the aliens' home planet) the nations fall back apart and fight each other (in the Bean sub-series).
Card knows perfectly well, and writes of, the intrigue and intentional use of the aliens as "the enemy"- even while the nations of Earth are preparing for the post-alien times when they'll be back to struggling for supremecy and war.
Yet in his own, real-world political commentary, Card is xenophobic to a scary degree. His rants against the evil and hated terrorists are amazing, as is his deliberate use of the War on Terror as a way of furthering the political future of the people (like Bush) he deems as heroes.
It's disgusting, really, because he's doing exactly the same thing that he wrote scathingly about in his books.
So is it intentional? Is the guy a giant hypocrite, or does he really truly believe the real-world crap that he spouts?
I've met him, and chatted with him, and listened to him chatting with others. Granted, that's a tiny measure of a person, and of course the old question of whether or not we can ever really know another person is a good question (I think we can never know them completely).
But from that, I didn't get the image that he projects in his writings. I think he's honest and genuine the vast majority of the time, and I don't think he's consciously choosing to manipulate people with his rants against "the enemy".
So when it comes to the nitwits like Glenn Beck (who makes me gag- I saw him the other day piously informing his audience that "not all Muslims are terrorists- in fact, most aren't") or Goode or Schussel... well, maybe I'm too idealistic, or naive, but I just HAVE to think that most of them aren't consciously being manipulative scumbags.
I think they're genuinely saying what's on their mind. I have no doubt that political motivation enters into it, and that it's at least *partially* calculated, but for the most part I think they're really saying what they want to say.
It doesn't exactly make it any better; what they're saying and doing is still stupid and racist and short-sighted, and it'll work against us in the long run.
But it does mean that instead of wasting out time labeling them as mean, nasty, scummy, horrible people we can and should simply stick to refuting them, showing how they're wrong, and not demonizing them.
Posted by: Paul at January 5, 2007 07:09 AM
Well, its just typical Republican politics. They own the quarter of voters who vote on the basis of fear. What else do you expect?
However, I too have my own fears.
I wish that everyone one in American, indeed in a western or modern democracy, should have to take an oath recognizing and ascribing to the separation of Church and State, Religion and Civics. In America, this could be in tandem with an oath to the constitution - back in the cold war days you could be arrested for being a communist, which deamed you a threat to the constitution. In my mind, an inability to accept the separation of Church and State is a greater threat to our constitution and way of life than any communist leanings. But that's just me.
To the extent that there is a war between the modern world and Islam, separation between religion and civics is the central issue.
(The larger is issue is the separation of tasks. This is a real problem for much of Islam.)
Separation of religion and civics is also a problem in our government too.
Of course, for Christians this kind of oath should be a simple task. Christ promulgated few commandments, many of his teachings being in the form of suggestions or inferences (blessed are the peacemakers, is not the same as saying 'I command you to make peace not war'), but one of his few commands were: "Give to Ceasar that which is Caesar's and give to God that which is God."
Yet some how, the United States, a nation that is 80% Christian, a nation that was founded on the principle of separation of church and state, where it is written into its constitution, early, some how the United States is currently having a problem with this.
I personally think that if people had to take this kind of oath, the world over, the fears surrounding religion and its role would be greately reduced.
Modernism is in essence, all about the separation of tasks allowing for higher competancy within that task. Separation of Church and state is just one aspect of that. In essence, this notion has deep roots in western civilization going back to the ancient Greeks. But it helps that Christ imprinted it into the DNA of Christianity, before it spread all over the west permitting modernism to arise out of the west. (In some ways Far Eastern societies are far more advanced: they have separate 'isms' for public probabity and spiritual concerns: Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism). Most of the world needs to move beyond modernism, and I expect the far east to be the source of that (indeed it already is - see Japanese 'lean' manufacturing techniques), to cure some of the ills that modernism brings, but this is difficult as long as large segments are still resisting modernism.
Meanwhile, the Republicans need to square with me how a muslim legislature is a threat to a democracy that is 80% Christian. Either they have no faith in democracy or no faith in their faith, or both.
What? Do they think that Americans are suddenly going to be converted to Islam en mass? Is Christianity that feeble?
Its really just a bunch of hooey.
Posted by: Tim Kane at January 5, 2007 09:36 AM