Saturday, August 25, 2007

Shut Up and Sing

Ted Nugent, the libertarian rocker, debases our politics with vile rants like this one. One of our biggest political problems is that people on opposite sides of the ideological divide don't just disagree, they don't just dislike each other, they don't respect each other either. If we're ever going to solve the problems we face as a nation we have to be able to work with those we don't like, and that means we have to treat each other with some respect.

People like Nugent, with their disgusting name-calling and thinly veiled threats simply inflame hatred and divide us even further. What he says on the video is much worse than what the Dixie Chicks said and that was bad enough. I know he's just a rocker, but Nugent's brand of political discourse has no place in a civil society.


Sojourners on Iran

Jessica Wilbanks of Sojourners offers her thoughts on U.S./Iranian relations. She is, like all of us, eager to avoid war with Iran, but her essay seems to ignore the real problem, which is that Iran is not particularly eager to avoid war with us. In fact, they're already engaged in it. Ms Wilbank's key passage is this:

Last February, 13 representatives of national religious groups and denominations, led by the Mennonite Central Committee and the American Friends Service Committee, journeyed to Iran in an effort to build bridges of understanding between our two nations. Rather than approaching Iran as the "axis of evil," they met with Muslim and Christian leaders, government officials, and Iranians from many walks of life. Through listening and sharing their own stories, they returned from Tehran with new hope for an easing of tensions between Iran and the U.S. Specifically, they call on the two countries to take the following steps:

  • immediately engage in direct, face-to-face talks;
  • cease using language that defines the other using "enemy" images;
  • and
  • promote more people-to-people exchanges, including among religious leaders, members of Parliament/Congress, and civil society.

While in Iran with the ecumenical delegation, Sojourners/Call to Renewal representative Jeff Carr was struck by the dramatically different narratives Iranians and Americans told of the history between the two nations: the CIA's overthrow of Iran's democratically elected leader, the installation of the shah, the 1979 revolution, the ensuing hostage crisis, and the current nuclear standoff....The first step to reconciling the tension between the U.S. and Iran is to learn one another's stories.

Dramatically different stories, indeed, but I'm not sure why Ms Wilbanks leaves so much out of the Iranian "story." Perhaps it's because she suspects that were the American people to "learn the Iranian story" they'd be far less hopeful that anything short of military action will be of any avail. Ms Wilbanks makes no mention, for instance, of Iran's substantial support for and control of Hamas, Hezbollah and other terrorist groups around the world. She makes no mention of Iran's manifest commitment to building nuclear weapons, nor does she mention Iran's repeated threats to use those nukes against Israel. She makes no mention of Iran's hope that they will hasten the coming of the 13th imam by precipitating a military cataclysm in the Mideast, and she makes no mention of Iran's complicity in destabilizing Iraq and in the deaths of American soldiers.

The three recommendations of the ecumenical delegation amount to merely talking our differences to death while Iran continues to prepare for nuclear war or at least nuclear blackmail. If the ecumenical delegation wishes to expunge the language of enemy images from the discourse of international affairs then they should prevail upon Iran to stop training Iraqi insurgents and sending them back to Iraq to kill Americans and Iraqi civilians. They should prevail upon Iran to stop sending deadly IED's and other weapons into Iraq. They should prevail upon Iranian leaders to cease calling for the obliteration of Israel. In short, they should demand that Iran cease acting like an enemy and then maybe we can cease thinking of Iran as an enemy.

I have no problem with talks and cultural exchanges. They have their place, but they are no substitute for clearly and concisely identifying the evils we face in the world, nor are they a substitute for the use of force if force should become necessary.

I have just one question for Ms Wilbanks, and it is absolutely crucial for her credibility that she and others who hold her views answer it forthrightly: If sending religious leaders and scholars to Iran does nothing to dissuade them from their nuclear program, as it almost surely will not, should the world, nevertheless, stand by and allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons, or should they not?

This is really the only question that needs to be answered. Of course we should try diplomacy to resolve our difficulties. Of course we should turn to the U.N. to try in its characteristically feckless way to disarm Iran. To say this is simply to state the obvious, but, if all these fail, then what? What is the last resort? That's the question, Ms Wilbanks.


Simply Sick

If we gave out a "scum of the earth" prize this guy would certainly be eligible. He's an American Muslim who considers the beheadings of the young Korean missionaries by the Afghan Taliban a delightful prospect. They were, in his opinion, instrumental in the conversion of Muslim children to Christianity and thus deserve a grisly death.

Some Muslims have so little confidence in the ability of their religion to compete against Christianity on the field of ideas that their only recourse is to employ violence, threats and intimidation. That's bad enough, but to anticipate with glee the slaughter of these young Koreans, most of whom are young women who came to Afghanistan as angels of mercy to the suffering and deprived Afghan people, is simply sick.

I'm sure we'll soon be hearing loud denunciations of this creature from the moderate Muslim community. Or not.

Parenthetically, it's important, perhaps, to note the difference we see illustrated in this tragic episode between Christian martyrs and Muslim martyrs. Most, if not all, Christian martyrs are people who who did no harm to anyone else and who are killed by others because of their faith in Christ. Muslim martyrs are people who die in the act of savagely murdering others on behalf of Allah. The difference is as the difference between heaven and hell.