Thursday, October 22, 2009

Piloting their way to the promised land, and related themes.

Taking a break from the recently colossal demands of my workload, I decided to do a little light reading. So I picked up the 9/11 Commission Report again.

As that line implies, I've read it before, but it's a ponderous document, so full of footnotes and cross-references and obscure bureaucratic acronyms that the best one can hope for on the first or second read-through i
s to apprehend the broad outlines of what happened in a hazy, general way. But now I'm rereading the section on radical Islam and Bin Laden's rise to power. Understand first that clearly someone with a grasp of diplomacy and "inclusiveness" gave this document a twice-over. There's an obvious effort made to be respectful of Islam, to remind readers that in the overall Muslims are "a peaceful people," and that what took place on 9/11 was, therefore, an aberration. And yet even through all the sanitized verbiage, there is no mistaking the general tenor of true Islamic faith.

Some context. I was raised in the Roman Catholic Church. (It didn't really "take," but it wasn't for my parents' lack of trying.) This was the fire-and-brimstone, pre-ecumenical Catholicism of the 1950s, where if you weren't a Catholic (or even if you were a Catholic but had chosen to apply its idiosyncratic dictates to your life more selectively), you were going straight to Hell. Period. No negotiation, no exceptions. This was also the Catholic faith of martyrdom, the "church of our lady of pain and suffering," as the brilliant George Carlin would joke of his own indoctrination in Catholicism. It was a melancholic lens on life that did not allow for very much earthly pleasure and clearly celebrated the idea of sacrifice and deprivation now so that you could claim your heavenly reward later. Point being, this was a pretty intense experience, especially imparted by old-line Catholic priests who, when they had time left over after molesting choirboys, ran their parishes with an iron fist, raining their contempt down on you in their Irish brogues Sunday after Sunday, telling you again and again why you had almost no hope of being deemed worthy at the end, you miserable, worthless piece of secular detritus, you... ("Amen. And now Johnny, if you'd come visit with me in the rectory for a moment...?")

Yet this was all between us and God. Sure, in the Church's eyes,
we were the chosen ones, the only ones who had any shot at returning one day to the full warmth of God's lovebut we didn't have to prove this by going out and either (a) converting everyone else or, if we failed at that, (b) killing them. Islam, on the other hand, even when "delicately" described as in the 9/11 report, is scary stuff. The Qur'an itself is scary even when summarized, and when read literally it is downright chilling, given its pointed descriptions of what true believers are supposed to do to infidels. This is equally true of Sharia justice, the austere recitation of crime and punishment that, for example, has parents committing honor killings or trying tolike, most recently, that dad who ran down his "Westernized" daughter (and her friend) with his truck.

The Catholic Church, of course, was more actively intolerant at one point in its history
back in the 11th or 12th century, which is where the Islamists seem to want us to live now. (Although, take a look at the official explanation of the Crusades from the Catholic Encyclopedia. Funny how our loyalties color things, eh?) And Catholicism matured to the more passively intolerant religion of my Brooklyn boyhood. So maybe Islam will do the same.

I just ask myself: Is there still time?


David Brennan said...

You read the 9/11 Commission Report? What'd it say about Building 7?

Nothing? Seriously? That's weird. I wonder why they did that.

It's funny that you say that you had a hard time understanding that book, as if it were 'Finnegan's Wake' or something. Dude, it was seriously written with all the complexity of a Fabio novel and all the technical aptitude of a....well, a SHAMBlog post.

What I'm sayin' is that it makes for primitive reading and, like, you shouldn't admit that you had a hard time with it out loud.

Catholic-bashing. How original, chief! Maybe next you can work up the courage to take on Britney Spears and Tom Cruise. Ya know, more original material!

I'm sorry if you were molested by a priest as a child. But, in defense of the millions you're slandering, I have to say that myself and all four of my brothers were altar boys molestation. Ever. No evidence of it. Ever.

But it's good to know that you're frothing hatred isn't limited to Catholics, now you're out to take on Arabs ('cause, ya know....nobody else does.)

Dude, you worship the military. Good. You hate Arabs. Good.

But know this: they're building and creating. All this computer software you use, who do you think creates that? Easterners. Arabs. Muslims.

So think twice before you lie for the government, slander Catholics, and promote (yet again) murder of Arabs.

Seriously....aren't you tired of your effeminate idolatry of the military? Don't you get bored of your own hatred of Muslims?

It's alright: while all the impotent neo-cons are out telling lies about 9/11, their wives are at home getting banged by virile young Mexicans and Arabs. Makes sense: all their words are lies, so their sex is too.

Murderous animals.

RevRon's Rants said...

Steve, I'd have thought you would have tired of trolls by now.

As to your final question: Perhaps a good starting point to make sure we don't all get killed in the name of Allah would be for the US to quit exporting "infidels" for the radical Muslims to shoot at. \if all they had to shoot at & blow up was their own people, I suspect that the Arab world would tire of their shit in no time.

Steve Salerno said...

Rather than react to your (characteristically abrasive) tone, let me address the errors of fact that--here as always--fill your comment. Maybe in time such corrections will have a calming effect on your tone.

1. The 9/11 Commission Report was one of five finalists for the 2004 "National Book Awards," which are considered the most prestigious awards in contemporary American letters. So, DB, while you are entitled to your scorn, there are many highly literate professional critics who do not share it. The book is, for the most part, beautifully written. At the same time it is chock full of facts, technical attributions, etc. Let me tell you, it is not easy to combine lyricism with technical writing, and the Book Award nomination was a tribute to the skill with which its authors pulled it off.

2. I was not molested as a child or at any other time. I do know people who were, or claim to have been. But at this juncture in American history, given what has been revealed about the Catholic Church in recent years, for anyone to claim that such remarks on my part are "slander"...I just don't know what to say. Maybe it's you who need to take your head out of the sand. Or perhaps somewhere else?

3. Those last few graphs of's hard even to know where to begin. I do not "hate Arabs" and I do not worship the military. OTOH, I do recognize that--as Bill Maher puts it--we were not attacked by 19 Scandinavians, and the military, like it or not, is the one thing standing between us and possible extinction, worst-case. If it comes down to me vs. them, I vote for me. Sorry if that offends you. You are perfectly free to volunteer to stand at ground zero of the next attack.

Now, please stop with this "effeminate" nonsense, which I'm beginning to suspect is either (a) a clear sign of latent homosexual paranoia, if you're not gay, or (b) a certain repressed rage at a type of man you wish you could have, but can't, if you are gay. I don't know how else to explain it.

Steve Salerno said...

p.s. Building 7, described as "7WTC," appears in various references throughout the book.

Elizabeth said...

Point being, this was a pretty intense experience, especially imparted by old-line Catholic priests who, when they had time left over after molesting choirboys, ran their parishes with an iron fist, raining their contempt down on you in their Irish brogues Sunday after Sunday, telling you again and again why you had almost no hope of being deemed worthy at the end, you miserable, worthless piece of secular detritus, you... ("Amen. And now Johnny, if you'd come visit with me in the rectory for a moment...?")

LOL, Steve. And to think of it, I, raised half a world away and definitely post-1950's, had the same experiences with the church.

Though the last part ran somewhat different: Mary, dear child, come sit on the Father's lap, like that, good girl...

(Mary is almost certain that Johnny was asked the same, though maybe not by the same Father. But, hey, it doesn't matter, because, at the end, we all go to Hell anyway.)

Steve Salerno said...

To reiterate policy here: I am not going to waste my time (or anyone else's) with comments whose obvious and only raison d'etre is to tell other contributors how stupid and otherwise defective they are. We've had enough of that nonsense. Ideas are always welcome. Trolls aren't. And if you can't figure out how to express the ideas without flaming everyone else who differs, please find an alternate venue for your rants. This ain't the place.

Anonymous said...

Isn't the beast of radical Jihad one of your own making in large part? It was extremely useful against the Russians wasn't it? Thousands of Russian widows and orphans, did you bat an eyelid over that?
Didn't your own president claim divine inspiration for his aggression, and didn't your own fundamentalists support that?
What is motivating you to be such a propagandist, the desire to continue your love of team sports in a different arena, or just racism against arabs?
Maybe as a Darwinian detirminist you think all is fair in war, business is war and you enjoy working for the top companies, and the propaganda game is just that- a game and your livelihood depends on it. It's just your genes being smart right?
Your words may play well to a home crowd but the internet is international and most people don't buy the idea of the innocence and sanity of America, and it seems quite clumsy of you to write like this. Maybe I should stop reading tabloid blogs whose only purpos is to give me a fix of mild controversy, which is your job- I wouldn't come here for anything serious.

Steve Salerno said...

Anon 4:42: You make many good points. Just please step back from this a moment and realize that I'm not arguing for the "innocence and sanity" of America. Innocence and sanity have very little to do with it. If I were a Jihadist, I'd say "let's destroy America." Since I'm an American, I say "maybe we should destroy the Jihadists." As I've said in previous posts, I don't begrudge the wolf being a wolf. But if it comes near my kids and makes menacing sounds or movements, I'm going to shoot it. And then I will cry for the dead wolf. It's that simple.

Anonymous said...

But Steve, that's not a wolf, that's your hunting dog that belongs to you- or at least belongs to someone higher up the pecking order,
[sick 'em boy!]
and I would wager they thnk it's a pretty useful beast to have around, and not their only hound.
You can't shoot this wolf, so you may as well eat some pizza and relax.

Sarsabu said...

I am a practicing Irish Catholic. I have met many priests with “Irish Brogues” in my 44 years. They represent a cross-section of society as does any other work-group or profession IMHO. I was never asked to sit on anyone’s lap and it is hardly going to happen now!
I cannot defend the indefensible. There is no defense.
To imply that all old-line Catholic priests molested children is wrong. The “Irish brogue” part is racist.
I am amused that there is a pattern now in journalism to rain contempt down on the Catholic Church when another church is the target. Before I criticize your church I will tear strips out the Catholics to soften the fall. It also makes one seem and/or feel moderate and safer I suppose.
On the history bit of the Catholic Church, point absolutely taken. Remember though, both in Iraq and Afghanistan, the attempt to bring democracy is laughable. The world of Islam may be 100’s of years from passive intolerance. I would argue that those two countries are also 100’s of years from any true form of democracy.

RevRon's Rants said...

It should be obvious to any student of history that the current commitment of some Muslims to jihad is founded in a long history of imperialist intervention in the Arab culture, from British, Spanish, and Belgian colonization and control to the US-orchestrated coup d'├ętat which overthrew a democratically-elected regime in Iran and replaced it with the west-friendly Shah. It is equally true that the emergence of syphilis originated in the sexual liaisons between early sailors and the sheep they carried on their long voyages. And just as we cannot un-screw the sheep, neither can we eliminate the historical policy decisions that gave rise to the current attitude of hatred.

What we *can* do is recognize the cause/effect of historical activities and choose to do something different. The protestant church recognized the potential for problems that would likely arise from a rigid adherence to celibacy among its priests, and allowed its own priests to marry. I'd like to think that reversing the efforts to impose western culture and values upon the Muslim world would go a long way toward stemming the hate - and the flow of blood. At this point in time, it's our only viable solution. We certainly cannot kill our way out of hatred.

While it is very possible that many of us have ancestors who participated in the abuses (or engaged in dalliances with sheep), it is hardly useful to confer the sins of the grandfathers upon the current generations. I am fairly certain that Steve had no voice in early 20th century policies in dealing with the Arab world (at least, he has never admitted to such involvement), so I think it ludicrous to blame him for what's going on now.

What we *can* do is modify our own behavior in a way that eliminates the various governments' motivation to abuse. By reducing the demand for Arab resources, we diminish the profit incentive which has long superseded our moral incentive in our dealings with them. At the same time, we would effectively reduce the insanely high profits the Arab nations earn, and which many of them funnel into the extremists' causes. Left with no visible oppressors and less money with which to wage jihad, the radical imams will be effectively marginalized in their own culture, and their power will diminish.

As to the priests... let them get laid. And the ones who still choose to abuse their privileges - and their followers - quit hiding and coddling them. I've a feeling that, faced with the opportunity to spend some quality time with other, more violent abusers (and the likely chance of developing some "pre-existing conditions" that exclude them from getting health insurance), the instances of choirboy dalliances will drop dramatically.

Stepping off soap box & walking away...

Anonymous said...

Many good points Ron, and a fascinating fact about sheep.
I think that the roots of Western involvement in the Middle East go back to when the European navies started to use oil, and the British had a major hand in that, and I don't suppose that is much of Steve's fault really.
I don't agree that current generations bear don't bear responsibility though, partly by sheer beligerence and partly by insane consumption of oil, which has been foisted on us in many ways wether we like it or not.
In this I think the environmentalists have been the most responsible in trying to withdraw support from consumer culture and oil use.
Now they have come from the fringe into the mainstream of politics over the last twenty or so years I wonder if that ultimately will lead to a permanent change in the way the world does it's business regarding resource competition and war, but that won't necessarily mean the end of religious conflict.

I don't even think that Islam is not ultimately a backwards religion with a lot of danger attached (regardless of the truth about the major terrorist attacks) it's just that the West isn't free of it's crusaders either.

Crazy world- at one end of the scale there are humans planning to merge with machines and at the other there are those still living in the jungle, and everything between all fighting for their own way.

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