"God created the world with terrible freedom, and part of that freedom, is the freedom humans have to do terrible evil."
---Bill Leonard, dean of Wake Forest Divinity School, New York Times, September 14, 2001
Apparently, one part of today's lesson is that you should never say that you're not going to do something, because as soon as you do that, you'll be forced to take back your word.
All I can think is that the country has gone completely insane. And some of them must have been pretty close to going anyway, because you'd think that even a moment's thought would make them understand that what they're saying is utter lunacy.
Take, for example, ultra-conservative commentator Ann Coulter. (Please. Far far away. A padded room would be nice.) Let's just parse her particular brand of insanity for a moment, shall we? Let's shall.
The nation has been invaded by a fanatical, murderous cult. And we welcome them. We are so good and so pure we would never engage in discriminatory racial or "religious" profiling.
I see. So, based on nothing more than the color of their skin or their last name, we should assume that all people who even think about looking vaguely Middle Eastern are obvious terrorists and should just kill them a little. We can always apologize later if they turn out to be Greek or Hispanic or, heaven forfend, innocent of any such thought. (And what do we do with the Nation of Islam, one wonders. American citizens all, but there's that nasty religion thing. Clearly, terrorist sympathizers. We should exterminate them right now!)
People who want our country destroyed live here, work for our airlines, and are submitted to the exact same airport shakedown as a lumberman from Idaho. This would be like having the Wehrmacht immigrate to America and work for our airlines during World War II. Except the Wehrmacht was not so bloodthirsty.
... Excuse me. The people who were responsible for The Holocaust, who killed millions of their own citizens because of their religion, who killed millions of Russians when they invaded their country, who killed hundreds of thousands of other Europeans and not a few Americans, lest we forget ... these people are LESS bloodthirsty than the terrorists who destroyed the towers. Yes. Right. (Where's that straitjacket when you need one?)
And Terry McVeigh lived in the Midwest. Hadn't immigrated from anywhere. You've got Aryan Nation people up in Idaho who would be perfectly happy to destroy our country. What have immigrants got to do with anything?
We know who the homicidal maniacs are. They are the ones cheering and dancing right now. We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity.
... I don't even know how to respond to a statement that hate-filled. That bigoted. Except to laugh at the very concept of the US engaging in a religious crusade, of all things. And to marvel that she can seriously propose that we go out and act in a much more violent, bigoted, intolerant way than the terrorists have ever done to us.
Yes, they have terrified us. Yes, they have killed many of us, a number so high that we cannot wrap our minds around the number. They have hurt us beyond bearing, and yet bear it we must. But that's all they have done.
Yes, what they have done is enough. It's enough and more than enough.
They don't plan to invade us en masse. (Couldn't even if they wanted to.) They don't plan to force us all to convert to Islam at the point of a sword. Yes, those terrorists want the United States out of the holy lands -- all Arab countries, but most especially Saudi Arabia; they want us to stop supporting Israel right or wrong, and they want us to pay for what they feel we have done. And even with all those demands, all those desires to force us to change some part of our actions ... there's a place where even these vile and despicable terrorists, murderers, have not gone.
But that's what Coulter feels we should do.
Imagine ... just imagine ... what they would try to do to us if we did that.
The World Trade Center would look like a mere bagatelle, compared to what would happen after that. And unless we turn ourselves into a police state and somehow enforce the same on the rest of the world, the opportunity would always be there. Worse would happen, again and again and again. The holy war would not mostly be overseas; it would be here, and it would be violent, and it would be gruesome and even more countless numbers of our own people would die. (And let us not forget: if you wish to enforce religious orthodoxy abroad, you must first enforce it at home. How can you force foreign lands to become purely Christian when you haven't done that for all your own people yet?) And all the men, women, children in these countries who played no part, who are appalled and revolted as most are ... they too are to be forcibly converted to Christianity. No exception. No quarter. Kill them if they refuse ... and probably even if they convert; it's just that their souls will be saved by the sword if they become Christians first.
But, you say, she's just one woman. And clearly a barking loon.
Unfortunately, she's not alone.
JERRY FALWELL: The ACLU's got to take a lot of blame for this.
PAT ROBERTSON: Well, yes.
JERRY FALWELL: And, I know that I'll hear from them for this. But, throwing God out successfully with the help of the federal court system, throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools. The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way - all of them who have tried to secularize America - I point the finger in their face and say "you helped this happen."
PAT ROBERTSON: Well, I totally concur, and the problem is we have adopted that agenda at the highest levels of our government. And so we're responsible as a free society for what the top people do. And, the top people, of course, is the court system.
We made this happen? The people who hijacked the airplanes apparently had nothing to do with it? Their own free will had nothing to do with this? WE made this happen?
How dare he try to make of this a political opportunity, a chance to advance his agenda. How does he DARE?
Before he points fingers at anyone else, he might want to have a look at the writings of one or two of the founding fathers that he so reveres. Or even, bizarrely enough, the First Amendment to the Constitution they wish to have strictly construed.
Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God; that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship; that the legislative powers of the government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should `make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between church and State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore man to all of his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.
Thomas Jefferson, Response to the letter from the Danbury Baptist Association, January 1, 1802.
AMENDMENT I: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
The Constitution of the United States
The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretence, infringed.
James Madison, Annals of Congress 434 (June 8, 1789), original proposal for First Amendment.
I suppose it would astonish Falwell and Robertson and Coulter and others of their ilk to know that those who committed this act did it, in part, for exactly the same reasons that our unholy troika wishes to punish them. The terrorists did it, in part, for their god. Because they felt that we were mocking their god. Of course, that ungodly troika are no doubt vastly amused to know that the terrorists consider them to be infidels as well, purely because they're ... here. For nothing more than an accident of residence, the terrorists would count them as infidels who should die. (Our own Nation of Islam counts as accidental infidels, for the same reason; after all, if they were true believes, they would be supporting the terrorists, right?) Curious, that, isn't it?
Most of the people in this country don't -- or didn't -- think the way that Falwell, Robertson and Coulter think. Most who think of themselves as Christian would be and are appalled and revolted by those sentiments, even now, even this soon. Most will realize how utterly repugnant and vicious these statements are.
When they've had a chance to cool.
But this is now, and time is not something that we've had much of. And there are many people out there who believe as these idiots do, who only needed something or someone to give them that last little push, and who will be seized with the desire to go out and do something about it, right now. And because of these people, these idiots, some of our fellow Americans will be attacked, injured, and will die.
... one Muslim woman said she, her husband and their eight children endured a night of terror in the aftermath. "This was a mob,'' said the woman, who asked not to be identified out of fear. "We had people riding up and down our block shouting obscenities. 'Go home you bleeping ragheads, bleeping a-rabs, we're gonna get you,''' added the woman, who lives in the town of Oak Lawn not far from the Bridgeview Mosque Center. "My husband and I stayed up all night guarding the windows,'' she added. ``My husband is of Arab descent. He gave four years of his life in the U.S. Navy ... to have some skinhead with an American flag screaming at your house.'' She said the family was afraid to call the police because it would single out their house, adding that other Muslim families in the neighborhood were considering whether they should leave the area Thursday evening.
"These are EVIL people and the United States needs to respond accordingly! No more politically correct crap! We need to send these MUSLIM finatical freaks a message that this will not happen to our country EVER again!" one poster wrote. "Seek out all those that do not believe in Christ and eliminate them. for if they do not believe in Christ, they do not believe in me. Purge our society of these rodents," wrote another. "When Palestinians throw rocks, Jews throw bombs. Jews are worse than Hitler," responded a third.
Some Albuquerque gun shop owners said sales of ammunition increased dramatically after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. "I had to reorder in the middle of the day so I could get stock back on the shelves," said Eric Jones, owner of Gunworks Inc. "People said they were concerned about their safety, about taking care of themselves and their families."
Who do they think they'll be using these weapons against? Do they think that terrorist commandos will be parachuting in from the skies to attack them? In New Mexico? Do they think they can shoot down attacking airliners with handguns and rifles? Who is there to use them against out there?
Of course, it would be easy to dismiss them as hicks. People in little rural out-of-the-way backwater New Mexico, fearful of what may come.
The terrorist attacks in New York and Washington have deepened worries about personal safety, spiking sales of handguns and ammunition, according to dealers and a trade group [...] Andrew Molchan, director of the Professional Gun Retailers Association in Fort Lauderdale, Fla ... said some dealers sold out their whole stock this week. [...] John Costa, who sells handguns at his sporting goods store in Raynham, 25 miles outside Boston ... normally expects to sell one or two handguns a week, but said he had sold six in the three days since the attack. He said he is selling about 15 boxes of ammunition a day, compared to the usual one or two. [...] In North Hollywood, Calif., Rick Garcia, who manages B&B Sales, said he was handling about twice as many customers. "I wouldn't say it was a hysteria or panic,'' he said. ``I'd say it's just a calculated, just-in-case type of mentality.''
So it's not just backwater New Mexico; it's urban Boston, it's Hollywood, California, it's Florida ... it's everywhere. Of course, there's relatively little a gun can do about a plane falling from the sky ... but the guns are still out there. And the hate and fear are still out there. And the Afghan-Americans and Pakistani-Americans and Kuwaiti-Americans and Bangladeshi-Americans and the Sikhs and the Hispanics and the Black Muslims and anyone else who look just right and can trigger that fear ... are still out there. Not terrorists, not criminals, just average American citizens.
Already -- already -- we're allowing the immediate crisis and fear to overwhelm what we know to be right. Congress has just passed a law allowing wiretaps for suspicion of terrorism. Well and good, you might say; clearly, there was a massive failure in the intelligence and information gathering abilities of the government to allow this horror to happen. But consider: one provision in the law, probably little noticed by anyone, allows the very federal attorneys who request the wiretap to approve the wiretap; previously, attorneys and the FBI had to prove their case in the chambers of a federal judge. What sort of safeguard is it to have the people who request something be authorized to approve that same request? And remember that once this immediate crisis is past, once we've figured out some way to go on with the rest of our lives, the law remains. Prosecutors will be able to state, without providing evidence, that they suspect someone of terrorism, and they may then sign off on the warrant without any oversight, and any evidence so collected will be entirely admissible.
And these are early days yet. It hasn't even been one week, one half week. What will we do to our fellow Americans, to ourselves in the days and weeks to come?
"If we give up all our freedoms, if we turn our back on 200 years or more of Constitutional history, of the things that make us strong as a nation, some would argue that the terrorists win. ... We have to be careful, that in our emotion in the midst of this murderous, horrible act, that we don't start taking away the very freedoms that make us different from terrorists."
-----Senator Patrick Leahy, in the discussion about the wiretap bill just passed.
december 13, 2000
a tale of reasons
july 9, 2000
a tale of true tales
april 2, 2000
a tale of rights and wrongs
february 2, 2000:
the first tale of lost children
january 24, 2000:
the tale of words
january 23, 2000:
the tale of belonging
january 22, 2000:
the tale of the lost city