Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Tim Rutten doesn't get it

Tim Rutten writes a piece for the LA Times lamenting the West's lack of concern regarding the plight of Iraqi Christians.  He focuses on America's policies, the West's general blindness to the historical intolerance of Christianity in the Middle East, and the important role these historic Christian communities play.  All fair enough.  But the main reason we hear or see nothing is not mentioned.  That is because our media, like our culture, is weaned on a Super-Narrative that simply doesn't compute such things as being worthy of the radar screen.  The basic narrative of the post-war West is that White, European and American, Heterosexual, Christian Men are the incarnation of absolute evil and the singular cause of all human suffering in the world.   All other peoples, cultures, and civilizations, in addition to being infinitely superior in every way, are both morally and intellectually pure, peopled with happy and loving individuals who only wish to run through the lily fields of life chanting John Lennon songs all day.

So when Bill Clinton sounded the atrocity alarm in the 90s to validate our attack on Milošević and the Serbians, it fit.  Serbians, White European Christians, were assaulting and massacring Bosnian Muslims.  That fits.  That fits the paradigm, the Super-Narrative.  So we went to war.  When George W. Bush attempted, in the earliest days post-9/11, to rally support for our inevitable invasion of Iraq, he played up to the atrocities committed by Saddam Hussein among other reasons.  Problem was, that did not fit the Super-Narrative.  Non-White, non-European or American, non-Christian committing atrocities against anyone?  Didn't compute.  We didn't support it, or think what Hussein did was good.  It just didn't strike 'That Nerve' that comes with pointing to American Slavery, or the US treatment of the American Indian, or the Nazi Holocaust.  Hence the focus turned almost exclusively to the infamous WMDs.

It's that nerve that fails to be hit when people try to whip up similar visceral responses by mentioning the atrocities of Imperial Japan, the aggression of historic Islam, the brutality of Chinese history, or the butchery of the atheistic Communist empire of the USSR.  The formula isn't there.  We don't react.  Sure, it was bad.  We don't say it was good.  But there isn't that Pavlovian response that you get with good old fashioned stories about Inquisitions, Witch Burnings, and Crusades; with American Slavery, European Imperialism, the Holocaust - all of which can be fitted into that mold, that model, that formula. 

So the fact that 9/11 has been an inconvenient blip has been bad enough.  Early were we able to ponder what we did to make them hate us so much.  After all, it must have been us.  Thus does the Super-Narrative demand we interpret all things a certain way.  But continued violence by Muslims across the Islamic world is becoming a troubling reminder that many simply choose to ignore.  A reminder that the Super-Narrative upon which so much our modern progressive thinking is based, might be wrong.  And that cannot be accepted.  So we will blame Bush, the US, Europe as much as we can.  But when it finally comes down to something that may challenge the Super-Narrative, and no amount of interpretive gerrymandering will do the trick, turning a blind eye is our best bet.  And it's a tactic that has, so far, worked like a charm.

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