Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Should Republicans Lose to Win?

Jonah Goldberg had and interesting piece on National Review Online last week, where he toyed with the question of whether it might in some sense be better for the overall conservative goal of winning the War on Terror if a Democrat won in 2008. Now, before anyone goes for Jonah's jugular, let me emphasize "toyed with":
There is an idea out there. Perhaps not a fully formed one. Perhaps more like the whisper of one gusting like a sudden draft through the rafters of the conservative house, causing some to look toward the attic and ask fearfully, "What was that?"

This wisp of a notion is simply this: Maybe a Democrat should win in 2008.

Personally, I don’t believe in this poltergeist, at least not yet. But every now and then, I must confess, I do shiver from its touch.

The idea goes something like this: If you believe that the war on terror is real — really real — then you think it is inevitable that more and bloodier conflicts with radical Islam are on the way, regardless of who is in the White House. If the clash of civilizations is afoot, then the issues separating Democrats and Republicans are as pressing as whether the captain of the Titanic is going to have fish or chicken for dinner. There’s a showdown coming. Period. Full stop. My task isn’t to convince you that this view is correct (though I basically believe it is), but merely that it is honestly and firmly held by many on the right and by a comparative handful on the left.

And that’s the problem: Only a handful of people on the Left — and far too few liberals — see radical Islamists as a bigger threat than George W. Bush. Which is why if you really think that we are in an existential conflict with a deadly enemy, there’s a good case for the Democrats to take the reins. Not because Democrats are better, wiser or more responsible about foreign policy. That’s a case for Democrats to make about themselves and certainly not one many on the right believe. No, the argument, felt in places we don’t talk about at cocktail parties (vide A Few Good Men), is that the Democrats have been such irresponsible backseat drivers that they have to be forced to take the wheel to grasp how treacherous the road ahead is....
A couple things struck me about the strand of thought that Jonah is describing.

First, while I think that the (in-aptly named, I believe) War on Terror is serious business and a serious threat to civilization (the prospect of jihadists ending up armed with poison gas, bio-weapons or nukes is not the least bit funny) there's a certain alarmism that strikes me as stemming from lack of historical perspective.

The tides of Islam were a major military threat to Western Civilization for most of the 800+ years from the time when Charles Martel (or in the vulgar tongue: Charlie the Hammer) stopped the Umayyads from extending their Spanish holdings into France till Don John of Austria defeated the Turkish fleet at Lepanto in 1571, marking the beginning of the Ottoman Empire's gradual decline, which slowly turned the Islamic world's reputation in the West from that of a feared enemy to that of an exotic and charming backwater suitable for the collection of objects d'arte and for colonial administration.

That the West for the last four centuries vastly outpaced Dar al Islam in regards to political and technological development did not, however, de-claw the tiger. If anything, it made it resentful. Nor has the culture of the West become more amenable to the ideals of the Koran. Indeed, the modern West must look rather more an enemy than medieval Christendom did, if that is possible. I doubt that the mullas of the middle ages and renaissance saw and feared signs of creeping Westernism among their faithful. Thus, while the presence of infidel kingdoms was always offensive, the modern West must seem a greater threat.

All of which underlines that I do think that the 'War on Terror' is serious business. But I don't think it's new business. Nor do I see it as likely that it will be "won" in any permanent sense in the foreseeable future, short of actions too terrible to contemplate. The best I can envision is that Dar al Islam will achieve sufficient economic prosperity and theological stability that the forces within it which emphasize the "greater jihad" (the internal struggle for one's own perfection in holiness) over the "lesser jihad" (the spread of the faith by means of war) will be able to suppress the forces which prefer open war.

Which in turn brings me back to the question of whether uniting the country in its prosecution of the "War on Terror" should be such an overwhelming consideration in the coming election cycle that conservatives shouldn't mind seeing Hillary or Obama in the white house, if that means that most of the liberal half of the political spectrum will learn that fighting and winning the war is important.

I don't think this line of thinking works for two reasons:

First, I think that even more important than making sure that the West is not defeated ("winning" in the final sense doesn't look like an option to me in the near term) is making sure that the West is something worth saving. There are some very deep open questions right now in America as to what constitutes life, marriage, education, freedom, responsibility and how our religious and philosophical ideals should relate to our public lives. Certainly, the 'culture war' will not be lost in one fell swoop with the entrance of a liberal presidential administration -- but I don't think that losing a battle becomes a good thing simply because it isn't losing a war.

Secondly, I have serious doubts as to whether a liberal president (whom we shall assume for the sake of argument would soon realize that prosecuting the War on Terror was in fact highly important) would actually prove a focal point for uniting the American people in that fight. Rather, I think that we'd see much more vocal isolationism (both political: "it's a local Middle Eastern issue" and moral: "they only hate those godless liberals, it's not our problem") from the more extreme elements of the right, while the liberal base would remain split between those who don't mind a war so long as it is quick, easy and not led by Bush, and those who are against it no matter what.

The only thing that would bring about an FDR-era-like unity would be an attack so severe that 80% of the country would temporarily unite in seeking redress. (And even during WWII, there was more domestic political wrangling than the popular imagination seems to think.) And that temporary unity (as was seen after 9/11) could be achieved under either party -- a Democrat is not required.

21 comments:

NAT! (AGAIN) said...

Yo D--

The problem is that both parties are morally bankrupt to one degree or another. Elect the Secular Humanists or elect the fellows who still think the USA is the "New Israel" touted by the original British settlers of New England. Both have serious flaws--the one for its atheism, the other for its partially lobotomized understanding of Christianity. Has Bush ever once suggested that we need to stop exporting pornography to the Middle East? No, that would interfere with our first amendment rights, wouldn't it? [Nat's Biting Sarcasm (TM)intended]. Does anyone really think the Roberts court will ever overturn Roe v Wade (despite whatever future appointments are made)?

Granted, for decades now the conservatives have held the higher moral ground, mostly on life issues, thus securing the votes of many of us, but the time is coming, and coming soon, when I think they will stop pretending. To appropriate A-Rod's recent words, the press will stop asking and they'll stop lying.

As Catholics, I think we ought to start focusing on how to convert the Sarazin--begining with how to pray for him--rather than how to "win the war to preserve our way of life." [Surf the rest of the web to find out how little our way of life deserves to be preserved.]

St Francis pray for us.


--NAT!

Literacy-chic said...

My husband is somewhat of a specialist in Medieval Spanish history (as well as International Relations--I'm just borrowing his credentials for a moment!), and while I do not know the correct names of all of the groups involved, I do know that the "second wave" of Islamic occupation in Spain was a "kinder, gentler" brand of Islam--cultured, not as fundamentalist, and marginally less violent. The subsequent waves were more militant and fundamentalist sects. Historical perspective should attempt to account not only for what "brand" of Islam we have at work, but also the relative centralization of Islamic political power. In a world in which none of the states as we know them were fully formed, and "waves" of invaders were just that--"waves"--the situation was indeed one of "holding back" the onslaught or "regaining" lost ground. And that's not even touching military technology which, while on our side, is also on their side. The terrorists we face are covert, ostensibly less organized than a national army, yet countries that have national armies are covertly underwriting them. Perhaps the best analogy would be mercenaries, but there is a centralization here that strikes me as different. While I think the war is old, how we measure the jihadist has changed, I think. I do agree that Western civilization must seem more of a threat--as it does to some Christians of all denominations, even!

Certainly, the 'culture war' will not be lost in one fell swoop with the entrance of a liberal presidential administration -- but I don't think that losing a battle becomes a good thing simply because it isn't losing a war.

This is an interesting question. Personally, I'm trying to figure out why there was such violent cultural backlash--I am especially thinking of popular culture: art music, television--against the Bush administration while there was no such conservative reactionary movement during the Clinton era, and during the previous Republican presidencies there was little of this venom from the artists and musicians, in particular. Perhaps a bit during the Gulf War, but the "lets not be mean to Vets like in Vietnam" sentiment was still strong, as I remember it. I know that this is not quite what you mean by the "culture war," but it is part and parcel of the same thing. Another curious thing is the way we're not exactly seeing the pattern of fin-de-siecle decadence followed by a more socially conservative era, but this threatens to get waaay off topic.

Weighing the culture was against the Mid East situation is a tough issue, but one that many of the bloggers I have read seem to have decided in advance.

What really concerns me the prospect of two equally undesirable candidates. It seems like an ideal year for a third party candidate, if a viable third party existed. How about the Common-sensors?

Sorry if this post rambles a little. It got me thinking! --It also got my husband looking up Medieval Islamic invasions into Spain. :/

Literacy-chic said...

Sorry if my comment rambles a little. Your post got me thinking! (Grammar bad--just taught writing)

Jay Anderson said...

If you ask me, I think what Goldberg is fishing for is this:

"Well, if not a Democrat, maybe the country will unite behind a Republican who acts like a Democrat domestically but governs like a Republican on foreign policy." You see where this is heading.

Hey, Lieberman says he might become a Republican because of the Senate Democrats' actions on the war. Maybe then the neo-cons could get their dream ticket:

Rudy/Holy Joe 2008.

CMinor said...

Literacy, I don't think the initial onslaught into Spain was as kind and gentle as it's been touted. True, the invaders at the time were more interested in land acquisition than evangelization, so once they had acheived that goal and consolidated power they could afford to be generous, if it suited them.

Nat, when Al-Qutb was here in the 40's we weren't exporting porn and he still thought we needed to be taken over--and guys like him are the ideological forerunners of today's Islamist movement. Besides, they don't have to buy anything from us they don't want.

I think the "blame yourselves" mentality is one of our biggest weaknesses--we should realize we're in a battle for our lives and freedoms here, but instead we're wasting time and energy musing over whether there isn't some way we can get them to like us. A lot of the reason they don't like us has as much to do with who the Arabs (in particular) and Muslims are as a people as who we are.

Freedom's a double-edged sword, bub, you can use it well or ill. I'd still rather have that with all the abuses than some megalomanic theocrat controlling my every move. I'm sure everyone is well-behaved in Iran. (stifled snort)

Darwin, it's an interesting idea, but I doubt it's ethically tenable. Reminds me a bit of the old "FDR knew the Japanese were headed for Pearl Harbor, but did nothing because a big attack was his only hope for getting the isolationists on board with entering WWII" conspiracy theory.
Not that we might not stupidly end up doing it to ourselves.

NAT! said...

cminor,

I'm not the slightest bit interested in getting "them" or anyone else to like us. Nor do I say or mean to imply that 9/11 was "our fault." My commentary was onnly very briefly discussing some of the hypocrisy that goes into protecting our virtuous (Natatonic snort) American way of life. My fear is that we have become so enslaved to our vices (which are increasingly called 'human rights') that martrydom will be the only spiritually safe option within a generation or two. In order to care about our future, we need to care about theirs... that's the way this universe is set up.

NAT!

Father Martin Fox said...

The whole political question of "our" "winning" or "losing" begs the question: at what point do we say, neither party, neither candidate, is "my" side--so no matter who wins, it's not a victory for me (i.e., what I believe in)?

The GOP-ers who, every two years like clockwork, go to intense lengths to badger various folks: prolifers, anti-big-government folks, gun rights advocates, Right to Work-ers, etc., into getting on their partisan bandwagon, always make this argument about "our" side "winning." But it begs the question: if I'm a prolifer, your guy isn't my guy.

Sometimes it may be a question of losing slow or losing fast; and losing fast might be preferable, as it's easier to see and more likely to generate reaction.

In any case, it is seldom a question of simply losing or winning. It's literally true you win some, you lose some: during the Clinton years, there was a lot of progress for conservative causes despite the seemingly negative direction; and the opposite is clearly true now.

Finally, at some point, it seems rather presumptuous to turn elections into eschatological events: i.e., "it's all over if ___ loses" or "it all hings on this election." Isn't that really more than we know?

What I know is that Giuliani is pro-abortion, pro-gun control, pro-gay rights and probably anti-Right to Work. Romney is whatever you like, depending on what year it is, and what office he's seeking. McCain's flaws are also substantial, principally that I don't trust him. These are things far closer to knowable reality than the outlying consequences of the next election.

Nat! said...

Father Martin Fox--

I couldn't agree more with your last post.

My opinion is that soon it will be impossible for an alert Catholic to identify with either party--if we aren't there already.

NAT

CMinor said...

Nat, if I were that cynical about this country, I'd have left or slit my wrists years ago. It's too bad no one is worthy to run the government, but that is the nature of humanity (Oh, isn't human nature low!--W. S. Gilbert) and I strongly suspect that the wolf will lie down with the lamb before we achieve a government of anything other than sorry, corrupt, depraved mortals. Christ never promised us peace and justice in this world, except that which comes from Him. We can pray all we want, but that doesn't excuse us from living in the world. So until the pagan hoards arrive to send us to glory or eternal perdition, what would you have us do?

Sure, our society is corrupt (though I'm afraid an awful lot of that Internet vice you mention is produced offshore and not all of it in Western nations or even for a Western audience.) I personally think the volume of depravity is a tad oversold, but I won't argue that some pretty awful things go on with the consent of the government which is to mean here with the consent of the governed. Do you think that's new? Have you forgotten slavery? But you appear to suggest that we should obsess over the 2x4 in our own eye to the point of paralysis without considering that the alternative could be much worse. Unless, of course, you're prepared to argue that irreligiousness, pornography and abortions rank higher on the vice scale than honor killings, suicide bombing, sectarian murder, targeting innocents, brutalizing religious minorities, and executing those suspected of sexual immorality.

At the risk of sounding trite, "our way of life" that you disdain still empowers you to sit there at your keyboard an grouse about it, or get up off your posterior and go out and fight for change. Instead it seems you'd rather quibble, foment division, and watch us sink into what? Do you not expect fascism to happen, or do you just think it will be more acceptable to you because it will replace a few of the current abominations with some others you haven't experienced? I'd just as soon have some modicum of control, thank you, even if only in my own life and over my own person, over the vices I have to deal with every day as opposed to having to submit to others choosing the vices to which they will subject me. Maybe it makes no difference to you, but as a female and mother of daughters who is intensely aware of what her life and theirs could be like under Sharia, let me tell you that it makes one to me.

Nat said...

cminor,

I'm not interested in being the punching bag for what appears to be your formidable pent-up anger. You read far too much into my brief comments, embellishing them with positions I do not hold. I do not intend to develop them here (it would take too much time and space).

I do, however, find it sad that you'd have "slit your wrists" years ago if you were cynical about this nation. No nation is worth slitting one's wrists over. And for what it's worth, I'm not cynical (despite my 'asides' above): instead I am highly critical of certain aspects of our culture, which is necessary if we are to get any better. Indeed, you seem the cycnical one to me, in thinking that such criticism and striving is useless.

Maybe you should consider a different approach with me. Your beligerent attitude isn't winning me as a convert to your bunker mentality and "kill them before they kill you" philosophy.

It might help you to know that I once held views more like yours. But I found living with all of that anger intolerable. And I care more about my daughters and sons (yes I have both) to teach them that way of life.

Maybe we should just agree to pray for each other (I don't consider that a small thing by the way). God bless you and your daughters.


Nat

Darwin said...

Nat,

I think you can hardly plead surprise when someone describes you as cynical when you've just expressed the opinion both that our electoral options are: "Elect the Secular Humanists or elect the fellows who still think the USA is the "New Israel" touted by the original British settlers of New England." and also that "My fear is that we have become so enslaved to our vices (which are increasingly called 'human rights') that martrydom will be the only spiritually safe option within a generation or two."

It is without question true that there are many problems with our country, some of them endemic of persistant problems with humanity (the presence of vice) and others endemic of the spirit of our own paricular times (celebrating those vices as "rights" rather than covering them us through the more tradition hypocrasy).

After all, it's simply not the case that the majority or even many Republicans think that the US is the "new Israel", nor is it the case that the most Democrats are secural humanists. (Indeed, in each case there are members of the opposing party as well who espouse the views with which you typify the other.) Nor does it seem likely to me that the current course of US culture in particular will result in widespread martyrdom of _any_ particular religious group without a massive change in direction.

That said, as we find ourselves in what is (for now at anyrate) an increasingly post-Christian society, I think that we as Catholics will need to do a good deal of collective thinking about what the proper relationship of the Catholic to the state is. The last 1500 years of thought on the topic have been predicated on the assumption of a Christian state, and it is possible that we are headed into something much more like the Roman Empire, a vast polyglot trans-nationalist entity with provinces and client states encompassing members of all known religions, and a ruling philosophy designed to promote state self preservation rather than the adherence to any explicit set of religious principles.

And it's important to recall that despite the fact that Rome was not in any sense a Christian state (indeed, it periodically persecuted Christianity as a threat to the imperial order) many Christians did indeed participate in the empire to one extent or another -- as shown by the various martyrs who were members of the Roman army.

NAT said...

darwin,

Never did I "plead surprise."--I only clarified. At this point I must say that it is difficult to have a discussion with people, such as you and cminor, who persistently insert words and motives into my prose! Please, read without preconceptions: I think both of you would be shocked to know my background and voting record!

I'll own up to hyperbole on my part, especially in the first post, but having said this, my comment re martrydom was not hyperbolic: I stand by it. And I could go through Bush's speeches to prove my point about the "new Israel". It's worth mentioning that it was him we voted for, not the millions of Republicans that might not share his theology of the American state (which he inherited, somewhat literarly, from Reagan's speeches, and which runs like a lietmotif through American history).

Your comment about the Roman Empire is appropriate, and not at all antithetical to my own thinking on the subject.



NAT

CMinor said...

Nat,
Perhaps you should turn that harsh lens on your own assumptions about me and what I have said. Enough is enough; I'm not gonna waste time prolonging this argument.

My apologies, Darwin; I didn't realize when I posted that first comment that I was feeding a troll.
I'm outta this combox; read you later.

Nat said...

To me, this combox demonstrates that anger and self-righteousness only beget more anger and self-righteousness.

I tend to think St Francis's approach to the Muslim/Christian conflict has been tragically understudied and underutilized, for the simple reason that we just don't really believe we'll be protected through that fire. We have faith until it impinges upon our materialist understanding of the world--then we forget about it and speak of "practical" solutions and defending ourselves.

Folks, I think we need to take prayer a whole lot more seriously.

Peace be with you all and God Bless you.


NAT

Darwin said...

Self defense and prayer for conversion need not necessarily be mutually exclusive. One may venerate the example of St. Francis (and also Saladin's sense of humor, natural or divinely inspired, that allowed him to pull off his stunt unscathed) while at the same time also venerating the example of St. Bernard of Clairvuax

NAT said...

Big D---

Do you doubt that St Francis would have remained unscathed even without Saladin's 'sense of humor'? This is what I mean by having faith until it interferes with our materialist beliefs. It seems to me that St Francis was no more foolish for his offer than St Bernadette was to hold her hand over the candle. Also, note that it was more than "prayer for conversion" as you reduced it to, but active involvement on St Francis's part.

I would not be caught devaluing the example of St Bernard, but I would point out that George Bush is hardly St Bernard (unless he's hiding some profound commentaries on the Song of Songs somewhere in the Lincoln bedroom [HUMOR ALERT * HUMOR ALERT*]). [resuming normal prose] Also, for his time, St Bernard's message might have been exactly what was needed. The parallels are simply not strong enough to draw a direct comparison, nor are they likley to be: the world is vastly different in this particular sense, while St Francis's ideas remain appropriate.

Just out of curiosity, have any of you ever discussed these things with real Arab Muslims? [Please answer this one guys..I can definitely see this question ignored]. My friends from Jordan and Egypt offer very interesting perpectives. Turkish friends too, have their own opinions on the matter. I think it is way off base to suggest that the US is under the same threat that medieval Europe was. Both Islam and Christianity have developed greatly since then.

Interestingly enough, abortion was considered an abomination in Medieval Europe, whereas now it is a 'human right'....my criticisms above still don't strike me as cynical, but as quite serious: if we don't do something about it, America will rot from the inside (it has been in the process of doing so for some time).


NAT

Darwin said...

I'd told myself I was done in this thread, but I guess I'll give in...

Do you doubt that St Francis would have remained unscathed even without Saladin's 'sense of humor'?

First, an admission: I went and checked and realized that I'd made a factual error, it was not Saladin that St. Francis visitted, but his brother Al Kamil.

In response to your question: While I don't doubt that God had the power to prevent St. Francis from being martyred by the Sultan, I also don't see how it's impossible that he should have been martyred. After all, many other very holy people were martyred. Nor may one assume that St. Francis was unwilling to be martyred on his mission to Egypt. So I'm not clear why I shouldn't think it possible that, should the Sultan have chosen to exercise his free will thus, St. Francis could have been martyred.

Clearly the idea of Bush being on an intellectual or spiritual par with St. Bernard is ludicrous. I wouldn't suggest it was otherwise.

Skipping to the end, your reference to the abortion issue strikes me as a bit of a non-sequitor since my point in the post that started the thread off was that I did not in any way thing it acceptible to support a pro-abortion candidate in order to achieve theoretical unification in support for the "War on Terror". I believe the West has been rotting inside for quite some time. (Though arguably, the West has always been rotten, it's just the type of rot that changes over time -- St. Francis certainly thought that Europe and the Church had a serious case of rot going on in 1200.) And I consider doing something about that rot to be our highest cultural priority.

Just out of curiosity, have any of you ever discussed these things with real Arab Muslims?

First, let me say that the people I know of Arab and Persian extraction are all Jewish (Persian Jews), Christian or agnostic (ex-Muslim).

That said, I'm not sure what you're thinking "these things" are on my part. That we were right to overthrow the Taliban and that we were ten years late in getting rid of Hussein (and shouldn't have used him as a tool to attack Iran ten years before that)? Yes.

Beyond that, it's not as if I advocate some sort of wild adventuring in the region. The two things I think we as a national should take a strong (forceful if necessary) interest in are: a) Not allowing Iran to attain nuclear weapons and b) Putting as much pressure as possible on regimes in the region (starting with Saudi Arabia as exibit A) to cease persecuting Christians and cease handing out punishments such as stoning and beheading for non-violent crimes.

Perhaps I'm culturally callous, but I don't think I'd have a problem discussing those goals with anyone, regardless of race or religion.

Nat said...

Fascinating response Darwin. I learn the most about the bonderies of your beliefs not by what you write, but what you leave out. I'll say no more than that, except that your treatment of my points re St Francis was rather deft and agile. It is, of course, pointless for me to press the point: we both know what you didn't answer.

As for some of the other issues---non-sequitors, etc, you will perhaps be charitable and realize that I was responding to multiple things at once: both your original post and the devloping discussion between both you and cminor. It is therefore to be expected that some of my points would bear strange resemblance to your original comments.

I wouldn't say you are necessarily "culturally callous", more like culturally ignorant, as you really have no background or connections that would give you a real Muslim perspective. As such, your solutions are rather derivative, and taken from mainstream political punditry. I would encourage you to dig deeper.

As far as nuclear proliferation is concerned, I think we are all wise to realize that this will eventually happen--technology can only be withheld for so long. To blow our political and cultural capital on prevention is to alienate the very people we will need to reach out to later. And we are not helping ourselves with the sane people over there, largely because our leaders haven't the slightest idea what Arab culture is or how to communicate with it. Quoting De Toqueville and floating ridiculous politico-religious phrases (a la Bush) doesn't work...

Finally, I think it was smart of you to continue responding to this discussion! The other threads aren't generating the same interest! Isn't it a bloggers dream to have lively discussion? Others may take their ball and go home, but the court is yours, after all!



NAT

Darwin said...

I'll say no more than that, except that your treatment of my points re St Francis was rather deft and agile. It is, of course, pointless for me to press the point: we both know what you didn't answer.

If you're referring to St. Francis' apparent challenge to a bunch of Islamic clerics to test their respective faiths via fire (which I assume means casting themselves into fire and seeing who God chose to preserve) I mainly didn't respond to that because I didn't know about it at the time I made my original comment about St. Francis and Saladin.

Having noticed it at the same time I saw it was Al Kamil rather than Saladin who was involved, I didn't bring it up because I have rater ambivalent feelings towards that approach to thing. (As I do towards Franciscan spirituality in general.) St. Francis being a saint, I suppose we may assume that he had received a genuine call from God to make such a callenge. However, I don't think it's the sort of challenge one should go about seeking to make short of receiving a pretty clear calling from God to do so. Otherwise, such things smack of presumption.

Either way, we have no way of knowing, since St. Francis wasn't taken up on the offer.

I wouldn't say you are necessarily "culturally callous", more like culturally ignorant, as you really have no background or connections that would give you a real Muslim perspective.

Actually, I've read a fair amount on the topic, though I'm certainly always interested in reading more. (I considered majoring in Islamic Studies, but couldn't find a program that I liked at a college I wanted to go to. Too bad, I would have been stepping into a growth industry.) But while we're in the business of providing warnings and encouragements: Keep in mind that while getting a perspective from friends from a given culture is always a plus, there's also the danger of falling into the assumption that everyone is, at root, as reasonable as one's friends.

The fact that there are many reasonable people in the Arab world doesn't change the fact that even the "good" governments over there are incredibly repressive by our standards and prone to extreme racial and religious hatreds which have led to wars in the past, and will lead to more to come.

NAT said...

I guess it is not exactly surprising that a conservative American would have a level of ambivalence toward Fransiscan spirituality in general. I wouldn't call my own position ambivalent, nor particularly engaged, but curious as to its implications--a curiosity you seem to lack. Your point about a call from God is well taken, but what if we collectively refuse to even consider the call as possible? The quick arguments to embracing a crusade mentality seem to preclude the approach of St Francis, or at least leave it to an undefined group of others. I find it fascinating that we comfortable western Christians opt for self-sacrifice or even suffering as a last resort, and only when thoroughly imposed upon us--and we'll jump through innumberable rational hoops to maintain our position. And this makes me suspicious: I don't thinks it speaks well of us.

Of course, your points about taking friends as representative is well made. But I also can't help smiling to myself here, because you seem so quick to assume that I have not thought of this, or that I lack something beyond it. Why do I get the sense that you're just looking to one-up me in the argument at every turn? A quick jump to checkmate and the discussion is over....Am I like that too? Perhaps. But I know it shouldn't be that way, and maybe you do too.

Glad you hear that you have read a lot, and that you might even have become an Islamic studies major. But you weren't, were yot? Credentials only considered are not actual credentials (they are irrelevant, as are credentials of family members). Otherwise, I'd have a glowing C.V. and could claim something bordering on expertise in theology, political science, foreign affairs, literature, scripture studies, chemistry, history and music. In the end, though, it is only about what I know: not what I might have known or the knowledge I was related to: the same is true for you. Discussing what might have been only clutters the conversation, don't you agree?

The question for me becomes why I am even posting this, and writing such statements? I'm not sure. It's not exactly like me, really: usually I just go about my research and writing (I won't mention what subject: it's terribly off topic), struggling with the intense difficulty of really knowing a thing well enough to truly explain any aspect of it to others....anyhow, I lectored this morning at Mass, and you and cminor rather suddenly and without reflection became my Mass intention today...so you have certainly been on my mind, if subconsciously. In the end my opinions on these subjects matter very little, if at all. But perhaps there is some reason I am writing this to you. And perhaps you will know why and I won't.

Anyhow, it's been good for me. I like to test out opinions, see if they hold water--My own usually, which I am particularly eager to poke holes in; sometimes other peoples'. It's not of the greatest importance to me whether any of us are particularly correct. The great potential of blogs like this is that knowledge and debate can be relatively anonymous, and as such peoples' real natures tend to bubble to the surface. When confronted by a different opinion, how does one react: Bombast? Anger? Condescention? Silence? Smugness? Irrationality? Bragging? Guilt trips? Pouting? Joking? Patience? Relish? The options and gradations are endless.

So you see, Monsieur le Nat has become reflective...from bombastic and hyperbolic to analytical, to peering, to reflective. Interesting. I guess the question is... how about you (whoever you might be)?

God Bless.


NAT

GLOBAL CLASH OF RELIGIONS said...
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