Just Jihad: July 2008: Archives

July 20, 2008

The "Order" Of Things: Let Them Kill...Yes - Let Them Marry...No genre: Gaylingual & Just Jihad & Nouveau Thoughts & Uncivil Unions

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I'm always amazed at public opinion...especially when it provides some insights into human nature in 21st century America. Over the years, I've always marveled at the prudish obsession with all things prurient.

I could be wrong, but I suspect a majority of Americans would rather allow their children to watch depictions of violence on television and at the movies than anything remotely sexual. In some ways, I understand how this happens, but in my moments of lucidity, I wonder why we never take the time to understand or alter this seemingly incoherent ideation.

To find evidence of this phenomenon, one need look no further than the polling relevant to same-sex marriage and the military's policy of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Despite the occasional outlier, it's fairly safe to state that more Americans oppose same-sex marriage than favor it. At the same time, numerous polls in recent years suggests that a significant majority of Americans are in favor of allowing gays to serve in the military. I find those two incongruent positions fascinating.

First, a look at the latest polling on both issues.

From The Washington Post On DADT:

Public attitudes about gays in the military have shifted dramatically since President Bill Clinton unveiled what became his administration's "don't ask, don't tell" policy 15 years ago today.

Seventy-five percent of Americans in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll said gay people who are open about their sexual orientation should be allowed to serve in the U.S. military, up from 62 percent in early 2001 and 44 percent in 1993.

Today, Americans have become more supportive of allowing openly gay men and women to serve in the armed forces. Support from Republicans has doubled over the past 15 years, from 32 to 64 percent. More than eight in 10 Democrats and more than three-quarters of independents now support the idea, as did nearly two-thirds of self-described conservatives.

From CBS News On Same-Sex Marriage:

(CBS) Most Americans continue to think there should be some legal recognition of gay and lesbian couples, and 30 percent say same-sex couples should be allowed to marry - the highest number since CBS News began asking this question in 2004.

Twenty-eight percent think same-sex couples should be permitted to form civil unions, but more than a third - 36 percent - say there should be no legal recognition of a gay couple's relationship.

Americans' views on this issue have changed since 2004, although opinion has not changed substantially in the last two years. In November of 2004 (soon after the presidential election) just 21 percent of Americans supported the idea of same-sex couples being allowed to marry.

Majorities of both men and women support some form of legal recognition for gay and lesbian couples, but more women (36 percent) than men (24 percent) back the idea of same-sex marriage.

With regard to DADT, it seems fairly clear that the country is ready to embrace gays serving in the military. Virtually every constituent group agrees. As such, it would be difficult to contend that the favorable response is due to the vague or uncertain nature of the survey question.

With regard to gay marriage, the results are more nebulous. Don't get me wrong, there's little doubt that the trends are encouraging. In fact, one could make the argument that a narrow majority of Americans actually favor some recognition of same-sex relationships. Defining the specifics of that recognition would likely provide less encouraging results.

I'm intrigued by the disparity. On the one hand, it seems that patriotism and a desire to defend one's nation elicits thoughts of equality on the part of the electorate. In other words, if gays are willing to kill and die for their country, by God, we shouldn't deny them that opportunity. [Wave flags now] On the other hand, who a gay person chooses to love and how that love is recorded by society apparently elicits thoughts of moral rectitude on the part of the electorate. [Cover eyes now]

In other words, views about homosexuality seem to mirror the general pattern of allowing our children to be exposed to violence (masculinity...or behavior associated with men?) while shying away from exposure to, or discussion about, sexuality (intimacy...or behavior associated with women?). Is that an anecdotal observation and a broad brush approach to the subject? Perhaps. Does it offer a plausible explanation for the divergent data? In part, I think so.

Let's take it a step further. When one thinks about the treatment of those in the LGBT community, three things emerge. One, lesbianism (often associated with being a tomboy), while still objectionable to many, is also a source of male fascination, and as such, serves to insulate lesbians from intense societal derision. Secondly, gay men (often associated with being effeminate) draw the intense ire of a number of heterosexual men which is much more likely to lead to acts of derision and/or violence being perpetrated on homosexual men. Lastly, transgender males, seeking to identify as women (adopting virtually all aspects of feminine behavior), are potentially at the greatest risk for vitriol and violence.

I contend that if one were to ask all voters to quantify each groups social acceptability, each groups acceptability to serve in the military, and the acceptance of the love relationships each group forms, the discomfort would mirror the rankings I've noted above.

Let's return to the apparent discomfort with all things sexual and the seeming tolerance for depictions of violence. If one looks at the dance of sexuality, generally speaking, the male is in pursuit which can easily be construed as an aggressive act. Since men generally accept this role...and they also have daughters...a disconnect emerges which may well lead to the seeming silence with regards to all things sexual.

In simple terms, men, aware of each other's inclinations, are uncomfortable admitting and acknowledging that their daughters will be pursued sexually and anything that reminds them of this creates dissonance that is rarely resolved. The carnal nature of sex as conquest (masculine) can prevent them from viewing sexuality favorably as intimacy (feminine).

This may also explain the difference in men's and women's reported acceptance of gays in the military. Men, by virtue of their own views of sex, are apt to view the homosexual male similar to themselves...meaning they assume a gay man is in pursuit of a sexual encounter. At the same time, women are apt to be more comfortable with gay men as a result of their inclination to share expressions of intimacy.

I'll offer one additional observation. Sex, by its nature, involves unspoken understandings about penetration and being penetrated...tops and bottoms if you will. That again brings us back to the above ordering. Lesbianism, from a conventional view of gender roles, is often thought to be about penetration...meaning there is a perception that someone adopts the position as the top (the masculine aggressor). With gay men, the perception is that someone adopts the position as the bottom (the feminine placater). Lastly, with regard to the transgender male, the assumption is that the individual seeks to adopt the feminine role...although in this instance, with a heterosexual male.

Simply stated, the subconscious predisposition to favor masculinity over femininity (imposed over centuries by the prevalence of misogyny as opposed to any innately ordered hierarchy) therefore leads to ranking the three accordingly.

All of the above, in my opinion, helps explain why voters are more inclined to support gays in the military than to endorse same-sex marriage. The former is consistent with established societal norms that favor masculinity which makes it more palatable. Conversely, the latter serves to threaten the established order and unseat the stereotypical male identity from its lofty perch.

When it's all said and done, I contend humanity hasn't navigated that far from its awareness that the king of the jungle's demands are usually met (he writes the rules) and he is therefore afforded a wide berth...simply based upon an unspoken understanding that he has the ability to impose his will (penetrate) upon those who can't do the same.

Whether all of this suggests that love does or doesn't exist as we define it is open to debate. In the meantime, the message to the LGBT community is rather convoluted...and fully impeachable. In a world too easily inclined to violence, it's a shame to be rewarding gays for propagating aggression as the acceptable status quo while stifling their potential to act as loving agents for constructive change. It's time for the sleeping giant to assemble its parts and uproot the tree to which it has too long been tethered. It's time for a new order.

Tagged as: DADT, Discrimination, Don't Ask Don't Tell, Gay Marriage, LGBT, Military, Misogyny, Polling, Relationships, Same-Sex Marriage, Sexuality, Society, Violence, War

Daniel DiRito | July 20, 2008 | 2:27 PM | link | Comments (5)
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July 16, 2008

Sam Harris & Hugh Hewitt Debate The Pros & Cons Of Religion genre: Hip-Gnosis & Just Jihad

Sam Harris, the author of The End Of Faith, has argued that religion is, by its nature, a mechanism for conflict in the world. Harris contends that the belief in, and adherence to the words contained within the various religious books...supposedly written by the one divine being...are often the justification for the imposition of dogmatic laws and/or rules (Sharia law as an example).

Further, in its worst form, Harris believes these documents serve as the rationalization for the destruction and death of those whose beliefs come from an alternate source. When these conflicting beliefs are pitted against each other, there is little reason to believe that compromise is possible...and that often leads to the lack of rational dialogue which Harris finds to be so very dangerous. In other words, ideological intransigence born of an unwavering belief in a document, viewed to be incontrovertible, will invariably lead to violence couched in the rhetoric of righteousness.

Hewitt, on the other hand, contends that Harris is simply in favor of religious intolerance...immediately retreating to the newfangled argument of evangelicals...the one suggesting that people of faith are the victims of those who favor purging religion from the public square and installing a wholly secular system. In other words, all efforts to point out the problems with the doctrine and its application is viewed as an attempt to persecute the beliefs of the faithful.

Unfortunately, Hewitt, and many of those who embrace a particular book, have a propensity for interpreting their documents as they find most advantageous...calling for literalism where it fits their own preferences...and discounting those portions they find offensive or contradictory.

Rather than engage in an honest discussion, Hewitt moves quickly to hyperbole while Harris continues to reiterate his basic contention...stating on more than one occasion that it behooves societies to monitor and tamp down the absolutism of religious zealots in order to prevent the kinds of atrocities that populate much of our human history.

Hewitt then completes the circular argument by suggesting that God's presence prevails and enlightenment will emerge if people will simply open themselves to His message. Of course, that certain though subjective view, held by opposing religions, is the very source of the conflict Harris believes must be constrained by rationality. Unless society forces reasoned tolerance and debunks the plausibility of absolutism, we will remain a short fuse from factional fragmentation and the inscrutable and irrational violence it foments.

Sam Harris vs. Hugh Hewitt - Part One

Sam Harris vs. Hugh Hewitt - Part Two

Tagged as: Christianity, Factionalism, Faith, God, Hugh Hewitt, Rationality, Religion, Sam Harris, Sectarian Violence, Secularism, War

Daniel DiRito | July 16, 2008 | 6:00 PM | link | Comments (2)
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July 9, 2008

Do It In The Name Of Heaven, We Can Justify It In The End? genre: Hip-Gnosis & Just Jihad & Polispeak

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When we hear the terms Fatwa or Jihad, we often think about radical Middle Eastern extremists whose intention is to impose their religious beliefs upon those they define as infidels. As Americans, we find the declarations of those leaders (Mullahs, Imams, etc.) who support such actions to be offensive and predicated upon intransigent ideological beliefs. We also look with disfavor upon those who carry out these Fatwas or Jihads in the name of their spiritual leaders and, by inference, their supreme being.

At the same time, we have witnessed a Bush administration that has sought to characterize our involvement in the region as a mission inspired by the president's consultations with his father...the holy one...not George H. W. Bush. Early on, he made the strategic mistake of referencing the Crusades when speaking of our efforts in the war on terror. While there was some admission that the statement was insensitive and unwarranted, it speaks to the mind set of our President and the pervasive influence his religious beliefs have played in coloring his views and guiding his actions.

In what I would call the ever creeping influence of evangelism, the president also appointed some 150 graduates of Jerry Falwell's Liberty University's School of Law to positions in his administration. I would suggest that these and may other examples are evidence of the pervasive influence religion has been allowed to play during the nearly eight years of George Bush's presidency.

That brings me to the lawsuit of Army Spc. Jeremy Hall, in which he accuses the U.S. Department of Defense of violating his rights to religious freedom. Hall, in his claim, suggests that "the United States military has become a Christian organization"...which he contends led to his mistreatment...predicated upon his status as an atheist.

From CNN:

KANSAS CITY, Kansas (CNN) -- Army Spc. Jeremy Hall was raised Baptist.

He served two tours of duty in Iraq and has a near perfect record. But somewhere between the tours, something changed. Hall, now 23, said he no longer believes in God, fate, luck or anything supernatural.

His sudden lack of faith, he said, cost him his military career and put his life at risk. Hall said his life was threatened by other troops and the military assigned a full-time bodyguard to protect him out of fear for his safety.

Hall said there is a pattern of discrimination against non-Christians in the military.

Hall isn't seeking compensation in his lawsuit -- just the guarantee of religious freedom in the military. Eventually, Hall was sent home early from Iraq and later returned to Fort Riley in Junction City, Kansas, to complete his tour of duty.

He also said he missed out on promotions because he is an atheist.

"I was told because I can't put my personal beliefs aside and pray with troops I wouldn't make a good leader," Hall said.

Michael Weinstein, a retired senior Air Force officer and founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, is suing along with Hall. Weinstein said he's been contacted by more than 8,000 members of the military, almost all of them complaining of pressure to embrace evangelical Christianity.

The Pentagon refused to discuss specifics of Hall's case -- citing the litigation. But Deputy Undersecretary Bill Carr said complaints of evangelizing are "relatively rare." He also said the Pentagon is not pushing one faith among troops.

Weinstein said he doesn't buy it and points to a promotional video by a group called Christian Embassy. The video, which shows U.S. generals in uniform, was shot inside the Pentagon. The generals were subsequently reprimanded.

Another group, the Officers' Christian Fellowship, has representatives on nearly all military bases worldwide. Its vision, which is spelled out on the organization's Web site, reads, "A spiritually transformed military, with ambassadors for Christ in uniform empowered by the Holy Spirit."

Weinstein has a different interpretation.

"Their purpose is to have Christian officers exercise Biblical leadership to raise up a godly army," he says.

I don't know if Hall will prevail in his lawsuit, but his dilemma clearly illustrates the dangers of having a Commander In Chief whose words and actions are steeped in the rhetoric of religious certainty. To believe that the president hasn't utilized promotions and appointments to stack the military leadership with those who share his evangelical leanings is to ignore the clear bias demonstrated by the inordinate number of Liberty University appointees.

Add in the regimentation and chain of command mentality that permeates the military and it isn't difficult to conclude that an atmosphere of rewarding those who share the beliefs of their superiors has allowed some palpable level of proselytizing to take hold...which would undoubtedly be accompanied by a propensity to demonstrate disfavor with those who fail to march in lockstep.

The fact that fellow soldiers demeaned Hall's disbelief suggests they felt emboldened to do so...likely knowing their aspersions were consistent with the thinking of their superiors. To believe otherwise is contrary to everything we know about the military's methods of maintaining order amongst men who are often immature and malleable.

It appears that the Bush administration, in its zeal to promote its own religious agenda, fell victim to the very same extremist absolutism that it believes it is combating in the Middle East. Let me be clear...I am not suggesting that the U.S. military engages in intentional acts of violence against innocent civilians nor am I condoning the actions of terrorists by means of comparison.

However, when it's all said and done, I'm left to wonder why the conduct of military operations are ever allowed to be premised upon establishing the legitimacy of one army's god from that of another. Further, to what extent are the combatants willing to go in order to establish the superiority of their beliefs in relation to all others when each side is convinced theirs is the only legitimate religion?

In the end, if religious beliefs are allowed to be the basis upon which the mistreatment of some U.S. soldiers is justified, have we not knowingly redefined the mission of our military? If its purpose isn't to defend and preserve the freedoms of each individual...freedoms that include the right to hold one's chosen religious beliefs or to have none whatsoever, without retribution, have we not succumbed to the very tyranny that we seek to dislodge in other nations?

If our military is to be an extension of the religious ideology of those in command, then our forces can't be seen any more favorably than the Crusaders of which George Bush spoke. Even worse, such a construct is a recipe for endless death and destruction...all conducted with deference to our deity of choice.

UPDATE:

The following video on Spc. Hall's case is from CNN's Anderson Cooper 360:

Tagged as: Army Spc. Jeremy Hall, Atheism, Commander In Chief, Crusades, George W. Bush, God, Iraq, Jerry Falwell, Liberty University, Middle East, Pentagon, Religious Intolerance, Terrorism, U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Military, War on Terror

Daniel DiRito | July 9, 2008 | 8:47 AM | link | Comments (0)
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