Friday, October 15, 2010

Out of Cordoba - and into hypocrisy.

Earlier this week, Monday evening to be exact, my husband and I took two of our sons to the University to see a movie being presented (in part) by the Judaic Studies program, called "Out of Cordoba: Averroes and Maimonides in their time and ours." I didn't know anything about the film, but the subject sounded interesting. One of the producers was going to be there for a Q & A after the screening, and I always enjoy those. So we went.

The film was really, really good - until the last 20 minutes, when it suddenly and inexplicably veered into a pro-Arab Israel bashing frenzy.

Now, Jacob Bender, the guest speaker, did try and justify the film's wild swing - he claimed that the "tolerance" and "golden age" of Maimonides time was such that Maimonides would be opposed to Israel's current quest to reclaim our ancient homeland. And that America should be opposed to it, also. That was his basic purpose, apparently, for making the entire film. The historical part was just window-dressing for his political agenda.

Now, the fact that Jews (and Christians) were Dhimmis lacking in many very basic civil rights and frequently abused and persecuted was glossed over very, very lightly. The "clash of civilizations," he claimed, doesn't really exist, because "real" Islam and "real" Judaism should co-exist just like they did previously with no problems.

I take that to mean he's fine with Dhimmitude. I'm not. Nor are most people I know, Jewish or Christian.

But that's almost beside the point. The "clash of civilizations" is very real - it just has little to do with Judaism and Islam, per se.

What the "clash of civilizations" really represents is a twisted lover's triange - the fundamentalists and the secular humanists 1) hate each other, and 2) both woo the religious centrists, who aren't interested in either one of them.

The people who are truly committed to their religion (as opposed to those who pay lip-service to it but are in fact secular) don't want the fundamentalists in charge of anything. Neither do they want the secularists. The religious-in-name-only prefer the secularists, actually. So maybe it's more of a square instead of a triangle - fundamentalists and secularists in opposite corners, with committed religious moderates in between on one corner and not-really-committed religious liberals in between on the other corner.

The problem with Jacob Bender's "why can't we all just get along" position is that it fails to acknowledge that the fundamentalists and the moderates (of all religions) actually have a GOOD REASON to reject secularism which has little to do with which religion they practice.

Every place that Western Secular Culture has encroached on religious and ethnic cultures of all types, those cultures are severely degraded. It does not seem possible to adopt the supposedly "good" parts of Western Civilization without ending up with porn, promiscuity, disease, drug use, unwed mothers (or, dead pregnant girls, in Muslim countries), abortion, greed, exploitation, disrespect for traditions, and a general disdain for the value of human life whether the subject is children, the elderly, or those who refuse to willingly destroy their culture on the altar of materialism and self-centeredness.

Western Secular Culture refuses to admit it is depraved and selfish - and unsustainable. Nor is this a particularly new development.

As Jacob Bender was talking in the Q & A explaining his viewpoint, I leaned over to my husband and said, "I wonder if he realizes he's saying this while sitting on land that used to belong to the Shawnee - and that it was taken from them at swordpoint and musketpoint and nobody plans on giving it back?" The students sitting in front of me looked shocked. "Is he planning on giving his home in New York back to the Algonquin tribes?" They looked around at me with wide eyes.

And that's part of what's wrong with Western Culture. It's awfully hypocritical for America to try and tell Israel that they don't have a God-given right to their own land when America claimed a God-given "Manifest Destiny" to exterminate every Native American society and steal all their land, when no such text exists anywhere in the Bible. Anybody's Bible.

Ideas and Movements, ca 1840s

Manifest Destiny was a term used in the 1840s to justify the United States' westward expansion into such areas as Texas, Oregon, and California. There was a widely held underlying belief that Americans, the "chosen people," had a divinely inspired mission to spread the fruits of their democracy to the less fortunate (usually meaning Native Americans and other non-Europeans).

The idea of an almost religious Manifest Destiny was a common staple in the speeches and newspaper articles of the time. Most of the exponents of expansion were Democrats, but some Whigs (and later Republicans) were also supporters.

Manifest Destiny was later applied to American interests in the Caribbean and the Pacific, sharing much with the practice of imperialism.

Critics, both at that time and today, saw the Manifest Destiny rationale as a thinly veiled attempt to put an acceptable face on taking lands from other peoples. Motives were often described as well-intentioned efforts to improve the lot of backward masses, but in truth the motivators were greed and control.

So, when exactly is America planning to give back to the Native Americans everything West of the original 13 colonies? - because it's all occupied territory, according to the definition of "occupied territory" that the world applies to Israel.

Until this happens, America is a hypocrite extraordinaire - condemning as supposedly morally wrong the very actions they themselves used to acquire almost ALL their own territory. And America continues to engage in Imperialism to this day - raping smaller nations of their natural resources, exploiting volatile political situations for their own economic benefit, and refusing to bow to any authority at all, for any reason - claiming to have the high moral ground of "democracy." I don't think the Shawnee voted for the University's lands to be stolen from them and their own villages and crops burned to the ground to get them to leave the state. In fact, I'm pretty sure the remnant that remains would love to have their land back. Ditto for the Native Americans to whom Jacob Bender's New York property truly belongs.

So, put your money where your mouth is, Jacob. Give up all your conquered land. Put up or shut up.

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