"If a man carry treasure in bullion, or in a wedge of gold, and have none coined into current money, his treasure will not defray him as he travels."
-- John Donne
I'm still riffing off the idea of Hitchens that some civilized people must remain to civilize religions, or at the very least police them. I am not convinced, as Hitchens is, that this is a permanent matter. I observe that we simply have a poor set of self-selected clergy on the whole, and that the organization of organized religion is not quite as our regimes of say bond trading. Hitchens' Boesky is the Pope, and so it goes.
If you ask me why I don't like Islam, it is because I don't think it scales. What is truly admirable about Islam is that it appears to me to be the kind of religion I would invent were I to live on a desert island with 1000 others. And apparently this is a sentiment shared around the globe, because Islam does a fairly fantastic job of working in tribal areas like Afghanistan. And in such tribal areas seeking to add a bit of supernatural gloss to their authority and mores, Islam accommodates such pre-civil taboos such as tyranny over women. Without much getting into it, tyranny over women is appropriate in desert island situations so long as they are the sort of women who can't do pull-ups, kill snakes or stand still when spiders crawl over their bare feet. To the extent that women don't feel compelled to manage such tasks, it falls to men, and in reciprocity men will define power in such brutally ignorant terms. That's the basic exchange when it comes to the basics, and such arrangements work in small clans and tribal situations. But I think Islam doesn't scale, and thrives best in such enclaves. But then again, so does any faith, fable, superstition, or wives tale. And for the counter-exemplary women who flip the snake over the bar, snap it in two after 10 pull ups, then squeeze the blood out of it's dead head to drown the spider on her big toe, well they tend to be one in 10,000. And in many places around the world, they get stoned.
If you read Robert Fisk's latest piece in the Independent, you will come to understand how gruesome stoning is. All the heinous details are there. 20,000 women per year are murdered for preposterous reasons around the world.
This is the evil that men do. My point is not to suggest anyone indulge in any sort of outrage, but to toll the sad bell that reminds us that although life is precious, there are a million convolutions of logic inspiring men to forget that. And if there is anything to the universality of the defense of liberty and human rights, then there are a few good ideas that counter all those convolutions. At our best, we will fight with that in mind.
Here in America we do have our liberty, and we also have our million convolutions and corruptions of moral logic over our million channels over the air and through the broadband. Each tiny corruption is a small piece of evil doing its work chopping away not only our virtue but our ability see the virtue of justice in action. We can watch horror movies and then just go home and watch romantic comedies to soothe them away. Americans watch the true crimes of these killings and those of every other preposterous rationale around the world as if they were nothing more than lessons and fables. We can excuse ourselves from the action of justice as if we were grossed-out teenagers at the slasher flick. Eww. Let's get outta here. So the skill of intervention atrophies. Justice is considered but not clear and present.
I sometimes have difficulty explaining my friends why America is exceptional. It is a combination of complex interweaving threads that makes for that fabric. It's not just "we are a Christian Country". It's not just "we revere the Founder's and Original Intent". It's not just that we are a Global Policeman. It's the emergent force we can be and it is the reason men like Robert Fisk write to us in our language, alerting us to what happens out there. America is expected to do something, to act, to bring justice. Because we can. Because we must. America is a civilization, and here, like no other place, we civilize ethnics and languages and religions into a highly robust plurality. We have secured the blessings of liberty.
Our domestic liberty is our wedge of gold, and as we withdraw our forces from the world, we hoard it without coining into the money of moral intervention. The world dies without justice, in small bloody pieces. So are we in a Long War Against Terror or not?