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Let There Be Conflict!

 

The result of the presidential election has produced a range of reactions from the antiwar crowd, from optimism to despair. Paul Craig Roberts notes hopefully that the Christian right which delivered Bush the election did not vote for preemptive war or American Empire, but merely against homosexual marriage and a woman’s right to choose.

I suppose we can find some comfort in that; the cultural conservative who voted for Bush may react much as his or her pro-choice, homo-friendly compatriot will react to the mounting bloodshed in illegally occupied Iraq. But on the other hand, the administration’s goal of acquiring hegemony over Muslim Southwest Asia, plus traditional American bigotry, plus the specifically anti-Islamic mindset of Christian opinion-makers who really conceptualize the War on Terror as a Crusade against Muslim evil, plus the ignorance underlying religious fundamentalisms everywhere, are an explosive combination.

Anyone who can believe that the world was created in seven days, and that all humanity except for Noah’s family escaped the Deluge 4000 years ago, can easily fit into this web of delusions the belief that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9-11. Or that Syria or Iran threatens Americans’ security. Conceivably such believers will tolerate tens of thousands more deaths in a prophesized apocalyptic confrontation, energized rather than disillusioned by all the carnage.

Robert Jensen in contrast to Roberts sounds a very pessimistic note, eloquently drawing on the Book of Micah to condemn America, like the Old Testament Prophet condemned “the sin of the House of Israel” in the eighth century BCE. With beautiful irony he employs what the Bush base regards as sacred text to damn the evil, oppressive, warmongering regime. But he leaves the reader with a sense of hopelessness

Libertarian Justin Raimondo, on antiwar.com, proffers reasons for hope in the ongoing investigations of administration duplicity and venality. Citing the example of Richard Nixon, overwhelmingly reelected in 1972 and driven from office in disgrace two years later, he suggests that the Plame Affair, and investigations into administration lies preparatory to the Iraq invasion, might lead Bush-Cheney to a similar end. http://antiwar.com/justin/ I have been thinking and hoping the same thing. That’s a very happy scenario, but I’d prefer a rapid intensification of social conflict like that which occurred in the heroic Sixties, producing a necessary polarization, radicalization, genuine debate, and the disillusionment with institutions that has to precede real change.

Bush and one time quasi-radical, career opportunist John Kerry alike dread the latter scenario. The Massachusetts senator had “a good conversation,” with his war criminal counterpart when conceding the poll. The two “talked about the danger of division in our country and the need, the desperate need, for unity, for finding the common ground, coming together.” Kerry hoped “we can begin the healing.” He repeated this line in his pathetically unprincipled concession speech.

Jesus, Senator! Begin the healing? Of what? The injury to U.S. imperialism caused by the antiwar movement, which so naively rallied around your sorry ass? Let that wound stay open. Let it bleed, as the scriptures, or equally valid texts, say we should. Since we’re all being so damned biblical lately, let me cite Jesus’ statement to his disciples as recorded in Matthew 10:34-36. “Perhaps people think that I have come to cast peace upon the world. They do not know that I have come to cast conflicts upon the earth: fire, sword, war. For there will be five in a house: there’ll be three against two and two against three, father against son and son against father, and they will stand alone.” Like so much in Holy Writ, in any religious tradition, you can do whatever you want with these passages. I quote this simply to suggest that disunity and conflict are by no means a bad thing, whereas unity for its own sake can advance the cause of the vicious. The last thing the country needs as it slides towards fascism is unity around that project.

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” says Jesus on the cross (Luke 22:34). The victims of religious fundamentalist indoctrination (Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu) throughout the world in their know-nothing ignorance deserve human compassion. (And divine compassion too, in the highly unlikely prospect that such exists.) But they don’t deserve, and aren’t best served, by kiss-ass compromise or capitulation. Let there be logic challenging ignorance, broad-minded tolerance challenging religious bigotry, civil strife challenging hopes for an American harmony that could only further damage and enrage the world (which still wants badly to believe there are decent Americans) by its fruits.

GARY LEUPP is Professor of History at Tufts University, and Adjunct Professor of Comparative Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa Japan; Male Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is also a contributor to CounterPunch’s merciless chronicle of the wars on Iraq, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia, Imperial Crusades.

He can be reached at: gleupp@granite.tufts.edu

 

 

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Gary Leupp is Professor of History at Tufts University, and holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa JapanMale Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He can be reached at: gleupp@tufts.edu

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