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Discussion Question: How Should We Judge the Threat from Radical Islam?

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In raising this question --how should we judge the threat from radical Islam?-- I would also like to articulate some of my concerns about the state of thought about that question in America today.

That the right is unprepared to respond to that question from a place of wisdom and truth almost goes without saying. Today's Americans on the political right are a group whose leaders have been telling them that this threat is so huge that, though the United States could fight World War II and engage in the protracted and potentially annihilating struggle of the cold war without ditching the Constitution or legitimating torture, we must now sacrifice all that and more --and remain in constant fear-- to meet the present danger.

The right is plagued by lies and fear-mongering from the leadership, and what seems like a virtual trance state among the followers.

But the fact that the right has gone off the wall on this question does not mean that the left is necessarily clear of vision. Actually, given the way cultural systems work, quite the contrary: the excesses on one side generally suggest --and can also create-- corresponding but opposite errors on the other side. The first casualties of polarization in the body politic are truth and good judgment.

And, as I pose this question to a group of people who are (for the most part) united in their abhorrence of the destructive regime now ruling the United States, this problem of mirror-image distortions is the source of my concern,.

A central part of how I look at the entire moral crisis in America today --a crisis of which the rise of Bushite fascism is the most urgent part, but not the whole thing-- is in terms of the idea of this idea of "polarization."

If Goodness is inextricably connected with Wholeness (which is what I believe --see www.nonesoblind.org/blog/?p=79), then the creation of division-- such as the polarization within a culture in the areas of ideas and beliefs--is also central to the dynamic of evil.

And that splitting apart of the larger, whole truth into ever-more-widely-divergent partisan half-truths is precisely what we have seen in America over the past several decades. This, I believe, is one of the main forces at work in our society that has opened the door to the takeover of America by these evil forces.

This polarization is manifest in how different groups think about the situation in the world today.

On the right, idea of the "Axis of evil" has become an excuse for an American descent into evil.

On the left, meanwhile --where, as an impassioned opponent of this terrible regime, I mostly hang out-- one can do a great deal of reading without encountering much concern about the forces arising in recent years in the Islamic world, and the threat they may imply for the Western world.

As is generally the case when beliefs polarize, neither side --in my view-- has a very good handle on the truth, made up as it is of various components that must be well-integrated for us to achieve true understanding and to be able to act wisely.

So when I ask, "Is there a threat from radical Islam?" in the circles among which my words will circulate, I expect that a great many people will come forward to declare, simply, No. Or to reduce the threat to terms that are but another way of criticizing the West in general and America in particular.

Polarization distorts understanding when people are so invested in rejecting the views of the other side of the divided cultural system that they will ignore logic and evidence in order to grant their enemies nothing.

One might think in this way, for example: "Bush is evil, so therefore his enemies are not," a statement with whose premise I would agree, but whose conclusion is a non-sequitur. It IS possible that both Bush and his enemies are a menace to what we are called upon to protect. (It does seem that, for whatever reason, the problem of fascistic thinking has become wisespread in today's world.

Sometimes both sides in a conflict are evil and dangerous. (Consider that bloody conflict between Stalin's armies and Hitler's in World War II. That Hitler was evil did not change the fact that so was Stalin, and vice versa.)

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Andy Schmookler, an award-winning author, political commentator, radio talk-show host, and teacher, was the Democratic nominee for Congress from Virginia's 6th District. His new book -- written to have an impact on the central political battle of our time -- is (more...)
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