Based on the 14 years of experience that I have working with Muslim students on campus, I have come to see Islam as a faith like any other. It’s sad and unjust that Americans are conditioned to respond to it as something utterly different. Hijab, in particular, is profoundly misunderstood.
We are so bipolar. Left or right, liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican, secular or religious, pro-choice or anti-abortion, straight or gay, NAACP or KKK. We are a nation of diametrically opposed frequent fliers, forever on the right or left wing of something. We seem to have an inability to hit the middle, or to want to be anywhere near it.
Lately I’m having a hard time understanding the attitude of Congressional Republicans without resorting to a summary dismissal of them all as essentially evil. I’m good, they’re bad; I’m sane, they’re crazy; I’m patriotic, they’re borderline treasonous. I give a damn about people and they only care about money. Lévi-Strauss was so right: The world is a mass of binary oppositions.
I used to wonder about Germany. How could a single culture have produced such extremes of genius and madness, of creativity and destruction? How could the same people who gave us the Reformation have given us the Holocaust? What kind of intense cognitive dissonance must they have endured?
Now I wonder about Israel. How can the descendants of the displaced have gone on to displace another people? How can those who were once walled into ghettos watch their sons and grandsons build new walls? How can the exiles of Europe subject another people to the constant indignity of multiple checkpoints and “papers, please?”
What happened in Germany was this: After the devastating losses of World War I — losses of life, capital, and dignity — the people were so depressed and downtrodden that they allowed the most extreme among them to gain political control. The angry, righteous rhetoric of these extremists was so compelling because it projected both the confidence of certainty and the exercise of power, two absences felt profoundly by the German people at the time. The genius and the madness, the creativity and the destructiveness, were all always there. Jung said it: The shadow is the seat of creativity. Both are always there. It’s just a question of which side is dominating at the time.
Now, read the above paragraph and substitute “Israel” for “Germany,” “World War II” for “World War I,” “the Israeli Settler Movement” for “these extremists,” and “Jewish” for “German.” The shadow is currently dominating.
I’ll save you the trouble of further translation and provide it for you here in dystopic fashion:
What happened in America was this: After the devastating losses of the Iraq and Afghanistan/Pakistan Wars — losses of life, capital, and dignity — the people were so depressed and downtrodden that they allowed the most extreme among them to gain political control. The angry, righteous rhetoric of these right-wing extremists was so compelling because it projected both the confidence of certainty and the exercise of power, two absences felt profoundly by the American people at the time.
What happens next?
The US is getting ready to veto a UN vote in favor of Palestinian statehood. Why? The official line insists that the best path to statehood lies through direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians — not as a directive from outsiders. While the Palestinians have the votes on their side and liberals like me would love to see them get their state, this claim still warrants examination.
What would be the worst case scenario, then, if the U.N. vote actually managed to recognize a Palestinian state? Israel would not be willing, or perhaps even able, to remove its settlers from the Palestinian territories. Palestine might seek to evict its resident Israelis through a process that mirrors their own displacement a generation ago. The Israeli government would send its military in to defend its citizens. The UN would back Palestine and the US would have a difficult decision to make — one which the Obama administration might understandably wish to avoid. A veto is their safest bet.