We have spoken to your mother. We know everything.
Imagine you were put in a position to exert permanent influence on mankind. What your message be?
What does 'influence' really mean, anyway? Is 'influence' determined by the quality of content, or is 'influence' measured by how many people hear and absorb the message?
Do ideas become great only after they are accepted by masses of people?
Ali Eteraz quotes from Genesis:
Genesis 18:32 "For the sake of those ten," He replied, "I will not destroy it."
The verse is referring to the exchange between Abraham and God, as Abraham pleads with God to spare Sodom and Gomorroh. God agrees to spare those cities if ten good men are found.
Sometimes, masses of people are what it takes to make a difference. Other times, only a handful of decent people can make a difference.
In fact, real influence isn't determined by the numbers. Real influence is determined by the quality of the message. Often, there are deliberate attempts to impose influence and ideas. That is best exemplified by Nazi, socialist, communist and even radical Islamic ideologies. In the end however, great and influential ideas, like great and influential art, survive the test of time. Citizen Kane and Gone with the Wind remain great cinematic art- Terms of Endearment and The Sting, Academy award winners each, will not fare as well.
An influential message may take years, even centuries, to realize full potential. Real influence endures. Shallow influence is fleeting.
Religions endure because the messages and lessons they endorse are meaningful and uplifting. Religions that demean and marginalize people or are predicated on hate, in the end, will lose credibility.
In fact, the most influence any individual can have is the influence he or she exerts on him or herself. Will we challenge ourselves to reach our potential or, will we submit to our baser selves?
We all ask ourselves the same question: Do we matter? Do we really matter? We noted, In A World Without You In It, that
On the face of it, we are part of a dispensable and disposable world. Whole populations are killed and are seemingly forgotten. As events around us fly by at the speed of light, there is no real sense that our lives- or anyone else's for that matter, are of significant or meaningful merit in the great scheme of things.
In fact, we suffer a kind of debilitating malaise- “Nothing I do or say really matters.” There is the belief that whether or not we contribute anything to the the world and those around us, the world would be no different. It is the 'my vote doesn't really count' school of thought. No matter our efforts, nothing will ever really change.
If you truly believe that your efforts and contributions are meaningless, can you really know and have passion? What can you truly look forward to, what will truly excite you? To what can you truly be committed? Will you ever know that 'fire in the belly'?
In fact, we each have the capacity to influence mankind, with our actions, dreams and beliefs. How we behave, the goals we set for ourselves and the nature of our beliefs is ours alone. We are each uniquely qualified to make a difference.
There are those that might argue that they are 'wounded' or carry 'too much baggage.' These people 'depersonalize' their own value or worth. Those individuals question their own worth andindispensability- and then demand attention and sympathy. "Value me because I am worthless," is their plea (They do not see the incongruity of their own self perceptions).
The best therapists reinforce the inherent value of their patients- because it is from within that inherent value that the therapists patients find the strength to overcome the obstacles that weigh them down and preclude them from achieving the greatness- big or small- that they are capable.
Influence is not determined by sheer strength or by Darwinian survival skills. Influence is determined by how well we realize what ourcapabilities and capacities are- and how best to reach those capacities. Recognizing and understanding those capacities is the most personal and intimate expression of self knowledge.
Mass communications, mass production, mass depersonalization and the massive amounts of statistics threaten to become the source of our identities and worth. We are increasingly defined, measured and valued by our banks accounts, credit card limits, looks, clothes, homes, and the like, threaten to turn us into commodities rather than individuals, our worth determined by our association with certain agendas. Clarence Thomas isn't a story of success- depersonalized, he has become an 'Uncle Tom' or a 'House Nigger.' Condi Rice is referred to in even more vile terms. That's what happens when people become commodities- no more than statistical and demographic 'blips.'
Is it any wonder then, that people feel insignificant? Here's something to ponder. Can two people, 'commoditized,' experience real love? Can parents really parent if their own sense of worth is defined by a cold and impersonal materialism? Will relationships become no more than expressions of selfishness? These are real possibilities. Both Dr Sanity (here) and Shrinkwrapped (here) have written extensively on ever growing narcissism and the effects that narcissism has on our culture, society and families.
What can be extrapolated from their discussions is clear. The tsunami of narcissism is an almost reflexive expression of a cleardysfunction. When 'You don’t matter; your feelings don’t matter; your function and purpose here is to serve my needs,' are considered a form of healthy and acceptable 'expression,' is it really a surprise that deep and real interpersonal relationships and happiness, elude so many?
In a world where technology and deliberate depersonalization threatens to tame us, instead of the other way around, the need to recognize our own capacity and potential for good is more important than ever. We must recognize, reflect and react to the deliberate attempt to dehumanize and belittle our significance- the three 'R's' of our own redemption.
Influence, like charity, starts at home.
From Neo-neocon, a look into an escalating crisis.
And now--quelle horreur!--I read that petite clothing sizes may be in jeopardy. Yes, three stores--Neiman-Marcus, Saks, and Bloomingdale's--have suddenly and simultaneously eliminated their petite departments.
That's right- there are changes at the department stores taking place in the dead of night, right under our noses- and Neo is calling for all petite women to stand together, in solidarity (you can take May Day away from the girl but you can't take the girl away from May Day).
In the interests of full disclosure, SC&A must admit that the gravity of the tragedy that has befallen Neo, escapes us. That said, we are sensitive enough to realize her pain is real- notwithstanding our own obtuseness.
So that we may better 'share' with Neo her 'feelings,' we are attempting to equate the crisis she is experiencing with a past crisis of our own.
To that end, we can say we can relate. SC&A have been in mourning Samuel Adams refused to make their White Ale a part of their year round offerings.
Today, we want to discuss one of the more volatile issues facing Arab and Islamic reform- anti semitism, defined as the hatred of Jews and the hatred directed at Israel.
Arab and Muslim anti semitism is not the same as the garden variety racism and bigotry of the west. It is very different because virtually all Arab and Muslim anti semitism is condoned, promoted and endorsed by state funded and controlled media, education systems and religious authorities. As we pointed out yesterday,
Cultures, religions and societies are measured by what they build and what they contribute. They are not measured by what they destroy or by who they threaten or by who they hate. In the comparison of cultures, moral equality is not drawn by measuring the lowest of shared failures or values, but rather, moral equality is drawn by the how much of the highest values are shared.
It is absurd for much of the Arab and Muslim world to say that because America tolerated slavery for a period of time, for example, Americans are in no position to lecture the Arab and Islamic world about anti semitism. America has chosen to wage war on hatred and intolerance and continues to do so. If the Arab and Islamic world wants respect and moral equality from the west, they must exhibit the the highest standards of civilized behavior and not the lowest. State funded and promoted anti semitism is not acceptable civilized behavior.
Many will argue that Israel and not Jews, are the 'problem.' There are those that need to believe that, because that is the 'out,' the excuse and the justification for behavior and arguments that are specious, at best.
Arab and Muslim anti semitism predated the establishment of the State of Israel. What Israel faces today in the continuation of a time honored tradition: excoriate and demonize the Jews. To be clear, this is not unique to the Arab and Islamic world. In fact, the persecution of Jews reached an art form in countries that were 'Christian.' The Arab and Islamic worlds were never as proficient antiSemites as were the Europeans. That said, that only makes current Arab and Islamic world anti semitism worse, because the Arab and the Islamic world have had the benefits of looking back and seeing the evil for themselves. They had the opportunity to point an accusatory finger at Europe and Christendom and say, "This evil and shameful thing was your handiwork, not ours!" Instead, they have chosen to embrace the evil, teach it in schools and preach it from the pulpits. 'We will finish the job Hitler started,' they say in one breath and then deny the Holocaust with another. They do not shout 'Slaughter the Zionists!' from the pulpits and they are careful to refer to Israel as the Jewish state as often as they can. They refer to the Jewish lobby instead of an Israel lobby.
To be fair, there are Arabs and Muslims in this country that rightfully are repulsed by the overt and repugnant displays of anti semitism. Of course, it is easy to distance oneself from overt bigotry. As is often the case, it is the more subtle and less overt prejudices that are hardest to overcome.
Here's a question. Name the only country that fought and won a war (started by others!), that has not been allowed to set the terms of her victory? Feel free to go back a thousand or more years. What is it about Israel and/or her population that is impetus for changing the rules?
Here's a bit of reality. Simply because there are large numbers of people that close their eyes and minds to reality and accept something other than truth, is not an expression of democracy. It is an expression of mass prejudice and stupidity. Just because there are those that claim criticism of Israel does not mean they are antiSemitic expressions, does not make it so. In addition, in a part of the world where Adolph Hitler's Mein Kampf and the notorious forgeries, The Protocols are best sellers, does not give much credence to the argument that politics alone are the problem.
To be clear, Israel and many Israeli policies can be criticized- as long as the same standards of measurement are applied to that state as they are to any other state. Criticism of Israel can be regarded as anti semitic when a different standard of measurement is applied to Israel. The same can be said of those who criticize America. If the standards are different for America than they are for any other country, that critique is suspect.
What does this have to do with Islamic reform? Everything. The object of reform- any reform- is to establish a new and more inclusive baseline of beliefs. Reforms that have been predicated on exclusive beliefs and ideals have failed. Most Muslim reformers understand these truths. It is ironic, however, to note that even as apologists here make absurd demands on behalf of Hamas legitimacy, for example, real reformers in the region are decidedly not as accomodating:
"Isma'il Haniya, the prime minister from the Hamas movement, said in a Friday sermon in response to the cutting of international aid: 'We will eat wild thyme, salt, olive oil, and olives, but we will never bow our heads.' Of course the Islamists and the [pan-Arab] nationalists applaud this sort of statement, despite the fact that they have heard it from every Arab ruler since the advent of independence.
"Haniya and his movement - who were elected not on the basis of their platform, but rather for lack of alternative in the occupied territories - decided to forget his government's basic platform and changed the government's policy in a Friday sermon. Is there any prime minister in the democratic countries who permits himself to be so reckless with his voters' dreams?...
"Governments whose legitimacy is based on stealing the country's future in order to satisfy some imaginary national or religious pride can always base themselves on strangling [the people's] desire for modernization and reform and their hopes for the establishment of a state and the advent of a permanent peace...
"There is one piece of advice that should be addressed to Isma'il Haniya... If you don't know what to do, read a book...
"The thinker Francis Fukuyama wrote in his book that the legitimacy of any government in the international system today rests not only on the ballot box, which is just one of the indicators of legitimacy, but today rests, in large measure, on receiving an international stamp of approval and legitimacy. In other words, you must truly believe in the international system's institutions, respect treaties and charters, and build your internal message so that it is true and transparent, and will match your external message. This is because it is easy for others to belie any contradictions. The Israelis have already done this with Haniya's statements.
"Democracy is a weighty word and a lengthy task for the countries of the region. It is not just triumph at the ballot box - because the Nazi party in Germany and the Fascist party in Italy both triumphed at the ballot box in fair elections.
"Leading a clean government and steering clear of the crises and challenges Fukuyama describes in his book demands many compromises as well as the reconstruction of governmental and judicial institutions. But before all this, it demands the courage to deal with the issue of peace, not to mention not sending adolescents and women to blow up restaurants and buses while the party leaders give exquisite speeches in other capitals."So before the prime minister considers feeding his nation on wild thyme and olives, he should ask himself: Don't the sons of this nation deserve better?"
Even as real reformers living in the Arab world- those that have taken that step into the lonely abyss of real self criticism, we are bombarded everyday by apologists that tell us we ought to demand and accept less from Arabs andMuslims - because change and acceptance of reality is a difficult proposition- and we are told that this is a part of the 'Reform' process. Further we are told, if we are to accept and encourage reform, we must accept these absurdities- as if Islamic reform depended upon our ratification.
We are reminded of a plank in President Bush's campaign platform, that rejected the 'velvet glove of diminished expectations,' and believing instead that the expectation of higher standards would elevate a community.
Israeli Jews are being forced once more, into a ghetto- this time, in their own country.
Israel is as legitimate a nation as any other on the face of this planet (many would argue even more so). Like virtually every other country, the State of Israel had her borders determined as the result of conflict. No matter where you live, no matter what your national origin, nations come about as the result of conflict. Whatever one might feel, believe or have an opinion on, the same truth apply to every country in the Middle East.
Further, the criticism of Israel under the guise of 'outrage' and 'concern' is absurd. The Israeli occupation has been the most benign military occupation in history.
For 30 plus years, Israel had offered back the land won in 1967, in exchange for peace. It was the Palestinians and Arab world that rejected that proposition.
Have America and Israel contributed to the mess in the Middle East? Yup, for sure. That will be addressed in our next post.
Courtesty of Dan, at Riehl World View:
"We want the leedle boys and girls. You can't make this stuff up, it has to come from Europe. Though a majority of the people are actually against the new party - and party seems to be the operative word.
An opinion poll published Tuesday showed that 82 percent wanted the government to do something to stop the new party, while 67 percent said promoting pedophilia should be illegal.
The party said it wanted to cut the legal age for sexual relations to 12 and eventually scrap the limit altogether. "A ban just makes children curious," Ad van den Berg, one of the party's founders, told the Algemeen Dagblad (AD) newspaper.
Toddlers should be given sex education and youths aged 16 and up should be allowed to appear in pornographic films and prostitute themselves. Sex with animals should be allowed although abuse of animals should remain illegal, the NVD said.
Well, I guess PETA's onboard."
What if the animal resists, or has a headache?
Reform, like ice cream, comes in many flavors.
There are those that believe the purpose of reform is to update and modernize a particular ideology, political system or religion. For others, reform means re examining established and long held beliefs and values, so as to furter refine them and make those values meaningful and relevant in today's world.
For better or worse, Islam has entered a free fall. The reformists understand this, and they are aware of the gravity of the situation. They are determined to slow and reverse the descent. They are keenly aware that various tryrannical regimes have made Islam an issue of confrontation- rather than their own murderous regimes. They deliberately placed Islam as buffer between themselves and the west. They allowed- and encouraged their own, state controlled religious genies out of the bottle.
The issue various reformists face is the kind of reform they will embrace. How their faith emerges from that free fall will be determined by the efforts of those who seek to not allow the politically generated Islam or radical Islam, to define their faith.
Reformists living in the west have their work cut out for them, because their frame of reference is very different from most reformists that are found in the Arab or Muslim world.
To begin with, they have to deal with many realities, all at once. They must address not only a radical Islam (that is remarkably well funded and influential), but also, they must address the regimes that that have for decades, proven themselves to be some of the most repressive and duplicitous regimes in the world. Simply stated, reformers have their hands full.
Many reformers face an uphill battle- and in no small measure, hostility, because while they want to reform in how Islam has come to express herself, at the same time they attempt to mitigate, justify and/or defend the actions of corrupt regimes- as if somehow, those regimes were joined at the hip with the religion.
When the smoke clears, one thing is clear: western Muslims cannot speak on behalf of most Arab and many Muslim regimes. In defending and attempting to justify the actions, behaviors and ideologies of these regimes, reformists discredit themselves and their efforts. If Muslim reformists want to have an impact, they cannot demand that American and western democracies lower their standards to deem acceptable the craven and despicable actions of many Arab and Islamic regimes. This is not an indictment of Arabs or Muslims. It is an idictment of many Arab and Muslim regimes.
Cultures, religions and societies are measured by what they build and what they contribute. They are not measured by what they destroy or by who theythreaten or by who they hate. In the comparison of cultures, moral equality is not drawn by measuring the lowest of shared failures or values, but rather, moral equality is drawn by the how much of the highest values are shared.
The Religious Policeman, a Saudi, put it very succinctly:
Imagine that in the West, you had a school system which sat the children down each day and fed them a tumbler of whisky. They might not like it at first, but they would eventually get used to it. Later on, they would start to look forward to it. By the time they left school, a fair proportion of them would be alcoholics. Perhaps not a problem if they kept it to themselves, but the ones who went out and drove over people or otherwise killed them would start to be a concern. So you would have to start a program of drying-out clinics, to cure them. And they might be successful, although there's no such thing as a cured alcoholic, just one who hasn't had a drink for a length of time. And you might just question the wisdom of spending money and effort creating alcoholics, only to have to spend more money and effort to cure them later.
In Saudi Arabia, we don't feed our children alcohol. Instead, we feed them race hate. It's a progressive thing, building up layer by layer, using the material you see above. Thankfully, many forget it, just like we all forget algebra and bits of history. But there is a proportion for whom it sticks. They are our "alcoholics". And their hatred extends not only to Jews worldwide, but also the countries that are seen to support them - North America, Europe, Australasia. And a proportion of these decide to do something about it, and sign up with the terrorist groups. Eventually they might get caught, and repatriated. And we have our own "drying-out clinics". It's a program where we get people to talk them round, to see the error of their ways, to be rehabilitated. And unlike a drying-out clinic, we keep them in prison in between times, so you can imagine that the "success rate" is a lot higher.
These truths do not escape western analysts and policy makers. We may not talk about it or deliberately point it out, because western culture does not demand confrontation, assume an adversarial posture or give much credence to that kind of bluster that emanates from much of the Arab and Islamic world.
Defending corrupt and cruel regimes is like defending the KKK, because they are in another country. In fact, distance does not absolve western Arabs and Muslims from condemning hate. In the same way that anti Islamic hate must be confronted and denounced, so to too must any hate that emanates from the Arab and Islamic world be confronted and denounced.
The reformers have a difficult job. In addition to building a future for Islam, they must come to terms with a part of their recent past. They must not only abandon, but exorcise much of the culture from which they emerged. That is no easy task. They need to refocus how Muslim values are expressed.
We noted that earlier immigrants came here understanding that they were to be included in the melting pot we know as America. They understood they were free to practice their religion, maintain their customs and keep their traditions. They wanted to be a part of that melting pot and contribute to it. It was understood that the fruits of their labor and their standing in the community would determine their credibility in the community at large. In other words, they understood that they had to contribute to the well being and ethos of America. How did they do it? Well, there are community hospitals built by Catholic and Lutheran charities. There are hospitals built by Presbyterian and Jewish charities. There are community food kitchens sponsored by virtually every ethnic group in this country, from Croats and Bulgarians to Swedes and the Hare Krishna. These groups contribute. It didn't take long for these groups and others to get involved.
In fact, the road to reform for most societies and cultures came about with the recognition that we needed to contribute to better our common society and culture. It was working in unison for a common good, that was to be the fertile soil of freedom.
Muslims in America need to participate- not just in front of the camera, but every single day in as many ways as possible. America wants and needs Muslim unsung heroes in the same she needed unsung heroes from every other immigrant group. The committment to the melting post by the few is representative of the committment of the many.
Ali Eteraz made a shrewd observation in this post, when he noted that
...your behavior must be guided by immanent and non-metaphysical guidelines...
With those few words, he sums up Islamic reform.
We will discuss Eteraz' post, Rise Of Radical Atheism And Theocon Calumny in part two of Relative Reform Or The Race To Reform. We will also talk about Israel and the Jews and how they factor into Islamic reform, if at all.Our opinion might surprise you.
Sometimes, other voices carry the tune laying in your head.
Dr Sanity's 'A War By Any Other Name,' is a look at the levels of dysfunction and denial thar fuel much of the left. She discusses what can be best be described as an escalating symphony of denial and self delusion, necessitated by a far left that is imploding.
No, the issue is not that the war is being prosecuted for power and money--it is quite the opposite. Those who violently and aggressively oppose the war desire to get their power back and are happy as clams to get the money, no matter how much blood from our courageous military personnel is lost because of their betrayal. Oh, don't you dare say they aren't patriots! They are patriotic, it is just that their country is being stolen from them by the evil Bushitler McChimpy Haliburton etc. etc. etc.
Dr Sanity's point about money is well taken. It is most often the liberal Democrats that bemoan the disparity in monies between themselves and the Republicans. The refuse to acknowledge that more Americans are inclined to give money to the Republicans than the Democrats. As far as they are concerned, that just 'isn't fair.'
When the author at Firedoglake is courageous enough to tell Mohammed and those who practice terror for Allah's sake to go to hell; or to tell Ahmadinejad, or the Taliban or Al-Quaeda; or Bin Laden or Zarqawi; or Zawahiri or Hamas or all the other violent, fascist fanatics to go to hell; when he will stand where it counts in the real world-- with the men and women in uniform in Iraq and Afghanistan-- and deliver his "give me liberty or give me death" speech; when he takes a stand against Islamofascism and its thought control (disguised as political correctness); and stand for human freedom and individuality--in other words, when he stops knocking down the strawmen he has set up in his mind and confronts the real evil in the world; then perhaps then I might have something other than contempt for the big brave talk that covers up his cowardly denial and displacement.
Dr Sanity has another post, even more relevant. In Moral Paralysis, she notes,
The triumph of the good lies in the West's relentless pursuit of justice and our demand that those in our midst who violate the fundamental values we stand for be held to account for their behavior.
This we will do. This we have always done, though not always as perfectly or with the necessary vigor in some cases. Since we are human, we make mistakes; but we are also capable of learning from them.
Only the morally bankrupt and relativistic political left are unable to appreciate this. They would like nothing better than to say that the actions of a few individuals reflect the values of the whole society. Yet, when it comes to condemning real, observable and institutionally-sanctioned brutality, murder, torture, oppression and crushing of the human spirit; when it comes to denouncing the hatred and vitriol that is stoked and manipulated against certain groups and countries; when it comes to confronting the mindset of the suicide bomber; the hatred of the religious fanatic; the societal humiliation and oppression of women as a matter of formal and "virtuous" policy--well, the silence of the left is so deafening, it shatters the eardrums.
And worse, it enables the real monsters who once again threaten to engulf the world in the flames of their madness. How those monsters must laugh at the idiots who obsess about Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo; and who give the real threat to civilization their blessing to advance its objectives. The monsters understand full well that the moral relativists and cheapshot artists of the left will never willingingly call real evil to account--because they lack the fundamental courage to confront it.
The term 'useful idiots' comes to mind.
If you care in the least about immigration and immingration reform in this country, Maxed Out Mama's "Guest Workers" Are Destroying The US, is a must read. Her familiarity with the subject matter is up close and personal. In speaking of her husband she says,
...an immigrant from Central America, who began life as a Indian peasant, whose village experienced a massacre during WWII, who carried a 50-lb bag of rotten corn on his back 50 miles when he was sixteen in order to save his family in a famine, who got schooling in Central America and rose into the upper middle-class in Central America, who left that and came to this country legally for a life in a just society, who became a naturalized citizen, who went to college here, became a scientist, and holds patents - that's why Chief No-Nag describes the Senate bill as "sickening", "an attempt to generate slave-labor", "insane" and "unjust" and "unconstitutional". It isn't unconstitutional, of course, but "unconstitutional" is pretty much the most pejorative term of which he can perceive. To him "unconstitutional" means a violation of the basic rules of American society - a violation of those rules which have created American society.
You can't fool Chief No-Nag. He knows what he's reading. The reason he is here in the US is because of the just nature of our society, because he would be far better off in terms of lifestyle if he lived in Mexico or his native country. There he would be filthy rich. Here he's middle-class - but there he would be part of an unjust society, and here he feels he's part of something morally valuable. He looked up the numbers of Democrats and Republicans who voted for the Senate bill, and he told me with some relish that the support was majority Democrat. He pointed out that it proved what he has been saying about Democrats - that they are elitists, that they are trying to create a plantation stocked with serfs, that they want a servant class. He says their education policies are aimed at creating a helpless class of people to be captive voters.
Here's what Chief No-Nag knows. The fact is that if an American construction worker is competing to support his family with a construction worker with a family in Mexico, the American will never be able to support his family. Because of massive numbers of unskilled immigrants who aren't bringing their families to live here, millions of American families are sliding out of the lower middle class. That's the problem!
Read Maxed Out Mama's post and you'll better understand what immigration reform really means- to immigrants, their families and to the rest of us.
Neo-neocon has three posts to read, consider and ponder. The Whole World Isn't Watching: Rioting In Iran, a look at what is happening inside Iran and what isn't being reported on. Have you heard what the student rioters are saying?
Eyewitnesses reported that students were chanting anti-regime slogans, such as "We don't want nuclear energy" and "Forget Palestine - think of us."
No word yet from the antiwar BusHitler crowd.
In another post, For Memorial Day: On Nationalism And Patriotism, Neo touches on something often lost:
...on this Memorial Day, I want to say there's a place for nationalism, and for love of country. Not a nationalism that ignores morality, but one that embraces it and strives for it, keeping in mind that--human nature being what it is--no nation on earth can be perfect or anywhere near perfect. The US is far from perfect, but it is a good country nevertheless, striving to be better.
We may not always get it right, but we own up to our mistakes and do our best to correct them. If that isn't cause for pride, we don't know what is.
No word yet from the antiwar BusHitler crowd denouncing racism, bigotry, hate and violence that is so much a part of the culture of the regimes that make up many American critics.
Finally, see Memorial Day: Freedom Isn't Free.
I was watching the news the other day--I think it was MSNBC, but I'm not certain. They had a feature on a young Hispanic man who had been killed in Iraq. I don't think he was the same young man of whom Bay spoke, Lance Corporal Perez, but it's possible that he might have been, because this man had also been nineteen years old when he died, as I recall. The news showed wonderful photos of a handsome and smiling young man who looked nearly like a kid (well, he wasn't so far away from having been one, was he?), and an interview with his father.
The father's courage and dignity were almost unbearably moving. It seems the young man was not a citizen, but he'd signed up anyway. The father showed some sort of memorial statuette of the twin towers that he owned, and he pointed to it and said that the son had been greatly affected by 9/11, and determined to join and serve. The father said he'd asked his son, if he had to join up, why couldn't he be something like a cook? But the son had said no; he felt he needed to do more than that. Then the father went over to an American flag he had on his wall, and put his finger on one of the red stripes, and said something like this (only far more eloquently), "When I see this red stripe, it symbolizes the blood of my son and all the others who died so that we could be free--because freedom isn't free."
A couple of hundred years ago- not even an instant on the cosmic clock- America took her first tentative steps towards freedom. Since those tumultuous days, this nation and the freedoms she represents, have grown, prospered and has served as a source of inspiration for billion of people in their own search for freedom.
When we see veterans marching in a Memorial Day parade, we are watching the men and women that are a living testimony to those who would defend the principles and ideals of freedom. They fought for more than geography and they fought for more than country.
From our inception as a nation, there have been forces determined to destroy what it is we stand for. Entire political ideologies, are predicated on vilifying us and our belief that freedom serves all of mankind. Even some religious ideologies, under the thumb of the oppression have become a tool of those who would sooner kill than see their people free.
Some people regard culture and society as an extension of Darwinian theory. Current versions and models are the 'latest and the greatest,' with past cultures and societies as flawed and limited. The leaders of other cultures and societies co opt the past to support their own ideologies, reinterpreting the past to fit, support and endorse their particular vision.
Americans are different. We are raised with the conscious understanding that those that came before us were giants, and that we are obligated to defend and build upon those principles and ideals of our Founding Fathers. We are not better than them. Their legacy serves as our guiding light- we do not need to reinterpret freedom with each new regime or to serve successive generations. We are beholden to them for having elevated successive generations and for having instilled in us the morals and obligations that come with freedom. Indeed, when we think about our freedoms, we go back in time and participate in the meetings in that room in Philadelphia. We share in the arguments, passions and dedication to an ideal that will shape the future.
Americans talk about freedom so passionately because we are passionate about it. Freedom is the foundation of our beliefs. Because of freedom we free to choose the things we believe in, without fear of violence orrepercussion . Freedom is the only ideology that wants to make the world a better place, a place where each and every one of us can author our own destiny- and do so without without stripping others of their rights. In a free society, we are free to exercise free will. We can choose to believe in God or we can exercise that free will and choose not to believe in God. In a free society, God takes care of His affairs. In a society that isn't free, the tyranny du jour takes it upon itself to handle God's affairs for Him.
The fight for freedom has not been easy. It never is. There are those that see the cost of freedom and want us to abandon the citizens of nations that so desperately need liberation from tyranny. It is tempting indeed to walk away, in the myopic- and absurd- belief that we would be forever extricating ourselves from a problem.
There is an undeniable truth. Freedom supports righteousness and make the world a more civilized and moral place. Notwithstanding the reality that much of the world doesn't care about those ideals, that truth about freedom is unassailable. Those that resist and resent our involvement in helping to secure freedom for others, may at times, seem to prevail, but in the end, even that is illusory.
There are those that will go to great lengths to keep us from bringing freedom to others. They will excoriate us, berate us, laugh at us and even support violence against us. There are those who would align themselves with evil so as to hurt us- and rejoice in our pain. There are those that would support the propaganda and ideologies that would demoralize and weaken us. With all their might, deceit and hatred, they would relentlessly attack us- but in the end, it will all be for naught. Americans will defend freedom, from all enemies, foreign and domestic.
They may at times kill the messenger, but the world cannot kill the message.
There are really only two ways you can hurt someone. Take away their dignity or take away their hope. When a tyranny oppress a citizen, they take away dignity. When that oppressed citizen no longer believes that there are free and good people who care about them, there are left without hope. What is hope? Well, it is an average American, from an average place, that put on a uniform and fought to liberate oppressed people- and then came home.
Of the almost 7 billion people on this planet, only 300 million are Americans. In other words, less than 5% of the population of this planet are Americans- and yet, the world is obsessed with our existence. In the course of 200 odd years, we have provided the world ideas, contributions and realities that are in theconsciousness of every human being on the planet. Given our numbers and short history, we should not have had this profound influence on history and mankind. The secret to our our successes and influence can be attributed to one powerful word: Freedom.
The notion that all men are created equal, is a biblical concept. It took America to make that a reality, in those ideas called freedom and democracy. "They will beat their swords into plowshares...nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore," can only come about as the result of freedom anddemocracy for all mankind. It is an illusion to believe that anything less will bring about peace. The one thing we have learned is that democracies don't wage war with each other. They do not take up arms to settle disputes.
We wrote, in Our Way, No Exceptions And Freedom Is Not Subject To Negotiations, that
"To presume that we must somehow persuade populations that freedom is better than tyranny is absurd. It presumes that tyranny and freedom are of equal value and standing. In fact, we appear foolish- and weak- when are forced to plead our case. In reality, when we argue the case for freedom as equal to tyrannical regimes, we belittle freedom. A casual observer would ask why we would denigrate ourselves in such a manner...
What kind of impression do we make if we are willing to belittle ourselves to plead the case for democracy over tyranny? That is like lowering ourselves to argue the merits of kindness over evil"
If you see an average looking man or woman today, marching in parade, walking around or even on TV, wearing a veterans cap, beret or hat, remind yourself that is what hope looks like- and that is more precious and beautiful than anything in any museum, anywhere.
Happy Memorial Day.
Well, the Holiday weekend is upon us. That means, at some point, you will have to interact and deal with normal, sane people.
We know you're scared.
While there isn't much that can be done foryour children (by us or anyone else), we can help you blend into the world of the well adjusted. Firstly, you'll need to sound intelligent, well read and well informed. The only way that kind if charade can be pulled off in a short period of time is by way of immersion.
See Dr Sanity's Carnival of the Insanities. That ought to allow you to present the illusion- for this weekened, anyway.
It is about a young woman's life, her husband, her father and the true essence of her country.
It is the final chapter in a love story.
CALGARY- Captain Nichola Goddard was always a child of the great outdoors, and in so many of the pictures that were part of the video tribute played at her funeral yesterday, she was shown by shining lakes, in vast fields of snow, dwarfed under one slice of big northern sky or another and necessarily often squinting into the sun or wearing dark glasses.Until she was killed in action last week -- on her 105th day in Afghanistan as a FOO, or Forward Observation Officer, with the 1st Regiment of the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery -- it was only her intimates who knew that the young woman herself was as luminous as all that.
But as one of Capt. Goddard's friends recently told her father Tim, "Canada has now been divided into two groups of people -- those who knew you, and those who wish they had. There could be no better epitaph."
Dr. Goddard, an associate dean in the faculty of education at the University of Calgary, made the remark in a tender eulogy to the first born of his and Sally Goddard's three daughters before an overflow crowd of about 800 at St. Barnabas Anglican Church here.
Just three Christmases ago, Capt. Goddard walked down the same worn red-and-cream tile aisle of the pretty church for her marriage to Jason (Jay) Beam, her sweet-faced young husband.
They met, a composed but tremulous Mr. Beam remembered in his tribute, eight years ago in their first week of basic training at Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu near Montreal.
Part of the ritual had the recruits learning how to assemble the bits of their army kit; for instance, they would be sent running down the long halls to retrieve their boots and then be shown how to lace them, and it was in the course of these mad dashes that Capt. Goddard introduced herself.
"Goddard," she said.
"I'm Beam," he replied, never dreaming that in those few words they were launching "the fabulous relationship we had."
Indeed, had it been left to Mr. Beam, obtuse in the way of young men to the clues that a woman was interested in him, there might have been no relationship.
When the rookies finally got a weekend off, and he was unlucky enough to have pulled duty on the base, everyone but Capt. Goddard went off to the mall. She stayed behind; hmmm, he thought. She dropped several other unsubtle clues, "none of which I picked up on."
Finally, Capt. Goddard, with trademark forthrightness, sat Mr. Beam down and "brought up the idea of us dating."
As Dr. Goddard put it, "Dear Jay . . . she knew right away he was the one. Jay was her choice . . . And in Jason she saw the poised, thoughtful, supportive and articulate young man the whole world has seen these last few terrible days. She loved you so much Jay."
When Mr. Beam finished his eulogy, he put two fingers to his lips and then placed the kiss on Capt. Goddard's casket; when her father finished speaking, he put a hand on the same spot; when the acting commanding officer of 1RCHA, Major Liam McGarry, finished his, he said, "Nic, end of mission. Stand easy."
When she died instantly in an ambush near Kandahar, she was but 15 days into her 27th year on the planet, a good many corners of which she had explored either as a child with her itinerant family or as an officer.
If, as with many of her fellow soldiers, Capt. Goddard was as steadfast and settled as someone twice her age on the big life questions -- sure of herself in family, marriage, church, duty and her own beliefs -- she remained playful, spontaneous and remarkably open to the people and experiences that Afghanistan offered her.
She wrote lengthy, near-poetic letters home, to her family, of course, and friends, and to the St. Barnabas congregation, who had them compiled in a book yesterday inside the front doors.
"The longer that we are in theatre and the more that we interact with the Afghan people, the more I feel that we are really serving a purpose here," she wrote on March 4. "I think these people, through the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police, are trying to achieve something that we in Canada have long since taken for granted . . . They lay down their lives daily to try to seize something that is so idealistic it is almost impossible to define. . ."
That something was what Capt. Goddard called "the awesome power of a democratic government," and while she agreed that "it is easy to poke holes in that statement, and say that the system is corrupt or that violence and poverty make people easy targets for our own agendas . . . we have to start somewhere."
She was a thinking soldier. When, for instance, shortly after her unit arrived at Kandahar Air Field, there was talk of moving the few women to a separate tent. Capt. Goddard disagreed, thought they'd "taken a benign situation and created a fantasy," and wrote to her CO, Lieutenant-Colonel Ian Hope.
He replied, with an explanation (the segregation was meant mostly to accommodate female members of the press) and a compromise -- the women would stay in the same tent, but in an area sectioned off by a tarp. Capt. Goddard was happy with that: "Girls generally smell better than guys" anyway.
In this family of storytellers, it was plain that father and daughter had heated discussions. Just last Christmas, he said, they discussed the role of the military in places like Afghanistan, Iraq and Darfur. Capt. Goddard subscribed to the view that military force is required to permit the reconstruction of civil society; Dr. Goddard argued that education is the key to development for the poor and oppressed.
"Quick as a flash," he said, "she punctured my professorial balloon. 'You can't do that when the bad guys run things, Dad,' she said, 'they just shoot you. You have to have peace and good government in order for the rest to happen. I do what I do so you can do what you do.'
"As always," Dr. Goddard said with his enormous smile, so like his girl's, "she was right. But through her death in combat, killed by people who were apparently hiding in or near a school, perhaps we can bring these two elements together."
In Capt. Goddard's name, the family has established an endowed scholarship at the University of Calgary open to applicants from three groups -- citizens of Papua New Guinea, where Capt. Goddard came into the world as a scrawny, less-than-four-pound baby; Indian, Inuit or Métis peoples of Canada, in whose company she spent her formative years, and citizens of Afghanistan, the place of her death.
Among the last words the gentle, intellectual Dr. Goddard offered were for his child's Canadian and Afghan comrades overseas, "who responded to her death with great vigour and imposed an almost biblical wrath on those who were responsible for it. We thank you for that."
Then he quoted, rather fiercely, the words on the cap badge of the Artillery beret: Quo fas et gloria ducunt, Latin for "Whither right and glory lead."
Capt. Goddard left that church as she entered it, her casket all wrapped up tight in the Canadian flag, swaddled as only a daughter of Canada should be.
Khrijism and Cultural War, is an interesting and thoughtful look at the way Islam is regarded- and why.
...the debate on our relationship on the level of "nuke 'em all" on the one hand or "Islam is a religion of peace" on the other. It never gets beyond those two points. Muslims are either souless, robotic killers or big-eyed PC waifs. There is no third choice, no depth, no knowledge and no understanding- and no sign of interest ingaining any. Those are fair points.
From that point forward, however, Mr Dunn takes an otherwise superb post and excellent springboard for discussion, down the wrong fork in the road. He cogently discusses religious and political issues that we must face and understand in dealing with the Arab world, but inexplicably, he puts an unnecessary onus on America and the western democracies. He correctly states that
This war is about integrating Islam into the global community. Nothing less will do. Victory can be defined in that way and no other... in adapting their religious life into global norms so that they can deal with the rest of the world... The Jihadis are well aware of this and much of their overall strategy is is designed to prevent any such outcome.
He note our efforts in the war on terror are bearing fruit- and then notes various jihadi 'psychological victories.' He then squarely places the blame of Muslim rejection of western ideologies and democracy on an intellectual struggle between Islamic world and our own.
The west has made no progress- and applied next to no effort- into putting across its case to the Muslim masses.
We do not concur at all with Mr Dunn's assessment. Our respective analysis diverges from this point forward.
America and western democracies did not have to plead their case to Soviet era commnunism. We do not have to plead our case to communist China and we certainly do not have to plead our case to the Muslim world.
Are there really millions of people in the Muslim Middle East that believe tyrannical and cruel regimes are superior to western democracies? Are there really millions of people in the Middle East, that if given the choice, would choose dictatorial regimes over freedom?
Why did millions of Iraqis turn out to vote, if they didn't want a democratic government? Why are the Iraqi political parties, patching together a government? Why are the only voices of opposition to the formation of an Iraqi government, terrorists?
Mt Dunn says the failure of the west to make the case for freedom and democracy, a 'serious failing' on our part. In fact, we see the most serious failings on the part of much of the Arab and Islamic world.
To presume that we must somehow persuade populations that freedom is better than tyranny is absurd. It presumes that tyranny and freedom are of equal value and standing. In fact, we appear foolish- and weak- when are forced to plead our case. In reality, when we argue the case for freedom as equal to tyrannical regimes, we belittle freedom. A casual observer would ask why we would denigrate ourselves in such a manner.
The more serious question that must be asked is why there are entire Arab populations that willingly embrace the tyranny they know only too well. What kind of dysfunction- and clearly, it is a dysfunction- that might account for a parent relegating their children to a life of misery? Dr Sanity has some answers, in Shame, The Arab Psyche And Islam.
If we are not willing to stand up for what we believe, we should not find it hard to understand how and why we, as a nation, are taken advantage of- and that is exactly what the Arab world is doing.
What kind of impression do we make if we are willing to belittle ourselves to plead the case for democracy over tyranny? That is like lowering ourselves to argue the merits of kindness over evil. You either get it, or you don't- and the vast majority of Muslims get it. The problem is, our detractors are not the vast majority of Muslims- they are those already in power and needing to preserve the status quo, or they are religious fanatics, genies let out of the Arab world bottle that can not be reined in.
In either case, we do not have to 'make our case.' In fact, the more we give the appearance that we are pleading our case, the weaker we look.
Persecuted Arab dissidents do not want to replace one tyranny with another. Muslim reformers, like Ali Eteraz, do not dream of anything but freedom and the liberation of the Ummah.
The beauty of freedom is that we don't care who you are. In Democracies Don't Care, we said that
In fact, the well meaning and overly thoughtful pundits in the MSM, most of the blogosphere and in an the hallowed (if often shallow) halls of academia, have it wrong.
We do not need to assure Muslims that we are caring. We do not need to bestow a status upon Islam that we not bestow upon other religions and other faiths. Muslims are not special and they are not deserving of special status.
Why? Because in a free society, we don't care about your beliefs. We do care about your actions and behavior. You are free to integrate and to assimilate into our society in whole or in part. We really don't care. Do not tell us we need to care about your beliefs and your concerns above all else and above our own beliefs. If you do try to make that assertion, you will soon be surprised at how easily you will be marginalized and resented- not for your beliefs, but rather, for your attempt to jump to the head of line. You are not more important than anyone else.
The strength of the Ummah is that it needs no special treatment to succeed in a free society. Muslims are not impaired or handicapped, nor are they superior to others. As the Ummah- and the rest of Europe- is coming to see, tantrums will in the end, no longer deliver the proverbial 'free ride.' The free ride of cradle to grave welfare benefits has not benefit the Ummah. In Europe, unemployment, lack of education and self imposed ghettos, have only served to maintain the distance between the much of the Arab world and the west. The only difference are the TV channel lineups.
The difference between many Arab and other immigrants and minorities in Europe, is evident and cannot be disguised or swept under the rug. The European reality came about as a result of negotiation.
Freedom is not subject to negotiation. That is the lesson the Ummah must learn, by itself.
Islam has the ability to do just that. All that is needed is the will.
Well, here is an all you can buffet for the mind. Settle down, unbuckle your belt and take it all in.
Welcome! Our goal at Winds of Change.NET is to give you one power-packed briefing of insights, news and trends from the global War on Terror that leaves you stimulated, informed, and occasionally amused every Monday & Thursday. Thursday's Winds of War briefings are given by Matt 'Colt' of Eurabian Times.
Well, these guys deliver. SC&A really need to link to WOC more often. There is always good stuff. Really. Friday's are slow, so we will find a reason to link to WOC on Monday.
Check out Volokh. He's got a great, sharp blog that is really contrarian in the world of blogs. This guys presumes you're smart!
Samizdata is smart. These guys are as close to ideologues as you're going to get. Agree or not, you wiil think.
Now, we are also going to recommend Pesky Apostrophe. She's a lefty, sometimes abrasive, occasionally shallow, but always smart- you know, like the the rest of the blogoshere. We like Pesky because she'll talk to you, engage you and won't piss on you in an argument. That's a rarity on the left. She'll deny it of course, but she knows better.
Kind of like the righty's that defended Tom DeLay.
Anyway, we like her and our taste is exquisite.
The Barking Dingo is another left blogger that we are fans of. He's sharp, bright and despite being a lawyer, is an overall decent guy. He's fond of saying that the differences between liberals and conservatives aren't as great as the fringes would have you believe.
The fact is, take away the blowhards and it's clear he's right.
'I declare the war is over!' Well, if Shrinkwrapped says so, there must be something to it, right? Rarely does a post deliver the knockout blow in the last few words. SW's post does just that. It's short, sweet and neat- kind of the like that favorite melody that you hum incessantly.
Dr Sanity's Another Day, Another Principle, is a post that extols the words of what must be her lost twin, Charles Krauthammer. She drives home Dr Krauthammer's point:
Krauthammer suggests that we not fall into this obvious trap--unless one condition applies. We should look the international community if the eye and state that sure, we'll go into negotiations with Iran--but only if you publically pledge beforehand, that the failure of any unilateral talks with this lying and deceitful regime will immediately lead to united military action by the international community.
Barring that kind of pledge, what possible advantaage would there be in our sitting down with Iran? Ahmadinejad will simply use such negotiations as a platform for showing off his pseudo-macho contempt for anything the U.S. does.
That's a good point. The object of real negotiation is to negotiate- not to provide a platform for a racist, bigoted lunatic. For the 'can't we all get along crowd,' this Iranan dissident put it best.
After a few years of Zacharias Moussaoui, we submit the American people have had enough lunacy.
On a happier note, we are pleased to announce that Dr Sanity has failed the 12 step lyrics avoidance program. Her latest addition to the Crackpot Hymnal is here- and it really is funny.
Finally, Maxed Out Mama is in rare form. Who could resist a post called, It Ain't Over Till The Fat Kennedy Sings? Be sure to read Friday Follies. A lawyer gets beat up.
Can it get any better than that?
The Anchoress has written a rather thoughtful post, Madonna And DVC And Why I don't Care. It is a thoughtful, wry and piquant, if you read between the lines.
We will present some selected quotes later, but for now, let's just say The Anchoress is bored with it all. The 'in your face' antics and shock shtick have become predicatble. Like the fate of the walleye or bass in the Saturday fishing show, or what will come to pass when the pool boy rings the doorbell in a porn flick, we are boring of the inevitable and same outcome.
There's a reason Madonna goes by the name Madonna and there's a reason she uses religious imagery in her show. Like a McDonald's quarter pounder, we know what we will get- predicatbility. It isn't fine dining, for sure, any more than Madonna is 'art.' As had been said for years, Madonna, like McDonald's, is about extraordinary- and successful, marketing. Instead of burgers and fries, she's pitching S&M and religious symbols as expressions of phallic pathologies.
It's just business, of course. After all, when she isn't on tour, articles about Madonna extol her new found religious and moral sensibilities and her devotion to home and hearth.
In fact, The Anchoress is a ahead of the curve here, when it comes to social commentary:
Why haven’t I written more? Well, to be honest, I just don’t care about either of these over-hyped, over-exposed things.
In truth, Madonna could be fun to write about, were she not so obviously needful of our writing about her.
In fact, Madonna is repeating herself. She has nothing new to offer- and she knows it. The truth is, she doesn't have to offer anything new. As long as silly critics and even less sophiticated music consumers rehash and redefine the same quarter pounder as fine dining, why should she redefine herself and her art?
The Anchoress is bored with what passes for art and even more impoortantly, she is bored with a culture that celebrates mediocrity that passes for art. What she doesn't say (because she is too nice) is that we have devolved into a culture that can't even recognize real art.
We live in an culture that places emphasis on an artist's politics before the art. The Dixie Chicks are elevated in status because, in their collective wisdom, opine on politics. Notwithstanding the truth that 'people who need people are lucky people,' Barbra Striesand would not be lionized without her rather incoherent public political opinions. Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins are no exception. Their status as artists are elevated because of their public politics- and make no mistake about it, their politics are carefully crafted by their publicists.
As for the Da Vinci Code, Anchoress again, is ahead of the curve.
And thirty years from now there will be another book, another play, another photograph of a Holy Thing dunked in urine. And everyone will gasp again and controversy will fly…and it still won’t matter.
There is art that challenges and there is pseudo-art. We suspect The Anchoress has no issue with real art. Salvador Dali, for example, did his version of the Last Supper and Christ of St John of the Cross are especially powerful (the crucifixtion image places the mortal viewer with God's view, and all that implies. It is an extraordinary image). Those images challenge how established history and religion are viewed. There are a host of other artists that do the same- some religious, some not.
This is an important distinction. Art exists to make people think and evaluate their ideas, themselves and their lives. Art is not about the artist. We wrote,
What is great art? That question has been around almost as long as there has been charcoal with which to draw.
Great art really is easily definable. Great art passes the test of time. Great art is timeless. In the end, great art is never ends up in the back of the closet or the attic, no matter how deeply it is buried. Great art, like the truth and reality sufaces, sooner or later.
Conversely, some art is deemed important because it suits the need of agendized beliefs and values. Despite the art's irrelevance and insignificance, the art and artist are held up and celebrated, simply because the art supported an agenda. This was most evident, in recent times, with Soviet era art. Images of happy peasants, working in the fields, or fit men and women working in a glorious 'people's factory', defined a half century of art in Russia. Works depicting the desecration of religious figures or icons were hailed as 'breakthrough art' for a couple of decades in this country.
In the end of course, great art stands on it's own, without an agenda. Bad art falls to the wayside, with it's agenda.There are actors who believe they and they alone, define the character of the roles they play. If that were true, we'd never know the name Shakespeare. It is his name that endures and not the selfish and petulant actors that mouthed the words he wrote. The actor/icons of today of will be forgotten. The efforts of the art they were priviledged to be a small part of, will endure.
Dr Sanity has an excellent post on art, here. It's a worthy read. She notes,
If you wonder why our nation seems so divided and why there is so much animosity and emotional hysteria directed against traditional values and ideas upon which this country was founded, you need look no further than the pervasise and unrelenting trickle down of postmodern theories and thinking in education, art, politics and all the social areas of life. Even science has not been immune from the nihilism and anti-reason and anti-reality agenda of the postmodernists.
These truths are a part of what The Anchoress addresses in her post. In the end however, she points out that those who profess faith will not be swayed by what passes for art and the agenda that kind of art often promulgates.
...I am not worried about Madonna or Tom Hanks or DVC or anything. Some say the dispersal and easy-acceptance of heresy and re-written history portends tough times for the church - ridicule, hatred, suppression, discrimination, even (paranoia alert) outlawing. I am not worried. If fifty years from now Catholics are once again hiding priests and holding Holy Mass underground, if Christians are using signals to direct others to worship, it will not surprise me. The church is always at its most fervent and alive when it is under siege...
Art that challenges faith and beliefs has a long and storied past. From Da Vinci and Michaelangelo, from Rembrandt to Dali, Picssso and Chagall, art has challenged and provoked believers- as it should.
The various pseudo arts and artists that propagates agendas of hate, either overt or subtle, will be as relevant as Nazi era 'art.'
The chief justice of North Ossestia's Supreme Court said Nur-Pashi Kulayev deserved the death penalty -- which had been sought by prosecutors. However, Judge Tamerlan Aguzarov said he could only impose life imprisonment due to Russia's moratorium on capital punishment.Kulayev was found guilty on all charges, "including hostage taking, terrorism, murder, attempted murder, possession of firearms, murder, and attempted murder of law enforcement officers," RFE/RL Russian Service correspondent Dzerassa Byazrova reported from Vladikavkaz.Deputy Prosecutor-General Nikolai Shepel said today that he was pleased with the verdict, saying it corresponded to the "gravity" of Kulayev's crimes.
Guilty Of 16 Deaths
The sentence was the climax of a highly emotional, yearlong trial.
Kulayev was part of a group of 32 Chechen separatists that took 1,300 pupils, teachers, and parents hostage in a school in the southern Russian town of Beslan in September 2004. After three days, the siege turned into a bloodbath that killed 331 people, more than half of them children.
Judge Aguzarov found Kulayev guilty of taking hostages, taking actions resulting in the deaths of the captives, and inflicting material damages of 34 million rubles ($1.3 million).
Aguzarov also said that Kulayev detonated a bomb that caused physical harm to hostages and government troops. The judge held Kulayev responsible for the deaths of 16 hostages whom militants executed on the first day of the crisis.
Citing witness testimony, Aguzarov rejected Kulayev's claim he had been forced to participate in the hostage taking and that he neither threatened nor harmed any of the captives.
No Forgiveness From Victims
Black-clad mothers of the victims crowded into the court to hear the verdict read. Some held banners reading, "There is no forgiveness of the authorities who let Beslan happen." Others held photos of tanks and dead children.
Some survivors and relatives claim that many deaths resulted from troops firing at the school, leading to a fire that caused a roof to collapse.
Some of the victims' families tried to attack Kulayev as he was being led out of the courtroom
Clearly, a bad day for conspiracy theorists; It looks like AIDS was not cooked up in a secret CIA-Mossad laboratory.
No word yet from Arab and Palestinian media on corrections or retractions.
In related news, Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya will be hosting a charity marathon for the Palestinians. This years theme is, 'The Plane That Never Hit The Pentagon Hoax: The Zionist Media Creates Another Myth."
The Chief Imam of Saudi Arabia states, 'This hoax is yet more evidence of the crusader war on Islam. We have evidence that a missile hit the Pentagon, fired from an Israeli submarine on the orders of Dick Cheney."
Today is an important day. It really, really is. We decided we were going to go all out, but at the last moment, we had to deal with a vegan client that was struggling with an important decision- Was it to be grilled or steamed vegetables for lunch?
We let the client prattle on and after a decent interval, we pulled out the rare roast beef sandwich we had prepared, along with the some Colonel leftovers. The session ended shortly thereafter.
Sadly, we were forced to scale back on our plans.
Kobayashi Maru has what to say on Iran- on what was said and on what was not said.
The idea that Iran believes the West to have already failed in stopping their nuclear ambitions is reinforced by the recent actions (or rather, non-actions) of pretty much everyone in the international community, including the U.S. Although Iran has not rolled its armies across any borders recently (a technical, though hardly meaningful, point of departure from literal Hitlerian analogies in light of Iran's outsized influence in Syria and elsewhere), the state of mind that Ahmadinejad appears to be in is the same that possesses any leader when his aggressive actions have gone unopposed. If they didn't stop us from doing 'x', he thinks (and quite logically) then why would they stop us from doing 'y'? And if that's true, then why should we believe them when they say that 'z' is really truly their bottom line and it "will not stand"?
In short, they are on a roll and they know it.
Kobi's post is a good- and thoughtful, read.
In a curious bit of news, the Saudi regime has announced it will curb the powers of the muttawa, the religious police. Sadly, these new limits come about too late for the 15 girls that burned to death, in a building from which they were prevented from leaving by the religious police.
As for the 'Ice Cream Jihad,' well, that is yet more proof that at times, we live in a world that increasingly resembles a Salvador Dali painting.
What a human catastrophe is the doctrine of human rights! Not only does it give officialdom an excuse to insinuate itself into the fabric of our lives but it has a profoundly corrupting effect on youth, who have been indoctrinated into believing that until such rights were granted (or is it discovered?) there was no freedom. Worse still, it persuades each young person that they are uniquely precious, which is to say more precious than anyone else; and that, moreover, the world is a giant conspiracy to deprive them of their rightful entitlements. Once someone is convinced of their rights, it becomes impossible to reason with them; and thus the reason of the Enlightenment is swiftly transformed into the unreason of the psychopath.
The doctrine of rights has borne putrid fruit. In the ward recently was a young woman of the now very extensive slut-babymother class, whose jaw was clenched in a habitual expression of world-destroying hatred. Her glittering saurian eyes swivelled mistrustingly, on the qui vive for infringements of her rights. She exuded grievance as a skunk exudes its odour.
She had been admitted to hospital because she had been out celebrating the night before. In England now, celebration is synonymous with aggression and public nuisance, and she had conformed to type by screaming and pulling another slut-babymother's hair. When the police arrived, she claimed her drink had been spiked and was dumped by them in the hospital rather than in the slammer, where she belonged.
The police having departed, she turned the attention of her lip, as we call it around here, to the admitting doctor, who took down verbatim some of what she said to him.
Her recorded remarks were littered with a word beginning with F, followed by very neatly drawn asterisks, which proves that in India, at least (where the doctor came from), there is still some sense of dignity, decorum and self-respect.
The following morning a friend of the patient arrived in the ward before visiting time. Both patient and friend were what is called in the prison "very verbal", which is to say mouthy. A nurse, acting on the biblical observation that a soft answer turns away wrath, asked them to keep their voices down, only to discover that the Bible has been superseded in modern Britain and that wrath turns away a soft answer. The nurse then told the visitor that she had to leave or else.
Shortly after her departure under foul-mouthed protest, the wife of another patient came to sit with him. She was a respectable Sikh woman with a gentle manner, but it was not yet visiting time, and the nurses feared to provoke the slut-babymother by allowing her to stay, when they had told the slut-babymother's visitor to leave. The nurses could all too well imagine the scene: Why am I not allowed a f---ing visitor when that man over there is?
In vain would the nurses point out the difference in the conduct of the two visitors; if anyone had a right to a visitor, everyone did, irrespective of the conduct of the visitor.
To avoid a conflict over rights, the Sikh woman was asked to wait outside, which she did without demur, reading a book of prayers.
A little later I bumped into one of our security guards whose job it is to deal with slut-babymothers and yob-babyfathers.
"How are you?" I asked.
"Can't grumble," he replied.
"Oh, surely you can," I said.
"No one would listen if I did," he said.
"Well, there you've got it," I said. "That's your reason to grumble. No one would listen if you did. It's a kind of meta-grumble."
Come to think of it, that's what I've been doing all these years: meta-grumbling. It's been great fun.