Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Terrorism & Faith In A Post-Bush World

I could criticize until I'm blue in the face the word "terrorism" as it is used to describe a supposed statement of fact.

For example, the word "terrorism" is entirely subjective, that what is to us an evil act requiring a just response on our part is to the recipients of our just response an act of terrorism that requires a just response on their part, eg. the Palestinians on what they see as the taking of their land by Israel. So the outline defining "terrorism" is not so easy to draw.

Or that the word "terrorism" is just a word used to scare people into forgetting, or not seeing, that the "war on terrorism" is not a "new kind of war" we're fighting, but a war in the most traditional sense, with the same money being spent, the same pockets being lined, and the same lives being lost.

However, all of these arguments have been made before by people much more practiced on the subject than I.

One of the predictable results of the "dumbing down" of political discourse practiced by the Bush administration is that people became, well, dumber when it came to analyzing truth from fiction in world affairs.

I swear I can sometimes see President Obama bristle when using the term "Homeland" (as opposed to "national", or "our nation's", cf. "Homeland Security"), a euphemism created by Bush and his advisers to better characterize our nation post 911. To any Jew (such as myself) the use of the term holds too many echoes of the concept of the "heimat" of Nazi Germany and everything that word implies (nationalism, rejection of foreign people and culture, rejection of foreign ideas, etc...). The word "Homeland" then smacks of manipulation and propaganda and was utilized by Bush exactly for that purpose (and, unfortunately, I fear the word is here to stay).

But what I can't understand is Obama's embracing of the "faith-based" initiative, a notion interpreted by even some religious people, such as the Rev. Jesse Jackson, as a way for certain members of government to justify lessening government support of education and health care. As the Chicago Tribune noted last July, even Obama has had mixed results applying these initiatives in his home state.

What I wonder about is, is Obama embracing the "faith-based" to appease his radical religious constituents? Or his "fiscally conservative" constituents? Or does he really believe in the ability of such programs to bring a balanced education to people in a way our government should but doesn't?

Before accepting or rejecting (in Obama's case, apparantly, accepting) whether or not faith-based programs do work, one should define what "faith" means, which is exactly what proponents of "faith-based" programs don't want people to do.

Having "faith" implies a connection to the otherworldly, a position or circumstance that the worldly, language, intellect, materialism, cannot help us achieve. Having faith implies that there is something out there that is beyond language, and that a belief in such is dependent not on reasoned thought but on something that cannot be described.

But, as we are humans, we can only reach the otherworldly through the worldly, and that's why any profession of faith, or profession of "faith based" initiatives, must be rooted in intellectual thought.

So, I just hope that when Obama says he supports "faith based initiatives" he is honest with himself about exactly what it is he is supporting, the genuine belief in something greater than us all, or a vial of snake oil passed off as holy water in order to save a couple of pennies.

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