Archive for February, 2009

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Intro Post: In The Age of Detached Tenderness

February 20, 2009

 

Daniel Pearl, Fully Alive

 

The other day Judea Pearl penned an essay for the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, the newspaper where his son, Daniel, worked before his capture and his brutal beheading by al Qaeda boss Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

The essay dealt with what the father sees as the “normalization of evil” by certain political actors, the media and other organizations in the West. I was surprised to see former President Jimmy Carter singled out as one of these actors. While the former President pretty much left his one term in office in disgrace, I always thought of him as a religious man, a man of faith, and one I would have thought used to championing the moral choices over the political expedient. Not so, here’s a selection from the essay:

“But somehow, barbarism, often cloaked in the language of “resistance,” has gained acceptance in the most elite circles of our society. The words “war on terror” cannot be uttered today without fear of offense. Civilized society, so it seems, is so numbed by violence that it has lost its gift to be disgusted by evil.

I believe it all started with well-meaning analysts, who in their zeal to find creative solutions to terror decided that terror is not a real enemy, but a tactic. Thus the basic engine that propels acts of terrorism — the ideological license to elevate one’s grievances above the norms of civilized society — was wished away in favor of seemingly more manageable “tactical” considerations.

This mentality of surrender then worked its way through politicians like the former mayor of London, Ken Livingstone. In July 2005 he told Sky News that suicide bombing is almost man’s second nature. “In an unfair balance, that’s what people use,” explained Mr. Livingstone.

But the clearest endorsement of terror as a legitimate instrument of political bargaining came from former President Jimmy Carter. In his book “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid,” Mr. Carter appeals to the sponsors of suicide bombing. “It is imperative that the general Arab community and all significant Palestinian groups make it clear that they will end the suicide bombings and other acts of terrorism when international laws and the ultimate goals of the Road-map for Peace are accepted by Israel.” Acts of terror, according to Mr. Carter, are no longer taboo, but effective tools for terrorists to address perceived injustices.

Mr. Carter’s logic has become the dominant paradigm in rationalizing terror. When asked what Israel should do to stop Hamas’s rockets aimed at innocent civilians, the Syrian first lady, Asma Al-Assad, did not hesitate for a moment in her response: “They should end the occupation.” In other words, terror must earn a dividend before it is stopped.

The media have played a major role in handing terrorism this victory of acceptability. Qatari-based Al Jazeera television, for example, is still providing Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi hours of free air time each week to spew his hateful interpretation of the Koran, authorize suicide bombing, and call for jihad against Jews and Americans.

Then came the August 2008 birthday of Samir Kuntar, the unrepentant killer who, in 1979, smashed the head of a four-year-old Israeli girl with his rifle after killing her father before her eyes. Al Jazeera elevated Kuntar to heroic heights with orchestras, fireworks and sword dances, presenting him to 50 million viewers as Arab society’s role model. No mainstream Western media outlet dared to expose Al Jazeera efforts to warp its young viewers into the likes of Kuntar. Al Jazeera’s management continues to receive royal treatment in all major press clubs.

Some American pundits and TV anchors didn’t seem much different from Al Jazeera in their analysis of the recent war in Gaza. Bill Moyers was quick to lend Hamas legitimacy as a “resistance” movement, together with honorary membership in PBS’s imaginary “cycle of violence.” In his Jan. 9 TV show, Mr. Moyers explained to his viewers that “each [side] greases the cycle of violence, as one man’s terrorism becomes another’s resistance to oppression.” He then stated — without blushing — that for readers of the Hebrew Bible “God-soaked violence became genetically coded.” The “cycle of violence” platitude allows analysts to empower terror with the guise of reciprocity, and, amazingly, indict terror’s victims for violence as immutable as DNA.”

I’ve often wondered why the political resistance exemplified by India’s Gandhi or our own Dr. King had never translated to the Middle East or to Northern Ireland, for that matter. Passive resistance to violence, willing to lay down your life in front of tanks (Tiananmen Square) makes for great TV and wins the hearts of your fellow man far more easily than suicide bombers wreaking havoc on school children waiting for a bus or shoppers in a mall. Self immolation as protest was the vehicle of protest for Buddhist priests in South Vietnam and was all over the media.

 If you are going to die, why not choose the most effective way?

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Albert Camus famously said that if humans found that the universe could love they would be reconciled. His words illustrate a proof that it’s not the traditional argument of the existence or non-existence of God that gives rise to atheism but the knowledge that God is love that truly matters. Unable to justify that knowledge, atheists promulgate the most frequent charge against God and his existence, the use of the suffering of children to discredit the fundamental attribute of the goodness of God. Once you have discredited His goodness, you are basically done with Him. Home free as it were, without the home.

Flannery O’Connor wrote to a friend:

“Ivan Karamazov cannot believe, as long as one child is in torment; Camus hero cannot accept the divinity of Christ, because of the massacre of the innocents.

In this popular pity, we mark our gain in sensibility and our loss in vision. If other ages felt less, they saw more, even though they saw with the blind, prophetical, unsentimental eye of acceptance, which is to say, of faith.

In the absence of this faith now, we govern by tenderness. It is tenderness which, long since cut off from the person of Christ, is wrapped in theory. When tenderness is detached from the source of tenderness, its logical outcome is terror, It ends in forced-labor camps and in the fumes of the gas chambers…”

So individual egoism has the last word and without the knowledge of any absolute truth, the moral relativism of the age, as expressed by Bill Moyers and Jimmy Carter,naturally justifies the acts of terrorists, like water running to the lowest level.

In Northern Ireland some are seeking to memorialize the site of the former Maze prison where terrorists did their time and a few died in hunger strikes. Patrick Kerr, 37, a principal prison officer at the Maze prison, was shot dead at 1120 GMT on 17 February 1985 by two IRA men outside Armagh Cathedral. A Roman Catholic, Mr Kerr had attended Sunday Mass with his two youngest children, Gregory, seven, and Kristin, four. Cardinal Tomas O Fiaich, Primate of All Ireland, who was in his residence nearby at the time, said: “Can anyone conceive of a greater crime than to murder a man in front of his family as he was coming from worshipping God?” Or 23 years later to memorialize his workplace to his murderers?

This is the age we live in, a time of “detached tenderness,” when Christ beckons us to Him.

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