Culture War

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The Politics Of Personal Responsibility

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Memo to everyone talking about terrorism and hate crime: IT'S COMPLICATED.

One of the big debates going on right now in the fight against ISIS and terrorism is why Obama won't call them Islamic. This is because we are stupid and have stupid debates.

The reason Obama is lying to you is because he knows you're stupid and you don't understand nuance. And I don't blame him. In the current climate, it's actually noble of him to try and sell the idea that Middle Eastern terrorism has nothing to do with Islam. I get that. It's the same reason I'd want to convince everyone that Craig Hicks' murder of three Muslim students had nothing to do with atheism.

It's not true, of course. But the important thing is that it's LESS not true than the conclusion fuckwits draw, which is that atheists are murderers, Muslims are terrorists, Republicans are racists, and Christians hate gay people.

Some atheists are murderers. Some Muslims behead a couple dozen Christians in Libya. Some Republicans apologize for saying black people get "welfare crazy checks" and don't really understand why they're apologizing except to try to stop everyone from yelling at them. Some Christians stop officiating at a funeral fifteen minutes in because they realized the person who died was a lesbian.

And all of them justify their actions based on deeply held ideological or religious beliefs. And that's where it gets complicated, because while in every case the actions are wrong, in each case, the degree of responsibility the ideology has for those actions are different, because, well, they're different things, and DIFFERENT THINGS ARE DIFFERENT.

You have to put some thought into this shit. How many atheists are there? How many of them murder religious people? Which versions of atheism promote the murder of the faithful? What percentage of atheists follow and believe those versions? Is there an active power structure within the religion or ideology promoting these ideas to the mainstream, and is the mainstream listening and acting on those ideas?

But we can't actually have that conversation, because it's way too complicated and nuanced for our level of political discourse. And since it's never right to assume, without at least a bit of evidence, that any given atheist is a murderer, any given Muslim is a terrorist, any given Republican is a racist, or any given Christian is a bigot, we instead say that they don't count, that what they're doing isn't "real" Islam or "true" Christianity.

And we do that not because it's 100% accurate, but because we're trying to keep people from setting fire to mosques while Sean Hannity is trying to encourage them to do it, and there's no time and energy for proper nuance.

Which, by the way, ties in to why I haven't gone out of my way to denounce Craig Hicks' murders. Because wondering whether or not X will denounce extremist action Y contains within it the tacit assumption that because of X's ideological bent, X might approve. And without any other evidence, that's some bullshit.

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