Monday, February 06, 2006

Implosion and Explosion

James 1:27 (New Living Translation)

“Pure and lasting religion in the sight of God our Father means that we must care for orphans and widows in their troubles, and refuse to let the world corrupt us.”

One side of the world seems to be imploding, the other is exploding.

Here in the United States we’re at each others’ throats, politically, religiously, and socially. Democrats hate Republicans; Republicans hate Democrats. Liberals hate conservatives; conservatives hate liberals. Darwinists hate creationists and vice versa. Ideological hatred just seems to be the rule of the American day. It’s become as American as mom’s apple pie.

This all has me longing for the time, not so long ago, when this country wasn’t so fractured. In 1980 Ronald Reagan was elected President. The country was in a deep recession and Jimmy Carter, the man I’d supported four years earlier, had become like a ship without a rudder. While he was a decent man, he was not, in my view, a leader. Hence, when the election came I voted for a Republican presidential candidate for the first time in my life.

I think, more than anything else, I was looking for a change in tone. There was much in Ronald Reagan that I disliked, but I did admire his leadership ability. Whatever Jimmy Carter wasn’t in those terms, Reagan was. Many of us felt that way. We were called Reagan Democrats, and we helped give him an election landslide.

It was such a different time. In 1981, when Reagan nearly lost his life to an assassin’s bullet, the nation rallied around him. I’m not so sure the nation would respond that way today. We’re fractured, as columnist David Broder noted a week or so ago:

“The stench of partisanship is so strong in Washington these days that it is difficult to remember that it was not always the case that Republicans and Democrats were at each other's throats. But, in truth, there was a time when friendship and simple human compassion were far more powerful than any political differences.”

We’re imploding, like one of those twenty year old Las Vegas hotels being destroyed for the public good. In Vegas it's called progress. I’m not sure what we’re calling what’s now happening to the nation.

It couldn’t be happening at a worse time. While we’re imploding, the Middle-East is exploding. Hamas, which is dedicated to the proposition that Israel and the Jewish people must be destroyed, just won a momentous political victory in Palestine.

Many in the western press tried to claim that Hamas had renounced its intention to destroy Israel, but Hamas would have none of it. Their 1988 charter, they said, is as valid today as it was when it was first published. That charter outlined, in unambiguous language, Hamas’s aims:

“Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it" (The Martyr, Imam Hassan al-Banna, of blessed memory)”

For those hoping and praying for a peaceful solution to the Israel/Palestine question, article thirteen of the charter is also clear:

“There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors.”

The election sent a clear message – the Palestinian desire to destroy Israel is not supported by just a few on the lunatic fringe. The fact is, the Palestinian people knew what Hamas was all about before the election and they voted them into office. It was their way of telling the international community that the destruction of Israel is a truly popular movement.

In December, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad followed up on his October statement that Israel should be wiped from the map with this shot across the diplomatic bow:

“They have invented a myth that Jews were massacred and place this above God, religions and the prophets,” Ahmadinejad said in a speech to thousands of people in the Iranian city of Zahedan, according to a report on Wednesday from Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting.”

“The West has given more significance to the myth of the genocide of the Jews, even more significant than God, religion, and the prophets,” he said. “(It) deals very severely with those who deny this myth but does not do anything to those who deny God, religion, and the prophet.”

In recent weeks, Ahmadinejad has begun to rattle the nuclear saber. Iran is now engaged in a massive attempt to build nuclear weapons. Some analysts say this could become a reality for the world to deal with in less than two years.

Some comfort themselves with the notion that there is time to deal with this crisis. They’re creating a false sense of comfort for themselves. Iranian intentions, under its current leadership, are every bit as clear as is Hamas’s intent to kill every Jew:

“We must prepare ourselves to rule the world and the only way to do that is to put forth views on the basis of the Expectation of the Return,” Ahmadinejad said. “If we work on the basis of the Expectation of the Return (of the Mahdi), all the affairs of our nation will be streamlined and the administration of the country will become easier.”

If all that weren’t bad enough, we’re now being treated to Muslim outrage over the publication of cartoon images of the prophet Muhammad in Danish, French, and German newspapers. Yesterday, the Danish embassy in Beirut was set ablaze by thousands of Muslim demonstrators. While some Muslim leaders are appealing for calm, many are doing their very best to pour rhetorical gasoline on the flames:

“Speaking from Beirut, Omar Bakri Mohammad, leader of the Islamist group Al-Muhajiroon which is banned in Britain, called for those who blaspheme against the prophet to be executed.”
“In Islam, God said, and the messenger Mohammad said, whoever insults a prophet, he must be punished and executed,” he told BBC radio by telephone.”

It’s very ominous and very clear. The Middle East is not Mr.Rogers’ neighborhood. It’s a very dangerous place, exploding daily in acts of violence and hatred.

While we in the west might think of these things as nothing more than the depraved acts of a few lunatics dispersed in a sea of moderation, these recent events carry a powerful message. The lunatics have taken over the asylum. Moderation is not prevailing.

We should have learned that much from the attacks of September 11. The radicals had an agenda in mind then:

“The improbable agenda of the Islamic radicals who perpetrated the 9/11 attacks was to restore the imperial caliphate of Islam and spread its empire across the globe. In the eyes of the terrorist vanguard, America was the “Great Satan” that embodied worldly evil”

For many years I’ve labored under the assumption that the evil being played out on the world stage was being driven by a small number of fanatics. It’s a luxury I can no longer afford. The evil of radical Islam and the danger it poses to the world is much bigger than I’ve been told or imagined. It is a mass movement.

How did it come to this? Historian Bernard Lewis described the causes of the evolution this way:

“It was bad enough for Muslims to feel weak and poor after centuries of being rich and strong, to lose the leadership they had come to regard as their right, and to be reduced to the role of followers of the West. The twentieth century, particularly the second half, brought further humiliations – the awareness that they were no longer even the first among the followers, but were falling ever further back in the lengthening line of eager and more successful Westernizers.”

This downward spiral in Muslim influence then led to introspection, followed by lashing out, blaming outside influences for what had befallen:

“Who did this to us?” is of course a common human response when things are going badly, and there have been indeed many in the Middle East, past and present, who have asked this question. They found several different answers. It is usually easier and always more satisfying to blame others for one’s misfortunes.”

The practical outworking of this jaded philosophy means that Israel, the Jews, the Great Satan, and Western decadence have caused the poverty, political repression, and violence that have become the awful hallmarks of life in the Muslim world. It’s worked its way out geopolitically in ever bolder attempts to reclaim the glory lost centuries ago. Twenty years ago it was the hijacking of international airliners. Five years ago it was using airliners as weapons. If nothing is done to stop this progression, the world will be faced with the very real possibility of nuclear terror sooner than we’d really care to think.

I’d like to believe better things of the Muslim world, but I don’t see them. In the face of all the evil being carried out in the name of Islam, there are too few dissenting voices coming from the Muslim world. I share Bill Buckley’s concern for the unanswered question:

“The question not being ventilated with sufficient thoroughness is: What are Muslim leaders doing to dissociate their faith from the ends to which it is being taken by the terrorists?”

There’s a terrible truth in all of this. Osama bin Laden, Hamas, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian mullahs, rank and file terrorists, and Muslim demonstrators burning embassies are part of a larger whole. Evil is afoot in the world and all the protestations to the contrary can’t change that. Author Lance Morrow put it this way:

“Whether or not there is an “axis of evil,” there is distinctly a new ambience of evil – or what we have to think of as evil, when human behavior crosses certain lines beyond which more civilized vocabulary refuses to follow. Violent religious extremism has reappeared as a world-historical force for the first time since the Enlightenment. Terrorism has become an active, globally mobile, fittingly visible evil. Nuclear war – a monster kept locked in siloes during the Cold War – has become a real possibility in the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent.”

In the face of this, America has become so preoccupied with the fetish of polarization that confronting the evil before us is becoming less and less desirable. We’d rather attack one another in more genteel, politically acceptable ways. Perhaps it’s in keeping with history. After all, Nero fiddled while Rome burned. Chamberlain appeased while Hitler plotted genocide. “What’s next?” I wonder. As one society explodes and another implodes, only God knows.
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Dr.John said...

You are right of course. This is a time for a strong and intelligent leader . Busch is a nice guy but he is not that leader. There doesn't seem to be a Republican or a Democrat that can rise above the selfish partisian aims and give us something, anything to come together around. At the same time left and right wing blogs spew hate the other side rhetoric into the air until people line up hating one side or the other. Somebody needs to say enough already. Perhaps we need to vote independant in the next election. Elect somebody commited to bringing us together, Ah, it'll neverhappen. Instead the next election will just fuel one side or the other and we will all lose no matter who wins.

JollyRoger said...

I ready you often, agree with you sometimes, disagree with you a lot, but this time I feel compelled to respond.

Hamas didn't get elected because of their virulent hatred of Israel.

The Palestinians have lived under an incredibly corrupt regime for all of the time the PA has been in charge. The West has been incredibly generous with assitstance to the PA, which the leadership stole, hid, used as bribery fodder.

In the destitute neighborhoods of Gaza and the West Bank, the PA cannot deliver so much as the most rudimentary services. Hamas stepsd in and fills that void. Potable water, prenatal care for expectant mothers, educational facilities, even trash removal. The Palestinian population, of course, is backing those who can deliver on what they promise-like a lot of us, they are fed up with corruption and are now ready to back any alternative to the status quo. In the case of Hamas, they are backing an organization that they have seen is able to deliver the goods.

timnayar said...

I definately agree with you on the point that in a time when we have serious global and domestic issues to discuss, we are so distracted with these petty games that nothing is getting accomplished. On the plus side, I do see shows like "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report" which communicate how most Americans are caught ignored in the middle. But what do I know... I just like comedy and news mixed together.

Jill said...

You are right on point. This begs the what? We still have Bush for 3 more years, but what really bothers me is who do we have on the horizon? Is there anyone who will be able to get things under control and make things right? Or were they ever right? If you look at the current crop of politicians who may or may influence someone to run, it is scary.

Marie said...

I think our country was polarized, but I think it was polarized during Reagan's era, too.

I remember lots of jokes about Reagan when he was shot. In my circle of friends at the time there was not much concern or sympathy. He was hated.

Also at that time we had many American hostages in Iran, it was a huge deal. How many American hostages do we have now? O.

This is not to say any of the polarization is ok, just that it's been with us for a long time. It's not a recent development.

I disagree re: Bush, too, whether you like his policies or not, I think he is an extremely and unusually strong leader and will be remembered as such. He does not flinch or waver, he has a firm and well though out agenda, and he pushes it through.

M A F said...

Your attribution of the word "hate" only contributes to the problem. (As do the broad strokes of your brush.) To accuse others of hate negates the need to seriously address the issues. Is this not the heart of the issue you are addressing.

As a liberal I don't have the time and energy to hate others no matter how much I might disagree with them.

Sure there are those that truly hate Bush and Republicans, and those that hate all things Clinton and Democrat. I would say that these people with so much hate are easily swayed by the words of others and unwilling to think for themselves.

Those most susceptable to the ploy of propaganda are always the first to accuse others of hating this person, or that cause, or that party. Never before have I had the displeasure of interacting with so many people telling me what they say I am thinking about, supporting and believe in.

I guess this is a consequence of people listening to redundancy radio and having the voice of the radio telling the listener what and how to think, that they feel compelled to tell others that they too should feel and think as they do, for if they don't the only obviously conclusion is that they are full of hate.

Not to go astray from the discussion; as I was reading through your post I was thinking by the spat of church fires here in the states. It does appear the media seems preoccupied with the muslims that are angry over some cartoons. If these fires are acts of arson could they not be viewed as real examples of hate one motive is determined.

As it pertains to Iran and a nuclear weapon, if the goal is to resume their once held place of prestige and power in the world it makes little sense for Amendinejad to start attacking other nations.

Of course, I could always succumb to the cries of jingoism, declare all those that disagree with me as hateful and swear fealty to the belief in US hegenomy being what god/allah has preordained.

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