Monday, September 18, 2006


Pope Benedict's citing of a Byzantine text stating that Islam and Mohammad are "evil and inhuman" led to the predictable street scenes, effigy burnings, calls for righteous reprisals, which in turn inspired Western libs and reactionaries to claim higher ground while using Muslim outrage to justify their own support for war, culture clashes, pseudo-racist put-downs, and so on. In short, fundies of all stripes, secular and non, were nourished. Reinforcement of hatred is vital in keeping our war world aflame, and a random tour of various online sites shows that this essential link is not only understood, but employed at every opportunity.

Of course, one must remember that the vast majority of Muslims did not spill into plazas, screaming for infidel blood. If that were the case, then I seriously doubt that the self-inflated humanitaroids at Harry's Place would be so glib in mocking them, which they did, in Li'l Gween Football manner, over the weekend. If a billion-plus, unified, violent Muslims were genuinely looking for some direct payback, these humanitaroids would be the first to flee to whatever hiding place they could find, sticking cooking pots on their heads and murmuring to themselves about the Perils of Reason, when not simply sobbing in culture shock. Like those they feebly attempt to satirize (if that), Harry's crowd, by and large, affects the potential victim pose, finding the worse possible pix and graphics, no matter how marginal, to bolster this stance.

Run a photo like this:

And you've got the set-up you need to act like a brave defier of clerical fascism. It's a popular game with numerous Western adult-boys -- Online Culture Warrior -- one that anybody can play, once you've learned the proper code words, dismissals and overall tone.

In the real world, there are various political trends developing within Islam, some of which are indeed authoritarian and violent, but others that are not incompatible with secular concerns and living. I'm currently reading as much as I can about these developments, mostly for my own education, but also in preparation for a possible upcoming debate with a prominent blogger and writer. More on all this as it progresses.

Funny, though perhaps not in a ha-ha sense, how it's the Pope who's made to apologize for religious insensitivity, if not bigotry, in this current case. Usually, it's the Catholic Church that demands contrition when it feels slighted or slandered by critics. Most organized religion is like this, alas, which is why it has done and continues to do such harm to the species, especially now, in our world of monotheistic overreach and destruction. Tribalism soaked in the blood of the One True God can never offer a positive future, and those who consider themselves Islamic militants are hardly alone in this wretched enterprise.

This recent flare-up reminded me of a similar controversy from nearly 14 years ago. At the end of her a cappella version of Bob Marley's "War," Sinead O'Connor stunned a "Saturday Night Live" audience into silence by ripping up a picture of Pope John Paul II. Here it is, as it appeared live on a very unhappy NBC, October 3, 1992:

O'Connor got immediately slammed from all corners, religious and political, as well as receiving numerous death threats. It certainly didn't help to advance her career. In New York, the reaction was especially harsh, which I remember quite well. I was editing a small Manhattan weekly at the time, and you couldn't escape the outraged din in both print (the New York Post whipped this up with relish) and on TV. I didn't listen to talk radio at the time, but I'm sure O'Connor got trashed there as well, doubtless with WABC leading the charge.

The following week, I wrote a front page editorial defending O'Connor's televised action, briefly outlining by own Catholic past and the reasons why I broke with the Church. The editorial's headline, "Sinead Eats Pope!", was meant to be a play on the Post's often wild covers. But it angered many readers, as did my rejection of local Catholic anger. Several days after the issue hit the streets, I got a phone call from a man with a heavy, agitated Noo Yawk accent. He asked if I was the one who wrote the editorial.

"Yeah. That was me."

"Well then, you know what? I got a bullet for you. I'm about a block away from your office and I'm coming up. What do you think about that?"

This wasn't the first death threat I'd received (I got my share during the first Gulf War), but it did rattle me. I asked if the man was a Catholic. He was. So I worked that angle, using my own experience with the Church, to talk him down a bit. He must have expected me to hang up or shout insults at him, because when I spoke to him as someone with real concerns, he softened somewhat and calmed down. He was still upset with O'Connor and my defense of her, but he could see that I wasn't out to deliberately or casually defame Catholics or the Pope, even though I opposed the Church hierarchy and many of its reactionary beliefs and edicts. Finally, we agreed to disagree; and when I asked him if he really did have a bullet with my name on it, he answered, "Oh yeah."

Thankfully, I never heard from him again.

It's true that there are those faithful who cannot be reached or reasoned with. But there are plenty of believers who can and will listen. That, to me, is going to be the real struggle for those seeking peaceful, just solutions to this madness, which is the real enemy.