Monday, November 9, 2009

Why I'm no longer a Republican

This is from the American Family Association (via Steve Benen):

It it [sic] is time, I suggest, to stop the practice of allowing Muslims to serve in the U.S. military. The reason is simple: the more devout a Muslim is, the more of a threat he is to national security. Devout Muslims, who accept the teachings of the Prophet as divinely inspired, believe it is their duty to kill infidels. [...]

Of course, most U.S. Muslims don't shoot up their fellow soldiers. Fine. As soon as Muslims give us a foolproof way to identify their jihadis from their moderates, we'll go back to allowing them to serve. You tell us who the ones are that we have to worry about, prove you're right, and Muslims can once again serve. Until that day comes, we simply cannot afford the risk. You invent a jihadi-detector that works every time it's used, and we'll welcome you back with open arms.

This is not Islamophobia, it is Islamo-realism.

Of course, I registered as a Democrat in 2005, so it wasn't this particular press release that made me switch. But it was due to what I was hearing from the right in 2003 and 2004. Basically, I bolted as soon as I started hearing prominent Republicans talking about how prisoner abuse wasn't a big deal, the Constitution only applies to Americans, etc. As Iraq played out, and the abuses of Abu Gharaib became exposed, I slowly came to realize that there was something rotten deep down in the guts of conservatism, as the response from the right was largely to downplay all this stuff. I tended to dismiss lefties that made a big deal of Bush's gaffe about a "crusade" against terror at the time he said it, but as time has gone on I think that it might well have been the most illuminating thing about the issue that George W. Bush ever said. For a lot of these people--and I personally know a few of them--we are fighting some sort of religious war against Islam. A lot of people think the apocalypse is upon us, and that Islam is purely evil. As a Christian but not a fundie, this presents something of a problem to me as my only interest in fighting terrorism is to keep me safe. Period. I have no particular quarrel with Islam, and I imagine that most Muslims are more interested in the "live and let live" idea than fighting an apocalyptic jihad. Some don't, but these aren't the mainstream of public opinion and shouldn't be taken as such.

It does seem like we're hearing the return of the, "Well, we hear about moderate, peaceful Muslims, but why don't they speak out against the bad ones?" argument, one of my biggest pet peeves. This rhetorical construction exploits the notion that silence implies assent. But it doesn't have to signal assent. It could merely signal indifference. Most Muslims hate al-Qaeda, but they also hate America. They aren't particularly concerned with denouncing their coreligionists for the benefit of making the likes of Michelle Malkin happy. Furthermore, I suspect that few Christians in public life would like to be forced to denounce every single act of Christian intolerance that ever occurs in order to make, say, Michael Moore satisfied. What this rhetorical frame does is to try to insinuate that we shouldn't take moderate Islam at its word. In a world where the Muslim community outnumbers America by 4-to-1, this sort of assumption makes the world a very frightening place indeed. The Right has a clear interest in making the world seem like a scary, dangerous place, so that we just put them in charge and not ask too many questions, for risk of emboldening the enemy. It's what they do. Which is why, barring real evidence that there's something to fear here, that sort of thing can't be inferred, and the burden of proof should, as always, be on the accusers of these sorts of slurs and not on the accused.

It's a lynch mob mentality, basically. I tend to dislike this particular phrase, but considering conservatives' history, it kind of fits: for them, Muslim is the new black. I personally don't know how policymakers should respond to Fort Hood: presumably, enhanced security procedures at military facilities concerning firearms are the best response to this. But that doesn't address the underlying ugliness that is prominently on display here. It's ironic that it was George W. Bush who talked at length about how Islam wasn't our enemy after 9/11--for my money, it is one of the few good parts of Bush's legacy--and it's the one that's been the most rapidly dismantled by the right. I guess he wasn't convincing enough.

The Man, The Myth, The Bio

East Bay, California, United States
Problem: I have lots of opinions on politics and culture that I need to vent. If I do not do this I will wind up muttering to myself, and that's only like one or two steps away from being a hobo. Solution: I write two blogs. A political blog that has some evident sympathies (pro-Obama, mostly liberal though I dissent on some issues, like guns and trade) and a culture blog that does, well, cultural essays in a more long-form manner. My particular thing is taking overrated things (movies, mostly, but other things too) down a peg and putting underrated things up a peg. I'm sort of the court of last resort, and I tend to focus on more obscure cultural phenomena.