Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Extremism! The horror!

Desert Cat sounds the alarm:

Folks, this is not going away. The Rev. Wright was not an anomaly in the life of Barack H. Obama, but rather one element of a much deeper and more troubling web of unsavory connections. This is not a "distraction". There is a deeply troubling picture that is beginning to be outlined here, and it is of vital interest to the American electorate in this time of Islamist terror and resurgent authoritarianism.

Do we want to elect a president with sympathetic ties to Islamic extremists and hardline socialists/communists?
Pretty Lady, it may be stated, has a great number of 'sympathetic ties' to all manner of extremists. She has been known to acknowledge sympathetic bonds with persons who self-describe as Femininsts, Anti-Feminists, Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Conservatives, Radical Leftists, Socialists, Communists, Polyamorists, Polygamists, Fundamentalists, Evangelicals, Atheists, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Anarchists, Sociopaths, Narcissists, Narcissistic Sociopaths, Reagan Democrats, Obama Buckleyites, Queers, Transsexual Lesbians, and people who regularly scan the headlines for evidence that the Apocalypse is upon us. These sympathies may extend from heart-to-heart confessions over coffee, to prickly Internet discussions, to friendly 'hellos' to the lady in the headscarf who sells her a six-pack at the corner store; the fact that the Muslim religion frowns upon ladies who drink beer and appear in public wearing ripped, patched, paint-stained cut-offs does not noticeably affect this lady's attitude. If, deep down, she is plotting the overthrow of the American government and the subsequent forcible covering of Pretty Lady's bare head, she has kept mighty quiet about it over the last five years.

This does not, of course, means that Pretty Lady subscribes wholeheartedly to the ideologies of every person with whom she is on cordial terms; this would require not only more energy than she possesses, but a severe case of MPD. Neither does she have any interest in imposing any of these ideologies upon anyone else, let alone the country at large. She merely recognizes a simple truth about life on earth; we are all different, we are all human, and we have a vested interest in getting along with one another. She can recognize this truth unilaterally, without anyone having to agree with her about it, but she notices that things run a lot more smoothly when they do.

And if Pretty Lady may speak frankly, she expects the same of people who self-identify as Christian:
Obama is engaging in a Christian version of politics by being open to talking with enemies, by not belittling his enemies or those who don't agree with him, by running a positive campaign, by treating people as the flawed-yet-still-created-in-the-image-of-God creatures that we are. But surely you understand that a lot of evangelicals (and others) in America (and elsewhere) wouldn't recognize this form of behavior as Christian. Rather, it's considered being "soft" or "idealistic" or "unrealistic." There is very little difference between being a good American and being a good Christian for a lot of those you call Christianist. And their conceptions of both of these identities are deeply flawed. A part of the problematic in understanding Obama correctly is understanding Christianity correctly.
Christianity, my dear friends, is an extremist religion. It takes the extreme and radical position that we should love everyone, without exception; that everyone is equal in the eyes of God. Everyone. Even radical Islamist jihadi terrorists; even hardline socialist/communists. It does not say that we should become Islamist terrorists, or authoritarian dictators, or communists. But offering a cordial 'hello' to them, and refraining from aggressively attacking them out of hand, seems well within the bounds of acceptable Christian behavior.






27 comments:

Chris Rywalt said...

The trouble is, of course, is not so much that Obama is or isn't running a Christian campaign, or does or doesn't have ties to Islamic extremists. The trouble is he isn't fervent enough at attacking "our" enemies. Which is what most people want in a President: The biggest, meanest ape around. Bigger and meaner than all the other troops' apes. By not making sufficiently angry noises, Obama risks alienating a lot of primates. I mean, voters.

Desert Cat said...

What on earth is an "Obama Buckleyite"?

In any case, the chief difference between an Islamic extremist and the form of alleged extremism that is Christianity, is that the latter is not by creed in the business of the murder of unbelievers. For that matter, few if any of the remainder of that list of alleged extremists are in a similar habit. By way of contrast, you might want to look further into what Odinga's followers in Kenya have been up to.

I've always found it both mildly amusing as well as annoying when people who are following a different path take it upon themselves to lecture Christians about what constitutes proper Christian doctrine and behavior. Quite the hubris there.

Finally, if one's associates are irrelevant to one's own ideology, what matter then what Mark Penn was up to?

Funny how it matters *some*times...

That's ok. They wouldn't let Ron Paul off the hook either.

In the end you will probably have your President Obama, because the press hasn't even started warming up the coals they plan to rake McCain over.

Pretty Lady said...

Pretty Lady is too a Christian! If the word of Vox Dei is anything to go by. He listed her review of his book under Christian reviews. So there. Pffffft.

Pretty Lady said...

And the vast majority of Muslims are not murderous extremists; there will be even fewer of them if we start addressing the root causes of fundamentalist extremism, which include, but are not limited to, global poverty and lack of opportunity, poor communication, and the confirmation of their suspicions that happens when we invade their countries, shoot innocent people and torture them.

It matters what Mark Penn was up to because the Clinton campaign made such a hoopla over that unpaid Obama campaign worker who was alleged to have said something about NAFTA to the Canadian government, which was later proven to have been a complete fabrication on the part of the Canadians, anyway. Hypocrisy is icky.

An example of an 'Obama Buckleyite' would be Andrew Sullivan, or any other conservative/libertarian who is supporting Obama because he's against the war in Iraq, and has an actual mind which is capable of grasping and communicating subtle and complex issues.

Desert Cat said...

As opposed to the turnip I have between my ears.

Chris Rywalt said...

Well, DC, if you think Islam is "by creed in the business of the murder of unbelievers" and Christianity is not, then you do have a turnip between your ears. Unless you've read the Koran in Arabic for yourself, that is; although if you did you might find that Islam is no more a religion of murder than any other.

The fact is, the Koran is the literal word of Allah in a way that the Bible isn't: Islam is the religion of the Word. The Koran isn't just the written-down Word of God, it is literally the very substance of the universe. You can't translate it. It's Arabic. If you're only reading translations, you're not reading it at all.

That you have understood certain passages of the Koran to support murdering unbelievers is hearsay of the worst sort. You might just as easily say Christianity is the religion teaching children should be dashed against rocks because of Psalm 137.

Desert Cat said...

Izzat so Chris? When did you learn to read Arabic and become an expert on what the Koran does and does not say? You would be picking a very big fight with a whole lot of Sheikhs and Mullahs who say otherwise.

The "very substance of the universe" you say? So you are a new convert then? And yet one who has already achieved the spiritual authority to issue fatwas to turnip-brained infidels.

This sounds a lot like the handful of Christian loonies who insist that the "Authorized King James Bible" is the only authoritative Word of God, and all others are bastardized translations. So Allah was an Arab then? And only Arabs can truly understand him as his native-language people?

Desert Cat said...

"by not belittling his enemies or those who don't agree with him..."

I wonder if the author of this snippet is terribly familiar with the gospels. Jesus was harsh, incredibly harsh with the Pharisees, scribes and "teachers of the law" in his day. There was no accommodation, dialogue or compromise in his message to and about them, for the very reason that they were teaching falsehoods about his Father. And in like manner, your statements about what Christians must do in all circumstances does not jive.

Pretty Lady said...

your statements about what Christians must do in all circumstances does not jive.

My statements about what Christians must do in all circumstances consist of repeating and repeating and repeating and repeating the dictum 'love thy neighbor.' In any and all permutations with which I am inspired, on a daily basis. I have explicitly stated in many past essays that the form this love takes is fluid; it can certainly consist of harsh statements, as evidenced by the statements I am making now.

There is a very great difference, DC, between rigidity of form and staunch adherance to principle. Too many Christians, in my observation, mistake the former for the latter; they adhere to the most minute, literally and materistically interpreted letter of the law, and totally miss its spirit. They communicate in ways which guarantee they will not be listened to; they fail to listen with compassion and a sincere attempt at understanding different perspectives; they call for wholesale and aggressive condemnation of things which they have not taken the trouble to understand.

The Wright kerfluffle is a perfect example. There is a very powerful history and context to Wright's most 'racist, offensive' words which many people are wilfully and self-righteously ignoring, which will not go away because they ignore it. Obama hit the nail on the head when he said that the statements were wrong, but the anger, despair and frustration which gave rise to them were very real. It is not Christian, nor is it good politics, to condemn the entire person out of hand because some of their words, beliefs or positions are offensive to you.

This sort of behavior absolutely guarantees that peace on earth will never come to pass. There is certainly a time for actively uncovering, aggressively condemning, and ruthlessly fighting evil; but you had better make damn sure that it is true evil, and not merely a projection of your own self-righteous paranoia, or you risk participating in the very evil you seek to eliminate.

Anonymous said...

I've been having the worst headache. Thank allah it's just a turnip between my ears.

Desert Cat said...

I have explicitly stated in many past essays that the form this love takes is fluid; it can certainly consist of harsh statements, as evidenced by the statements I am making now.

Then how would you know if my probing and questioning and shining the spotlight of attention on various aspects of his past, his associations and apparent positions is born of love, both of my country and fellow citizens, and yes, of Obama himself, or is simply "aggressively attacking (him) out of hand"?

There is a very great difference, DC, between rigidity of form and staunch adherance to principle.

Granted

Too many Christians, in my observation, mistake the former for the latter; they adhere to the most minute, literally and materistically interpreted letter of the law, and totally miss its spirit.

Granted

They communicate in ways which guarantee they will not be listened to; they fail to listen with compassion and a sincere attempt at understanding different perspectives; they call for wholesale and aggressive condemnation of things which they have not taken the trouble to understand.

In some cases I would be likely to agree.

The Wright kerfluffle is a perfect example. There is a very powerful history and context to Wright's most 'racist, offensive' words which many people are wilfully and self-righteously ignoring, which will not go away because they ignore it. Obama hit the nail on the head when he said that the statements were wrong, but the anger, despair and frustration which gave rise to them were very real.

And you may recall that I said that I thought that perhaps there was a bit too much being made of Wright's statements, given the context of some of the eye-poppers that emanate from various right-leaning evangelical leaders.

It is not Christian, nor is it good politics, to condemn the entire person out of hand because some of their words, beliefs or positions are offensive to you.

And yet we must make a choice. In the final analysis this is not a matter of accepting people despite our differences with them, but of selecting a political leader and rejecting his or her political rivals. Really. You can only vote once, and only vote for one. The question is not whether Obama is a good person. The question is whether we want him to be our president.

I sincerely believe George W. Bush is a good person. He made a fairly lousy president however.

Therefore all of this stuff may or may not be relevant in the final analysis, but I do believe it bears careful scrutiny. It should *not* be swept under the rug as I sense many would wish for it to be, but the people of this country should be fully informed--as informed as we already are about the manifold failings of candidates Hillary and McCain and our current fearless leader.

Desert Cat said...

I need further clarification. You say that Christianity demands that "that we should love everyone, without exception", and that "the form this love takes is fluid; it can certainly consist of harsh statements". You state that you are Christian.

You have also said that you " loathe those people (Bush, Cheney and their minions)", that they are "worthless hubristic egomaniacal fools," and you "tak(e) cold, specific, and contemptuous umbrage" for what they have done.

From this shall I conclude that this level of contempt and loathing (which stops shy of hate, dictionary definitions notwithstanding) is in fact an expression of your deep, heartfelt spiritual love for George and Dick and Karl?

If so, this warms the cockles of my heart. I shall attempt to take this lesson and fit it into my turnip for the next time I feel inclined to become alarmed at some new information I learn about our presidential candidates.

Chris Rywalt said...

DC sez:
Izzat so Chris? When did you learn to read Arabic and become an expert on what the Koran does and does not say?

I admit that my understanding is imperfect by a long shot. I'm passing along what I've come to understand. The key here is admitting that I just don't know, which is more than you seem to be willing to do when you say things like, "[Islam is] by creed in the business of the murder of unbelievers" based on some newspaper's (or, worse, blogger's) interpretation of one translation of one verse (or even a handful of verses) of the Koran.

The "very substance of the universe" you say? So you are a new convert then?

Well, I don't happen to believe it. I also don't believe that there's a big invisible superhero in the sky whose son was nailed to a tree two thousand years ago so some shiny gate in the clouds could be opened for me. I don't believe in a lot of things (although lately I'm having visions of the Flying Spaghetti Monster).

This sounds a lot like the handful of Christian loonies who insist that the "Authorized King James Bible" is the only authoritative Word of God, and all others are bastardized translations. So Allah was an Arab then? And only Arabs can truly understand him as his native-language people?

Again, I'm no expert. From what I understand, it's not that only Arabs can truly understand Allah, it's just that you need to learn to read Arabic to study the Koran. Only in Arabic can the Koran be properly understood. As to whether Allah is an Arab, I have no idea.

As to whether it's lunacy to believe this, well, I don't find it any loonier than lots of beliefs, including (but not limited to) transubstantiation, the intercession of the saints, assumption into Heaven, resurrection, reincarnation, the lotus growing from Vishnu's navel, Tanuki, Kitsune, and the Necronomicon. So there's one god, he's a guy, and he created the universe using Arabic. Why the hell not? Makes as much sense as anything.

Pretty Lady said...

From this shall I conclude that this level of contempt and loathing (which stops shy of hate, dictionary definitions notwithstanding) is in fact an expression of your deep, heartfelt spiritual love for George and Dick and Karl?

This requires a new post to address properly. Please be patient while I finish the more material chores on my agenda.

Pretty Lady said...

You can only vote once, and only vote for one.

However, I can tell you right now that there are not many things which could possibly be 'uncovered' which would make me change my vote at this point. A vote for Hillary or McCain would be very much more of the same--lies, incompetence, triangulating, patronization, coverups, aggression, alienation, and arrogant unilateral imposition of our will upon the rest of the world. NO THANK YOU. For once in my life I have a chance to vote for someone who thinks and communicates very much like I do, and I'm seizing the opportunity with both hands.

Desert Cat said...

That's fine and I'm not suggesting that you ought to change your vote. I'm just saying that he ought to be fully vetted to the satisfaction of any and all who have any questions or doubts. Which is likely to mean an ongoing and ruthless examination.

You know I haven't shied away from a similar critique of Hillary and McCain when new information comes out. The thing about those two is we pretty much already know all their dirt, although I remain convinced the MSM has some doozeys of skeletons they plan to pop on McCain once the general election gets going.

Chris Rywalt said...

As much as I liked Obama's speech on race, and as much as I'll most likely vote for him, I'm not confident that he won't be more of the same anyway. I'm pretty sure that all politicians are just more of the same.

Desert Cat said...

I admit that my understanding is imperfect by a long shot. I'm passing along what I've come to understand.

So if what you've heard about the Koran is indeed true, then neither you nor I have a flying clue about what it teaches, and can't possibly know without a whole lot of scholarly effort. You're repeating hearsay and I'm repeating hearsay.

That still leaves us with the ability to hear what others who *do* read Arabic say about it, and what others who claim to be practicing what the Koran teaches actually *do* in the name of Islam. Because we are (allegedly) rational creatures, we can draw certain conclusions from these statements and actions, can we not?

Before you pull out the "not all Muslims" card, please note that in my opening comment in this thread I did specifically refer to Islamic extremists.

And before I forget again, PL do you really believe that Osama Bin Laden and his associates are poor, lacking in opportunities, and have a poor understanding of Western culture? For that matter, the leadership of Iran? Or Syria? Because I really don't think that laundry list of grievances explains their extremism.

My understanding is that they are angry about two major things 1)the very existence of the State of Israel and the presence of Jews on "their" sacred land, and 2)the presence of US troops in the Middle East and in Saudi Arabia specifically. And I think it would be irresponsible to overlook the reality of their global political/religious ambitions. There again, we do not need to read and understand the Koran, but merely need listen and observe.

How much do you know about the Alliance of Civilizations? While I see it as a potential menace, I'm pretty sure you would embrace it wholeheartedly.

And something else? It is the Alliance of Civilizations and Obama's expressed support for it that leads me to surmise that he will indeed win the election. If we are where I think we may be in relation to one particular eschatological interpretation, then there would need to be someone to push the US/jump with both feet into this program, and very very soon.

Chris Rywalt said...

You did say "by creed." It's not the creed of Islamic extremists to murder unbelievers. It may be what they do, and what they say they're supposed to do, but their creed is innocent. Or anyway as innocent as any other creed, such as Christianity.

Regarding your points on bin Laden et al., you miss something vital. Good ole Osama and the leaders of Syria and so forth probably know more than we do about Western culture and they have nothing but money and opportunity. However, what you miss is that they're taking advantage of the large numbers of people who are poor and lacking in opportunity and pointing them and their weapons at the Great Satan (i.e. us). What they're angry about -- state of Israel and all that -- is not what needs to be fixed. We need to undermine the foundations of their power, and that means addressing what's making Arabs in general mad.

The Palestinians have been in an open-air prison worthy of a John Carpenter movie for over half a century. If I were them, I'd be mighty pissed off. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait owe their brutal dictatorships to the United States. Saddam Hussein was armed and funded by the U.S. for years. The list of crimes perpetrated by America upon the Arabs of the world is immense. Sure, the Homeland has committed at least as many atrocities against southeast Asians, Africans, and South Americans as it has Arabs, but that's kind of beside the point.

If we'd just stop kicking Mohammedan ass for a few decades we'd probably end Islamic terrorism. Then we could concentrate on Native American terrorism and Irish terrorism, not to mention those crazy Canadians.

Desert Cat said...

Well you know I have sympathies with Dr. Ron Paul, so I'm not going to disagree that there may be other and perhaps better approaches.

Desert Cat said...

but their creed is innocent.

But how do you know that, Chris? You've set up a standard wherein you must rely on second-hand information unless you wish to undertake the task of learning Arabic to discover for yourself.

And via that second-hand information there is a diversity of opinion as to whether violence is an inherent part of Islam, or whether it represents a misuse and/or misinterpretation.

Chris Rywalt said...

All right, you've got a point. I assume their creed is innocent because I believe all creeds are equally innocent. I believe anything can be used to justify whatever it is humans want to do to each other.

Also, there's the idea of innocent until proven guilty.

Pretty Lady said...

I second what Chris said, about Bin Laden and other leaders taking advantage of people's poverty to co-opt them in their political and religious agendas. There was a recent article in the NYT about that--your average Arabic person between the ages of seventeen and thirty-five has so little opportunity to earn enough money to get married, let alone have any fun, that they end up spending all their time in church. There, they're ripe for indoctrination by extremists, and this is how suicide bombers are made.

You notice it's never the wealthy, educated leaders strapping bombs on themselves and wandering into the marketplace.

And I'd never heard of the Alliance of Civilizations until you brought it up, but when I researched it, it sounded like a no-brainer. Potential menace? How so? Would you prefer that all communication between cultures be miminal, polarized, and hostile, with differences exaggerated, and avenues of potential communication and co-operation ignored?

Something that should be noted is that when Israelis and Palestinians immigrate to New York, they end up bonding--over food. They find themselves in the same neighborhoods, shopping for the same things, among a horde of strangers with minimal interest in falafel. Somehow this simple fact transcends centuries of ingrained racial and religious conflict, in the proper context.

Chris Rywalt said...

Man, I love falafel. There's a great falafel place around the corner from the SVA studios. I could really use one about now.

Magpie Girl said...

Hey PL!

After reading your superbly written post, I've been scanning some of the comments. I got bleary eyed pretty fast. It got me to thinking, "if it takes this much time to _read_ all the comments how much time must it take to _respond_ to so many?" This thought was quickly followed by something like, "Thank God PL is doing it so I don't have to!"

As so, sincerely, thank you for all the time, love, and life blood you put into bringing us wisdom, humor, inspiration and challenge. I appreciate you!

Here's to being hopemongers.

Rachelle (Magpie Girl)

Chris Rywalt said...

Why is "Magpie Girl" just the cutest darn name?

Pretty Lady said...

Thank you, Magpie Girl! My pleasure!