Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Life Is Real Words Can Be Cheap by Anthony McCarthy

but they can get people killed.

Suzie’s post yesterday is about one of those first level issues that are much more important than the election campaign squabbling I’ve been dealing with. If you haven’t read it yet and donated, it’s very important and is a chance to do something real about the world.

The point about what we can do for people in another country where our best intentions are thwarted by politics and the history of the West in the Middle East came up at Digby’s blog. The issue is one we’ve discussed here a lot, the murder of a young woman that goes by the obscene non sequitur, “honor killing” Here’s one of my comments lightly edited.


You might be too young to remember the dispute of PBS showing the film "Death of a Princess" about the beheading of a young woman living somewhere among the royalty of the House of Saud and her lover. There were all kinds of threats about retaliation from Saudi Arabia, mostly taken by people at the time to mean another 1970s style oil crisis. I remember all the talk about "understanding their culture" by those who advocated PBS be stopped from showing it. Well, I heard Elizabeth Drew say that she thought the Saudis should be told that in our culture you don't censor the news media, that’s our culture. I thought it was one of the more intelligent points made in the arguments about the issue. The Saudi aristocracy, much more of an enemy of the people who they rule over than they are to us, had a potent tool to use, an implied oil embargo. We don't even have that to enforce our ideas in a case like this.

The murder of women like this is a crime against humanity, it's terrible and it's disgusting and outrageous. What do you propose we do about it? I mean what do you propose that will actually do, to do something for these women, not what will allow us to pretend that our outraged words, full of moral indignation and reason, will have any effect at all. And those reasonable and justified words don't stand alone, they are sent out in a sea of racism, imperialism, counterproductive religious invective, etc. When they get over there the most enlightened Western words are tainted with the Sam Harris and the neo-con kind of crap.

Has anyone here asked some Islamic feminists what they think? Some actually living in the middle east instead of some white man in a college town in the United States? I'm sure you'll get different and conflicting opinions from them, some probably in line with what I'd disagree with. But I am a white man in the United States, I don't have to live with the consequences that could flow from whatever other people here do. Women in the middle east, who have the advantage of knowing the first thing about their own situations, have more information that any one else does. They're the go to people on this issue.

I don't see what people who witnessed the reaction to those stupid anti-Islamic cartoons don't get. They don't care what we think, though they obviously can care about what we say. Our ability to influence their societies for the good is a lot weaker than our ability to piss them off stupendously and a lot of people get killed when that happens. Islam-baiting is certainly a way to get that accomplished. I can speculate what the assholes here who indulge themselves that way get out of it, they're the only ones who do get something out of it. But I don't know why any decent adult would want to get that out of a situation that gets people killed. I don't count them as among the enlightened.