I lieu of anything more profound, on a general interest or even, dare I say it, Buddhist topic, and in lieu of a long-winded diatribe about the general hypocrisy and double standard in American media whenever a Muslim, a person of color, a non-Chrisitian in short, a non-white heterosexual middle-class male does anything, I offer the following.
I’ve been thinking about the tragedy at Ft. Hood, and I’ve been actively boycotting the media ever since I heard an interview on NPR NPR of all places! of an Army chaplain who happens to be a Muslim. They were interviewing him and asking him asinine questions because another person who also happens to be a Muslim went on a sociopathic shooting spree, as if there’s something about being a Muslim that makes one predisposed to being a sociopath or that there’s something about being a Muslim that makes you able to relate to all other Muslims. And I found myself thinking, after another sociopath who happens to be a Christian gunned down an abortion doctor earlier this year, did NPR seek out the nearest Christian clergy member and ask similarly inane questions about Christianity? Or did they just assume, rightly, that that one lone sociopath was indeed a sociopath, nothing more and nothing less, who happened to use his religious views as justification for his behavior? It’s a fine line. But it’s a line worth keeping in our minds. I’d like to call that line: “Sociopathic behavior is bad no matter what; but just because said sociopath happened to belong to marginalized group X does not mean that all members of marginalized group X are sociopaths.”
So I’ve been frustrated, and, unlike my usual response to frustration, I did the following: first, I stopped reading news via the Internet which dramatically reduced the amount of crazy I was ingesting; and, second, quite by chance, I picked up a copy of Pierre Bourdieu’s Acts of Resistance Against the Tyranny of Market. And I read the following quote, taken from an editorial published shortly after a terrorist attack in Paris in 1995.
Questioned after the explosion in the second coach of the express metro train he was driving on Tuesday, 17 October, the driver, who according to witnesses had led the evacuation of the passengers with exemplary calm, warned against the temptation to take revenge on the Algerian community. They are, he said simply, ‘people like us.’
This extra-ordinary remark, a ‘healthy truth of the people’, a Pascal would have said, made a sudden break with the utterances of all the ordinary demagogues who, unconsciously or calculatedly, align themselves with the xenophobia or racism they attribute to the people, while helping to produce them; or who use the supposed expectations of those they sometimes call ‘simple folk’ as an excuse for offering them, as ‘good enough for them’, the simplistic thoughts they attribute to them; or who appeal to the sanctions of the market (and the advertisers), incarnated in audience ratings or opinion polls and cynically identified with the democratic verdict of the largest in number, in order to impose their own vulgarity and abject servility in everyone.
As if that wasn’t good enough, he goes on to say:
That simple remark contained an exhortation by example to combat resolutely all those who, in their desire always to leap to the simplest answer, caricature an ambiguous historical reality in order to reduce it to the reassuring dichotomies of Manichean thought which television, always inclined to confuse rational dialogue with a wrestling match, has set up as a model. It is infinitely easier to take up a position for or against an idea, a value, a person, an institution or a situation, than to analyse what it truly is, in all its complexity. People are all the quicker to take sides on what journalists call a ‘problem of society’ the question of the Muslim veil, for example the more incapable they are of analysing and understanding its meaning, which is often quite contrary to ethnocentric intuition.
French social critics always make me feel right as rain. But I can’t help recalling, knowing that this piece was written fourteen years ago last month, the words of my high school history teacher who said, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” Nevertheless, I share Bourdieu’s assessment of the train operator who, it seems to me, is suggesting that we do as Jesus himself did and love thy neighbor rather than bombing them back to the stone age. He is, in short, acting out of love.
Here’s to lifting the level of the dialogue.