Perpetual 9/12

** I generally hate to preface anything I write with a warning about being offended, but with as sensitive as this subject is, I assume there are some people who invariably will be offended (which I generally don’t care about, and also don’t now) but I hope that if they are offended it’s actually from something offensive I wrote (which I doubt I will) and not from the snap judgment to stop reading early.**

The theme of the ten-year anniversary commemoration of 9/11 was, in almost every circumstance, some version of “never forget”, which is unquestionably one of the most vacuous and empty thoughts to have about the whole thing, and it’s important from a lot of perspectives to understand why.

Now, I want to mention right up front that 9/11 is undoubtedly a horrific human tragedy. The loss of life that day should in no way be demeaned. The sacrifice of the first responders is truly noble. The courage and motivation of many young men and women to enlist in the military and volunteer for service is admirable.

The effect that the event has had on the American psyche is profound…but is that a good thing?

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Welcome, Republicans

"Strategery."

Common knowledge these days is that the Republicans are poised to make significant gains in the House and Senate next Tuesday in the midterm elections, largely due to a sweeping feeling of unrest and dissatisfaction with the entire political landscape – financial uncertainty, unemployment, and the media meme that the current administration and the Democratic led Congress are ineffectual, despite the fact that they have accomplished quite a bit in the past two years.

Assuming that it’s true that the Republicans win big next week, the next step (one would think) is for them to take on the job of governing the country, which Constitutionally, would require them working with President Obama.

Just one problem – the word  “bipartisan” only matters to them when the only power that the voters allowed them to cling to after the 2008 elections was the filibuster, which they used a record number of times in the past few years to shut down anything that signified real progress or reform.  When the Obama administration or the Democratic Congress are about to make any serious headway in achieving pieces of the agenda that won them so many elections in ’08, the Republicans use filibuster threats to dilute any legislation to the point where even passing an historic health care bill looks like defeat for the President.

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Hellfire

I'm fucking crazy.

This mustachioed mental midget is Terry Jones.

He is the pastor of a Pentecostal church with a congregation of about fifty people where they speak in tongues and the pastors carry sidearms, you know, just in case.

The only reason we all know about this guy is because he’s scheduled an “International Koran Burning Day” on September 11th, where his congregation will burn copies of Islam’s Holy Book, and others around the country and the world are encouraged to do the same.

This is undoubtedly an unfortunate turn of events, as there’s literally nothing good that can come of this stupid display, but this sort of thing is the price of enjoying the freedoms of expression we enjoy.

There are a bunch of issues surrounding this…

1.  I don’t believe there’s anything “holy” about any book, but devoutly religious people do, and there’s no doubt that the Islamic world, particularly the extreme elements of it, are going to react in strongly negative ways.  This shouldn’t be any different than burning a copy of a Scientology book.  In fact, it shouldn’t be any different than burning any work of fiction, as all religious books naturally are.

How insecure in your beliefs must you be to become enraged when someone else challenges them or defiles them?  “Oh, you don’t like my story about a guy who flies around in the clouds telling us how to act, huh?  Well, fuck you.  I’m going to kill some people.”  That is fucking insane, but then again, that’s religion for you.

2.  Most people who want to disavow the burning of the Koran by Pastor Jones and his church of right wing lunatics attempt to o so by preaching tolerance and saying that Jones’ actions are rooted in a misunderstanding of his own faith, as if their reading of a 2,000 year old book of impossible and contradictory stories somehow provides proof that his action shouldn’t be taken.  The problem of course, is that it’s the very same book that provides Jones with the justification for burning the Koran in the first place.

What is the argument then?  That Pastor Jones is crazy and you’re not?  You believe in a boat that held two of each species and that a man rose from the dead and erased all our “sins”.  You believe in a talking snake and that someone stayed alive in a fish’s belly!

Oh, what’s that?  I’m taking it too literally?  Sure…that’s probably true.  Those people who thought the world was flat were probably just writing really cool metaphors to explain things.  People around that time weren’t known to believe those sorts of things.  Yes, I’m being sarcastic.  If I carried a television into town, those people would think that I was god.

Yep. Still crazy!

Is it really hard to believe then that a man like Pastor Jones would see no problem burning a book that his own book says is an account of a false prophet and against his own god?  “You shall have no other gods before me”, right?  And what respect should be paid to those who do pray to another god?  Well, considering it was the proper recourse for misbehaving children, I’m guessing they should be stoned. Deuteronomy 21:18-21 “If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them: Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city…And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die.”

The very book that says, “Judge not lest ye be judged” provides a detailed account of everything that people should be judged and persecuted for.  It’s ridiculous to pretend that Pastor Jones is “incorrect” in his interpretation of scripture, just as it’s ridiculous to believe that the Earth is 6,000 years old.

His church preaches against abortion and homosexuality, too.  The point is that it’s hard, from a religious perspective, to claim that you are any more right about an interpretation of the Bible than someone else is.

There is no “correct” interpretation.  People use it as they see fit, which brings me to…

3.  Pastor Jones claims that he and his congregation have “prayed on” what to do, and whether to carry out the planned book burning.  Apparently, god has told them that it’s all good, because after all their praying, they’re still doing exactly the same thing they wanted to in the first place.

And of course that’s so surprising.  You’d never expect people to employ their religious beliefs in whatever way they need to to justify their desires, right?

4.  Where is the Republican machine in all of this?  It’s mostly silent.  There is a good argument to be made that the reason this is happening, or at least the reason it is such big news, is the summer-long “debate” about the building of the Islamic community center at Ground Zero.  With respect to the Constitution and to the laws of the land, there’s really no debate.  The private group has a right to build there, and the government is supposed to be indifferent as to how and where people choose to express their religious freedom.  The building has been made an issue to score political points by capitalizing on fear and xenophobia in an election cycle.

Still crazy, but now wearing sunglasses.

I don’t support or oppose the building in and of itself.  I don’t think it’s helpful that any more religious buildings are built anywhere.  It’s not like they’re helping anything.

But apart from that, the controversy has created more unnecessary tension between the Muslim community and the United States.

Now, you’d be hard pressed to find Republicans willing to say that they oppose the burning of the Koran.  It’s hard to take that sort of stand when you’re trying to look passively anti-Islamic for the Tea Party crowd that may be holding your good party standing in the balance.  And man, no one wants to look sympathetic to those people with the beards, right?

5.  Those same people are holier than thou (pun intended?) about the role Christianity plays in American society.

While they cite the spread of Islam as a threat due to the imposition of Sharia Law, they have no qualms about posting the Ten Commandments in courthouses, and believe that their beliefs, no matter how insane/obscure/unrealistic should be imposed on society through the law.  Gay marriage, abortion, stem cell research, etc…  They don’t hesitate to cite their Christian beliefs as a reason that their judgments on how other people should live should become the legal standard for a country in which one of the founding principles was the very idea that government should have no hand in religion and vice versa.

Some people make the argument that Islam is more primitive, more violent, more…whatever than Christianity, but it’s not, inherently.  In practice, it’s certainly true that at this point in time, the two religions aren’t on the same ground in regard to the usage and spread of violence – though let’s not pretend that the slaying of abortion doctors, the cruelty perpetuated against gays, and the denial of possible medical advances aren’t real.

Can it really be argued that a religion responsible for the Crusades, the Inquisition, witch hunts, and extreme prejudices of all varieties is somehow on a higher moral ground, just because we’ve managed to tamp down the extreme segment to people like Terry Jones?  It wasn’t that long ago that Christian beliefs justified all sorts of violence, torture, persecution, and prejudice.  We can’t just pretend none of that ever happened.  We can demand that the Muslim community does the same with its extremists, but we can’t just make believe that our own house is in great order.

6.  And speaking of violence perpetuated in the name of Christianity, what else can we call what Terry Jones’ group of psychopaths is doing?  Regardless of whether the reaction by the Muslim community is warranted or not, extreme or mild (and every indication is that it will be extreme – these people get mad about cartoons) the bottom line is that Jones’ and his people are inflaming a community that really doesn’t need inflaming…for no reason.

Our own generals have warned that images of the Koran being burned by Americans will put our troops in the Middle East in immediate danger.  We’ve seen what Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib have done in this regard.  They’ve been used as recruiting tools for groups looking to harm our country and our soldiers.  Why would we give them more ammo?

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In the end, there’s no way to think that what Terry Jones and his crew are doing is much more than a very stupid, very ignorant, and very pointless attention grab.  They think they’re going to put a stop to the spread of Islam in the United States.  That is a ridiculous thing to think.

Maybe it’s time that we learn the very important lesson that we need to stop taking religion so seriously on all fronts.  If your religion brings your inner peace and a sense of purpose, enjoy that…just don’t make it your life’s goal to force other people to think as you do, when there’s really no basis for those beliefs in the first place.

We should be advanced enough as a society to understand that religious wars are ridiculous and futile, yet that’s exactly the direction we’re heading, and until people on both sides stop feeling the need to impose their beliefs on everyone else – and it’s as true for Christians as Muslims – we’re eventually going to be real screwed.