Friday, September 15, 2006

Presidential Misconception

In a speech last April, President Bush said this:

One, I believe there'’s an Almighty, and secondly I believe one of the great gifts of the Almighty is the desire in everybody'’s soul, regardless of what you look like or where you live, to be free. I believe liberty is universal.

The trouble is, he's dead wrong, and the reason our involvement with the Middle East is spiraling out of control is that the guy in charge has no idea what he's dealing with.

With Islamofascist terrorists, it's common for people to say, "I just can't understand people like that." That is pure bullshit, a rhetorical trope. They're easy to understand. If you really and truly believe that heaven and hell are real, and that each of us will spend eternity in one or the other, depending on the judgment of Allah after death, then no matter what Bush thinks, freedom is not your highest value and ultimate goal. Your ultimate goal is to get into heaven and avoid hell, and if you believe that freedom, yours our that of others, may stand between you and achieving that, then you will want nothing to do with it. This is not irrational. It is perfectly sensible and reasonable IF you really believe in heaven and hell.

Furthermore, suppose you believe that Allah's judgment will depend not just on doing good and avoiding evil in your own personal behavior, but in how you react to such actions in others? Fundamentalists, whether Islamic or Christian, really believe that if they see evil in the world and do nothing about it, God will hold them accountable. He will hold them complicit in the evil deeds, and this is almost as bad as if they'd done it themselves. This is why fundamentalists have such fury towards people they consider immoral. They believe the immorality of others endangers their own souls, and this drives them into a rage, whether it's Zarqawi blowing up Westerners in Iraq or Fred Phelps picketing Matthew Shephard's funeral in Colorado. The live and let live attitude most of us consider necessary to get along with each other makes no sense to them.

If this is your mindset, then hijacking airliners and flying them into skyscrapers is hardly an act of insanity, it's a sensible, rational thing to do. If we do not understand this, we will be unable to take proper measures to oppose them. That the Commander In Chief, despite being a bit of a fundamentalist himself, does not in fact understand this is appalling and scary.


limited moments of reality said...

Ok its the whole religon thing lose that first then and only then you can move on.

Jason Brad Berry said...

First of all,I love your blog. But bro, "Islamofascist"...I feel your point about Bush, but let's get real...even though the Republican meme machine is trying to create the reality of "Islamofascism" just ain't real. Fascism is closely entwined with nationalism and an unholy alliance of corporate entities with the state....these are not the integers which form the current Islamic/American equation.

this was just a pet peeve for me....had to vent it. I'm gonna have to post on just drives me nuts.

Steve T. said...

OK, OK, ya got me. That was simplistic and clumsy, and not just because I shouldn't be parroting White House spin jargon, but because I do know better. For years I've known well Orwell's classic essay Politics and the English Language, which noted that "the word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies 'something not desirable'." And he was writing in 1946, when memories of the real thing were fresh.

I believe the word fascism was first widely used in the 20s by Mussolini, recalling the ancient Roman fasces, a collection of thin sticks, any one of which was easily broken, but when bound tightly together became unbreakable. The symbolism was as obvious to the Romans as it was to Il Duce, but it hardly fits Al Qaeda. It's become a cudgel word, something with which to beat someone you dislike about the head and shoulders. Like "Nazi" was, before Godwin's Law shamed people into ceasing to use it, except for the shameless.

We do need a term, I suppose, but "Islamofascism," while emotionally appealing, is much too obvious and imprecise. Suggestions?