14 September 2010


By Andy Weddington
Tuesday, 14 September 2010

"Civilizations die from philosophical calm, irony, and the sense of fair play quite as surely as they die of debauchery." Joseph Wood Krutch (1893-1970)

Chaos Theory, touched upon in previous Commentaries, is the field of study that focuses on the behavior of dynamic systems--systems especially sensitive to initial conditions. Chaos Theory has been applied to the life sciences, mathematics, computer science, engineering, physics, meteorology, and robotics to name a few, making for fascinating discoveries; debunking old theories while leading to the development of others ever-maturing. And Chaos Theory has also been applied to military strategy and tactics, finance, economics and to the social sciences--philosophy, psychology, and, of course, politics.

In short, Chaos Theory has, in some ways, revolutionized the way we learn and live. Though through the lens of nonlinearity there is much to discover about our universe, planet, and all things human.

The 'sensitivity to initial conditions' aspect of the theory is commonly referred to as the "butterfly effect." The popular metaphorical example is, "Can a butterfly flapping it's wings in Northern Japan trigger a tornado in the Midwest United States?"

Absurd you say? Well, sure. But the idea, in the context in which intended, is an interesting one to mull over. And maybe it's not so preposterous after all.

How about a recent real-world example applying the butterfly effect to religion and politics? And let's start by reconfiguring the hypothesis.

"Can an unknown American pastor, of a congregation barely numbering fifty, utter a handful of words that sparks a global firestorm?"

Yes--and not metaphorically speaking.

Pastor Terry Jones of somewhere outside Gainesville, Florida, and essentially unknown to the world less than two weeks ago, spoke some words that sparked a flash firestorm ringing the earth. In short, Mr. Jones and his assistant backyard chefs threatened to host a good ol' southern style barbeque. But nary a beast--usually a pig (god forbid)--was to be skewered and roasted. No sir, Islam's Quran was the planned entree. Typical  fare for a pig-pickin'--complementary beans, slaw, tater salad, hushpuppies, and iced-tea was never mentioned. 

Mr. Jones and his humble flock of God-fearing Christians, outraged by plans for a mosque-flavored erection anywhere near Ground Zero, figured out exactly whose and which buttons to push to garner world-wide attention.

With today's capability to instantaneously route electrons around the planet it didn't take the Taliban we're fighting in Afghanistan long to whip illiterate Muslims into a frenzied mob. Nor the media long to exploit those mob images by broadcasting footage of hysterical Muslims burning parodies of our Stars and Stars, effigies of Mr. Jones, and chanting the wildly popular anti-Yank ditty, "Death to America." Who knows how big the mobs really were or if they even understood why they were rioting. Viewer beware of clever zoom and crop camerawork and editorial reporting.

Since there was no hurricane in the forecast to otherwise drench the cookout, generals came out of the woodwork appealing to Mr. Jones to cancel his barbeque. For not doing so, they surmised, would only invigorate the enemy thereby unnecessarily escalating the danger to our gunfighters. Politicians--from losers destined for the streets in November to our president--belittled and scolded Mr. Jones. And then there was plenty of the clueless pretty people, who'd not be caught dead at any sort of redneck barbeque, yelling at the controversial pastor. Good grief is right.

"Loon" was the favored moniker for Mr. Jones. But is he?

Could it be the good pastor (and followers) is merely hallucinating from excessive sunshine--heat illness (he does live in the Sunshine State), delusional from knocking back too much moonshine (there's likely a still or two in the swamps or runners from neighboring states), or that he's just damn angry and is not going to take it anymore?

Little more than nine years ago Muslims--real "loons"--knocked down World Trade Center towers One and Two (and other WTC buildings), flew a plane into the Pentagon, and crashed a plane, destined to strike the White House or Capitol, in a field in Pennsylvania. Thousands of innocent folks did not just die on that day known as 9/11--they were murdered.

Now, to add insult to injury, another Muslim loon, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf--who stated the U. S. shared culpability in the 9/11 attacks, intends to erect something mosque-flavored near where the World Trade Center towers once stood. Speaking in defense of his effort he said "radicals" have taken over the conversation and it's now a matter of U. S. national security; because if not handled properly the Muslim world will explode. When is the Muslim world not ready to explode? Books insult them. Cartoons insult them. Critics insult them. Western life insults them. The Muslim world claims to strive to live in peace. So, where's the love? Where's the tolerance? Does anyone else see the irony?

Rauf's words sounded like a cleverly veiled threat--blackmail. And now it's coming out Rauf has had a long-standing business relationship with another seedy Muslim, known as a "truther," who's on record saying the 9/11 attacks were a U. S. inside job. Rest assured as sickening as it is now there's more to come.   

The imam's perseverance, at least as far as most Americans are concerned, is muddying the very distinction  Islam, and Mr. Obama, is preaching citing the difference(s) between Muslims who profess commitment to live in peace and those determined to kill infidels and destroy America. But word and deed are not harmonious. You can't have it both ways. Reverend Franklin Graham, a respected Christian evangelist, has offered some insight about the "peace" variable. He believes Islam's definition is much different that ours. That being, peace is when they, Islam, have conquered and all others subserviant. Sure fits with being "explosive." Huh, might Rauf's position be reflective?

Nearly 70% of Americans acknowledge that by our country's law a mosque can be built. But they oppose, vehemently, any such project on the grounds of common sense, insensitivity, and disrespect. They oppose based on principle. That, in a word, it'd be sacrilegious. Oh, the irony of a religion doing something sacrilegious. Not so much of a poser when remembering Islam is not just a religion--it's an ideology with history of conquest. 

Mr. Obama, shielding himself with law and tippy-toe language, supports the project; despite the fact that nearly 7 of 10 Americans oppose. Whether he used the word "loon" when referring to Mr. Jones or not is not important. But loony just may be the best description for his position.

Criticize the president? Certainly not. Analyze his behavior and words? Certainly, he's a public servant.

Is not it peculiar how Mr. Obama didn't hesitate to engage taking a strong position against little ol' Mr. Jones and his plans to burn a few copies of Islam's holy book and yet will not take the consistent parallel stance  against the far more contentious matter of a mosque-flavored erection near Ground Zero (where thousands of people, not a few symbolic books, were crushed, suffocated, burned, and others forced to leap to their deaths vice being incinerated)? Yes, I appreciate the variable of safety to our armed forces and that is correct. But the two situations are not mutually exclusive. Pardon, but it's time to be blunt--it's idiotic. And makes the reasonable man wonder--even more so--about the purported brilliance of Mr. Obama. Some are questioning allegiance.

But should we really be surprised? Is it logical to be disappointed in a man sitting in the Oval Office who spent nearly the first two decades of his life outside the United States and influenced by people with no love for America? Mr. Obama is a different type of American. During his formative youth--a period arguably critical for imprinting deep love of country--he was not here. He was not exposed to, saturated by, life uniquely American. He heard the contrary. Fact is a duckling imprinted with a dog as it's mother does not recognize it's real mother with a couple of woofs making a couple of quacks meaningless (maybe even threatening); even though the duckling quacks.

Mr. Obama may pledge love for America. But his definitions for "love" and "America" are not found in the dictionary the majority--speaking American or the Queen's English--reference. The words may be spelled and pronounced the same but there is no communication. And they're not the only two. For starters, add an entry under "c" and one under "h"--change and hope. He may as well be speaking jibberish.

At a Pentagon ceremony on Saturday, Mr. Obama said, "As Americans we are not--and never will be--at war with Islam...it was not a religion that attacked us that September day--it was al-Qaida, a sorry band of men which perverts religion." That's the perspective of a man sired by a Muslim and with more than just cursory exposure to Islam. To the contrary, with Rauf's dogged pursuit of his antagonizing project as exhibit one, might the 9/11 attackers (et. al.) be seen as simply Islam's expendable front men? And to exploit matters not if they're overt, covert, or serendipitous. A point of view as plausible and actually more logical than the president's. And one that fits with President Reagan's "Trust but verify" philosophy for national security.

Through the eyes of angry America Mr. Obama's psyche has a huge "red, white, and blue" void--which growing numbers are only beginning to see and calculate the cube because they were, by admission, willingly hypnotized by a slick word package. But the trance is waning. Proof rests in the latest credible job approval polls--nearly 6 in 10 say Mr. Obama  just does not get it. But is it he does not get it or does not care to get it? Either way, sobering. And disconcerting.

Oddly enough, Mr. Obama pounded the pulpit he was a uniter. A more divisive uniter there could hardly be. Before his eyes, the country is falling apart and simultaneously uniting--against him; the polar opposite of his plans. And the Muslim world is not exactly inviting him for group hugs. Trying to please all, he's angering and alienating all.

As for Ground Zero, it's an open wound yet to scar. And that despite ongoing construction, marked by layer upon layer of obstructionist redtape, to create a massive memorial. Grieving--by families and our nation--continues; and ever will. The memorial will remind but soothe. It is not intended to erase. Should any structure Islamic ever come to be linked with the aftermath of the attack the wound will perpetually ooze. There will no true healing or inner peace; for individuals or country. That is human nature.

Can you imagine had United Airlines 93 (that crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania) struck the White House or Capitol? Can you image if Muslims had moved for the erection of a mosque or healing "community center" atop that ground? Or anywhere near? Can you image the outrage? What would Mr. Obama say? What would Mr. Obama do? Can you imagine?

Is there a duty, of any sort, for any American to embrace Islam? Or any religion for that matter? Even if there are Americans who are Muslim? Not any more so than there is a duty, of any sort, for Muslims--worldwide or in America--to embrace other religions; which they do not.

Furious with the New York City project and disillusioned with a president governing contrary to the spirit of the majority folks are, understandably, closing ranks; a population dynamic ripe for analysis through Chaos Theory. Perhaps social scientists are now modeling the dynamic--putting it through the predictive paces of what happens once strong, determined, unifying leadership emerges. And emerge it will--a trait of dynamic systems. Might politicians already be analyzing data and crafting campaign strategies? Seems likely.

And in the meantime, there's the continuous calls for tolerance. But the calls are falling upon the deaf ears of the wrong audience. The land of the free have been patient and tolerant. Now they're disgusted and angry. Pastor Jones only said and threatened to do what is on the minds of many. It's miraculous there hasn't been any violence from Americans--a testament to restraint and civility; even under the present circumstances of considerable stress. But for how much longer? Americans, too, are not beyond exploding. Watch out when they do.

Last Saturday, 11 September, the History Channel aired programs reminding us all of the horror from that Tuesday morning nine years ago. If you missed "102 Minutes That Changed America" then you missed not a careful edit or re-enactment but up-close and personal raw, sobering footage of the World Trade Center attack (most captured by amatuers--some by TV crews), and painful recollections of survivors.

Take a moment. Yes, take a moment. Set aside fading macro memories. Take a deep breath, close your eyes, and make the horror intimately personal. Imagine being trapped above the attack lines--more than seventy stories--in one of the inferno towers and stunned and injured frantically looking for an escape route or desperately signaling from a window; buckled in a seat on a hi-jacked plane and on the last ride of your life; or safely away from disaster but on the phone with a loved one amidst the chaos whom you will never see again. Think about it. Yes, think about it. Really think about it. Now, consider a mosque--symbol of the attacker's faith--being erected anywhere near what is a battleground and graveyard. Angry yet? It's damn insanity.

Come now, whom should rightfully be outraged? Whom should rightfully be angry? And, most importantly, whom should exercise tolerance?

Certainly random acts of violence against Muslims, or anyone--including our government, is not the answer. A barbeque featuring Qurans may not be the most civil threat or act but it sure got everyone's attention.

But there are sundry ways to diplomatically express sentiments, without saying a word, so as not to be misunderstood. An extended middle finger is one way--sometimes even the greeting of choice between  politicians--but the vulgar hand sign's use is so common anymore its lost its punch--its shock.

So, is the 70% collective of Americans opposed to the modern Manhattan project, and more, now turning another cheek? Yes. Absolutely. Clearly. But not in the biblical sense.

What's happening is they're, metaphorically but with quasi literal intent, turning the fleshy cheeks of a bared derriere--a moon shot. So goes defiance in universal mime. And white pancake not necessary; for anyone--as moonshine is moonshine. Giftees aren't expected to literally pucker up--traditional or French--but planting smackaroos implicit.

America is at war--against Muslim terrorists, against Muslim pirates, and against anyone, Muslim or not, foreign or domestic, intruding with intent to kill us or destroy our way of life.

Not all's love--in war fair; nor--in warfare.

Oh, have you noticed--"coeternal" is an anagram of "tolerance"? But don't expect anything on earth to change. Ever.

Post Script

All this Quran burning nonsense in Florida ongoing while forward-deployed U. S. Navy and Marine Corps forces stormed and successfully reclaimed a commercial ship seized by pirates. And there was an eerie, if not serendipitous, 9/11 connection in the aftermath: 9 Muslim Somali pirates captured / 11 crew rescued.

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