Friday Bag ‘o Tribalism

charlie hebdoWatching NBC and MSNBC reports on the Charlie Hebdo terror killings in Paris, I see very few depictions of the magazine’s cartoons. In print and web-based media, though, the cartoons … even the really offensive ones … are everywhere. You’d have to be a cloistered monk not to have seen them, which makes me wonder why our TV networks are so squeamish about showing them.

I think I’ve established my anti-censorship cred here at Paul’s Thing, if for nothing else than my You Can’t Read That! posts. Oh, yeah, and that time I lost a friend for using the c-word to describe Sarah Palin. And all the times my wife has told me I shouldn’t have written about this thing or that. Freedom of speech? Bring it on, baby.

I confess Charlie Hebdo’s style of satire strikes me as gratuitously offensive, particularly its slams at religion, which are based on racial and cultural stereotypes so crude they’d embarrass a Republican. But when it comes to choosing sides, I’m with the irreverent satirists every time. We can’t give an inch on freedom of speech, even when — especially when — those who want to shut us up resort to violence and murder.

A friend asked me to read an interview with a former nun who says that, contrary to conventional wisdom, religion is not the driving force behind violence. When it comes to war, I take her point: while religion may be invoked to justify war, wars are fought for secular reasons like power, territory, and natural resources. Clearly, though, religion, or religion-based tribalism (which I think is a more accurate way to describe it), is a primary factor in terrorism.

The overwhelming majority of Muslims living in Western countries are secular, divorced from the religion-based tribalism sweeping the Middle East. They condemn terrorism carried out in their name by fanatics. You won’t see me jumping onto the let’s-kill-all-the-Muslims bandwagon, any more than I’d jump on a lets-kill-all-the-Christians bandwagon after an NAACP office or abortion clinic bombing. And I hope you won’t either. There are people who react to terrorism by trying to start tribal, religious, and racial wars. We have to stand up to them the same way we stand up to terrorists.

It’s not easy. When I see someone driving a pickup truck with a 2nd Amendment bumper sticker, I assume certain things about that person. When I see a woman wearing a hijab my thoughts are not kindly ones. To be human is to be tribal. I get that, because I see it in myself.

And since I harbor some of this tribalism myself, I don’t expect too much from other people. Muslims in Western countries have been under the gun since 9/11, and in the wake of recent attacks like the ones in France they’ll face even more prejudice, scrutiny, and suspicion. I can only hope governments act with restraint, targeting just the perpetrators of violence, not entire classes of people.

And wouldn’t it be nice if Fox News and right-wing talk radio just shut the fuck up for once? Hey, a guy can dream, can’t he?

5 thoughts on “Friday Bag ‘o Tribalism

  • Great as usual. Did you read the David Brooks column I posted yesterday? Satire, real in your face, satire in this country has always been the province of the small mags. Debate has always been only allowed to be between A and D you can’t mention B or C because someone might be offended. You can’t limit tolerance of ideas that you hate without losing the right to have those you love.

  • Bravo! Superb analysis. You may have outdone yourself. BTW, the caption reads: “No mockery.” Or “No mocking.” As you choose. But you probably knew that.

    Did you really lose a friend over the “C” word? I merely said women really hate the word.

    I spent only a week in Paris, but it was enough to learn that the French have taken freedom of speech and politics to a level that makes Americans look like Puritans. Why, it’s even legal to be a communist there! (Why, yes, that WOULD be sarcasm.)

    Anyhow, congrats on a truly excellent commentary. Actually, in the case of many of the Muslim terrorists, I suspect religion is merely a handy excuse for a truly psychotic level of violence. I mean, who beheads someone with a KNIFE? Haven’t they heard of axes? As with the CIA’s “rectal hydration” (now there’s a euphemism if there ever was one), there’s only one reason to use a knife. It’s fun. Sick people.
    Reliza recently posted…Our Kind of PeopleMy Profile

  • Prejudice of course is wrong but treating Muslims with suspicion is a condendrum in my opinion. In the recent terrorist attacks in Canada, in Australia and the ones of this week in France (not sure about the ones in France before Christmas), the prepetrators were known to the authorities and yet to protect their civil rights, they were allowed to move freely. It can certainly be argued that more suspicion would have resulted in stopping at least 7 totally unconnected deaths plus the 12 in the Charlie Hebdo. I don’t lknow what the solution is except that I think just as convictions for child molestation charges results in specific long term reporting etc., convictions for terrorism or confirmed threats of terrorism (which I think would have applied to the Iranian in Australia) leads to long term limitations such as refusing passports and, for Europeans restrictions on use of their identity cards and agreement that the prepetratros cannot get second citizenship passports. I also believe that moderate Muslims have to take greater responsibllity for cleaning out this growing cancer in their religion. I don’t support their handwashing of it all i.e. just explaining that it has nothing to do with Islam. They should be getting angry. Instead of putting flowers down, how much better if the money was collected to pay for girls schooling in Muslim areas to give a sock in the eye to these extremists.

  • Reliza, I did lose a friend over that. A regular reader, up to that point. Well … better that than having armed Muslim terrorists bust into my house and kill me in a spray of bullets, I suppose.

    MTM, welcome to the blog! Yesterday we learned more about how much the French police and intelligence services knew about the terrorists beforehand, and you’re quite right … this puts a different twist on things. If they knew all that, why weren’t the authorities right in their faces 24/7, and how did they fail to stop these attacks before they occurred? We still haven’t held anyone accountable for not stopping the 9/11 attacks in this country, though, so I can’t really point a finger at the French.

  • Correction to my translation: “You must not make fun of us” would be a better translation. Sorry, I didn’t pay enough attention to the “faut”. Just think of it as a faux pas.
    Reliza recently posted…Our Kind of PeopleMy Profile

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