Saturday, December 5, 2015

Amanda Marcotte does it again

Seriously, Amanda Marcotte is one of the most clear-thinking people on the internet. I don't think there's anything I've read from her that isn't perceptive and intelligent. She's just exceptional, all the time.

Obviously, I'm impressed. And here she goes again with "Liberals are not soft on, sympathetic towards, or defensive about Islamic terrorism."

First, she notes the two most recent mass shootings, at the Planned Parenthood in Colorado and at the office party in San Bernadino, and contrasts the reactions to each. Then:
To wit, conservatives are extremely defensive about the Planned Parenthood shooting, but clearly see it as a political “win” if the San Bernardino shooting was rooted in Islamic terrorism. Even more bizarrely, there’s a sense, particularly in right wing circles, that the opposite is true for liberals: That we somehow have reason to be on the defense if this shooting, as it looks like it will be, is an act of Islamic terrorism. ...

We’ve been down this road before. After the Paris attacks, accusing liberals of somehow being protective of or defensive of the teachings of ISIS became a popular talking point on the right. Republicans harped endlessly on the Democratic candidates for avoiding the inexact and needlessly provocative term “radical Islam.”

It’s part point-scoring, and part projection. After all, conservative Christians continue to blindly endorse radical rhetoric and beliefs that lead to Christian terrorism of the sort that we saw at Planned Parenthood, so they assume that the “other” side has a similar problem, just with Islam instead of Christianity.

Sadly, it’s not just conservatives who make this asinine assumption, either — there’s a certain arrogant, pseudo-liberal type of atheist who also seems to think that liberals are somehow more sympathetic to or protective of Islamic terrorism than Christian terrorism. After the Paris attacks, Bill Maher, while grasping that it’s probably unwise to bomb blindly, still sneered, “It was probably not the Amish,” as if liberals were suggesting otherwise. Sam Harris went even farther, echoing Ted Cruz’s rhetoric about how Christian terrorism isn’t even really a thing, and assuming that the only reason liberals support the Syrian refugees is that we’re blind to the threat of Islamic terrorism.

This has gone on long enough. It’s time to say it straight: Just because conservatives believe there’s some kind of global battle between Christianity and Islam doesn’t mean that liberals have to agree, much less that they take the “Islam” side of that equation. On the contrary, most liberals see fundamentalist Christianity and fundamentalist Islam as categorically the same and categorically illiberal in their shared opposition to feminism and modernity.

This goes double when it comes to the fringe actors in either faith who become radicalized and turn to violence to impose their theocratic views on the unwilling. Liberals understand that there are theological and political differences between the different kinds of radical fundamentalism that lead to terrorism, but we are keenly aware that people who pick up a gun in the name of God have more in common with each other than they do with the rest of us.

What liberals object to is the conservative tendency to erase all distinctions between the relatively few Muslims around the world who have violent views and the majority of Muslims who, whether they are conservative or not, do not agree with ISIS or Al Qaeda’s distortion of Islam. ... Just as it’s important to maintain these distinctions when talking about Christianity, it’s equally important to keep these distinctions in mind when talking about Islam.

There’s nothing in that logic that suggests that liberals have some secret googly-eyes for demagoguing radical Muslim fundamentalists, anymore than we love Pat Robertson. On the contrary, we tend to see them as basically the same kind of misogynist, homophobic authoritarians who hide behind God to get their way. To suggest otherwise is not just dishonest, but irresponsible, since it can hinder the very diplomatic efforts we need to keep people alive.

Great, isn't it?  I'll go further. There are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. As an atheist, I don't particularly like that, any more than I like the fact that there are 2.2. billion Christians or 1 billion Hindus.

I don't agree with any of them. But they don't have to be my enemies. We disagree, but so what? With freedom of speech and freedom of religion, you're allowed to disagree. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that disagreement is a good thing. If you never speak with anyone who disagrees with you, how could you ever have confidence in your own beliefs?

It would be stupid - incredibly, astonishingly stupid - to make 1.6 billion people our enemies without having a very, very good reason for it. Why would we be dumb enough to do that?

And who wants it? Well, Islamic terrorists want it, for one. But why would we do what they want? That just makes no sense whatsoever.

Right-wing Christians want it, too. Both groups of fanatics want to see this as a war between Christianity and Islam. But why in the hell would we sane people want to go along with that? I just can't imagine that kind of mindset.

I sure as hell, as an atheist, don't want to make it a war between atheists and believers. We're heavily outnumbered, for one thing. For another, we can do just fine with freedom of speech and freedom of religion. And for a third, we'd destroy everything we want in a civilized society if we tried to outlaw religion - even if we did have that kind of power. The whole idea is just... stupid.

If this is a war, it's a war between civilized people who accept - even treasure - freedom of speech and freedom of religion and those people who want to force their own beliefs on everyone else. There are Muslims on both sides of that war, just as there are Christians and Hindus and, yes, even atheists.

Furthermore, as a practical matter, it's a very good thing for American politicians - especially at the highest levels - to bend over backward making it clear that this isn't a war with Islam. Thus, there's a very, very, very good reason why Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, among others, try to avoid terms like "radical Islam," even though the terrorists themselves push the idea that they're fighting for their religion.

After all, why in the hell would we be stupid enough to do exactly what our enemies want?  ISIS and Al-Qaeda alike want to convince the world - and especially the 1.6 Muslims in the world - that their terrorism is a matter of defending Islam from the Christian West. I can't even imagine why we'd be dumb enough to help them.

Except that right-wing Christian fanatics also want to push that idea. And right-wing politicians see a political advantage in pushing it. (Note that these are the same people who used racism for political advantage, too. Nothing is too low for them, apparently. Their political ambition trumps everything else (pun intended).)

Of course, that's the other thing. Republican politicians and propaganda mills like Fox 'News' also see a political advantage in claiming that liberals are soft on Islam. Face it, Republican politicians do everything for political advantage. Well, all politicians do that to some extent. But for the Democrats, there tend to be limits. Democrats at least put America above their own political advantage.

I don't know what's wrong with Bill Maher and Sam Harris. But they're not politicians, and they only speak for themselves. And just because you're smart about some things, that doesn't mean you're smart about everything - and certainly not that you're right about everything.

Heck, even I've been known to be wrong occasionally. Well, once or twice, at least. Not recently. :)

Anyway, I'm not wrong about Amanda Marcotte, am I?


Chimeradave said...

Yep, there is a feeling that Islam is a more violent and war like religion. I've heard my father say such things and he has made an effort to learn about Islam. Of course he studied it through a Christian church, so that was his first mistake.

WCG said...

Well, John, as they are today, I think that Islam is more violent.

Not that all Muslims are violent, or even most (or that all Christians aren't), but ISIS and Al-Qaeda, among other terrorist groups, are specifically Muslim and justify their actions with the Koran.

Of course, Christianity itself has a bloody history. There's nothing Muslim terrorists are doing today that wasn't widespread in Christianity at one time. But that time isn't this one.

There are many reasons for that. I don't think it's anything innate to either religion. Certainly, there's no reason Muslims can't be accepting of diversity, of freedom of speech, of freedom of religion, of minority rights, and of the separation of church and state - and many are.

Christians, too, have to ignore or rationalize away the worst parts of their holy book. For the most part, they find it easy to do so. They are faith-based, after all.

So are Muslims. Just like Christians, they can pick and choose different passages of their holy book - as most already do. There's nothing inherently more violent about Islam.

But the way it's practiced today - for a variety of reasons - it often is. I wouldn't deny that.