Sunday, August 29, 2010

Resisting an epiphany

Over at POWIP, Enoch is disturbed by the gradual roiling of dark waters in his soul.

I am not sure what to do with how I have come to feel about Islam in general and Muslims in general. [...] It is not as if I have a personal issue personally with any given Muslim person. And herein is the rub, as they say. [...] I would not consider myself a racist or a xenophobe. And I won’t proclaim that I am so very beyond harboring a sliver of deep distrust. Nor will I pretend it is but a sliver. The creaturely part of me signals as if I need be on guard when I am around The Them. And it bothers me that I do feel this way involuntarily.


A history professor of mine in college once told about an incident when he was touring the Balkans, Greece IIRC. He was in an old church, and noticed that the walls were streaked with soot. There had been a fire inside. The docent angrily confirmed it: "The Turks did this!" How terrible, the professor replied. When did it happen? "1348!" We all laughed. Such ancient, slavic grudge-carrying was quite foreign in America, the land of buried hatchets and fresh starts.

It doesn't feel so much like that anymore. Something is coalescing, taking root, something which may have repercussions centuries on down the road.

Americans are a kind, forbearing, humble, welcoming people, lefties' incessant accusations otherwise notwithstanding. I have never had a negative personal experience with a Muslim and, SFAIK (anonymous internet flammage aside) no Muslim has ever had one with me. I suspect that that is true of most everyone reading this, left or right. In fact, I sometimes have occasion to help Muslims who are new to the area, or to America altogether. During one point of misfortune a few years ago, I learned that one Muslim family of my acquaintance was praying for my wellbeing. So trust me: I know how all this sounds to people who disagree. American Muslims just want to run their convenience stores, parking garages, halal meat shops, or physics labs, and get on in life, same as everyone else.

And yet the Islamic terrorists, well-trained foreign agent or Sudden Jihad Syndrome flipout, are hiding among them, not us. And the alleged moderate Muslims who run interference for them are quick to scold us for noticing, as are the progressives who tend to make mascots of civilization's enemies. And every snowflake in an avalanche can plead "who, me?".

On the ground, under the news radar, most people get along fine much of the time, even in the world's hot spots. Muslims will even visit Palestinian churches to receive The Virgin's blessing, I've heard. And yet "My biking buddy is a Muslim, therefore Islam is a religion of peace" is as idiotically simplistic a statement as "I get along fine with all the black people at work, therefore there is no more racism in America." Only difference is that the stakes are far higher with the former delusion.

The people who roll their eyes at the commotion over Park51 do not understand or appreciate the power of symbols--intended or unintended. They do not understand the power of memory, of grievances unassuaged, and how they can be passed along year to year, generation to generation, to unpredictably multiplying effect.

No, like Enoch, I don't want to follow these thoughts to their terminus. Just as force should not always be applied to its utmost extreme, so ideas should not always be pursued to their logical conclusions. But the sectarian wedge has been driven deeper between us, with this "center". Who or what can prise it out again? Here be monsters.

Update: welcome readers of Lawyers, Guns and Money. Gee, between The Jawa Report flood earlier and now this, it's almost like having a live blog again, circa 2005!