Tuesday, July 7, 2020
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Superb Post by Doug Mataconis on Belief that Obama is a...

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This morning, while wrestling with my malware-infested computer, I was considering what to write about the latest insanity, that increasing numbers of Americans (mostly Republicans and conservative-leaning independents) "say Obama is a Muslim." Other than despair, disbelief, and dismay, plus a healthy dose of anger at the right-wing lie machine (Faux "News," Rush, Beck, Palin, etc.) for demonizing President Obama 24/7, I wasn't feeling particularly inspired. Fortunately, a smart, libertarian blogger came to the rescue, with a superb blog post on this topic.  I strongly recommend that you read the whole thing, but a few lines that jumped out at me were:

*"At this point, more than two years after the story first became public, no amount of evidence or argument is going to convince that remaining 27% that their belief about the President is wrong."

*"I disapprove of the President's job performance and I don't think that the President is Muslim, for example. Then again, I don't particularly care what the President's religious beliefs are..."

*"It is, quite honestly, easy to believe dark and conspiratorial things about a group of people when you don't know anyone who belongs to that group and when Fox News Channel is telling you that they're coming to destroy your country and your way of life."

*"...those who continue to spread the Obama is a Muslim lie do so on the assumption, if not the hope, that people will excerise religious prejudice toward Obama because they think he's a Muslim."

*"By spreading the Obama-is-a-Muslim lie, people are saying  that a person's religion should disqualify them per se from public office.
Quite honestly, I can't think of anything more un-American."

Perhaps most troubling about all this isn't even the politics of the day, it's what this says about the "Growing Ignorance" of the American public: "Technology can archive, retrieve, manipulate and communicate more information, faster than ever before in human history, but the public seems to be losing their collective common sense for nonsense. It's a paradox of the Information Age."  Thus, we have many of the same people who don't "believe" Barack Obama's a Christian also not "believing" in climate science, evolution, etc. Can someone please explain to me exactly how we are going to compete with China, India, et al. in the 21st century world economy if we are a nation of ignoramuses and xenophobes?

UPDATE: Joel Achenbach asks, "Are Americans total numbskulls?"

UPDATE #2: Howard Dean makes me happy I supported someone else (Wesley Clark) in 2003/2004.  Ugh.

George W. Bush at Iftar: “America must remain a welcoming and...

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I can't believe I'm looking back on George W. Bush with nostalgia, but these words -- from a speech to Muslims at the White House on October 17, 2005, just 4 years after 9/11 -- make him seem like a raging liberal compared to Palin, Newt-ster, BONE-r, and the rest of today's Republican Islamophobes and crazies.
America is fortunate to count such good-hearted men and women among our fellow citizens. We have great respect for the commitment that all Muslims make to faith, family, and education. And Americans of many backgrounds seek to learn more about the rich tradition of Islam. To promote greater understanding between our cultures, I have encouraged American families to travel abroad, to visit with Muslim families. And I have encouraged American families to host exchange students from the Muslim world. I have asked young Americans to study the language and customs of the broader Middle East. And for the first time in our nation's history, we have added a Koran to the White House Library.

All of us gathered tonight share a conviction that America must remain a welcoming and tolerant land, in which our people are free to practice any faith they choose. We reject every form of ethnic and religious discrimination. As I said in my second Inaugural Address, we cannot carry the message of freedom and the baggage of bigotry at the same time.

Bush also said, "Extremists distort the idea of jihad into a call for terrorist murder against anyone who does not share their radical vision" and "The killers who take the lives of innocent men, women, and children are followers of a violent ideology very different from the religion of Islam."

Wow, I'm actually starting to like this Bush guy!

Nationalism on Religious Steroids

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Religious sufferance is a quaint American myth. Religion is a cottage industry; but within limits. Religious discourse churns the American psyche. It stokes an inferno that burns through wallets and pocketbooks. In times of trouble, it is its own stimulus. In practice, sufferance is a blinding contradiction. The founders understood.
"...these groups of people are actually walking the space between the Washington Memorial (sic) and Lincoln Memorial every day. And they are praying in the space to, you know, try to, I guess, invite the Spirit to be there..." - Glenn Beck
The founders are constantly abused in the discourse stirred by the purveyors of fear; an evangelistic motivator. One Glenn Beck sidekick talking to him about the gathering 28 August said Friday "it's almost, at this point, like you're the baby Jesus except without the divinity...and the donkey." They cite that the hotels in the District are full and maybe some attendees will have to overnight in mangers or some such. They went on to joke around that a donkey, the angels, the Holy Spirit and the star (but not the swaddling clothes) would be further evidence. This goofiness is a setup for the kind of credible deniability Beck uses to distance himself from the buy gold controversy which he rolled into the discussion.  

Gerson Absolutely Right, Douthat Dead Wrong on Islamic Center

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This morning, we have two editorials on the proposed "Ground Zero" (actually, it's several blocks away from the World Trade Center site) Islamic center by conservative newspaper columnists. The first, "Obama's mosque duty" by Michael Gerson, gets it exactly right. The second, "Islam in Two Americas", couldn't be more misguided. First, former George W. Bush Administration speechwriter ("smoking gun/mushroom cloud," "Axis of Evil") Gerson.

First off, I agree with Gerson that President Obama has, in this case, exhibited "a peculiar talent for enraging his critics while deflating the enthusiasm of his friends." Thus, Obama's Ramadan speech was "an unqualified defense of both religious liberty and religious tolerance," but then Obama appeared to back off somewhat, at least in tone. Exasperating.

Other than being awkward and frustrating, however, I agree with Gerson that "Obama had no choice but the general path he took." As Gerson explains, if Obama had come out in opposition to the right of Muslims - or any other religious group - to build a house of worship anywhere in America, it would have constituted "an unprecedented act of sectarianism, alienating an entire faith tradition from the American experiment."