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CSP Mailbag: Right vs. Left
by david & tasha (guest writer) :: August 11, 2003

We here at CSP get our share of of email from readers. We try to open and read every email and letter, and respond to as many as we can. Sometimes the letters are especially engaging. Sometimes, this little website actually sparks reasoned, intelligent debate! (it's true!) What follows is a letter in response to my left-wing political ramblings on this site, and my response to that letter:

(note: the elipses in Tasha's letter do not indicate editing of any kind, or removal of any words. CSP does not censor its letters-to-the-editor. It's just Tasha's writing style.)

David,

I am glad to hear you once had a clue about politics...and I love the 5th face on Mount Rushmore comment...my problem with your somewhat newfound ideology is a commentI have heard time and again from "your liberal kind"(ha). Why do you guys always assume that America is wrong? Why is it that "we" need to change "ourselves" so that the rest of the world will "like" us? This garbage about "understanding" those who wish to destroy us is ludicrous. Whether we choose to believe it or not, a majority of the muslim world do not like Americans for the simple fact that we subscribe to a different belief system. We are not Middle Eastern...and therefore, we are not worthy.

Look at how women are treated in the Middle East....like CRAP. Being a female,I take issue with this. I take issue with a religion that finds little value in women. Judism and Christianity are probably the most tolerant of the "Big" three...the third being Islam. When are you guys going to get it? It is not difficult to understand...it only entails 4 words...They Hate Us...Period. The only thing that will make them happy is our removal from the planet...It does not take a history buff to remember the Crusades.....you know, Muslims taking over the world (more specifically Europe) and Christians fighting to stop them. Need more proof? Look at the populations ofFrance, Africa, countries formedafter the fall of communism in the Soviet Union, etc. In those nations, there exists significantamounts of Muslims....now remember the lack of support offered by those countries during thewar with Iraq. (I won't even go into the fact that the Soviets, France and Germany were selling arms, nuclear components and the like to Iraq). It does not take a rocket scientist to see that as long as the United States exists, and as long as we offer support to Israel...the Arab world will want us "gone". Do you actually think that if those guys were in our position with our capabilities, they would not wipe us off the face of the planet? Our nation is the most diverse and most tolerant nation on earth. Anyone can come here and live as they choose....people look at the Muslims in America and think" Muslims are ok" without realizing that they are "ok" because they are in"this" country. Even those Muslimsdisliked what was happening in their native lands. Even they knew how horrible it was to live in a theocracy...a theocracy that was comprised of those of their own religion.Why is it ok for Muslims to demand that their religion is the "right" one, but we are supposed to sit idlely by and not proclaim our beliefs...whether it be about religion, democracy, freedom of speech, and so on?

I am sick and tired of the apologetic attitude of the left...I am sick and tired of hearing about how bad we as Americans are because we are allowed to prosper. We are not the bad guys in this fight....they are....and if all boils down to us or them....which is the way they want it....they can exit now.

I do agree with you about the infringement on civil liberties since 9/11. I think the government made a knee jerk reaction and ispunishing the wrong people. Americans are not the issue....Islamic terrorist are the issue...and had they never beenallowed entrance to this country in the first place, we would not be having these problems.How do we solve the problem? Well, I'm a hardass...when the bombings of our military bases began years and years ago...and our people were taken hostage(1979)...I would have stopped immigration from middle eastern countries. The constitution protects American citizens...not those who visit with the intent to destroy.

Tasha
Louisiana

* * * * * * *

Tasha,

Thanks for reading CSP, and for your passioned and articulate response. I think you'll be surprised to hear that it filled me with happiness, and passion as well. This kind of discussion is exactly what I imagined CSP to be about: free exchange of ideas between those who might not otherwise have the chance to meet, who might not otherwise have the chance to share or debate their views and ideas. I'm flattered and excited you took the time to compose this response.

I think what was found in your email is a -- no, *the* -- fundamental problem which causes lack of understanding between the left and the right in the United States: often, both sides brand the other as "unAmerican." Frankly, nothing could be more American than the free discussion of ideas outside of the mainstream, whether those ideas be to the far right or the far left. That freedom of ideas and expression is what our country was founded upon. Liberals, like me, don't hate America -- we love it, or we wouldn't be trying to make it better. If I didn't love America and the freedoms I enjoy here, I would, as you suggest, leave, and go somewhere else. Where? I don't know -- since I've never seriously considered it, I haven't a real idea. I'm an American.

Anyway, I'd love to address a couple of specific points in your email but, before I do (and we both get all riled-up) I just wanna express again that this discussion thrills me, and that I'm extremely excited you took the time to write:

    Why do you guys always assume that America is wrong? Why is it that "we" need to change "ourselves" so that the rest of the world will "like" us? This garbage about "understanding" those who wish to destroy us is ludicrous.Whether we choose to believe it or not, a majority of the muslim world do not like Americans for the simple fact that we subscribe to a different belief system. We are not Middle Eastern...and therefore, we are not worthy.

I disagree for a couple of reasons. First, I don't believe simple racism is the issue for "Middle Easterners" any more than it is for us -- the reasons aren't that simple. What's more, simplification of the issues at hand, of culture, of motivation, is what gets us into sticky situations like the ones in which we now find ourselves in Iraq and Afghanistan. We are losing the peace in these places because we never fully understood what caused the violence in the first place. I don't mean to suggest that by understanding our enemies they will simply cease to be our enemies -- that, too, is oversimplistic. But, when we do not understand our enemies, we have only one choice: destroy them. When we understand our enemies, we have two choices: we can still defeat them if we absolutely must (and perhaps more easily, too, since we understand what moves them), or better yet, we can use diplomacy, politics, and simple human kindness to try to make them our friends. I hope you'd agree that peace is better than war -- why not at least try to make peace, based upon understanding and not just on our terms, before we try war?

    Look at how women are treated in the Middle East....like CRAP. Being a female,I take issue with this. I take issue with a religion that finds little value in women.

I have no gripes with you here. But I think that you'll find that mainstream Islam, which is the equivalent of what you and I think of Christianity or Judaisim, holds women in much higher regard than you'd imagine. It's the radical fundamentalism which creates the issues you describe -- and that is a huge problem. Also keep in mind that women's equality, even in this most tolerant country, is a relatively recent development, and it is less developed in strongly religious sectors, even in strongly Christian sectors. It wasn't too long ago that women were not viewed as the equal of men here in the US (in many cases, they still are not). And poor treatment of women is certainly not isolated to the Middle East, or even Fundamentalist Islam. Look at much of Africa, at rural China. Women's rights are a major issue, worldwide, and we should press for them worldwide, including in our own backyard, and this agenda should be attacked with at least the vigor with which we are attempting our "War on Terrorism."

    It does not take a history buff to remember the Crusades.....you know, Muslims taking over the world(more specifically Europe) and Christians fighting to stop them.

I'm ... certain I don't agree here. The Crusades, as I recall my history, and I think my views are pretty mainstream, were not the simple defense of Europe against Muslim invaders. A quick run-down: the Califs of Egypt and the Turks had taken over much of the Middle-East, had destroyed Christian settlements there, and had made things extremely difficult for pilgrims for Europe to get to the Holy Land -- not a good thing, certainly. In addition, Europe was becoming embrolied in internal wars, and the Papacy was losing control. Since Pope Urban II was a friend to the threatened Byzantine Emperor (who had held the lands for centuries, and who was friendly to Christian Europe), the Pope initiated the Crusades -- a campaign to take the Holy Lands away from the Turks and, by extension, unite Europe under one holy purpose. Ultimately, after a couple of hundred years, the Christian kings of Europe grew tired of sending vast armies of able-bodied men to the Middle East to be destroyed, and turned instead back to squabbling amongst themselves. The Crusades also caused, in great part, the split between the Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches. There is suggestion that the Crusades were undertaken initially out of fear that the Turkish empire would expand into Europe (indeed, there was Islamic settlement in the south of Spain which was later mostly routed), but that fear was rapidly eclipsed by greed over the Holy Land, and a desire to rid it of "infidels." I suggest we both take the time to learn a bit more about the Crusades, and, in the meantime, I'd stop using it as an argument for Christianity against Islam, at least until you are certain the history backs up your intention.

    Look at the populations ofFrance, Africa,countries formedafter the fall of communism in the Soviet Union, etc. In those nations, there exists significantamounts of Muslims....now remember the lack of support offered by those countries during thewar with Iraq. (I won't even go into the fact that the Soviets, France and Germany were selling arms, nuclear components and the like to Iraq).

As to all of this, I'll say only that, while France does have an (estimated) almost 7% Muslim population, Germany has a slightly smaller estimated Muslim population percentage (3.4% vs. 3.7%) than the United States, and that Spain and Portugal, both of which have traditionally contained a large Muslim population, were part of the "Coalition of the Willing." In addition, many countries such as Canada, with tiny (less than 2%) Muslim populations also opposed the war. As for trading arms with Iraq -- please do not forget that the US supported Iraq as well during the Iran-Iraq wars of the mid 1980s.

    Do you actually think that if those guys were in our position with our capabilities, they would not wipe us off the face of the planet?

I'm not certain who you mean by "those guys." If you mean Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden, then certainly -- yes they would. But they are madmen. Just because the madmen would wipe us out, that does not create a need for a universal "us" or "them" attitude. We should do our best not to be like those madmen -- we should do our best to promote understanding, tolerance and peace. The "they'd do it, so should we" argument is weak and childish, at best. We, the United States, as decent human beings, should be above those petty motivations.

    Why is it ok for Muslims to demand that their religion is the "right" one, but we are supposed to sit idlely by and not proclaim our beliefs...whether it be about religion, democracy, freedom of speech, and so on? I am sick and tired of the apologetic attitude of the left...I am sick and tired of hearing about how bad we as Americans are because we are allowed to prosper. We are not the bad guys in this fight....they are....and if all boils down to us or them....which is the way they want it....they can exit now.

It is OK for us to declare our beliefs, but I feel no one should try to force their beliefs, religious or otherwise, on anyone else. Americans are not "bad," nor is our success as a nation the "problem." The "problem" is a fundamental lack of concern for our fellow human beings, and a lack of desire to learn more, to educate each other, to embrace a global community and the understanding and cooperation that implies. We, Americans, are not "bad guys." But our current administration is adopting a dangerous policy of pre-emption and international bullying, which will very soon, and for a long time, paint us as the "bad guys" on the international stage. What's more, "they" are not the bad guys either, as long as "they" includes the millions upon millions of average Middle-Eastern civilians. They are just trying to live their lives, just as we are.

My point in this article, and in this email, is that it does not have to "boil down to" us or them -- it is up to us to find a better way, a higher ground, before it comes to that. The Bush administrations policies, I feel, will never lead to that higher ground. That's what makes me sad, and that is what I want to change.

--David Nett
CSP Webmaster


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