About the Name of this blog

This blog's title refers to a Dani fable recounted by Robert Gardner. The Dani live in the highlands of New Guinea, and at the the time he studied them, they lived in one of the only remaining areas in the world un-colonized by Europeans.

The Dani, who Gardner identifies only as a "Mountain People," in the film "The Dead Birds," have a myth that states there was once a great race between a bird and a snake to determine the lives of human beings. The question that would be decided in this race was, "Should men shed their skins and live forever like snakes, or die like birds?" According to the mythology, the bird won the race, and therefore man must die.

In the spirit of ethnographic analysis, this blog will examine myth, society, culture and architecture, and hopefully examine issues that make us human. As with any ethnography, some of the analysis may be uncomfortable to read, some of it may challenge your preconceptions about the world, but hopefully, all of it will enlighten and inform.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Don't Paint the World With That Brush


So, as I often do, I have a question, brought about by the rush to accusation in this country.

After the Chattanooga shooting, I saw a number of posts saying that ALL Muslims need to be locked up to keep us safe, because they are inherently evil and un-American.   The hate leveled at the Muslim community ranged from mass deportations, automatic revocation of American Citizenship for any Muslim to, in the most horrifying case, a person who said that Hitler had the right idea, just the wrong religion to run through the gas chambers.

Any by the way, I do want to point out, that has now set a new high (or low) bar for the use of Godwin's Law.

Another example, today, I saw a post that had a guy in a medieval Knights Templar outfit standing "guard" outside a recruiting office, to "scare off the Muslims."  I guess because, obviously a war that occurred almost a thousand years ago, still should strike terror in the hearts of Muslims.  Also, as a point in fact, the Christians lost that war.  Constantinople became Istanbul, Rhodes fell, and the Keys to Holy Sepulcher are still held by a Muslim family.  (Although this last one is actually a funny story for another day.)  

Now the question, if we need to lock up all Muslims in this country, why are we not saying the same thing about the Tea Party and other Right Wing groups? We've had 2 mass shootings in the last month or so from those terrorists, and only one from a ,Muslim Terrorist.  Doesn't that mean that Right Wing Terrorists are twice as dangerous as Muslim Terrorists?

Although the worst act of terror in this country came from Islamic Terrorists, let us never forget the second worst, Oklahoma City, came from a Right Wing anti-government terrorist.   We call Nidal Hassan, the Ft. Hood Shooter, a terrorist even though he was an active duty officer in the US military.  In fact, the Wikipedia page calls it the worst terrorist attack to ever take place on a domestic military base.

Let's contrast that with the Charleston shooting.   Dylan Roof was a self avowed Neo-Nazi, who literally confessed that he staged the attack to start a race war.  The Wiki page on the attack asks whether it was a hate crime or a terrorist attack and concludes that it was a hate crime.

And here, I have to ask, WTF?

Starting a race war, ie killing all non-whites, is simply a hate crime?  It is a terrorist attack, and also an act of sedition.  Any action intended to start a Civil War, is, by definition, an act of Sedition. 

I'm going to digress for a minute.  Why is one event a crime, and the other is a terrorist attack?  I have to be honest and state, one was done by a white guy, and the other by a "non-white Muslim"  (And yes, I know, most Muslims are actually Caucasian by the anthropological definition, but try explaining that to most Americans.  This is a country where the Irish used to be classified as a "non-white" race.)    I can't deny racism and religious bigotry play into how we are classifying the two attacks, and I'm not even going to try.  That is far beyond the scope of this post.

To return to the point, the Department of Homeland Security has said in the intelligence assessment of February 20, 2015, that Right Wing Terror Groups are the single biggest security threat that we face on American Soil.  (Other organizations are very dangerous abroad, but not inside this country.)  In fact they estimate 24 attacks by "sovereign citizen groups" since 2010.  And we can add at least 2 more shooting rampages in just the last month, plus the 8 Black Churches that have been burnt, bringing the total number of attacks to 34 in less than five years.  If you do the math, that averages to 7 Right Wing Terrorist Attacks in this country per year in the last five years.

For comparison, there have been 15 attacks by Muslim Terrorists in this country in the same period.  And, to cite sources, that number comes from an Anti-Muslim group that wants all Muslims removed from the country, so that number is not going to be purged in any way.

This means that just like in the last month, historically, over the last 5 years, there have been TWICE as many terrorist attacks from Right Wingers in this country as there have from Muslims.  I think it is apparent which group is actually more likely to go on a rampage.

So again, I ask the question, "Where are all the calls to lock up all Right Wingers, especially those that espouse Neo-Nazi, anti-government, or sovereign citizen beliefs?"  Obviously, those groups are even more dangerous than the Muslims.

But that is, simply put, complete idiocy.

We can't paint with a broad brush.  You will never get safety by arbitrarily locking up large segments of the population.  Let's stop the rhetoric here.  Imprisoning large groups of people on the possibility that they MIGHT commit a crime is not only going to do nothing to make us safer, it is a complete rape of the Constitution.  The Constitution states unequivocally that you are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.  This is a freedom that is guaranteed under the bill of rights, along with the right to face your accuser, the right to a trial and all of the other freedoms that our Founding Fathers established to protect the minority from the Tyranny of the Majority.    We haven't always been really good at protecting these rights, but anyone who loves the Constitution should always strive to become better and hold to it's principles more strongly.  

Further, the actions of someone with the same beliefs you have do not, under any circumstances, establish YOUR guilt.  Guilt by association is not a legal precedent.  Also, it is one of the great fallacies that completely undermine a debate position.   I know a number of people who hold extremely conservative beliefs, and they are no more a threat to this country than the Muslim friends I have. 

And as a point of historical fact, the last times we got this hysterical about specific groups in this country, we ended up with the McCarthy hearings of the 50's and the Japanese Internment of World War Two.  It has taken decades, but we have finally realized that both of those were atrocious behavior on the part of the Government.   We have paid reparations, to the victims of both, but how can you mend lives shattered? 

So my point is, stop the rhetoric.  Accept that there will always be a fringe element in all groups that will do horrifying things.  Try to stop them through honest police work, but don't eviscerate every single thing that generations of brave men and women fought and died to protect, just because you are afraid.

Fear isn't worth losing your soul over.