Friday, September 14, 2012

4 Dead in Libya

People have always held differing opinions. Cain and Abel came to blows- and death- over their differing opinions, and that was, depending on you point of view, around 3,500 years ago. But civilized people have learned to argue differing points of view without bloodshed or injury, even during contested elections.

Not that we are completely blameless.We have had a Civil War and deadly riots in this country, and may have them again.

But for the most part, and most of the time, we accept one another as we are and peacefully coexist. Sometimes our feelings get hurt. We have government funded artists creating images that are disrespectful of religion, or of a particular faith. We express our outrage in blog posts, calls to radio shows and Letters to the Editor of the local paper.

But we don't determine that the artist was an atheist and go on a violent rampage against every atheist we can find.

Our currency of exchange in disputes is verbal, not physical.

After September 11th, both this week and 11 years ago, radical Moslems have clearly defined what their currency of exchange for discussion is.

It is violence and death.

As long as we fail to negotiate in the same currency we are seen as weak.

It is time to start being seen as strong, not weak.

They kill 4, we kill 40; or 400, or 4000.

Since violence and death are the currency they understand and seem to prefer, it is time to start talking in a way they will understand.

The problem is we can't. Our history; our culture, our religions, won't allow us to retaliate wholesale against a people for the actions of a few.

And it shouldn't.

But that restraint puts us in a terrible position for an exchange of ideas with the Middle East. Bluntly, I am no expert. I haven't spent years living in the area, or even studying the various cultures and sects. All I know is what I read in the papers and on the internet.

And I see a culture that believes the only way to deal with an issue that you don't like is to kill it.

James Lileks had a great column up yesterday, discussing this same thing. I guess it is on a lot of people's minds.

He references some recent occurrences, talking about the killing of gay young men in Iraq, and the incident in Afghanistan where a group of people were sentenced to death- a sentence that was carried out- for dancing.

I recall back in the late 1999 the Taliban were shelling with artillery fire an image of Buddha-  one that was thousands of years old and rather large, carved into the side of a cliff- because their religion didn't allow images like that. No discussion of what the culture that created it believed. They didn't like it, and they destroyed it.

The riots the other day in Egypt and Libya were allegedly caused by a movie available on YouTube that cast aspersions on the prophet Mohammed. They couldn't destroy the movie; they couldn't kill the men who made it, but they did ransack two US embassies and kill 4 Americans, including the US Ambassador to Libya.

As long as we are using words as our currency, and they are using violence, we can never come to any agreement. Its like trying to make a deal with a culture that prizes cow chips, while we are trading in gold; neither medium of exchange has any value in the other culture.

True, this is a subset of Islam, and only a certain number of people believe that jihad is the way to deal with the world. But it doesn't appear to me to be a Westboro Baptist Church situation and the balance of Christianity, or even the Baptist religion. Every time Westboro crawls out from under their rock they are soundly criticized. A verbal display, and a verbal chastisement.

When is balance of Islam going to chastise the violent segment of their religion?

Are they unable to, or just unwilling?

No comments: