Saturday, June 07, 2008

The Ecstasy and the Apostasy

I'm just retrograde enough to think that voting for Barack Obama because of the gesture it constitutes, whether to Black America's or the world's historical resentment, is an absurd way to go about selecting a president (and the source of a nifty political gimmick for a campaign already low on substance). But one can't deny the reality of it, and any rehabilitation of our image abroad is welcome. Human nature and the realities of governing being what they are, however, there's no reason to assume this consequence will remain a positive independent of all else--it may end in resentment as the worldly Wonder Brother, bound by the circumstances of domestic politics and the warfare state, proceeds to disappoint those foreigners that share the youth of America's vague infatuation with "Change".

We're all familiar by now with Edward Luttwak's "apostasy" essay and the immediate outrage it provoked. The criticisms of the essay seem to impress those who know far more about it than I. But just as no plan survives a punch in the face, no sensible argument, or its rebuttal, survives contact with human emotion. From this Haaretz story about Senator Obama's immediate sacrificing on the altar of AIPAC whatever capital of goodwill his nomination has thus far created in the Arab world:
The Arab press has often used Obama's middle name, Hussein, but Al-Watan noted Thursday that he was a murated - an apostate from Islam. Orthodox Islam considers this a violation punishable by death.

An article on the Palestinian Web site Dunya al-Watansaid that many Arabs preferred Obama over his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton because they thought he would save them. "They forgot that he is an American Zionist who turned his back on Islam, and that he is hostile to Islam more than the infidels, the Christians and the Jews," the site said.

We should all be sophisticated enough at this point to know that it isn't a question of whether Barack Obama is technically a Muslim apostate, but if political/religious figures abroad can and will convincingly portray him as one. This absurd concern is another consequence of empire--like it or not, we are answering to the religious sensibilities of a very angry and growing segment of humanity. We've given partial ownership of the polity to world opinion.

Perhaps we should all just agree that the presidency is no place for gestures and our politics run a deficit of substance already, and call it a wash, if for no other reason than human passion may be provoked but not controlled, and is usually best left alone. The key to gaining the world's trust and respect still lies in being seen as strong, fair and worthy of emulation, and not dictating to them how they should order their societies--but above all, in not destroying their cities and killing their children.

1 comment:

ziel said...

The key to gaining the world's trust and respect still lies in being seen as strong, fair and worthy of emulation, and not dictating to them how they should order their societies--but above all, in not destroying their cities and killing their children.

I can't imagine the epithets I would have wanted to hurl your way 5 years ago for that...but now I can only thank you for saying something so simple and so right.