Monday, February 27, 2006


Theology or psychology?

It's far too simplistic to accept that the recent cartoon controversy which resulted in overseas protests is a clash of theologies and politics--there is an important psychological component playing out that remains largely unspoken. It's time to put this matter on the couch and talk it out.

Recall Howard Beale in the 1976 movie "Network," shouting from the window "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!" In other words, the reaction against the cartoon of Muhammad drawn as a terrorist and its derivatives, many of which are also offensive, is more than just a protest against the cartoons. Think of it as a revolt against the entire milieu, against the totality of the environment of which the cartoons are a part. It is a reaction against the entire social setting in which one group finds itself marginalized and persecuted in multiple racially discriminatory ways, relentlessly, and by a power that is stronger but morally bankrupt.

To reframe, the average practitioner of Islam is not a terrorist, but he, and any male with dark skin or a turban or certain forenames or surnames, is subject to be severely punished in undeniably racist ways by the American government--kidnapped and held indefinitely in horrible conditions without basic human rights, without right to council, without charges, even shipped to secret locations where he can be tortured and murdered. No one will be held responsible for these crimes. Short of any of that happening, there is suspicion in the general population of his religion, charities and businesses, and he faces discrimination that makes him less than even a second class citizen.

Politically, the West is not solving the Mid-East peace problem, it is feeding war and supporting the suppression of entire populations. The West Bank is cut up like Swiss cheese. The ancient city of Falluja has been totally destroyed. The occupiers are not benevolent, in fact they murder and torture, and hold family members hostage. Casualties in Iraq are reported to be over 100,000 civilians but if the American press expresses concern at all, it is over the approximately 2300 U.S. service members killed, not over the magnitude larger Iraqi civilian death toll.

We, the American people, know all this, it's no longer a secret, and we do nothing about it. This was the cause of the widespread revolt. Not just a bunch of cartoons.

We may feel comfortable here in our homeland, but we cannot escape responsibility. One day, when today's children grow up, some of them will ask, "Daddy, Mommy, where were you when Falluja was bombed to smithereens?"


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