The Mountainside is my Temple;
The Shoreline is my Masjid;
Deep in the Woods, I kneel,
The Shrine surrounds me
The xenophobic wave of fear I see sweeping through the United States is quite stunning. The latest manifestation is the protest against the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque”. The moniker (in it’s inaccuracy) itself yields much grounds for illustration. Regardless of how one feels about the building of the mosque/center itself, the rhetoric and hyperbole surrounding this issue are undeniably inflammatory and down-right scary. However, this is just one on a growing list of examples of how Americans, who consider themselves the core American demographic, are reacting against those “others”. I hesitate to label the wave racist, because I sense it’s actually something more sinister.
Overarching question: Once they get done with the Mexicans, Muslims and gays, do you think you’ll be safe?
I am arguing that there is a deep seated psychosis in the American psyche that America wants to pretend doesn’t exist. This psychosis has reared its head in horrible ways in the past. Genocide of the Native Americans, interment of Japanese Americans, enslavement of Africans, McCarthyism & the Red Scare, internment & torture of “enemy combatants”. The current round of “anti-otherism,” bears all the earmarks of the beginning of another ugly episode of this psychosis.
Let’s look at the current list of “others”: Mexicans, Muslims, gays. Some corresponding examples are anti-immigration laws, the daily barrage of inflammatory statements against Muslims, anti-gay marriage campaign, and anti-affirmative action movement (“reverse racism”). What I find most interesting about this list, is that in the current election cycle there are candidates with every one of these items on their platforms.
Conservative talking-heads address these issues, and others, as encroachments on our freedoms. Irony of ironies: their solutions to these encroachments, are to take away the freedom of others. Their solutions of the past have served to take away our freedoms general (Patriot Act), in the name of safety.
Focusing again on the “Ground Zero Mosque”. Let me state quickly that it is neither at Ground Zero, nor is it a mosque. These are at once technical, but also very real distinctions. Because the question quickly arises, how far from Ground Zero would it be acceptable to build a mosque (or in this case, and Islamic center)? Some opponents state that its fine, just not in lower Manhattan. However their rhetoric suggests, that it would be fine, just not in the United States.
As an aside New Gingrich seems to have a penchant for comparing people and groups to Nazis. First he compared President Obama and Democrats in general, most recently he compared Muslims to Nazis. The irony of course, is that such demagoguery is straight from the Adolph Hitler/Joseph Goebbels playbook. If you doubt, you can read the words for Gingrich’s pen (so to speak) here: Language: A Key Mechanism of Control.
The vehemence against building a mosque also reveals the myopic vision of many Americans. The people who attacked us on September 11th were Muslim. They professed primarily political grounds for attacking us. It is an extreme leap to then say Islam is evil. To suggest that human rights violations and murder by Isreal then condemns Judaism would be met with vehemence. Suggesting that the Catholic Church protecting and enabling child predators for centuries, condemns all Christians everywhere would be ridiculous. Yet this is what we have done with Islam.
Or, I can quote Ron Paul: “This is like blaming all Christians for the wars of aggression and occupation because some Christians supported the neo-conservative’s aggressive wars.” Read the full piece.
Lets be clear, Muslims died in the towers that day. American Muslims have fought, bled and died in the war against Al Quaida, the Taliban, and Sadam’s Iraq. It is a disgrace and tragedy to then assert that these Muslims are in the same class as the extreme minority that comprises Al-Quaida or the Taliban.
I’ve written about similar divide & control techniques used in America.
The questions then are:
- Why the need to demonize Muslims in general?
- Who really stands to gain?
- Once their done with the Mexicans, Muslims, and gays, do you think you’ll be safe?
If you think that because your Christian, you’re safe, think again. Are you a member of any “other” group? Do you think Sarah Palin’s version of Christianity has much tolerance in it? Perhaps you or a loved one will be in need of a life-saving abortion. Do you think that Sarah Palin’s Christianity has any room in it for that.
Or maybe you’re not Mexican. Do you really think the anti-immigration push is about a love of the law? Why do we have our immigration quotas in the first place? Talking heads speak of Ellis Island like that was the infallible implementation of abiding by immigration law. Only a small minority of immigrants passed through Ellis Island. Ellis Island was not about overseeing the implementation of immigration laws.
What difference does it really make whether a gay couple can be recognized as married or not? How does the governmental recognition of this affect anything but the administrative issues of insurance, healthcare, probate, etc.? Why does the small government crowd want the government to interfere in the lives of gay people? Not gay, you say? Do you really think that your lifestyle choices & personal preferences are safe from the same small-but-ever-encroaching-government people?
Do not miss my larger point. I’m not advocating for or against the building of a mosque. I am pointing out that the vehemence is not about Islam, or September 11th, it is about a deep-seated psychosis deeply rooted in the American psyche that nobody wants to deal with. The ostensible objective is to extend the demonization from terrorists to Islam in general. What reason? One can only guess. But the most obvious is to distract from the ongoing, progessless, nine year war going on in Afghanistan and Iraq, the millions of lives ruined and lost along the way. There are other more sinister motives, I’m sure.
To quote Ron Paul again:
“Defending the controversial use of property should be no more difficult than defending the 1st Amendment principle of defending controversial speech. But many conservatives and liberals do not want to diminish the hatred for Islam–the driving emotion that keeps us in the wars in the Middle East and Central Asia.” (emphasis mine)
What’s the motivation behind the anti-immigration stance? Maybe to distract from our leaders culpability in leading the United States down a road of consumerism, ballooning debt, and mediocrity. Let’s blame it on all these illegals coming across the border. Immigration, illegal or otherwise is a political problem. The immigrant nations are culpable in the process. If politicians really wanted to deal with Mexican immigrants, then they would deal with the Mexican federal government, which has a policy encouraging Mexican immigration north across our borders, but heavily discourages Central American immigration north into Mexico.
They won’t do this because they need illegal immigration to distract from their own ineptitude, culpability and corruption.
They’ll continue to demonize all Muslims everywhere, because they need to distract from their culpability in engaging in this never-ending war, and selling the last of our freedoms down the river (Patriot Act).
They’ll continue to implicate gays for the general demise of family units in America, because it distracts from the slight of hand of equating the American Dream with American Consumerism.
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Morality is relative. Good and Bad do not exist objectively. Most people have a deep-seated aversion to this idea. Many people feel that their sense of Morality is The Moral Law. I find this extremely interesting because, just like religion, one’s morality, more often than not, is an item of pure circumstance. A function of the accident of being born in a particular culture, in a particular geographic region, of a certain ethnic group, and a certain socio-economic class. These are choices infants do not make. Most people never veer from this set of accidental circumstances. Yet, we take pride in these accidents. We take ownership of the mere chance that one was born to a Christian couple, in an intact household, earning $150,000 per year (for example). Or we, take ownership of being born in a land with no trees, almost no work, where the average annual wages for an entire family are less than a laborer in Atlanta’s single pay check. Each yields its own unique set of consequences, morals, opportunities, which we had no part in.
I digress. Surveys of history, cross-cultures, even within different ethnic sets in the same society, will reveal differing moral codes. What are we to make of this? Some have made the case that, while there are variances, basic principles are universal. I would say that this is the case only in the most general sense. Even within the same moral code, morality becomes relative. Murder is bad. But what is murder? Is all killing bad all the time? What if someone was holding a knife to your daughter’s throat? What if there was a really good, higher purpose for them holding that knife? What if you thought someone was threatening another’s life, but after you killed that person, you found out there was no threat? In all these cases, within the same moral code, the answers become relative. Morality is relative. There is no getting around it.
Why then be moral? Many people are uncomfortable with the idea of moral relativity because they feel that people will not be Good without a rigid clearly defined Law. Where did this idea come from, that people need hard directives? It didn’t come from reality. The jails are full of people who were brought up with delineated ideas of Heaven and Hell. In fact, many people serving life terms in the prisons, did what they did, with the clear understanding that it would get them killed, or locked up for life. Hard moral lines did not prevent them from doing it.
Morality is a set of rules derived by men from observing the behaviors of people walking a Righteous Path, and the resultant benefits. Warrior culture has been developing since the beginning of mankind. The Warrior class developed from the nature of early human hunting practices (see my earlier post). As the Warrior class developed and began to come into conflict with the Warrior groups of competing human groups, they had to address the present fact of death and dying. This eventually lead to certain pragmatic mystical concepts which guided behavior of the Warriors. Warrior culture adopted these pragmatic mystical practices based on centuries of trial and error in terms of their objective benefit. As society become more sophisticated with stratified levels of leadership, the idea of codifying these practices as a means of benefiting the larger society developed. But the members of the larger society did not have the objective reality of death to put everything in perspective. Thus the rules of morality became divorced from their pragmatic applications.
Concurrent, leaders realized that they could control the larger society by implementing and conditioning subjects to a moral code. This opened the door for convenient rules that prevented people from disrupting the standing of the ruling classes. For example, rules of morality that defined classes and made ideas of transcending class immoral (an extremely common rule throughout stratified societies).
Thus morality developed from a practical reality of men and women dealing with the ultimate reality, to an abstract set of rules for an entire society, to a subtle, but powerful means for ruling classes to solidify their power.
Comfortable or Uncomfortable? Warrior or not?
This is a list of my teachers:
- My mother–a saint in my eyes, especially because of her faults
- My father–piece of shit that he was.
- Malcom– for showing me a possibility of how to be, when I had no hope.
- Dr. Reisch–for hazing my ass intellectually, and laying the foundation for my intellectual investigation.
- Marvin–a counselor at Elmhurst Boys, who gave me a visible example of how to behave.
- The boys of Elmhurst Boys-with and amongst whom we hustled, fought, stole, smoked, drank.
- The boys of Lefrak City–who taught me how to take a beat down.
- Celeste–with whom I learned the possibilities of intimacy & the lunacy of relationships.
- Those sons of bitches who cut me up, and left me for dead that night in Brooklyn.
- Sheikh Ali–who taught me spiritual insight.
- Karriem–my Brother. I’ll miss you. Didn’t get to say goodbye.
- Dr. Sampson–who did her job when others just wouldn’t.
- Eddie–who taught me to man up.
- The NCOs of the Ranger Regiment–who forced me to meet the Warrior.
- B.I.B.–because of the shit we went through. Those who know, know.
- My wife–who has been my mirror, whether I wanted her to be or not.
- My children–who can count the lessons?
- My business–for bringing me brutally face-to-face with my shortcomings.
- Daisy, my dog–because she just is. She is a Warrior.
- Tomiko, my dog–for making me eat my words, and winning me over, despite peeing all over the place.
- Sugar, my cat–who first showed me what loyalty might look like.
- My wife’s Grandfather–who was a Real Man. May I ever live up to his example.
That’s it for now. A starter list. I will probably amend the list as time goes on.
The Question: Are mystics of separate traditions more akin to one another, or more to the orthodoxy of their respective traditions?
Many, if not most, spiritual and religious traditions, historically have mystical branches. Are the mystics from these traditions, in fact, more akin to mystics from other, separate traditions, or to the larger orthodox order of their respective religions. This question becomes more interesting when one looks, and sees that, very frequently, the mystical traditions are held to be outside of the religion by orthodoxy, sometimes even heretical. As a student, a professor posed this question to the class, and it has intrigued me since. The fact that one would entertain the question, belies an underlying tendency of the questioner. Orthodox thinking of many larger religious traditions, unfortunately, would tend to reject the notion that certain elements within their tradition, may be more akin to elements from a separate religion. As a result, the very existence of the question belies an opening for the possibility.
The Issue: However, I think there is much more at stake than an interesting question from an introductory religious studies course, or even a vigorous philosophical discussion. I my mind, there lies a key to extricating ourselves from the quagmire of conflict that pervades the planet.
Jalal — follow me on twitter twitter.com/Old454