FW: Up Against Fanaticism

 

I received the following rather bigoted editorial as a Forward along with the tag "No comment necessary." As if this Florida editor states the simple truth and one needn't say more. I think the opposite is true. Some remarks follow the text. --E.

 

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Below is an editorial from Sunday's edition (April 4, 2004) of a Florida newspaper located in the Florida's panhandle.  Someone who reads this paper thought that the editorial was worth a wider distribution and retyped it to send out over the Internet.

 

Phil Lucas, the paper's Executive Editor, wrote this article published in The News Herald, Panama City, Florida, Sunday April 4, 2004.  His email address is plucas@pcnh.com. The News Herald web site is found at http://www.newsherald.com/

 

Up Against Fanaticism

By Phil Lucas, Executive Editor, Panama City New Herald

     If straight talk of savagery offends you, if you believe in ethnic and gender diversity but not diversity of thought or if you think there is an acceptable gray area between good and evil, then turn to the funny pages, and take the children, too.  This piece is not for you.

     We published pictures Thursday of burnt American corpses hanging from an Iraqi bridge behind a mob of grinning Muslims.  Some readers didn't like it.

     Mothers said it frightened their children.  A woman who works with Muslim physicians thought it might offend or endanger them.  Well, we sure don't want to frighten, offend or endanger anybody, do we?  That's just too much diversity to handle.  I mean, somebody might get hurt.

     We could fill the newspaper every morning with mobs of fanatical Muslims. They can't get along with their neighbors on much of the planet: France, Chechnya, Bosnia, Indonesia, Spain, Morocco, India, Tunisia, Somalia, etc. etc. etc. Can anybody name three ongoing world conflicts in which Muslims are not involved? Today, where there is war, there are fanatical Muslims.

     We might quibble about who started what conflicts, but look at the sheer number of them.

     One thing is sure. Muslim killers started the one we are in now when they slaughtered more that 3,000 people, including fellow Muslims, in New York City.

     Madeleine Albright, the former secretary of state and feckless appeaser who helped get us into this mess, said last week Muslims still resent the Crusades. Well, Madam Albright, if Westerners were not such a forgiving people, we might resent them too.

     Let's recap the Crusades. Muslims invaded Europe, and when they reached sufficient numbers, they imposed their intolerant religion upon Westerners by force. Christian monarchs drove them back and took the battle to their homeland.  The fight lasted a couple of centuries, and we bottled them up for 1,000 years.

     Now, a millennium later, Muslims have expanded forth again. Ask France.  Ask England.  Ask Manhattan.  Two-and-a-half years ago fanatical Muslims laid siege to us.  We woke up to the obvious.  Our president announced it would be a very long war, then took the battle to the Islamic homeland.  Sound Familiar?

     Let's consider the concept of a "long war."  Last time it was 200 years, give or take.  Anybody catch Lord of the Rings? You know, the good part, the part that wasn't fiction, the part that drew us to the books and movies because it was the truest part: the titanic struggle between good and evil, between freedom and enslavement, between the individual and the state, between the celebration of life and the worshipping of death.

     That's the fight we are in, and it never ends.  It just has peaks and valleys.

     There may be a silent majority of peaceful Muslims - some live here - but that did not save 3,000 people in the World Trade Center, the million gassed and butchered in the Middle East, the tens of thousands slain in Eastern Europe and Asia, the hundreds blown to bits in the West Bank and Spain, or the four Americans shot, burned and hung like sausage over the Euphrates as a fanatical minority of Muslims did the joyful dance of death.

     Maybe we are so tolerant, we are so bent on "diversity," we are so nonjudgmental, we are so wrapped up in our six-packs and ballgames that our brains have drained to our bulbous behinds. Maybe we're so addled on Ritalin we wouldn't know which end of a gun to hold.  Maybe we need a new drug advertised on TV every three minutes, one that would help us grow a backbone.

     It doesn't take a Darwin to figure out that in this world the smartest, the fastest, the strongest, and the most committed always win.  No exceptions.

     Look at your spouse and children.  Look at your self in the

mirror.  Then look at the pictures from the paper last Thursday.  You better look at them.  Those are the people out to kill you.

     Who do you think will win?  You?  Or them?  Think you can take your ball and go home and they will leave you alone?  Read a little history.  Start with last week, last month, last year, and every other year back for half a century.  Then go back a thousand years.  Nobody hides from this fight.

     Like it or not, that's the way it was and that's the way it is. But many Americans don't get it.

     That's why we published those pictures.

     If they jarred you off the sofa, if they offended you, if they scared your children and sent you into a rage at mass murderers or heartless editors, then I say, it's a start.

 

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Lucas' article is a good example of the kind of shoddy thing that passes for political commentary in the U.S. recently.  The editor is against fanaticism, but his own writing exhibits a particularly virulent fanaticism.  Many who read his article may not see this at first.  But only consider a few paragraphs closely, and things become clearer.  Are this writer's assertions founded?  Is his stance against fanaticism genuine?

 

Lucas writes: "Madeleine Albright . . . said last week Muslims still resent the Crusades. Well, Madam Albright, if Westerners were not such a forgiving people, we might resent them too.

     "Let's recap the Crusades. Muslims invaded Europe, and when they reached sufficient numbers, they imposed their intolerant religion upon Westerners by force. Christian monarchs drove them back and took the battle to their homeland.  The fight lasted a couple of centuries, and we bottled them up for 1,000 years."

 

----In these sentences Mr. Lucas reaches his irresponsible peak.  I begin with these sentences because they are the clearest example of willful deception.  Lucas is intentionally distorting history here.  He is intentionally lying to his reader.

 

He writes about the Muslim period in Spain.  It's a fact that Muslim monarchs ruled much of Spain for centuries and that they were finally driven out by Christian monarchs.  What Lucas implies, however, is that the Muslim monarchs in Spain imposed their religion on their subjects by force and that things changed after the Christians drove them out.  Unfortunately, both Muslim and Christian historians will tell you otherwise. 

 

The Muslim monarchs of Spain were certainly not tolerant by modern standards: they imposed a separate and discriminatory law code on Christian and Jewish subjects, and in the course of their centuries of rule there were other excesses (slavery, for one).  But the fact is that in general the Muslim rulers tolerated the existence of these other religions under their rule, which is something that cannot, unfortunately, be said for the Christian monarchs who "liberated" Spain from them.  Have readers ever heard of the Spanish Inquisition? 

 

The judgment of historians, in this instance, is clear: The Muslims and Jews of Spain suffered more under the Christian monarchs than Christians and Jews had suffered under the Muslims.  The Christian monarchs proved more, not less, intolerant than their Muslim precursors.----

 

Lucas writes: "If straight talk of savagery offends you, if you believe in ethnic and gender diversity but not diversity of thought or if you think there is an acceptable gray area between good and evil, then turn to the funny pages, and take the children, too.  This piece is not for you."

 

----Well, well.  I myself do believe in ethnic diversity.  I suppose this Florida editor doesn't. 

    

As regards the question of good and evil, I think it was demonstrated repeatedly over the last century that one of the greatest evils is that which divides the world into a moral black and white.  Because it is always "They are the black and we are the white."  And soon after the black and white hats are distributed, the pogroms begin.  This is how the Nazis worked, this is how Stalinism worked, this is how both Mao and Pol Pot worked.  Our Florida editor apparently wants to praise this tradition of clear "black and white" thinking.

    

But also: Have you ever noticed that it's usually stories for children that divide things clearly into black and white?  Like the first Stars Wars movie?  So why is it that people--adults--who see the world mainly in shades of grey are asked to turn to the funny pages?

    

One of the great things about the U.S. and Europe is that our humanism and democracy make it possible for us to have ethnically diverse societies: societies where there may be tensions between different ethnic and religious groups, but where getting along is the norm.  If most people in America had the kind of knee-jerk desire to generalize and label others that this Phil Lucas has, our ethnic diversity wouldn't be possible.  We'd break apart into the kind of feuding, mutually hate-filled ethnic blocks that, say, Iraq is divided into.

 

But also: on black-and-whitists like Lucas, and why such thinking is un-Christian, I invite you to check

 

http://www.necessaryprose.com/blackandwhite.htm

 

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Lucas writes: "We published pictures Thursday of burnt American corpses hanging from an Iraqi bridge behind a mob of grinning Muslims."

 

----Notice how this writer sticks doggedly to the term "Muslims."  He could have called them "grinning Iraqis," as a responsible journalist might, but instead he calls them "grinning Muslims."  Why? 

    

I myself am a Christian, but I can see that this is tendentious rhetoric designed to lead the reader to hate Muslims as such.  If a writer wanted to make Christians look bad, he or she could do this with Western history too.  Consider how easy it is: "In the 18th century, Christians set up a brutal and inhuman system whereby Africans were captured in their homeland, then dragged across the ocean and worked to death.  During World War II the Christians incinerated millions of Jews in the most horrible case of genocide the world has known.  It was only in a Christian country that such an atrocity could happen, as is proven by the fact that the only other time something similar happened it was also in a Christian country (i.e., the Spanish Inquisition).  The Christians developed nuclear weapons, the most destructive weapon on the planet.  In Christian laboratories chemical weapons were first developed.  Christians preach peace and love, but they work overtime on the science of death.  The Christians. . . ."  Etc., etc. 

    

Such blanket identification of historical mayhem with one of the world's major religions is unfair, whether one does it to Christians or Muslims.  The sentences I've just penned above are the kind of thing that might appear in the hate-filled propaganda favored by followers of Osama bin Laden.  There is nothing praiseworthy in an American journalist who resorts to this kind of shoddy rhetoric.----

    

Lucas writes: "We could fill the newspaper every morning with mobs of fanatical Muslims."

 

----This is undoubtedly true.  As it is true that we could fill the newspapers every morning with news about environmental destruction, or with news about people doing good.  It is always, with the news, a matter of what editors consider newsworthy.----

 

Lucas writes: "They can't get along with their neighbors on much of the planet: France, Chechnya, Bosnia, Indonesia, Spain, Morocco, India, Tunisia, Somalia, etc. etc. etc. Can anybody name three ongoing world conflicts in which Muslims are not involved?"

 

----This certainly has some truth to it.  But how is it that France and Spain are listed?  Are there wars going on in France?  And then Chechnya, which the Russians have imperialized--is it really true the Muslims there are in the wrong to fight against the Russians?  And then Morocco--what is the battle now in Morocco?  I didn't know there was one.  And in Bosnia?  Didn't the Christian Serbs begin a campaign of ethnic cleansing which then galvanized the Muslims to fight back?  In short: this list is shoddy.  The writer wants to imply that Muslims everywhere are warlike, that they are always causing wars.  But in many of the "battles" mentioned in this list it is a case of Muslims defending themselves against attackers.  Rhetorical lists like this, long lists that sound impressive, tend to fall apart when you look at them closely.----

 

Lucas writes: "One thing is sure. Muslim killers started the [battle] we are in now when they slaughtered more that 3,000 people, including fellow Muslims, in New York City."

 

----How does the following sentence sound?  "One thing is sure: Christian killers started the battle we are in now when they invaded our country."  This sentence, with its evocation of "Christian killers," sounds quite repulsive, doesn't it?  And yet it is a sentence that could be used by a Muslim explaining how Christians invaded then occupied his country as part of an imperialist program.  Muslims in most countries in the world could use this sentence because most of their countries have been imperialized by one Western power or another.  A fanatical Muslim who would be likely to use this kind of sentence is showing a regrettable inability to separate religion from politics.  A fanatical American editor who writes this kind of sentence is doing the same thing.

     

I don't like the phrase "Muslim killers," just as I don't like the phrase "Christian killers."  It is a phrase intentionally designed to promote hatred of a religious group.  In history there have been murderous Muslims and murderous Christians, but that doesn't mean we should extend the epithet to the whole of Islam or Christendom.  To do so only spreads hatred; it only makes things worse.

    

"This battle was begun by Christian killers who invaded our land and slaughtered thousands of our people."  Such a sentence is a slur on Christianity as such, yet the fact remains that this sentence is ultimately just as logical as the one used by the bigoted editor who wrote the above editorial.

 

To Summarize--

 

Mr. Lucas' rhetorical aims are clear.  But are such things praiseworthy in our journalists?  This editor proves himself willing to distort basic historical truth in service to his goal: making his readers join him in a chorus condemning Muslims as such; making his readers accept his obvious theory that something in Islam makes its followers evil, whereas we Westerners are "a forgiving people," "tolerant," even "too tolerant." 

 

Eric Mader

 

 

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