Friday, February 13, 2015

Is it really Muslims against the world?

The election season is beginning, and some battle lines are being drawn.  A conservative friend sent me a video of a speech by Newt Gingrich in Iowa.  I guess Newt is running, or at least wants to shape the debate.

Gingrich is a very articulate and persuasive speaker for his world view.  He says the we are losing the war on terror, our president and the State Department (meaning Hillary Clinton) won’t even tell the truth about who the terrorists are, it is a global war, and it is being waged by Muslims against the West. 

I understand this view, it is the view that I passionately held ten years ago.  I do not see it that way anymore.

I think we are doing a good job of keeping America safe from attack from the terrorist wing of the Muslim faith.  And the terrible flaw in the idea of ginning up hatred and fear of Muslim terrorists is that we lose the war against them by turning those that we need most in this war against us – Muslims themselves.  America is not going to defeat the Muslims.  America shouldn’t be waging war against the Muslims.  Muslims need to defeat the terrorists amongst them who are falsely claiming the mantle of Islam as they kill, maim, and terrorize us all – Westerners and Muslims alike. 

I do not believe this is a global war even though the terrorists strike against the U.S. and the West.  I believe we are peripheral to the real war, and that the real war is a civil and religious war between the Sunni and Shia Muslims.  We have no dog in that fight.  Both side include vicious, fanatical Muslim extremists.  It is up to Islam to sort this out.  My hope is that mainstream Islam will turn against the terrorist wing of Islam.  Fortunately, it looks like Jordan is going after the brutes of ISIL.  So are the Kurds.

But, most importantly, I believe we in the West need to refuse to take the bait of going after these monsters in their countries.  As soon as we do, ISIL and al Qaeda transform this war into the story they need to tell – it becomes the Christian and corrupt secular Crusader West against Islam.  And then what happens?  The ranks of ISIL and al Qaeda and other bloodthirsty fanatics fill with recruits from the one and a half billion Muslims around the word.  If we attack all we do is swell the ranks of the crazies, we play into their hands.  This was the goal of bin Laden, Bush fell for it, he attacked, and the Middle East exploded, creating more and more extremists, including the current terror – ISIL.

I think our job is to do two things- keep from getting killed by them, and stay out of their wars as best we can.

Muslims need to figure out what Islam is in the modern world.  Obama was right in his speech to the prayer breakfast last week – violent, puritanical extremism isn’t unique to Muslims.  Christians went through that stage a few hundred years back.  The United States was founded by Christian groups fleeing the attacks of the fanatical My-Christianity-or-the-Highway terrorists of their times. 

So, there are thee lessons we can take from history, our own Western Christian history:  first is that it is normal for extremist, puritanical fanatics to violently try to force the rest of the world to obey their fanatical views, and second is that religions split into factions and fight each other, and third that eventually they learn how to co-exist.  The Christians did it, and the Muslims will too. 

We just need for them to speed up this process, a lot.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Anti-vaxxer from the extremes on the right and the left

I get frustrated by the anti-vaxxers.  The notion that vaccination causes autism has long been disproven.  The idea was apparently proposed by a Doctor in 1998, Dr Andrew Wakefield.  But his study was false, he was disbarred, the paper was retracted.  What more do people need? 

I am old enough to have gotten measles when I was in the sixth grade.  It was a very difficult disease.  We had a president who was infected with polio - FDR.  The world had a much lower life expectancy rate before Dr Salk discovered the polio vaccine and proved the value of vaccinations.  Massive numbers of people have died from contagious air born diseases.  And now, some people have been convinced to refuse vaccinations for their children.  This is really a terrible idea. 

There seem to be two political extremes vulnerable to the anti-vaccination fad.  First are the hard right wingers who think that anything the government wants is bad, so they oppose it because the government says it is good, and they see the government as an oppressive enemy of freedom of choice.  Second are the food purity people on the left who think that if they just eat whole, nutritious foods no harm can come to them.  Apparently one of the centers of anti-vaxxers is liberal, wealthy Marin county, CA.  I've heard it claimed that if you want to find a lot of anti-vaxxers, just draw a circle around Whole Foods stores. 

Both groups, meet contagious disease!  It doesn’t matter what the government says or what foods you eat, you will get the measles, or polio, or…  Vaccination is one of the greatest benefits to humankind in the twentieth century, and some seem to be longing for the days when, for example, the native Americans were extinguished more by the contagious diseases brought by the Europeans to America than by the calvary.  I guess we forget the terrors of contagion since we don’t see it.

So, today we are treated to the spectacle of a Republican presidential hopeful, Jeb Bush, needing to be courageous when he says he thinks all parents should get their children vaccinated.  It's like thinking that it would be a courageous thing to say that their children should wear boots in the snow.  This is a strange bit of silliness, it seems to me.