Speaking Truth to Fundamentalism — Leonard Pitts, Jr. on the need to question ideology.
“Truth crushed to earth will rise again.” — Martin Luther King Jr. (quoting William Cullen Bryant)
Sometimes, oceans are not enough.
Usually, the fact that we are barricaded on both sides by great bodies of water gives us in this country a certain sense of remove from the awful things people with funny names do to one another in strange places on the far side of the globe. But once in awhile, the thing is awful enough that you can’t ignore it, or pretend that it is less real.
Such is the case with Malala Yousafzai, the 14-year-old Pakistani girl whose shooting last week on a school bus in the Swat Valley sparked headlines and outrage here and around the world. Yousafzai, who at this writing is in critical condition after emergency surgery, has been an Internet activist, agitating for women’s access to education
The Taliban considers that a capital crime. It claimed responsibility for the men who stopped the bus and boarded it, who asked for Malala by name and, when she was identified, shot her and fled. The group has said that if Malala survives, it will come for her again. It says her death is required under Islamic law.
But make no mistake: Islam is not their religion. It is their excuse.
There are two reasons this story crossed the ocean. The first is that it is appalling. Human garbage does not get much ranker than a man who boards a school bus to kill a child. The second is that it is recognizable, that we see in their mad religious and ideological fundamentalism ghostly shadows of our own.
Granted, the outspoken child in this country is not in particular danger of physical violence from religious or ideological zealots. But the abortion doctor is. The gay couple is. The Muslim American is.
Fundamentalism is fundamentalism wherever it breeds, always the same dark stain of unbending literalism, always the same shrill claim that it guards the one true path to enlightenment, always the same crazed insistence that the one unforgivable crime against faith, the one inexcusable heresy of ideology, is to ask questions.
Speaking of fundamentalism, Adam Gopnik at The New Yorker takes note of Paul Ryan’s answer about faith and abortion at the debate Thursday night.
Paul Ryan did not say, as John Kennedy had said before him, that faith was faith and public service, public service, each to be honored and kept separate from the other. No, he said instead “I don’t see how a person can separate their public life from their private life or from their faith. Our faith informs us in everything we do.” That’s a shocking answer—a mullah’s answer, what those scary Iranian “Ayatollahs” he kept referring to when talking about Iran would say as well. Ryan was rejecting secularism itself, casually insisting, as the Roman Catholic Andrew Sullivan put it, that “the usual necessary distinction between politics and religion, between state and church, cannot and should not exist.” And he went on to make it quietly plain that his principles are uncompromising on this, even if his boss’s policy may not seem so:
All I’m saying is, if you believe that life begins at conception, that, therefore, doesn’t change the definition of life. That’s a principle. The policy of a Romney administration is to oppose abortion with exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother.
Our system, unlike the Iranians’, is not meant to be so total: it depends on making many distinctions between private life, where we follow our conscience into our chapel, and our public life, where we seek to merge many different kinds of conscience in a common space. Our faith should not inform us in everything we do, or there would be no end to the religious warfare that our tolerant founders feared.
What About Marriage Equality? — Steve Clemons at The Atlantic wants to know why gay marriage was off the table at the debates.
While Martha Raddatz was masterful [Thursday] night actually moderating a genuine and thoughtful debate between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan, she failed to pose a key question to the contenders: What is your view on same-sex marriage?
Some will say, well, there are a long list of issues she had to get in the mix — Afghanistan, the Libya debacle, abortion a few times, the economy, Medicare — and that is true. But the issue of gay marriage is one that matters in this election, and it was not mentioned at all in either the first presidential debate or the standoff between Biden and Ryan.
Biden was the person who kicked open the door on this subject in this election by stating he was “absolutely comfortable” with same-sex marriages. For a couple of days at least, the public divide between Obama and Biden was wider than on any other issue since they had been in office — a greater chasm between them than on Afghanistan policy where their differences were known but sewn together as a process leading to a conclusion everyone supported.
Many argued at the time that Obama coming out days after Biden in support of gay marriage would cost him North Carolina. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have decidedly different views on the subject and oppose same-sex marriage, and even civil unions.
With gay marriage is being considered this season on state ballots across the United States — and with the man who played a star role in kicking the civil-rights battle forward sitting on stage in Danville — Raddatz should have queried them publicly on the movement broadening traditional marriage.
Doonesbury — Microwave it.