Warning – This is an off topic post…and not particularly cheery. If you want gym stuff, skip this. I’ll have something for you tomorrow.
Every parent has had to respond to a child trying to use somebody else’s bad behavior to excuse their own. Who hasn’t heard the line “But mom, Jimmy does it all the time” when they call their child out for some misdeed or another. It’s a universal parenting experience. So what is the good parent’s response? Do we slink into the corner muttering “Oh, yes, that’s right. Jimmy does do that. I guess it doesn’t matter then. I shouldn’t have brought it up” or do we look our little darling in the eye and say “What Jimmy did was wrong. If he got away with it, it doesn’t make it any better. it’s still wrong. Furthermore, I don’t have the power to stop Jimmy from (insert bad behavior here…stealing, lying, hurting other children) but I’m most definitely going to see that YOU know right from wrong and if you make bad choices, you will be held responsible. There will be consequences.”
Aren’t we in agreement that this is the reasonable way to respond to our darlings when they make this worn argument?
What if He-Did-It Jimmy lived a thousand years ago? Would that change the discussion in any significant way? Of course not, yet this is the same weak argument that the President of the United States made when he admonished his audience at the recent National Prayer Breakfast against throwing stones when they “live in glass houses.” He was addressing legitimate concerns over a barrage of alarming violence across the world being committed by people who identify themselves as Islamic.
“Lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ” (he added slavery in the U.S. and Jim Crow as Christian misdeeds as well). “Murderous extremism” he explained, “is not unique to one group or one religion. There is a tendency in us, a sinful tendency that can pervert and distort our faith.”
First, let me fix that for the President. The murderous extremists that we’re all concerned about, that he’s taking about but refusing to name properly would more precisely be called violent (or murderous, if he’s settled on that word) Islamic jihadists. They are the people currently among us who quote both religious text and Islamic law to support things like
*Crucifying children (Iraq)
*Entering schools and taking young girls to use for their own pleasure i.e. sex slaves (Nigeria) This refers to one specific incident in Nigeria but using captive women as slaves, sexual and otherwise, is rampant in Syria, Iraq and Northern Africa.
* Throwing gay people off the tops of buildings to kill them (Syria)
*Slaughtering boys who watch soccer on TV by lining them up and killing them by firing squad (Iraq)
*Sentencing musicians to 90 lashes each for playing non-Islamic instruments (Syria)
*Entering a school, killing in excess of 120 children and burning some of the teachers alive while insisting that the children watch (Pakistan)
*Walking into the headquarters of a publication and killing 12 journalists/cartoonists…and then proceeding to kill people in a Jewish deli for good measure (France)
*Putting bear clamps on breastfeeding women’s breasts to punish them (Syria)
*Attacking a soldier in the street and beheading him with a meat cleaver (Britain)
*Taking hostages in a cafe which resulted in the deaths of two patrons (Australia)
*Burning churches to the ground by the hundreds (Nigeria and countless other places)
In the U.S., just off the top of my head, I can list the Boston Bombings, Fort Hood shootings, the beheading of a woman in Oklahoma, the recent execution of two policemen sitting in their squad car in New York…and of course the events of 9/11 when close to 3000 Americans were killed in one day. I could go on and on because the list of atrocities go on and on. People here and across the world are suffering because of violent Islamic jihadists.
Remember, the President needed to point out that this type of behavior “isn’t unique to one group or one religion.” I would counter that while that may be true over the span of human history, right now it’s violent Islamic jihadists that preach (and act to promote) the domination, death and destruction of people with differing beliefs all across the globe.
Second, a salient point ignored by the President, is that people in his audience weren’t alive during the Crusades. For the sake of this particular argument, I won’t challenge his interpretation of events (although there are countering readings of history that acknowledge known excesses during the Crusades but also provide a contextual view and discuss the instigating events). For the sake of brevity, I will leave his slant unchallenged. I will respond to his take that in the past there were Christians who killed innocent people using their religion as an authoritative reason for it. Surely, he’s aware that since those he was addressing weren’t there, they couldn’t have pointed out the wrongdoing or done a single thing to correct that behavior. I wasn’t alive 1000 years ago, or 500 years ago, or 100 years ago, but I’m alive now. In what deranged view do I not have the responsibility or the standing, because of the shadows of history, to call out terrible transgressions and wrong doing in the here and now when I’m aware of them?
It seems the President thinks it’s odd or that it points to some sort of unsavory personality trait that violent Islamic jihadists should capture our attention. I think it’s eminently reasonable to turn my eyes upon them and give their motivations and actions investigation and thought when they daily declare war against me and mine…and when they exhort their followers to kill my children (I watch them kill other people’s so I know it’s not idle talk).
I pay attention because I want to shield the innocent. I read and study their philosophy because it poses significant danger to large numbers of people across the world and must be counteracted. I do it because I don’t want wrong thinking to win. I talk about it because my children deserve a parent who will stand up for them (and I’m happy to stand up for the children down the street from me, and on the other side of the world as well). We are stewards in the here and now. If I shut up because of transgressions made hundreds of years before I was born then evil wins twice. I can’t change the past. I can’t take responsibility for something that happened when I wasn’t there but I can tell you that if Islamic jihadists prevail in my lifetime, it won’t be because I sat down and refused to name them, because I wouldn’t point out the crimes they commit against their fellow man (and all decency) or because I wouldn’t support a superior philosophy of proper conduct.
I’m perfectly comfortable on my high horse. I can’t and won’t absolve a violent Islamic jihadist of responsibility today because Jimmy acted up…centuries ago.
References (I provided these for people who think I’m making this stuff up. You can google each instance I cited above yourself and you will see countless supporting documents for each one)