So, tomorrow is supposed to be Everybody Draw Mohammed Day. The Seattle artist who originally called for the day has backed way off her support for it. The Facebook page cited in that link has also backed way off its original stance.
Which is all pretty sad, in my opinion.
So why is it so awful to depict an image of Islam's most revered Prophet?
Back in The Day, during the infancy of Islam, many Muslims failed to adhere "properly" to that Commandment about not worshiping false idols (or any God but the one true God). After the Prophet died, some Islamic factions began worshiping Mohammed much like Christians before them worshiped Jesus. (We won't get into the But Jesus is the Son of God! argument here.) Temples, monuments, statuary, and the like were created to honor Mohammed.
Other Muslims decided this sort of thing had to be nipped in the bud, and it was declared that any image of the Prophet was blasphemy. Factions fought one another. Temples, monuments, statuary, and the like were forcibly destroyed. Having even a picture of the Prophet in one's home was a possibly fatal offense. The no-worshiping-Mohammed group won out over the worshiping-Mohammed group, and the Mohammed imagery taboo became dogma. Mohammed himself had been pretty firm on the no false idols thing--he accused Christians of being polytheistic with their Jesus-worshiping ways.
As these things happen, the original intent of the Mohammed taboo was obscured by the rule itself. It was just plain blasphemous to depict the Prophet, regardless of reason or religion or whatever. So today we have fundamentalists who think it's okay to threaten to kill my beloved Matt Stone (and, you know, Trey Parker, too) for portraying Mohammed in a bear suit.
Some people think those of us who are not Muslim should be more culturally sensitive and respect the wishes of Muslims who believe depictions of their Prophet to be blasphemous. I'm all for cultural sensitivity. To a point. The line is drawn when one group of people tells another group of people that they are bound to the laws of a religion they don't participate in.
I am not bound to Islam anymore than I am bound to Catholicism. I don't ask priests to absolve my sins, and I don't ask anyone to approve of my doodles. I do not happen to live in a country run by religious rulers, and no one can force me to accept any belief system (or at least act like I accept it) other than my own. It's religious freedom, freedom of speech, and all that good stuff I enjoy as the citizen of a democratic nation.
It would be kind of a lame thing to die for--drawing a picture of some guy who has been dead for nearly 1500 years--but it is important to take a stand when one group tries to force their religious beliefs on another. No matter how crazy or small that group might be.
For me, not for you. Your reading of it is strictly voluntary, but I found it interesting.
It's an article on anthropology and counterinsurgency. It's a bit lengthy, so I want to include a quote from the end of the piece which I thought was notable:
Regardless of whether anthropologists decide to enter the national-security arena, cultural information will inevitably be used as the basis of military operations and public policy. And, if anthropologists refuse to contribute, how reliable will that information be? The result of using incomplete "bad" anthropology is, invariably, tailed operations and failed policy. In a May 2004 New Yorker article, "The Gray Zone: How a Secret Pentagon Program Came to Abu Ghraib," Seymour Hersh notes that Raphael Patai's 1973 study of Arab culture and psychology, The Arab Mind, was the basis of the military's understanding of the psychological vulnerabilities of Arabs, particularly to sexual shame and humiliation.61
Patai says: "The segregation of the sexes, the veiling of the women . . . , and all the other minute rules that govern and restrict contact between men and women, have the effect of making sex a prime mental preoccupation in the Arab world." Apparently, the goal of photographing the sexual humiliation was to blackmail Iraqi victims into becoming informants against the insurgency. To prevent the dissemination of photos to family and friends, it was believed Iraqi men would do almost anything.62
As Bernard Brodie said of the French Army in 1914, "This was neither the first nor the last time that bad anthropology contributed to bad strategy." Using sexual humiliation to blackmail Iraqi men into becoming informants could never have worked as a strategy since it only destroys honor, and for Iraqis, lost honor requires its restoration through the appeasement of blood. This concept is well developed in Iraqi culture, and there is even a specific Arabic word for it: al-sharaf, upholding one's manly honor. The alleged use of Patai's book as the basis of the psychological torment at Abu Ghraib, devoid of any understanding of the broader context of Iraqi culture, demonstrates the folly of using decontextualized culture as the basis of policy.63
I have to write a reaction paper on the whole thing and how it relates to the ethics of anthropology, by the way.
On February 26, 1993, Islamic terrorists succeeded in blowing a hole through four levels of the World Trade Center in New York City. Six people were killed and over 1,000 injured.
Patiently, Islamic terrorists waited until they could try again. They formed a plan, and completed the steps necessary to carry out that plan. They patiently waited for over 8 years, and on September 11, 2001, they attacked the World Trade Center once more.
Their patience paid off: they reduced the buildings to rubble. They killed 2,749 people, which unfortunately (for them) was well-below the number they had hoped to accomplish.
Today, somewhere in the world, there are men planning another terrorist attack on American soil. They are patiently waiting for the American public to lower its guard. They are patiently waiting for the American public to tire of regular casualty reports and demand the troops leave Iraq and Afghanistan. They are patiently waiting for America to leave its work half-finished in Iraq and Afghanistan, so that they can take advantage of the turmoil and dissatisfaction we would leave in our wake. There is a precedent for that, you know.
So, to those who think we've been in Iraq and Afghanistan long enough and need to bring our soldiers home, I can only urge patience. We must be as patient as those who right this moment are planning to kill us. Leaving those countries won't make them love us. It won't make them like us. It won't make them think any better of us whatsoever. Exercising patience and helping them get back on their feet--not abandoning them after we throw their country into disarray--is what we must stay there to finish. Support the war in Iraq or not, we HAVE to finish the job.
If this happened in America, you'd really have yourself a news story:
Police said a preliminary investigation indicated the bomber blew himself up among a group of teenagers crossing a busy intersection.
But it happened in Israel, so good luck seeing it on your evening news for more than 15 seconds.
Teenagers at a mall. Not a government or military target. Teenagers at a mall. If that doesn't make you sick--if that doesn't make you realize the mindset of what we're dealing with--I don't know what will.
I don't have much to say, other than that my thoughts are with the citizens of Great Britain today.
Be safe, everybody.
A cemetery is not the place to foster "debate" or "dialogue". A cemetery is a place to honor and remember those who have died. The World Trade Center site is equivalent to a cemetery. Thousands of people died there and we need to honor and remember them. Quietly. Reverently.
Politics do not belong at Ground Zero.
It is important to some people to "understand" why September 11 happened, but the intellectual debate and dialogue should not take place on top of the victims' bodies.
Shame on anyone who can't understand that.
For more information, go here.
It's been three years since that day, and the emotions aren't as raw. The wound has scabbed over.
It's healed enough that I can watch a History Channel program about the Twin Towers with antiseptic curiosity.
It hasn't healed enough for me to watch the crush--the towers falling--without tears forming in my eyes. Seeing that pulls the scab off.
I am only eight generations removed from my ancestors who fought in the Revolutionary War. Eight generations from people who not only fought against tyrrany and oppression, but who were the kind of people who would leave everything and everyone they knew--and every comfort they had--to travel across a vast ocean in hopes of making something for themselves.
That's what America is about: making something for yourself. Taking your God-given abilities and surviving by your wits. The generations before us did it so well that a good percentage of us can squander our God-given abilities without guilt.
On the whole, however, we are the brightest and most industrious people in the world. In two short centuries, America--this infant of a nation--became the world's superpower.
We inherited a lot from those who came before us. Courage is not small amongst the lot. We lived comfortably before 9-11-01, feeling safe from the terrorists who stalked other nations.
We were complacent, yes. Suffering from lack of fortitude, no. On 9-11, there was no lack of courage in America. We are defiant by nature. We are brave. If given the chance, we will defend the freedom we cherish above our own lives. We will do this so that the future generations will be proud of us--so that they will also be free.
We don't know what the future holds in the way of technological advances, and it is naive to assume their world will much resemble ours, but someday perhaps my great-great-great-great-great-grandchildren will study this nation's history. They will study the Revolutionary War. They will study the Civil War. They will study World Wars I and II. They will study the War on Terror.
And they will be proud of us.
After three years, complacency is creeping back on our nation. But the majority of us keep picking at that scab...we don't let the wound heal. We don't want it to heal, because if we let it heal we'll forget. If we forget, we'll lose.
Last year, Pete was kind enough to give me access to his pictures of the World Trade Center aftermath.
Here are links to the original posts:
Ik hoop u anaal wordt verkracht!
An Israeli child was killed by a Palestinian rocket yesterday.
"What can I tell you, little boy," said Moyal. A boy leaves home and goes to school and instead of returning home, is buried in cemetery at the end of the day.
"You didn't know anything of the Israeli Palestinian conflict. You didn't know anything about war or peace. You were pure, but we have neighbors, little boy, who are animals, murders that kill little children age 4. We will not forget, we will not forgive."
Meryl points out what is missing from the funeral.
What a brave and powerful statement that was. Murdering an unarmed civillian while wearing a hood to hide your face from the world.
militants terrorists total f*cking assholes are cowards to the core.
Reports are sketchy, but apparently Paul Johnson's killers are dead.
After Johnson's body was found, Saudi officials "swooped in" on the neighborhood where the killers were.
My question, while realizing it is still early, is this: Why didn't they swoop in a lot f@cking earlier?
I didn't have a blog before the war in Iraq, so I can't reference back to posts I made. You'll just have to trust my recollections.
Right before the first bombs started flying, I had a rather intense discussion (read: hostile argument) about the impending war with a friend of mine. This friend is in the NYPD and a lifelong New Yorker, so that might shed some light on his perspective post-September 11.
I'm a lifelong Democrat, so draw your own conclusions on my perspective.
President Bush had been making his case for the WMDs, and my friend took it completely to heart. He insisted we had to go to war to stop Saddam Hussein from perpetrating another 9-11 or using nuclear bombs on us.
I wasn't convinced. The inspectors hadn't turned up enough evidence to show me that we needed to boot Saddam out of power based on his weapons capability. I did state that I thought Saddam definitely needed to be removed based on human rights issues, but that I felt it may be a very bad precedent to set. We already had so many people angry at us, and now we were going to throw out a country's leader without a "legitimate" excuse in the world's eyes?
Then the bombs started.
And it was my war. Those were my soldiers. Because I am an American.
You see, regardless of individual feelings about the war, WE ARE AT WAR.
There's no walking away from it. The worst thing we could do is abandon Iraq. Imagine if we yielded to the cries of "Bring the Boys Home". Imagine if we left Iraq--and the Iraqis--today.
First of all, Iraq would be up for grabs. It would be a chaotic mess, and you'd probably see a 1990s Afghanistan-type situation with warlords fighting each other.
Second of all, with the entire world watching, America would be backing down from a handful of guerilla fighters. Imagine budding terrorists' reactions to THAT.
We're there and we have to stay there. Iraq is now our responsibility whether you like it or not, and we have to finish what we've started.
That's what this is.
Unfortunately, someone out there is sending quite a few people to this site to post anti-war and anti-American messages on the post about Taking Chance Home.
There is a time and a place for politics--and that's not it. Someone who would post a nasty comment on a humbling, moving post about bringing a soldier home is the same kind of person who would see nothing wrong with protesting a soldier's funeral, I suppose.
Everyone has already linked to Matt's post "Taking Chance Home" but if you somehow missed it, you need to go read the whole thing. You'll need a little bit of time and tissue, but it is well worth it.
The President of the United States is like the CEO of a giant, bloated conglomerate. The President can't do a whole lot on his own. He has a million employees, and out of necessity he must depend on his employees to do the bulk of the work.
The President makes the tough executive decisions based on the information his employees provide. Sometimes the information is flawed. Sometimes it is incomplete. The President has to use his own judgment.
George W. Bush makes decisions like these. Bill Clinton made decisions like these. George H. W. Bush made decisions like these, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, etc. etc. etc. all made these decisions.
They all made the best decisions they could based on the information they had. That's what we hire them to do for four years at a time. When their time is up we can decide if we liked their decisions or if we'd rather try something else.
President Bush did not fly an airplane into the World Trade Center. Former President Clinton did not fly an airplane into the Pentagon. Both of them are human beings who made decisions based on intelligence, history, and their gut reactions.
How many of you would have believed on September 10th that it would be possible for FOUR commercial airplanes to be hijacked on AMERICAN soil at the same time and subsequently used as weapons? How many times had that happened before? What would you have done differently? Would you have been the one to step up security at airports to unprecedented levels based on the rumor of a possibility that a plane might be hijacked? How would Americans have reacted to that?
Luckily, we don't have to make those decisions. We hire someone to do it for us. All we have to decide is which CEO we want.
Imagine if you will that this was a Mexican boy.
That Mexicans regularly boarded Texas buses with bombs strapped to their bodies in the hopes of killing Texas citizens. That once a week--or I'll even let you imagine it's once every few months--some Mexican blew himself and a dozen Texans to Kingdom Come.
Then tell me how long you'd negotiate with the Mexicans. Tell me how you'd respond to some other country saying we couldn't build a wall to separate the United States from Mexico.
How long before we'd bomb the hell out of Mexico?
As promised (and I apologize for the delay), here are more WTC pictures, courtesy of Pete. These were taken this spring and summer, so you can get an idea of the rebuilding.
All commentary comes from Pete:
This is the Southwest side of the site, taken from my building, around April of this year.
This is the East side of the site. If you squint a bit you can see the cross about 2/3 of the way up on the left. This is where the smaller buildings were located and it doesn't go as deep as the west side where the 2 towers were located.
This is the first few floors of #7 taken from the 16th floor of my building. They are almost up to the 6th floor by now
The Cross looking North. The Federal building is in the background.
This is the Deutsche Bank building. I included pictures from right after the 11th to show the damage to the front side. About 12-15 floors were ripped out when the South Tower collapsed. They are still trying to decide wheather to tear it down or to fix it. During that day the sprinklers went off in the building and mold grew on everyting inside. If they do decide to tear it down if has to be done floor by floor. They cannot drop it due to the mold. (or so we are told) My boss' brother worked in this building and his office was in the area that was destroyed. He was out that day and escaped injury.
The following story was submitted by Pete.
I was working in an office building in the shadow of the Twin towers. Every morning I would walk past the line of trucks that were being inspected before being allowed to enter the underground garage to make their deliveries. The strange thing about it is that the people in my group didn’t even know about what had happened at first. Our office had no windows and we found out when someone came in and asked us how we could be sitting there as if nothing was happening. I remember rushing to the south side windows to see what he was talking about. The first thing I noticed was all the paper flying around. It was like a bizarre tickertape parade. Then I saw the hole in the North tower. As strange as it sounds my first thought was “how in the hell are they ever going to fix that”. We had a clear view of the hole from our location and I could see the fires spreading. Then we saw the first body falling from the tower and we all went silent. It looked like a rag doll flying through the air. I remember wondering what might have caused that person to jump. Could it have been that bad that there was no other escape? Or worse did they fall because of some sort of damage to the building? In the silence we could hear was the continuous wail of the sirens as the emergency services converged on the building. That would be the background noise for the rest of the day. Even now, after 2 years, every time I hear multiple sirens I still get the awful feeling in my stomach.
Our building fire safety officer made an announcement asking us to stay in the building for our own safety. The streets were totally chaotic and we heard of several near misses from some of our coworkers.
I called my parents in New Mexico to tell them about what was happening and to see if they might be able to get some more info for me. Here I was right next to everything that was happening and I was calling ½ way across the country to get details. I also wanted to let them know that I was ok. The lack of knowing what was going on was the worst.
We had barely returned to our room when we felt our whole building shake. Back to the windows to see the flames starting to come from the south tower. At the time we had no idea that the second plane had hit that tower and we though that it might have had something to do with what was happening at the north tower. We soon found out soon enough though. After that there was no doubt that it had to be terrorists, but there was no real panic. Ironically our building was still not evacuated and they were telling us to remain inside as a precaution against falling debris. They didn’t mention that some of those debris were bodies. Part of me wanted to go out to see if I could offer any kind of assistance. I have first aid training and I knew that there would be a large number of people who might need assistance but at the same time I didn’t want to get in the way of the professionals. I was also somewhat afraid of the continuous reign of debris.
I didn’t see the first tower collapse. Several of us were setting up some workstations incase people from another nearby site were directed to our building. We heard a rumbling and our building started to shake again. I could hear people screaming and all I could think about was another explosion. We made a break for the fire exits on the North side of our building (away from the towers). I remember seeing my boss turn around and run back the way we had come. I figured that he was crazy and kept going out with everyone else. There was no way I was going to stay any longer.
We were lucky in that Building 7 mostly blocked the malignant clouds of dust. Things were really chaotic when we got to the street. People were crying and carrying on about the south tower collapsing but at first I couldn’t believe it. It just didn’t make sense, how could it fall? There was a lot of dust and smoke and I figured it would clear and the tower would still be there. After a minute or 2 the awful truth hit me, the South tower was totally gone. I knew that probably at several thousand people were probably dead and that a hell of a lot of firemen wouldn’t be coming out.
We were still looking at the remaining tower and more people were jumping from it. The people on the street were screaming at them not to do it but there is no way that they could have heard. I started walking north with several of my coworkers but we kept looking back. I was wondering what was going through the minds of those who were still trapped in the north tower. What could they possibly be thinking after seeing the other tower collapse? What were the last thoughts of those who jumped? The regrets that must have went through their minds as they leapt to their deaths. I thought about my daughter and if that had been me up there. I was constantly trying to dial my cell phone but the service was overloaded. Someone near by had a cell phone that was able to get through and I asked them to relay a message to my parents that I was ok. I found out later that they did get it and it eased their minds.
After what only seemed like a few minutes I heard another rumble and I turned and watched the second tower fall. It was a surreal experience. I felt like I wasn’t in my body, like I was watching a Tom Clancy novel happening. The whole thing seemed to happen in slow motion and the last thing I saw was the TV antenna as it toppled down into more clouds of dust and smoke. People were screaming and crying all around me but I was totally numb at that point. It just couldn’t be happening I thought. Then I started to get mad at those who had done it, but who were they? How could they kill so many so easily? What would happen next?
I would like to say that the rest of the day passed in a blur but didn’t. I can remember every moment up till I finally got home late that evening after basically walking ½ the length of Manhattan. It was such a perfect fall day. I remember the crowds flinching every time a plane would fly overhead. The terrible realization that those planes were fighters and they were flying combat air patrols of the city. How everyone jumped when a loud bang came from a UPS building as they passed. The few cars parked on the side of the avenues with their doors open and the radios on and the crowds they attracted. Listening to Rudy on the radio asking for people to volunteer at the hospitals. Being told that there was a 4-hour wait for blood donations at the hospital and Red cross center when I stopped in to donate. The almost absolute silence in a bar where I stopped to rest my legs as everyone watched the drama played over and over on the TV. Watching fire departments from the suburbs pouring into the city to aid the NYCFD. Correction department busses loaded with officers heading to the site. The mayhem at the George Washington Bridge because no one was allowed across on foot. Watching as people filled up their cars and trucks to give people a lift to NJ. Watching guys in suits hanging off a truck to get a ride like something from a third world country.
One thing that really stuck with me was the absence of any type of panic though. Throughout the entire afternoon I saw countless acts of kindness. The NY reputation for rudeness went out the window that day and I don’t think that it will return. For me I still think about the final thoughts of those who died. I have made changes to my life to hopefully avoid having any regrets when my time comes. There are probably a hundred other thoughts in my head about that day but for now I’ll leave it here.