Saturday, September 29, 2012

On Guns and Religion and Othering the Other

Here’s how it was, in his own felicitous words, back in the bad old days of America, before Barack Obama was elected president: “[I]n a lot of these communities in big industrial states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, people have been beaten down so long, and they feel so betrayed by government . . . .

You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not.

Was it any wonder then, that a whole passel of back-woods wretches, possessed for decades by bellicose and fiscally irresponsible demons both Bushian and Clintonian, should wind up such a benighted lot of “working-class lunch-pail folks” bitterly “cling[ing] to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment . . . as a way to explain their frustrations,” and needing an Obamic exorcism? None at all.

But there was a little piece of heaven hovering like a pakalolo-scented brume over fields of bleached-out Danville, OH fescue and Pontiac G8s rusting on blocks in the front yards of laid-off Monessen, PA steel workers—and that was Mr. Obama’s promise to

close tax loopholes, roll back, you know, the tax cuts for the top 1 percent. Obama’s gonna give tax breaks to middle-class folks and we’re gonna provide health care for every American.

And just so for “Muslims around the world,” as well, whosetension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations. Moreover, the sweeping change brought by modernity and globalization led many Muslims to view the West as hostile to the traditions of Islam.”

The traditions of Islam may seem to some of those above-mentioned uncivilized rednecks whose votes Mr. Obama was courting back then to consist mainly of a Boschian hell of savagery and brutality in which “enemy” children are exploded on buses, women are used as human shields and children as human mine-sweepers, mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters are maimed by genital mutilation, tortured by pre-pubescent marriage, and destroyed by honor killings, and little boys are turned into sexual slaves and turned out as whores. If so, he would like them to know those traditions have been woefully misunderstood.

Even now, as the alienation of anti-Western Islamism explodes in violence and murder around the globe, the “othering” of The Other, to use the odious academic parlance, remains a concern of Mr. Obama’s, and keeps his language careful and Ban Ki Moony. “Since our founding, the United States has been a nation that respects all faiths.  We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others,” he says with impeccable banality, then turns inanity to slag: “But there is absolutely no justification to this type of senseless violence.  None.  The world must stand together to unequivocally reject these brutal acts.”  

No more Punahou chooming over the Dust Belt/Rust Belt for him—he’s president of the Unites States, and he’s progressed: No longer a man condescending to be unsurprised by the gun-clinging, Bible-thumping skepticism of unemployed Americans, now hes a leader—only one of manyof a world that can stand together, a man unafraid to express a little sympathy for the rocket-slinging, Koran-pulsing distrust of rioting Muslims, a man urging “all leaders ‘to speak out forcefully against violence and extremism’ and join the U.S. in confronting the root causes of the rage across the Muslim world.”

In sum, says our president, “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.

Fair enough: There’s no future in slandering the prophet of Islam. But what of his latter-day representatives here on earth, whose mission it is to malign, insult, slander—and incite against—the Jews, descendants of apes and pigs,” and as many as possible, before the Mahdi shows up and/or they ascend to meet their seventy-two virgins or olives or grapes or whatever it is they are going to meet in Heaven? I suppose there’s a future in that.

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