Archive for April, 2007

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sects–But Were Araid to Ask
April 12, 2007

Thoughts on sects by contributing blogger Linda Hansen

Surge or no surge, Baghdad is burning. And there’s a reason. Sects in the city. Sunnis and Shi’ites are killing each other just for being, well, Sunnis and Shi’ites–and both sides in this civil war are killing Americans.

If Dubyah had been a student of history, he’d have seen it coming. If he’d had the intellectual curiosity or the competence necessary to lead this nation, he’d have taken the time to learn a little something about the culture, the people of Iraq, before he invaded. Maybe if he’d done his job, been a little smarter, thousands of Iraqis and Americans would have been spared. And maybe our troops wouldn’t be caught in the middle of a religious civil war today.

The Sunnis and the Shia have been at each others’ throats for nearly 1400 years. It all started in 632 A.D. when their Prophet, Muhammad, died. They couldn’t agree on a successor.

Shia Muslims believed that, since Muhammad was the Chosen of God, his bloodline was holy. True divinity–by sacred sanction–ran in the family. It’s understandable. For centuries Europeans held similar beliefs about their leaders. The Divine Right of Kings, they called it. You didn’t mess around with inherent righteousness. Seems God was never too busy to pump up the red cell octane in the veins of royalty everywhere. Shi’ites had double indemnity in making their case for succession-by-blood: Muhammad’s daughter married Muhammad’s cousin, Ali. They would produce an infallible line of Imams for Muslims. It was a done deal.

But Sunni Muslims had other ideas. They liked the notion of choosing a successor from among their most trusted religious leaders. No matter whose blood ran in his veins.

Where was the divinity in that? Some irate fundamentalist Shi’ite probably said something like “The only way to heaven is through the Son of the Prophet. Or through the daughter and cousin, in this case.” To which some equally strident Sunni hollered “Who died and left you the sole authority on who gets into heaven?” And the war was on.

Clearly George W. didn’t know all this. His worldview is amazingly narrow–a “Don’t mess with Texas!” sort of thing. If someone on his staff told him the facts, Dubyah must have believed he could Shock and Awe ’em into getting along. We bombed and invaded. Surely we meant well. After all the fires went out, after the bodies were buried and the rubble was swept into a tidy pile, after the Victory Parade where millions of happy Iraqis threw flowers at our feet, we’d get rid of all those nasty WMD. Then we’d give ’em our version of democracy and convert ’em all to Christianity. Who wouldn’t want to embrace the system of government and the religious faith that brought them all that peace, prosperity and freedom? Presto change-o! Everyone would be friends. We’d have permanent military bases in the Middle East and control of Iraqi oil! Hooray for our side! Hooray for Halliburton and Exxon-Mobile! Other nations in the region would be so impressed they’d fall in line like so many born-again dominoes. What could possibly go wrong?

Everything. We didn’t learn a thing from Vietnam, where a total failure to grasp the complexities of the culture doomed us to lose the war–even if it had been a just one. History repeats through ignorance. Ignorance breeds haste and hubris. Ignorance tainted U.S. foreign policy in Iraq from day one. And the 1400 year long holy war between Iraqis rages on.

Bush and his rubberstamp Congress lacked the foresight to look before they leaped. We need a president who won’t make that kind of mistake. We need a man who recognized, from the start, that this war was unwinnable; that we’d find ourselves impossibly mired in a debacle with no positve way out.

In 2002 Barack Obama made his position crystal clear: This war was a bad idea. He was against it. He knew the difference between “a necessary war and a dumb war.”

Enough said.

An Immoral Minority?
April 2, 2007

And so it came to pass that after weeks and months of antagonizing, blaming, ridiculing, and blasting former President Bill Clinton’s “immoral behavior” during the “Days of Monica,” former Speaker of the House and possible ’08 contender Newt Gingrich admits that he was having an affair at the same time. Sadly, I am not at all surprised. This is the nature of the knee-jerk right.

Gingrich said: “The president of the United States got in trouble for committing a felony in front of a sitting federal judge,” inferring that his admonishment and investigation of Clinton had nothing to do with sexual misconduct and everything to do with lying under oath. Apparently lying in general is an okay but lying under oath is not. Did he want a standing ovation for that nonsense comment? Fast-forward three days. Jerry Falwell, of “Moral Majority” fame, invites Gingrich to speak at Liberty University’s Commencement Exercises. Falwell said: “His most recent book, “Rediscovering God in America,” is a brilliant essay that highlights the unique and obvious Christian influence that inspired our nation’s dawning.” Wait… what!?

In case you don’t know about Falwell, I’d like to note the following comments previously made by him at this point. Read with caution.

• “I think the Muslim faith teaches hate”.

• “There are almost as many alcoholics as there are negroes.”

•”He is purple – the gay-pride color; and his antenna is shaped like a triangle – the gay-pride symbol.”

• “I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way — all of them who have tried to secularize America — I point the finger in their face and say, ‘You helped this happen”. (Referring to September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attacks.)

Last but not least,

• “I am a Christian.”

I can only shiver in fear when I think about what Gingrich and Falwell will discuss prior to their rendezvous in Lynchburg. A possible 2008 Presidential run?

I happen to consider myself a believer. I tend to support the separation of church and state for many reasons, though the “tag teaming” of Gingrich and Falwell’s “moral majority” gives me more reason to support it. Faith is a personal journey, not a political mandate. I can’t for the life of me, figure out why the religious right wants to impose their confined and defined belief systems on a nation that is as diverse, if not more so than any other.

Now comes the question of 2008 Democratic contenders. Have you heard the religion of Clinton, Edwards, or Richardson mentioned? Nope. Yet, people are all over Barack because his family has a multi-cultural background that has had exposure to “the rest of the world”. Why does it matter whether Barack is a Christian or not? As long as there is separation of church and state it shouldn’t matter. Are we that desperate to find someone who fits our defined boxes and lives within the lines we draw that we are willing to attack the fact that other religions exist in the world and –get this—may have something very valid to offer. It’s gotten so bad that the Republican Party has begun to pick out their own people, throwing stones at Mitt Romney because he is a Mormon. It’s as if they think people who are different have contagious diseases that can’t be cured.

For the record, and for those that care –Barack Obama is a Christian. Bottom line.

So, this brings me to my closing argument. If Newt and Jerry want to rant and rave about folks being “immoral” and “un-Godly”; if the Radical Right chooses to separate politicians based on religious beliefs; if the “God-factor” is going to determine the election and these politicians choose to talk the talk, why not walk the walk too? The walk of empathy rather than exclusion, the walk of grace rather than condemnation, the walk of kindness rather than rejection, the walk of embracing differences rather than pointing the finger. Aside from that, nothing matters. I look forward to a point where we no longer feel the need to confine God within the boundaries of our traditions, cultures, communities, and political philosophies.

Thanks for reading.

Nathan Lean
Executive Director
RockwithBarack.com