Friday, March 24, 2006

Commitment

I've been thinking today about Allan Bloom's discussion of the concept of "commitment" and how it develops an allure in-and-of-itself during times of intellectual crisis. His example was the strange allure that terrorists often have in late democracies. No doubt, he was thinking of groups like the Bader Meinhoff gang, but I wonder if we don't respond to current terrorists in a similar way. I think we tend to see them as being engaged in a political struggle, and I think this suggests that they're acting out of enlightened self-interest. But, then you read about a group like the Badr Corps death squads, who have been targeting gay men for assassination, and you remember that these people have more in common with Torquemada than the Red Shirts.

"Ammar, a young gay man of 27, was abducted and shot in back of the head in Baghdad by suspected Badr militias in January 2006. Haydar Faiek, aged 40, a transsexual Iraqi, was beaten and burned to death by Badr militias in the main street in the Al-Karada district of Baghdad in September 2005. Naffeh, aged 45, disappeared in August 2005. His family was informed that he was kidnapped by the Badr organization. His body was found in January 2006. He, too, had been subjected to an execution-style killing."

Shameful too is the US military response to this. Targeted gay men have been "met with indifference and derision," Doug Ireland reports. One gay Iraqi who is hiding five gay men in his home said that when he has approached American officials they have "laughed" and have refused to provide support.

But, of course, this is less shameful than targeting them for execution.

Something that troubles me about myself, frankly, is that I have to remind myself of that- the soldier's response feels more shameful somehow. As if the US should know better. But, why shouldn't other people know better than to target gay men for execution? Do I just assume that their religious beliefs are their business and cannot be argued with? Do I understand US soldiers better, feel them more akin to myself, and thus expect a higher standard of behavior? Am I so afraid of "cultural imperialism" that I can't admit that these death squads make me sick in a way that no US fundamentalist, not even Fred Phelps, has been able to? And why don't gay rights groups march en masse for gays and lesbians in the middle east? I dislike the US troops who laugh at the deaths of homosexuals, but I loathe the sort of people who cause them. Their commitment is to a projection of themselves and not to other human beings.

I hate their God and it hates me.

8 comments:

Hiromi said...

It *is* difficult to decide what are universal values, and what is not; however, when it comes to physically harming or killing other human beings, one would hope it's a foregone conclusion.

I am curious, though, as to why these death squads are more loathesome - is it because they're more obviously the result of group coordination? Is it the social sanction? Or something else?

Rufus said...

In comparing them to the soldiers, it just seems like a lack of concern is less hateful than actually tracking people down and killing them.

In comparison to our homegrown fundamentalists, there's still the obsession with homosexuality, always the obsession with homosexuality, but it does seem to be the social sanction that makes the difference. I could easily see our wackos calling for something similar, but not getting enough support to form a sort of militia.

Hiromi said...

Well... I wonder whether our homegrown variety of homophobics *would* form death squads if there was less law enforcement. They just haven't been presented with that option, you know?

Rufus said...

Also, as much as they love to pretend otherwise, they're not nearly as alienated from their society as was Jesus himself. Most of them are consumate insiders playing the "alienated minority". Why get out the guns when you can just keep pushing your friends to change the laws?

The Pagan Temple said...

I understand your point, but on the other hand, if I know somebody is about to break in on my neighbor and kill him, and the rest of his family, and I do nothing, in a very real sense I am just as guilty. Their blood would be on my hands as much as it would be their killers, maybe just not quite so much of it.

It's also possible soldiers have been ordered to not become involved in matters such as these on the grounds that this is a matter the Iraqi authorities should be taking care of.

These are the kinds of cultural differencs that are going to confront us as long as we are involved in this horrible place. If nothing else it points out the wisdom of Washingtons warning about allowing ourselves to get involved with "foreign entanglements".

Rufus said...

Cultural differences seem unavoidable. We all want to be culturally sensitive (well, all of us reading this do anyway), and yet we either refuse to hold others to the same ethical standards that we have, which seems to alienate them from our community, or we find them wanting by those standards, which seems culturally imperialistic.

For instance, say you find out that your regular tailor is currently out of the coutry, having returned to Egypt to have his daughter circumcized. Is there anything culturally chauvanistic about stopping patronizing the guy?
Okay, that might be weird, but the point is, cultural entanglements seem to be our lot in this life for the forseeable future.

Sadly, so do foreign entanglements.

The Pagan Temple said...

I don't think they do that in Egypt or most other Muslim countries anymore, or I hope they don't. If he did, I can't say that I would definitely stop patronizing him, but I sure wouldn't be able to look at him in quite the same manner again. Some things are just so disgustingly despicable, respect for cultural differences can only allow for so much.

Rufus said...

Yeah, according to Amnesty International, it's still going on in Egypt. I tend to believe that cultural openess is worthwhile, but that Klauswitz was right about the man who supports everything supporting nothing.