Andrew Hamm: the Bipolar Express

Ruminations on theatre, music, and just about anything else that crosses my bipolar brain.

Monday, January 22, 2007

"Soft People, Hard People" by Selwyn Duke

Interesting article today by columnist Selwyn Duke, a challenging piece for both left and right. I thought it might interest some of you. It might also infuriate some of you, but it's a perspective we're not hearing much these days.

An excerpt:

We fret over the fact that Saddam Hussein endured some taunts during his execution, while next door in Saudi Arabia they may still chop off the hand of a thief. We cater to the religious wants of incarcerated terrorists, providing everything from the Koran and prayer rugs to desired foods, and the soft set still laments the terrible privation these poor victims must endure. In contrast, the terrorist's brethren often disallow the practice of other religions in the Abode of Islam. We let illegal aliens run roughshod over our nation, sometimes bestowing government benefits upon them, then still feel guilty about not exalting them sufficiently. In the Third World, however, foreigners are often treated like second-class citizens. Under the Mexican Constitution, one foreign-born will never enjoy the full rights of citizenship. In many Moslem societies, a certain kind of second-class status is reserved for "infidels"; it's called dhimmitude.

All this is not surprising. After all, luxury and living high soften the sinews and, regrettably, sometimes also the head. The hand that spends its entire existence inside a velvet glove will remain soft and delicate. The one wielding workmen's tools dawn till dusk becomes calloused and hard, more able to inflict injury and more resistant to it.


  • At 1/22/2007 8:22 PM , Blogger Frank Creasy said...

    Mr. Duke hits the nail right on the head. Our political convictions run as deep as it's convenient for us in any given election year; the lessons of 9-11 (which truly began during the Carter presidency with the Iran hostage crisis) have been swept under the rug by most Americans. Regardless of presidential administration, party in power or foreign policy decisions, the "mujahedin" continues unabated for almost three decades now.

    We all want to live and let live, to give peace a chance. But those who insist upon killing EVERYONE (including Muslims) who don't adhere to their particular fanatical bent will have none of that. But as Mr. Duke rightly alludes, these people are not stupid. They know our own weak convictions will be the undoing of our collective will, and as we debate Guantanamo and other niceties they plan their next attack. Catch today's news? The minions of Al Zarqawi were planning just such another attack when American troops killed him six months ago.

    America lacks a collective moral will to fight these brilliant monsters. I for one will not give in (Hillary, are you listening?) My FIGHT TERRORISM plate shows the emblem of the Pentagon, damaged during the attack - bloodied, but unbowed.

  • At 1/22/2007 10:00 PM , Blogger Scott Wichmann said...

    I don't think anyone lacks the will to fight terrorism. I think we all want to be a part of the solution, but we are not being asked to DO anything. We are not being asked to rise above our baser instincts and live without fear. We are being told by a corrupt, inept band of untrustworthy men to trust them in the face of overwhelming evidence that we should not.

    We are not being taught by our leaders that our country has endured far worse than this without forfeiting its' principles of freedom, justice and equality. It has nothing to do with 'Hard' or 'soft'-- it has to do with being Americans who understand what a precious gift we have been given to have been born here; To be able to understand and educate ourselves without fear of indoctrination, and to know the difference between strength and wisdom. John McCain said it best when he said: "This isn't about who they are, it's about who we are."

    If we fight terrorism with more terrorism, you only get more terrorism. If we kill innocents and disguise the death toll, that is injustice. If we lie to our people and value bluster over knowledge (Talking about BOTH parties here) then we will allow our reactionary nature to cloud our judgement, and we will act in ways that damage the world we would otherwise swear to protect.

    The United Sates has a history of unjust dealings in the middle east dating farther back than the Carter Administration-- Many in Iran were killed when the US installed the Shah in the early '50s. The US installed Saddam Hussein and backed him against Iran with chemical weapons and helicopters, and he committed mass genocides. The historic mix of US intervention & anti-western-anti-israel sentiment mixed with radical fundamental islam is a dangerous mix. We are seeing it blow up in our faces on a global scale. The CIA calls it 'Blowback.' Now, certainly not every act of terrorism has the above as its root cause, but the United States simply brushes the details of it's own involvement under the rug in the media, so the American people have no framework to understand why there is such middle-eastern hostility towards the US and Israel expressed worldwide.

    The article above gives the 'false choice' device that so many writers love to employ ('Everyone laments the way Saddam was hung, but no one weeps for the Saudi Arabian theif')
    Oh really?? If the media would point out the Saudi Arabian theif's dilemma, I may have a clue about the causes and conditions surrounding it, and I would be concerned!! Give me a chance to understand!! Don't shovel Brittany Spears down my throat 24/7, then bitch at me for being 'soft' on terrorism!! If you're gonna talk about the truth, then you've gotta be willing to acknowledge the whole truth-- America is taight to buy stuff and stay separate from the world community, and to think of itself as more important than the rest of the world!!

    I think a majority of people DO feel disgust about a myriad of barbaric acts all over the world. The outrage is not selective in this regard. I feel as uneasy about the prospect of an innocent Muslim being held against his will in Guantanamo or tortured unjustly in Syria as I do about these radical nutjobs who froth at the mouth as they behead unbelievers. I am not 'choosing' to be concerned about one at the expense of the other.

    And btw, What most people were objecting to was not the execution of Saddam, but rather the relish with which it was carried out and the media frenzy bordering on a bloodlust, which any rational person may find on display in the enemies of freedom everywhere.

    This 'have we become too soft' question is a good one-- I think the real question is "Are we all sleeping??" Because I do feel that terrorsism, and in particular the radical ideologues who espouse global violence, need to be addressed. People need to be aware of the dangers they present, and the horiifically intolerant worldview they espouse.

    However, I think that the boat has sailed for the time being for America to be able to have this conversation with the rest of the world. The Administration's immature handling of the post-911 climate and it's disastrous military blunders have allowed us to forfeit our moral authority
    on the subject of terrorism. In a world where 70% of population sees the US as the biggest threat to peace, there is something seriously wrong.

    My contention is that You cannot destroy an ideology with bombs. There needs to be a real dialogue about this. So many people profess to live their lives consistent with the peaceful teachings of certain religions, yet they abide killing in their name and absolve themselves of any responsibility when the conflict escalates and the losses are irreparable.

    America does not lack the will to fight anything which is a worthwhile cause. However, we are not being led by people who are asking anything of us other than to give them the keys so they can drive this country headlong into armaggeddon. We need wisdom AND strength. And just really quickly, Frank, you and I are on the same page about Hillary-- I do not support her, but probably not for the same reasons. She's like the most Hawkish democrat out there, but I get the sense that it's all for Political reasons-- I don't know how she really feels about anything, and that's what I don't trust...

    Anyway, long post even longer, we need to find common ground, and realize that we are all strong because we are compassionate and committed to real freedom, justice, and equality. It's time for people with real principles to come together...

  • At 1/22/2007 10:49 PM , Blogger Frank Creasy said...

    And as I make a final post this evening, I digress long enough to note that this diversion hopefully takes my mind off the petty office nonsense I mistakenly plundered into by logging on to clean up some work-related email 90 minutes you noted in a separate posting, Andrew, "Twelfth Night" rehearsals can't come soon enough - I need a creative outlet to generate more positive energy.

    So I look to start that positive energy right now. Scott and I might not concur on many political points. I am thankful to live in a country where I can respect and love friends and family members with whom I may disagree on profoundly important issues; and I am not in the business of trying to change the minds of good people whose convictions are based on firmly held values. I respect those convictions and values. Because I know we both seek a common good.

    It IS time for people of real principles to come together. How we will arrive at commonly held goals will be the big challenge. Most of us, I hope, agree on the fact that there is a real threat, aside from how political forces may have influenced radical middle Eastern ideology over the late twentieth century.

    For my part, I don't believe in fostering a climate of fear. I'm more pragmatic. I believe it's a fact of life today, and that the terrorist threat is primarily an economic weapon designed to erode our way of life through market disruptions. To me, this is the truly brilliant, yet diabolical premise behind Islamic terrorism: "We want to kill all you infidels, but if we cannot then we will destroy your way of life and then you will turn to Allah", or similar fanatical logic. Sure, they'll kill Americans. But the numbers are far outweighed by the PERCEPTION of the true threat, and in a market economy perception becomes reality. Stock prices drop, investments decline, mutual funds and the associated 401K plans and IRA's that are our REAL future of American retirement suffer dearly...and the domino effect begins its' process.

    What is our common goal? To destroy these fanatics (not likely to be achieved)...or to contain the threat so they cannot mount a serious offensive? If so, what are the tasks needed to realize it? How do such efforts impact the other accomplishments we wish to achieve in our society - how do we increase the quality of life of our people by limiting or eliminating the spectre of Muslim terrorism?

    I don't have the answers. But we must first ask the right questions, and listen to one another without engaging in rhetoric. The people willing to do just that - regardless of party affiliation - will have my ear, and most likely my vote. I'm listening.

  • At 1/22/2007 11:27 PM , Blogger Scott Wichmann said...

    Great post, Frank.

    I maintain that I think part of the answer to the problem lies in being able to understand the root causes of radical fundamentalism-- Why do these young men jump on board?? What are the conditions they arise from?? Hopw can these causes be adressed at the root??

    We can squeeze these fanatics in the short term by not giving them a recruiting poster everytime we act globally. We can also stop arming half of the known world-- It pains me to think of how much US weaponry floats out in the open market for any disgruntled yahoo halfway around the world to get his hands on... some of it turned on our men & women. We can stop using depleted Uranium munitions on the battlefield, and begin to reexamine the proportionality of US Military responses to terrorist acts.

    The battle will be won or lost on the world stage. We have to show the world that it is in everyone's best interest to rebuke the tide of fundamentalist belief that reduces women to third-class citizens and subjugates people of other faiths and races. The best way is for the US to get involved in dialogue around the world with people who feel they want to be an active participant in the solution.

    I'm actually fading right now, so I gotta say good night, and have a pleasant tomorrow....

  • At 1/23/2007 7:59 PM , Blogger Frank Creasy said...

    This thread's about run its' course, but I want to acknowledge your excellent point Scott. Impoverished people with little or no hope of improved circumstances have ALWAYS turned to radical solutions - often involving violent schemes based on ultra-religious rationalizations. These rationalizations underpin abortion clinic bombings, Middle Age crusades and today - Islamic terrorism.

    We need full involvement from foreign governments with large Muslim populations as well as the religious leaders themselves, around the globe, to join the effort. And we have to provide the influence and the incentives for those actions.

    I've supported Mr. Bush as much as I felt he should be afforded, though it's clear he's not the one to foster such collaboration. And I readily acknowledge a new direction is needed in Iraq - the market forces once influenced by Saddam's antics are no longer impacted by the ongoing conflict, unless it's a negative influence; and while some good is being done by our troops there, I seriously doubt any semblance of victory can be won as Sunnis and Shiites tear one another apart. The fuel is added to the fires of Muslim hatred. But Saddam is gone for good, and we can hope another like him won't be seen soon, though Ayatollah Khomeni's madcap funeral seems like only yesterday - and wasn't HE quite the troublemaker?

    We do need a new face to our foreign policy approach, but it seems far too early to see who can effectively steer the ship in the right direction starting in 2008. Dear God...another election, and the race is already under way!

    I know, Andrew, I know. Time to talk about movies and theatre and such. Okay dude, soapbox is going back in my closet next to the GI Joe footlocker! (Oh, and the Matchbox carrying case!)

    And BTW Andrew - spoke with Kate Powers today. Nice lady, I'm looking forward to working with her. Not as much as I'm looking forward to working with YOU again, but...ah, screw it. I don't need to suck up to the Hamm, you know I love you anyway brother!

  • At 1/24/2007 9:09 AM , Blogger Andrew Hamm said...

    Jeez, GFrank, we already gave you the job...

  • At 1/29/2007 3:51 PM , Blogger Andrew Hamm said...

    Scott said something I thought was incredibly astute:

    "[Hillary Clinton]'s like the most Hawkish democrat out there, but I get the sense that it's all for Political reasons-- I don't know how she really feels about anything, and that's what I don't trust..."

    I couldn't possibly agree more. She is such a political animal that I'm not sure even she knows what she thinks on many issues, only what she thinks will get her elected President. The prospect of her in the Oval Office terrifies me. We need leaders able to take unpopular positions and stick to them, not 4-8 more years of Clintonesque governance-by-polling.

    Scott, you make another very astute point about creating false comparisons: "Hanging-Saddam vs. dismembering-thieves," etc. But my concern is the comparison we're not making.

    We eagerly trace the roots of Islamic militant extremism to the wrongs perpetrated on Muslims by America, but we don't seem to expend a lot of effort turning it the other way around. When does it become okay for me to be pissed at Muslims for kidnapping and murdering Americans, bombing the World Trade Center, attacking the USS Cole, bombing the World Trade Center again, etc. etc. in the name of Allah? Why is their bigotry elevated and holy while mine is somehow a character flaw and evidence of my American arrogance? Arabs being angry at Americans is our fault. Americans being angry at Arabs is somehow also our fault.

    I couldn't disagree with John McCain more. Taking the moral high ground is an exceptionally good way to slowly lose a war. I don't give a crap about what the world thinks of me if it keeps New York City from being blown up by a nuke in a suitcase. It's not about thinking Americans are "more important" than the rest of the world. The Chinese think China is more important; the Belgians are more interested in defending Belgium, and the Maori are going to be more protective of their communities than the Sunni Triangle. That's what it means to be a citizen of a nation. It doesn't make me a racist or a bigot to care more about the fate of Americans than I do about the fate of Iraqis.

    There is no moral high ground in war. The Civil War was won by two men: Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman. Sherman said perhaps the wisest, truest thing ever said of war. In a letter to the City Council of Atlanta, Sherman wrote, in part:

    "You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out. I know I had no hand in making this war, and I know I will make more sacrifices to-day than any of you to secure peace.... You might as well appeal against the thunder-storm as against these terrible hardships of war. They are inevitable, and the only way the people of Atlanta can hope once more to live in peace and quiet at home, is to stop the war, which can only be done by admitting that it began in error and is perpetuated in pride."

    I love the idea of bridging the gaps between us with dialogue and discussion. I would love to have the leaders of the West sit at a table with the Islamic fundamentalist leaders and really try to understand each other and what we have to offer each other. But nothing resembling that is ever going to happen. First of all, the Islamo-fascists want to kill each other only slightly less than they want to kill us. But most importantly, where do you start a discussion with people who have vowed to wipe Israel and America off the map with a rain of fire in order to raise the hidden Imam as a prelude to the end of the world? Seriously, tell me where that discussion starts?

    I take no joy in these opinions. They do not make me feel righteous or proud. Sherman wasn't proud, either, he was just right. And he knew it.

    Bombs (or guns, or swords, or clubs) not only can stop an idealogy with genocide at its core, they must. History has shown us, again and again and again, that they are the only thing that has a prayer of succeeding - other than, of course, prayer.

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