As our corporate media and our highest elected officials continue to cheerlead the genocidal onslaught against the largely Muslim population of the Gaza Strip, it occurs to me that this enthusiastic support for such an atrocity might not have been so acceptable before 9/11. I’m not suggesting that the Clinton administration would have taken any threatening or even harshly vociferous measures to pressure the Israelis into withdrawing and ending the slaughter, but at least they wouldn’t have been so blatantly congratulatory in their response. This difference is due in large part, I think, to an ugly turn in our national culture that was instigated, but not created, by the dramatic attacks of 9/11.

Fear and loathing of all things Arab and Muslim was nothing new, but the 9/11 attacks– more specifically, how our corporate media and elected officials chose to contextualize and respond to the attacks– opened the cage of a vicious mongrel beast. This beast is a vile crossbreed of cowardice, racism, and bloodlust. It has always been with us, as it has been with any other society or civilisation, but we tend to stubbornly deny its existence in our national psyche. When it shows itself, we paper it over with lofty patriotic language and rehashed narratives of our innocent ‘sleeping giant’ being awakened by the unprovoked assault of some external villain or other.

We used it to justify the decimation and continuing strangulation of Iraq. And many of us follow the lead of our policy and propaganda elites in eagerly lapping up the Israeli use of this tactic as they attempt to justify their wicked bloodletting and destruction in Gaza. The context that gives this tactic currency, though, is 9/11. We the people, casually rolling along in our belligerent cowardice, continue to allow and participate in the demonization and scapegoating of Muslims and Arabs (and all who we perceive, erroneously or not, to fall into either or both of those categories) as our government and its allies (e.g. Israel) use our fear, ignorance, and bloodlust to justify their imperialist and neocolonial excesses.

The worst thing about this dynamic is the cartoonish illogic of the fear. I’ve actually heard people suggest that we have to ‘fight them over there or else they’ll conquer us over here.” Do these people think that nineteen guys with boxcutters were the first wave of an invasion force that is bent on making us a part of their global Caliphate? Is there supposed to be an army of such low-tech Islamic avengers just waiting to crash our borders and shove us all under the heel of Sharia law?

In reality, we have nothing substantial to fear from Islam, even from that tiny number of militant extremists who would really put a hurting on our homeland if only they could tolerate the cramped seating and crappy service of the 12 to 20-something hour flight it would probably take them to get here. Granted, that number of militants has likely grown since our massive Islamic Extremist Recruitment Campaign (otherwise known as the Global War on Terror) began, but I still think that Osama bin Laden and Co. got everything they wanted and more out of the original attacks; why bother with trying to stage another attack when the Bush administration turned the original into a gift that keeps on giving?

What we do have to be mindful of here has nothing to do with any variation or interpretation of Islam. The big red flag that I see flapping in an ill wind has a crucifix on it. Our economy is sinking further into the sewer. As eight years of war-mongering, corporate dominance, insane deficit spending, and gleeful sabotage of government and the national commons have ensured that nothing short of a revolutionary reimagination of the New Deal will save that economy in the middle to long run, it is highly possible that this nation will tumble into something as bad as or worse than that other Great Depression. Given the inability and unwillingness of our ruling class to reach toward necessary measures (and leave behind the habits that got us here), things are most likely going to go south in a bad way. And when things go bad on such a large scale, there are always demagogues popping up to feast on the rubble and ashes and sell themselves as saviors.

I think you can see where I’m going with this, so I’ll cut to the chase. Over at Hullaballoo, Digby sheds light on an analysis of Rick Warren by Bruce Wilson at Huffington Post. I suggest you take time to read both essays, and I’ll embed the video clip that appears at both:

I like Digby’s summary of Wilson’s most alarming point:

[Rick Warren] doesn’t point to the methods of great spiritual leaders like Ghandi or Martin Luther King. He doesn’t even point to the positive ideals of political or revolutionary leaders like the founding fathers. He stands before a roaring crowd of 30,000 followers in a huge sports stadium and points to the 20th century’s worst genocidal madmen as inspiration!

Nice sentiment, Pastor Warren. This is the megalomaniac who Obama is including in his inaugural ceremony, purportedly as a demonstration of his administration’s ‘inclusiveness’. Tell me again why you would invite a wolf to a sheep-shearing…

Anyway, it doesn’t take a wild imagination to extrapolate how Warren’s rhetoric might play out in a struggling, collapsing Republic such as ours. Do we really want the levers of national power accessible to the kind of people who support Israel’s worst behavior because they think it will precipitate the second coming of a Right-Wing Messiah?

By contrast, I think we should all be a little more open-minded about Islam, if only to give our children and grandchildren a better foundation for the future. If things keep going the way they are, our grandchildren and great-grandchildren may be relying on Islamic culture to help them out of another Dark Age.

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