A Conversation About War

An annotated conversation about war, adapted from Facebook:

(click on links for annotations)
Man of peace

Man of peace

Alice: We are bombing over Syria!  Right now.  We are bombing.  Oh, my heart hurts.

Russ: Hate

Alice: The thing is this … there are children.  Women.  Men who want only to provide for their little families.  There are doggies and kitties, goats maybe.  Lives.  Their lives are gone forever.  People terrorized, people grieving, people forever lost.  There is no good that comes from war.  No noble thing at all.

Russ: War, what is it good for…absolutely nothing

Deborah:  And Russia is next.

Alice: Deb, sadly, you may be right.

Nathan: Yes, let’s let ISIS sell pre-pubescent girls into sexual slavery (after giving them clitorectomies), slaughter entire villages, chase them

Man of peace

Man of peace

up a mountain to starve, have sex with the goats (captured on video), whip kitties to death with a stick, starve dogs and then light them on fire when they’re too weak to move.  Yes, war is good for nothing.  Let’s just let ISIS do whatever they want.  They’re promising to behead random Americans, and there’s evidence they’ve come across the border from Mexico.  Why fight against them in Syria, when we can do it here?

Russ: Nathan, I will be right behind you following your advance

What Would God have Americans Do?

Alice: Nathan, what you describe is certain horror.  It’s hard to read your words.  Still, I wonder … What does the Torah say about war and the responsibility to kill people in a far off land who do horrific things to their people?  What would God have Americans do, according to the Torah?  Remember, you’re teaching a neophyte about the nature of God.

Phyllis: I hate it too but ISIS has to be stopped.

Karen: But violence brings forth more violence.  We live in a scary world.

Nathan: Not responding to violence gives it license to grow.

Man of peace

Man of peace

Leslie: Can’t believe it!  Worked 2 years ago with a little girl whose family escaped Syria.  Can you imagine?  I can’t.  She had the sweetest smile…


Please note: videos of ISIS torture of cats, dogs, and humans of all ages are ubiquitous, and have not been included to illustrate; rather, we have included a video of Hamas terrorists pleasuring goats.  Although disgusting, it’s more tolerable to watch.  The torture videos, if you are inclined to see them, can easily be accessed through web searches.

You are welcome to continue the conversation in the comments


Angels of Jihad, Angels of Apathy

Muselmann- at the edge of becoming angels

Muselmann; original art by Esti Mayer

Electricity has made angels of us all…  Unlike print, TV doesn’t transport bits of classified information.  Instead it transports the viewer.  It takes his spirit on a trip, an instant trip.  On live shows, it takes his spirit to real events in progress.

But here a contradiction occurs: though TV may make the viewer’s spirit an actual witness to the spectacle of life, he cannot live with this.  If he sees a criminal making ready to murder a sleeping woman & can’t interfere, can’t warn her, he suffers & is afflicted because his being is phantasmal.

So he participates solely as a dreamer, in no way responsible for events that occur.
-Edmund Carpenter

Disembodied Angels

The photojournalist/ advocate James Foley was brutally executed in a scene grizzlier than anything on Game of Thrones.  Just as in the television series, people were both enthralled and appalled by the scene.  And as in the television series, the viewers were unable to do anything, as they were present only as disembodied angels.

Are we all helpless in the face of Islamist brutality?  Is there anyone who can do something to stop these beasts?  The United States revealed that it had launched a rescue mission this summer, but the kidnap victims weren’t at the anticipated location.  President Obama denounced Foley’s executioners, saying “they terrorize their neighbors and offer them nothing but an endless slavery to their empty vision and the collapse of any definition of civilized behavior.”

Then the President returned to the golf course.

On network TV, everything gets equalized.  News, drama, comedy are all subject to commercial breaks.  The viewer is immersed in emotional turmoil, and then told how to improve his golf swing.  Sometimes there’s more drama in the ads, especially when they’re fundraising for abused pets, sick or hungry children.  If they’re too disturbing, we don’t even have to get up to express our apathy by changing the channel.

Golf and Beheading

Specialty TV programming is more relentless.  There are no commercial breaks, no escapes in Game of Thrones.  You don’t witness a beheading, and then return to golf.  It’s literary quality drama in a fantasy setting.

It’s much better entertainment then the Palestinian-Israel conflict.  While the former stage cheap melodrama, Israel pushes reality and facts.  A missile strike in Gaza is a theatrical production, with “corpses” wiggling under sheets.  Bloody photos from Syria or even Israel are captioned as Palestinian victims under fire.  Israel doesn’t engage in theatrics, and so when rockets  land they aren’t worthy of the news. For a generation that doesn’t relate images and programs back to the real world, the melodrama carries the day.

Was James Foley’s execution something to be taken seriously?  Was Daniel Pearl’s beheading twelve years earlier a turning point?  How concerned was the President, if it didn’t interfere with his golf schedule?

Angels of Apathy

Unlike their parents, the young are less anxious to validate images by reference back to observable reality.  That need arose largely from conditions unique to literacy, and literacy exercises little control in their lives.  Today’s images are self-sufficient.
-Edmund Carpenter

Carpenter published his observations in nineteen seventy-two.  The “young” he describes are now old, or at least seriously middle-aged.  It’s a series of generations that doesn’t have to relate the images, the programs, even the news back to observable reality.  Since the sounds and images are from a phantasmal world, it’s easy to be apathetic.

Game of Thrones, James Foley, ISIS, the massacres of the Yazidis (replicating some of the scenes from the novel Quantum Cannibals), Breaking Bad… which are more capable of holding our attention?  Dr. Jay Corwin, commenting on Foley’s beheading, states that “People with no common sense at all think it’s just a video game.”  Will James Foley or Daniel Pearl reboot, and start again?

Video Game Jihad

Perhaps the video game metaphor is appropriate for the Jihadis coming from western countries, such as Great Britain

Golf after the beheading

Golf after the beheading

and Canada; they get to play for real.  You can’t smell the blood of your victims on X-Box. Call of Duty, Assassins Creed, Medal of Honor may be greater inspirations for Muslim youth than the Koran.  And if they die in the course of the game, they reboot to paradise with seventy two virgins- houris, a specialized form of angels.

Carpenter’s “young” must learn to relate the images confronting them back to observable reality.  They must learn that the threats to their civilization, to their lives are more than angels, phantasms.  If the people of the west treat the images confronting them as a dream on a TV channel, or abandoned for a game of golf, they will be responsible for the nightmare that descends upon them.



Hey, Get Your Demonstration Off My Street!

Get Your Twisted Values Out of My Country!

Many years ago I went on a demonstration organized by a trade union, with the purpose of disrupting a convention of the ruling political party.  Since we couldn’t get through the police lines to approach the building, we settled for burning down one of the wooden poles that carried electricity to the convention hall.  The police quickly figured out what we were up to, the firemen were summoned, and tear gas was lobbed to keep us away.

But we were smart.  Instructions were shouted on how to handle a live tear gas canister, and I was soon lobbing them back at the police.

We weren’t smart enough.  The fire was put out, the convention went on; everybody had a good time, and we laughed and joked as we climbed aboard our chartered buses.  In retrospect, the police weren’t too smart either.  Why wasn’t I arrested?  Why were we able to get away with such attempted sabotage?

I was on another demonstration where the police batons came out as they dispersed an unruly, indeed an

original art  by Esti Mayer

original art by Esti Mayer

ugly mob.  I saw some demonstrators climb a ladder to the roof of a building.  The cops followed, and the demonstrators pushed the ladder over, policemen falling with it.  The crowd cheered.

I didn’t.  My stomach turned at the crowd’s joy in seeing people injured, even if they were the police, our nemesis.  It was one of the last demonstrations I took part in.  The youth of the 60’s were supposed to be peaceful.  This didn’t fit the paradigm.

These days many demonstrations seem to have violence as their goal: the G8 (G7, after the expulsion of Russia) anti-capitalist destructive rampages, even celebrations of sports team victories somehow degenerate into opportunities for looting and vandalism.  Rioters laugh, joke, and film each other as they break windows, steal clothes and electronics, or destroy cars.  Destruction of property can be entertaining, especially if ennobled by some cause.

Now it’s gone beyond destruction of property, as demonstrators in major European cities, in major American and Canadian cities call for the destruction of a people.  My people: the Jews.  Not only are the demonstrators calling for it, they are trying to put it into effect with assaults on individuals in the streets, and home invasions.  The attackers’ cry is to protest the mistreatment of their co-religionists, but we can see from their selective concern (ignoring the horrors of Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, etc.), that it’s just an excuse.  They Modern anti-Jewish demonstrationwant to go after the Jews, as they’ve been doing so since the dawn of Islam.

It’s not surprising when Muslims express hatred for Jews, even Muslims in countries that are Judenrein. The Prime Minister of Malaysia for example, blamed George Soros, a left-wing Jew, for his country’s 1997 economic crisis (it’s worth noting that Malaysian Buddhists are not especially anti-Semitic). Jews expect a hostile reception in any Muslim dominated part of the world.

But France? Belgium?  Germany?  There is native anti-Semitism, and there is Muslim Jew-hatred.  Contemporary violence comes mostly from the latter.  Ironically, in Britain the English Defense League, a group often depicted as far right or neo-Nazi, has been at the forefront of defending British Jews and Israel against Islamic assaults.

And Calgary?  Its Muslim mayor, Naheed Nenshi has generally had the support of the Jewish community, but failed to point a finger after pro-Israel demonstrators were assaulted by participants in a “Gaza peace rally.”

Who are these people?  What are they doing here, in countries that are generally considered as part of the western civilized world?

Well, look at the economies of their home countries: Pakistan, Bangladesh, Algeria, Lebanon…  These countries have been ruined by decades of turmoil brought about by the violence of its citizens; by their intolerance for any kind of dissent, or freedom of thought.  By their constant blaming of their woes on America, the Jews, their colonial legacy.  Everyone is at fault, except themselves.  These people come to Europe, to North America to better their lives, but unlike past generations of immigrants, they are unwilling to give up the values which made their home countries such miserable places to live.  If we let them (and many parts of Europe have), they will make our countries as miserable as theirs.

They don’t give a damn about the deaths or suffering of their co-religionists.  Otherwise they’d be at demonstrations protesting the ongoing slaughters in Iraq and Syria, the turmoil in the Maghreb (North

Iraq moves from the 21st century to the Dark Ages

Iraq moves from the 21st century to the Dark Ages

Africa).  No, the only thing they care about is the opportunity to attack Jews, following the tradition set by the founder of Islam.

Britain has a great legacy of anti-Semitism, fully expressed in its handling of the League of Nations’ Palestine MandateRoosevelt’s antipathy towards Jews shut the doors on refugees fleeing the holocaust, condemning many innocent people to death.  Canada had its infamous “none is too many” policy towards Jews fleeing Hitler.

A contemporary hero

A contemporary hero

But these countries have evolved.  Western civilization has moved forward.  Racial ethnic and gender prejudice are no longer acceptable.  Not by law, not by culture.

So what do you do when a particular ethnic/ religious group embodies such prejudice as part of its culture?  What do you do when Muslim immigrants to the West bring along their hatred, their prejudice, their misogyny?  What do you do when they regularly violate our civilization’s standards of decency, of acceptable behavior, of tolerance?  What should you do when there’s a demonstration in the streets of Calgary, New York, Paris or Berlin chanting “kill the Jews?”

If you’re not Jewish, you can argue that it’s not your concern.  Ask the Christians of Iraq how that’s working out.  Starting in nineteen forty-eight, Jews whose families had been in Iraq for two thousand years were expelled. Now, seventy years later, the same fate has befallen Iraqi Christians.

Islam is the fastest growing religion in America.  As its numbers increase, what will become of America, of American values?  What will happen to all the advances Western civilization has made since the onset of the Enlightenment?  What will happen to the Jews of America?  The Christians?  Pious or secular, they are infidels according to Islam.

By the end of the Enlightenment certain values had become entrenched in Western nations.  Ironically, during the Enlightenment these countries came under attack by the Muslim societies of the Maghreb (North Africa).  They had been enslaving Europeans for centuries, raiding the coasts as far north as Ireland.  They pirated AmIslam risingerican and European merchant ships, demanding exorbitant tribute in exchange for prisoners.  America’s first international war was against North African Muslim terrorists.  The ruler of Algeria accepted a treaty to end the war, but then repudiated it.  The only thing that brought an end to the piracy was the French conquest; in retrospect a justifiable act of self-defense.

What is the purpose of your demonstration?

But the war continues.  There was a battle in New York on 9/11, in London on 7/05, in Madrid on 3/04.  In Marseilles it’s a series of ongoing skirmishes.  In most cases, the attackers are citizens or at least residents of the places they attack.  Centuries ago, President Jefferson tried unsuccessfully to appease them.  Presidents Bush and Obama had the same failure.  Each demonstration with the battle cry of “kill the Jews,” each time an American or British flag is trampled on, each demonstration where people are punched, knocked to the ground or choked, proves that appeasement doesn’t work.  It shows that these immigrants aren’t here to improve their lives by adapting to their new homes.  Rather, it demonstrates that they want to transform their new homes into the miserable places they fled.

Terrorists attack Madrid

Terrorists attack Madrid

And that’s the difference.  When I tried to burn down a pole carrying electricity to a convention, when I threw a tear gas canister at the police, I was trying to move our society towards a better future.  When a demonstration chants “kill the Jews,” it’s trying to drag us back to a time before the Enlightenment, when slavery, hate and misogyny were acceptable societal norms.  When freedom of expression was blasphemous, when tolerance was forbidden.

We can’t let those demonstrations succeed.

Some sources attribute the fall of the western Roman Empire (at the time the center of western civilization) to “immigration onto Roman soil, followed by a second stage of aggressive expansion of the territory under the migrants’ control.”  By the fourth century CE, the Roman armies were more barbarian than Roman.  Will western civilization fall again to the same cause, or will we finally accept the paradox that the intolerance we revile is necessary to protect the values we cherish.  If you want the benefits of western civilization, you must accept the ideals that made them possible.