The Narrative(s)

Could anyone with a straight face imagine a hypothetical cartoon depicting Jesus molesting a child – as political satire of the recent Church scandals – without controversy and Christians going postal? Well, according to Katherine Parker at the Washington Post, Americans love their freedom of speech – unlike Muslims – and have a tradition of lampooning their own beliefs? Say what? I seem to recall that the U.S. has a long history of religious conservatives trying to block speech, organizing book burnings and bans, and people just generally freaking out.

And on Monday in the New York Times, Ross Douthat went even further saying that Radical Islam enjoys a unique position of privilege in American society – the culprit being political correctness — protecting it from scrutiny in popular culture. All this because South Park isn’t parodying the Muslim prophet Muhammad on television. Glenn Greenwald easily dismantles the ridiculousness of Mr. Douthat’s claims with two recent examples from Texas of Christian groups up in a frenzy over portrayals of Jesus, death threats included.

I suppose Mr. Douthat did not read the memo that in the U.S. any criticism whatsoever, for example, of the Israeli government – mentioning that it has nuclear weapons or that it is not a liberal democracy but an Apartheid statequalifies you as an anti-Semite. Or that – regardless of American taxpayers shelling out billions to finance a foreign state’s military – the U.S. government should nonetheless render itself subservient at all times to that foreign state lest it be accused of anti-Semitism? Or how The Washington Post questions Amanpour’s objectivity as a journalist because she was born in Iran, whereas no one would ever dare to do the same of any Jewish journalist reporting on the Middle East?

In a great case of the media’s total lack of intellectual scrutiny, NPR’s Talk of the Nation interviewed Mr. Douthat about Islam’s special treatment in the U.S. media and followed up the next day with a story about whether there was anti-Semitism behind recent criticisms of Goldman Sachs. Are people on crack?

The President of the United States invades two Muslim countries and proclaims a divine calling. Sarah Palin who believes that the U.S should never “second guess” Israel complains that political correctness protects the wicked and evil Islam. At a televised town hall meeting with the world as its witness, 2008 presidential candidate Bomb-Bomb-Bomb Iran McCain had to field a question about whether Obama was untrustworthy because he was an “Arab”. You can’t read the Koran (which by the way mentions Jesus more than it does Muhammad) or wear a t-shirt with words in Arabic on a U.S. flight. And a popular right wing blogger – who believes Washington should play second fiddle to Israel – suddenly becomes an expert theologian and blames political correctness for hushing the truth:

The majority of Muslims are law-abiding citizens and want to live a peaceful life as you and I do. I know that. That is why I always make a clear distinction between the people, the Muslims, and the ideology, between Islam and Muslims. There are many moderate Muslims, but there is no such thing as a moderate Islam.

But in general, no one ever questions Christianity every time there are threats of attacks or actual attacks by Christian groups. No one ever mentions that the first terrorist attacks against Israel were perpetrated by a secular group led by George Habash, a Palestinian Christian, including the first commercial airline hijackings. No one questions whether carrying guns to anti-government rallies is tantamount to a threat against the government (aka, terrorism). And no one seems to be blaming Christianity for the repression of women in dozens of developing Christian countries.

And when the entire world economy implodes as a result of Wall Street practices, no one questions American capitalism. To the contrary, they tell us to fear socialism — the same fear of socialism that led us to quash democratic movements throughout Africa and the Middle East (in favor of tyrannical dictatorships) and to support anti-democratic guerrilla groups (what today we would call terrorists) in the Americas.

Meanwhile, 60 Minutes reports on the efforts of a reformed Islamic radical who is now trying to teach Muslims in Afghanistan and Pakistan that the popular narrative that Americans are out to kill Muslims is simply false. While I agree that that narrative is false – regardless of the statistics of “collateral damage” — there is something inherently disingenuous and vexing about an exposé produced by a news agency from military occupier’s homeland that ultimately touts pro-occupation propaganda. “Please don’t hate us, our bombs are here to help you.” It’s like a father telling his kid, “I beat you because I love you.” Maybe it would have been more informative to dispel that other narrative, the one that exists in the U.S. and Europe, the one that tells us that Islam is inherently dangerous and violent and is trying to kill us. Remember the “they hate our values”?

Let’s stop being politically correct and put the shoe on the other foot:

The majority of Americans are law-abiding citizens and want to live a peaceful life as you and I do. I know that. That is why I always make a clear distinction between the people, the Americans, and the ideology, between America and Americans. There are many moderate Americans, but there is no such thing as a moderate America.

Just think about it. It is pretty hard to argue that the U.S. is not trying to indoctrinate the world, forcing Democracy down people’s throat, leaving thousands dead in Democracy’s wake. Isn’t that how we justify the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis: they now have democratic elections? (As long as they elect the guy we like). In comparison, Islam is not trying to convert the West (as some would like us to believe). Not a single Islamic country – not even Iran – believes in preemptive war. And furthermore, there is absolutely nothing, nothing comparable in this world to the fleets of Americans missionaries – everywhere from Lima to China — globetrotting with their Bibles trying to convert the pagans and Infidels. There are no Koran carrying Muslim boys strolling down the streets of Guatemala or Nairobi like the Protestants and Mormons? No, there are not. But, according to our political leaders, the messages we inscribe on our bombs, and “political correctness” that we pretend is giving them the benefit of the doubt, their religion is inherently radical and evil.

Personally, I am not advocating for one religion or the other. I pretty much have the same opinion of all of them. Needless to say, the total lack of intellectual rigor in portraying them and us is disturbingly tribalistic, completely misleading, and ultimately destructive to us. We need to spend more time improving ourselves — something we can control — rather than fostering myths about others.

Otherwise, it wouldn’t be hard to see how their narrative becomes their reality.

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1 Comment

Filed under Essays

One response to “The Narrative(s)

  1. anon

    enjoyed reading a balanced view

    Wonder why people invent mythical monsters to be afraid of?

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