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Conservative Political Commentary

Quote of the Day

Lady Liberty

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

posted by Bathus

At work, twenty minutes before the start of the Memorial Day Weekend:

Most everyone has cut out early. The few who remain are going through the motions. Cindy (not her real name) is doing a little non-work-related internet surfing (officially prohibited, but we all do it). In a voice loud enough to be heard all over the office, she announces with unrestrained glee, "Aha! I knew it! The Pentagon just admitted that they did flush the Koran. Now let's see if Bush apologizes to Newsweek!"

That's how our little chat began.

"Really?!?!" I said. "Hmmm? I wonder if that is exactly correct. There's been a lot of misleading stuff on the internet lately about that, a lot of misleading headlines. But even if it were true, I wouldn't worry about it too much. There's a war on, so some unpleasant stuff is bound to happen. Ridding the world of a few copies of the Koran is way down the list."

"Well, how would you feel if they [meaning, I suppose, our enemies] were flushing Bibles?"

"Except for hoping the pages might clog their toilets, I couldn't care less. It's only ink and paper. It's the ideas that matter. . . . On second thought it occurs to me that if the worst they did was flush Bibles, that would be an immense improvement over what they do now. Are you unaware of the horrible incitements and outrageous lies they publish, in their state controlled media, about Christians and Jews, the horrible things they do to Christians and Jews only because they're Christians and Jews? Are you unaware that Christians can be arrested in many places in the Muslim world for simply holding a religious service? Are you unaware that Christians and Jews are 'strictly prohibited from entering Mecca and Medina'?" I'm revved up now, so I keep rolling. "Compare that with the way we treat Muslims on our soil. Now, I admit there are way too many stupid people in America who would like to beat up the Pakistani guy at the corner convenience store if they thought they could get away with it. But we don't encourage those cowards; we discourage them; and we even have laws that increase the punishment for the scum who perpetrate these hate crimes. I think it's right to respect other people's religions (so far as they are respectable, and even a bit more than that). I only wish that liberals felt the same way about respecting Catholics and conservative Christians here in America, whom one liberal has called the Brownshirts of American fascism."

At some point along here, our co-worker Sally (not her real name either) had chimed in on Cindy's side. "We're no better than our so-called enemies. Look at all the horrible stuff we've done. Bombing their country. Starving their children."

As you might have guessed, this account of my chat with Cindy and Sally is not a verbatim rendition, but only the substance. You might consider it an unfair rendition, because it excises so many of the words Cindy and Sally actually said. So, for fairness' sake, here's a reliable synopsis of what's been left out: "Bush lied to get us into an illegal war. No WMD. Bush is stupid. Abu Ghraib. Bush is evil. Haliburton."

Me, trying to return to the subject of showing respect for other religions: "As a matter of political policy and social mores, we not only protect Muslims' right to practice their religion on our soil, we bend over backwards to avoid doing anything that would hurt their feelings. To avoid insulting 25 year-old Muslim males from Saudi Arabia by singling them out for special scrutiny, our government's strategery for preventing terrorist hijackings requires that a proportionate number of 80 year-old widow ladies must be strip searched before they can fly back home from a trip to see the great-grandkids. It is astounding to me that people get so up in arms about how we have to respect our enemies' religion in every jot and tittle when they not only do not respect ours, but want to kill us because of it. We aren't perfect, but on any scale that reasonably takes into account the way the world actually operates, we are superior to most, if not all, when it comes to respecting other people's religions."

Sally, who had a while ago completely taken over the discussion from Cindy, now retreats fully into the sanctuary of cultural relativism, wherein supplicants at the alter of moral equivalence render themselves immune to the compulsions of rational discourse: "Well, you can't judge whether one culture is superior to another because you can't know what it means to respect religion in another culture. They might have a different standard for what it means to respect religion, and from their point of view what we do is more disrespectful toward their religion than what they do to us."

One wants to scream, "So you think killing Christians and Jews for being Christians or Jews might qualify as a respectful way to treat people of those religions?!?!?" Instead, I try to tone it down. "How can you suggest that it is more disrespectful of us to allow them to practice their religion than it is of them to prevent us from practicing ours? That conclusion cannot be supported on the grounds of a difference in cultural standards. Support for that conclusion requires a double standard. Besides which, if your cultural relativism were true, we shouldn't pay the slightest attention to Muslims when they accuse us of being disrespectful because they can't judge what's respectful or what's not in our culture."

When a liberal discovers an acquaintance happens to be a Republican, the reaction is well nigh universal: "You seemed like such a nice person!" Thence from Sally, out of the blue yet predictable, the coup de grâce, "I'm shocked to hear you talking like that. I just can't believe it. You always seemed like such a nice and smart guy, but now it turns out you're [sneer and gasp] a Republican!"

Yours truly is not what he seemed, "nice and smart," but implicitly the opposite, "evil and dumb," i.e., a Republican! To which I want to say, "How f*cking original, you ignorant sl*t!" But instead I give Sally my stock answer, "Yes, it is true. I am a dastardly red-state-Republican-moron. I know it is shocking how I've been deceiving you all this time. But there you have it. I just have to try to learn to live with myself."

If a workplace conversation ever reaches the point when your interlocutor intimates the shocking discovery that you are mean and stupid, further discussion will get you nowhere fast. Indeed, this is exactly the kind of conversation that no one in his right mind gets into at work. It's just too risky, too disruptive to inter-office relationships. Sometimes I can't resist rising to the bait when it's waved in my face, but I really do know better.

So I start looking for a graceful exit.

I retreat and offer a truce. "You know, Sally, I think we are just going to have to agree to disagree. Our positions are just too far apart, and us talking about it is not going to do any good. Anyway, we really shouldn't be having this kind of conversation at work, and it would be very wrong for us to let politics mess up a good working relationship since we all get along so well on everything else."

Sally, a decent rhetorician, assumes the victorious posture. "So you're afraid to talk about it."

"No, Sally, it's not that I don't have arguments to offer. It's just that I see my words begin to fall on deaf ears. I think we comprehend each other as well as we both want to on this subject. You think Bush, whom you probably hate, is a dummy who lied us into an illegal, immoral, and unwinnable war to create a pretext for stealing oil, enriching Cheney's friends at Haliburton, curtailing free speech, and accusing good liberals of being unpatriotic. (Have I left anything out?) I disagree to an extreme degree. We've gone through enough of the basic points on either side that I think it's safe to conclude that nothing you're saying makes me think I should change my mind. And I'm pretty sure there's nothing I can say to change yours. So we'd best just not discuss it."

Notwithstanding that only a few moments earlier she had condemned me with that most vile of epithets ("Republican" viz. "stupid and evil"), Sally now ascends to a huffy superior position of righteous indignation. "You don't have the right to accuse me of hating anybody. I don't hate anybody. I respect the president because of the office he holds."

Well, that's generous, if true. Yet somehow I don't believe Sally respects the president, just like I didn't believe Mark Fuhrman when he said he never used the N word. But I swallow my disbelief and reply, "You are right. I was wrong to say that you hate Bush. I'm sorry I said that, and I want to take that back. But I really do think that there's no point in us arguing over this anymore."

So ended my talk with Sally on this particular subject. I shall never be so foolish as to take it up with her again. I have been around long enough to know how deadly can be any workplace political disagreement with a member of a doubly protected class, a female of color, who aggressively hefts a large chip on her shoulder. I'd like to keep my job a while longer, along with whatever remains of my reputation as a "nice guy."

However, a few minutes later (a little out of earshot of Sally), I was not so unfoolish as to pick things back up with Cindy, whose announcement had kindled the conversation. She was sitting at her computer surfing the internet. "Cindy, I'm still wondering what was the source of your story that the Pentagon admitted flushing Korans? There's been a lot of confusion about what's actually been reported."

It just so happened Cindy had the web page still open on her desktop (discretely hidden, of course, under a window with something that looked like work). The source of the story was a lefty chat board at Democratic Underground or some such site. There in large bold letters a helpful lefty poster had hyperlinked the title of his entry: Pentagon Admits Flushing Korans. Cindy clicked the link to open the original news item, slightly differently titled, Pentagon admits to Koran abuse.

So I asked Cindy, "Where does it say the Pentagon has admitted Korans were flushed?"

"Well, it says the Pentagon has admitted there were incidents of Koran abuse."

"Yes, I had heard about that. But I heard those incidents were few and relatively mild. Where does it say the Pentagon admitted Korans were flushed?"

"Well, I think it says an FBI agent said they were flushed."

"No, I don't think that's quite what it says. Can you read it to me?"

"It says, 'At a Pentagon news conference, Brig. Gen. Jay Hood, who commands the detention center in Cuba, said a prisoner who was reported to have complained to an FBI agent in 2002 that a military guard threw a Koran in the toilet has told Hood's investigators that he never witnessed any form of Koran desecration.'"

"Yes, that's what I was guessing it might say. So all that we can be certain of so far is that a terrorist suspect has alleged that a Koran was flushed. But now it looks like he's recanted that claim."

"Well, he's a prisoner under U.S. military control so who knows whether he's able to speak freely."

"Yes, but we do know he was at least allowed to speak freely enough for the FBI guy to record his original allegation. It's really up to you whether you choose to believe a terrorist suspect more than your own government. But back to the point. That was only an allegation. What we were looking for is the part where the Pentagon admits Korans were flushed."

"Well, it doesn't exactly say that."

"Looks like you have to read a little beyond the headliine."

"Yeah, I guess that's different."

There's hope for Cindy.

posted by Bathus | 5/29/2005 04:52:00 PM
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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Readers may be interested to know that used copies of the Koran are available at this website ( ) for as little as $1.45 a copy.

My own rapidly dwindling copy is proudly ensconced in the smallest room of my house. I consult it quite "regularly" and am more than satisfied with its soft, absorbent pages. At 640 pages, it's a good deal cheaper than Charmin.

11:36 PM, June 03, 2005  
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