RE: The terrorism meme

From: Lawrence DeBivort (
Date: Sun 17 Nov 2002 - 04:31:40 GMT

  • Next message: Jeremy Bradley: "RE: The terrorism meme"

    Rest easy, Grant. Muslim fundamentalists generally and bin Laden specifically are not calling upon Americans to convert to Islam, or to accept 'their culture. ' Rather, the issues, for example for bin Laden, are political: they want the US to cease our one-sided support of Israel at the cost of its Arab neighbors and the Palestinians, and want the US cease maintaining in power Arab regimes that are repressive, and to remove US troops in Saudi Arabia. The growth in anger against the US is strongly reflective of our support for Israel. This is a very difficult issue for the US, for many reasons, and patience is running thin with our inability to resolve those aspects of the conflict over which we do have control. The faster we support Israel and the Palestinians in coming to a negotiated solution, the faster we will have this monkey off our backs and will be able to go about rebuilding our relations with much of the world that views our role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with increasing impatience. As I have said before, it is very easy to make enemies, and much harder to build true friendships. There was a time when we did this instinctively, I think, especially between, say 1943 and 1957 (roughly from our massive engagement in WWII through the Hungarian Revolution). Kennedy, despite the Bay of Pigs, seemed able to resume this tradition, and later, Jimmy Carter. I think making friends internationally remains an American preference, but we need leadership that appreciates this AND has the skill needed to do so.

    I mentioned what bin Laden is against; perhaps we should also pay attention to what he seeks.

    People like bin Laden and al-Thawahiri (sometimes written Zawahiri) want principally to create a (Arab) state somewhere along Islamic lines. They tried in Egypt, with little success, and blame the failure in part (and wrongly, I think) on US assistance to the Egyptian government. They point to the US' support for the Shah and Savak as an example of a US policy that worked ferociously against the local (Persian) Muslim population. On this point, I think that the US should remember its commitment to the self-determination of peoples, and should realize that this extends to all peoples, regardless of whether they want to do things out way or not. Of course, many Americans have a hard time understanding this, and so we tend to support those who flatter us and assert they are trying to mimic our ways, and oppose those who look, sound, or think differently.

    So yes, Grant, I agree: I can't see us giving up our culture for 'theirs', either. Fortunately, no one is demanding that we do so.

    Samuel Huntington, who did so much to bring credibility to the Christian versus Muslim paradigm, has backed way off of it in his most recent book. Both his books merit reading, as they show the difficulties Americans in particular are having with understanding what is going on, and the evolution toward more sanity and balance in the thinking of one who is genuinely trying to sort it out.

    You worry that the Muslim world is becoming more religious, every day. I worry that the US is becoming more religious every day. No good can come of either development. Of course, the one feeds the others, and the fanatics on either side are creating a tit-for-tat mentality that threatens the well-being of all of us.

    Again, I recommend Karen Armstrong's BATTLE FOR GOD.

    You are right about worrying about the increased discrimination that people with Muslim names are experiencing, and I think we have yet to hear the worst of the horror stories that will come out on this matter. It is akin to anti-Jewish bigotry, and to anti-Black bigotry. I had feared it would be worse, and think that most of the American people have behaved well in this matter I criticize the people around Bush quite a bit, and want specifically to say that I think that Bush has done a good and courageous job speaking out on this issue: he has been consistent in asking for tolerance for and fairness to America's Muslims. My own view is that Bush has decent humanitarian impulses, but understands little of the world, and so is led by others less well-meaning into unfortunate postures and policies.

    My view: Christians and Muslims and all other faiths (at least, those I know about), can coexist on this planet, alongside the rest of us non-practicing agnostics. I further believe that we all have a lot to learn from each other. The US is preeminent in some domains, but pretty primitive in others. Other cultures have their areas of excellence, and their areas of weakness, or blindness. I would like to see the collective wisdom of people of all areas and beliefs able to interact freely with and learn from each other. I would like our common identity as _humans_ recognized and honored, and our wars seen a civil wars. National boundaries are simply feudal estates writ in modern prose: there is nothing preordained about them.

    There is much we must do to bring about this kind of vision for the future. Memetics may become a tool - maybe -- that will be useful in pursuing this goal, along with other tools and a multiplicity of initiatives to be undertaken by individuals who see this same kind of vision.

    We haggle, here, over this and that. We work ourselves up from fear, and get caught in blame games. But supposing we were instead to look to the future, to explore what great things our species might become, if we give ourselves a chance, and learn what we need to learn, and enjoy the vast variety of people and ideas that we find on this planet. What if we were to treat ourselves, all of us, as potential allies and friends?

    Some will rise in rage against such a possibility. Naive, ignorant! they will shout. And these same ragers will try again to suck us down into the mire of fury and blame, of righteousness and fear, of internecine war and mutually destructive enmities, of false heroes who save us from dangers that they themselves have created, of political leaders who would rather thump their chests and bellow, than get down to the hard and sometimes frustrating work of building friendships and building a desirable future.

    But humankind has been down that road before, more times than we can even count or are even recorded in the history books, in all parts of the globe where humans have settled. There was a day when those who killed and maimed the most were considered the greatest leaders. We now know better. It is time to get about the more serious and more promising aspects of the extraordinary legacy to which all humans are heirs, the building of a world in which all of us and all our children, of all hues and beliefs, can joyfully participate.

    Best regards, Lawry

    -----Original Message----- From: []On Behalf Of Grant Callaghan Sent: Saturday, November 16, 2002 9:42 PM To: Subject: RE: The terrorism meme


    No matter how much it costs us, I just can't see us giving up our culture and accepting theirs instead. That's what they are asking of us, and they're not asking politely. I suspect we will be more likely to wipe them off the face of the earth before we give in to that kind of blackmail. We, as a society, don't accept offers we can't refuse. What they see as superiority based on the fact that they made the Russians back down is an illusion based on the fact that the Soviet Union was in the process of disintigrating at the time they were driven out of Afghanistan. The West in the form of North America, Europe and the Far East are not in that condition. If we get together and take on all of Islam, the Muslims don't stand a chance.

    I hope it doesn't come to that, but it looks more like that is where we're headed every day. The Muslim countries are becoming more religious every day rather than more secular. If that trend continues, Israel may repeat itself on a worldwide basis. All Muslims will suffer for the actions of a few. And many Europeans and Americans will suffer along with them. You can see the governments of Western countries getting antsy already.

    Every Muslim now gets a second look and they have become the focus of all the forces of the government, such as the CIA, FBI, INS, local police forces, etc., etc. People will no longer want to rent or sell to Muslims because they will be afraid of what it will do to property values. All banks accounts with Muslim names will be scrutinized more closely and seized if there is any doubt about where the money came from or where it might be going.

    It's unAmerican, but so is Islam. We can't tell who in that group are our friends and who are our enemies. It will be like WWII when the Japanese who joined the military were sent to war in Europe and had to fight twice as hard as other Americans just to prove their loyalty. Nobody trusted them to fight in the Pacific. Only after the defeat of Japan were they grudgingly accepted back into our society.

    Even that sniper who turned Wash. D.C. on it's head had a Muslim name. I guess he was a convert. But that will now be a danger sign that brings greater scrutiny. Blacks who have adopted Muslim names will be treated with even greater prejudice. Society is reactionary in nature. The headlines tell us what to fear and fear causes us to react irrationally. The more terror we see directed at us the less rational we will react toward people who have Muslim names or a Muslim appearance.

    Anyway, that's the way I see things going. What I don't see us doing is changing our way of life to fit into the way of the Muslims.



    >Grant, I would generally agree with the point you make, with one
    >distinction: 'terror' has a profound psychological effect, whereas 'normal'
    >death tolls on the road (or from smoking, with even bigger numbers that the
    >ones you cite), don't.
    >Israel and Palestine are instructive. Roughly, the Israelis as a percentage
    >of their population are suffering one WTC-sized event per week. They are
    >inflicting a WTC-sized event of the Palestinians at the rate of 3 per week.
    >Neither is giving in to the terror. Have they got used to it? Have their
    >societies, generally, made the psychological adjustments needed so that
    >becomes 'normal.' As long as terror does not seem normal, a society may go
    >to extraordinary lengths to 'protect' itself, such as the US has done, with
    >huge financial outlays, a compromise of civil liberties (being radically
    >compounded by the Homeland Security bill, extraordinary daily disruption
    >(especially for travelers and visitors and employees of federal
    >and the creation of an increasingly Orwellian domestic atmosphere. And
    >was a single event. We could count Oklahoma City as a second, Kasi, and
    >first WTC attack as other events, but the point holds, I think. Our
    >reaction has been huge; in Palestine and Israel the reaction per event may
    >be more modest. Your thoughts?
    >-----Original Message-----
    >From: []On Behalf Of
    >Grant Callaghan
    >Sent: Saturday, November 16, 2002 10:38 AM
    >Subject: Re: The terrorism meme
    > >The fact is that the real blame for the deaths is not the terrorist his
    > >fault, the blame lies by the US government consequently staying
    > >in areas where they don 't belong.
    > >Terrorism is equal placing bombs and setting up psychological
    > >pressure.
    >My philosophy is that people are responsible for their own actions.
    >Therefore, they, themselves, are to blame for the damage they do to others.
    >If I kill someone it's not G. W. Bush's fault unless he sent me out there
    >do it.
    >The Muslim terrorists just don't understand the magnitude of the problem.
    >They don't realize that we're willing to sacrifice over 40,000 Americans a
    >year to keep our cars and the way of life they represent. If you count the
    >injured, it's over 100,000. The losses at the WTC were a drop in the
    >by comparison. If 40 thousand deaths a year won't make us change our ways,
    >the puny efforts of a few bombings aren't going to do it. They are just a
    >small increase in the number of accidents we are willing to put up with.
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