If you can’t vote for Romney, Don’t vote for Obama:An Open Letter to Americans of all Faiths and SkepticismsI hesitate to take a public stand on national elections, never have, never thought I would. But exceptional times call for exceptional measures. I write because I think that the choice of Barak Obama could have dangerous consequences, not only for the United States (where I grew up, teach, have family, and which I greatly admire as both a nation and a culture), and for Israel (where I live, have family, write, and which I greatly admire as both a nation and a culture). I think another four years of President Obama would seriously endanger the culture of openness, tolerance and productivity that has made our current age such an astonishing one in world history.
I have become increasingly alarmed, in the course of the first decade of the 21st century, about what seemed to me an inexplicable loss of ground in a critical battle for moral integrity with a politicized religious movement which we loosely refer to as Islamism. Many of those who believe that Islam should exercise political sovereignty wherever it exists, also manifest alarmingly aggressive, regressive traits. Since political Islam clearly violates the idea of the separation of church and state, a pillar of free democracies, it did not occur to me that the products and developers of modern liberal culture would lose such a debate to people whose sharia-imposed utopia involves patriarchy and its attendant misogyny, imperialist politics and its hate-targeting of scapegoats, violence and its threat in order to silence critics.
To my shock and horror, I have felt like a witness to a self-destructive generation, bent on pursuing the mirages that John Lennon invited us to Imagine, no matter what the cost, no matter who we tried to reach by throwing off all our identity boundaries. Damn the regressive icebergs, full speed ahead to making the world “a much better place” by embracing the “Other.” Ignore those violent Islamists and what they’re doing; they’re all part of the great experiment in global consciousness in which we all participate.
Not only that, our critics from within and without insist, but “we” Eurocentric Westerners should take responsibility for any problems that arise. Ask not, “what do they believe to hate us so?” but rather, “what have we done to make them hate us so?” It was one thing for Chomsky to respond to 9-11 by declaring the US the worst terrorist, it was madness for a generation of idealist/activists to take Chomsky as their moral compass. The result: when Islamists accused us of terrible and malevolent crimes, and held us to standards of human rights for them, that they themselves would never grant to us, we responded, “Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. We deserve the hostility we get. Perhaps, if we atone and show respect to you, we can all move on to a better, more equitable world.”
Who but the most perceptive prophet in the 1990s could have imagined this marriage of pre-modern sadism and post-modern masochism? And who, upon seeing it take shape, would have imagined the powerful (even hegemonic) voice it commanded in the public sphere in the next decade? Who but a pessimistic William Blake could have dreamed of so perverse an Emperor’s New Clothes dominating public conversation even as a remorseless enemy builds strength?
Our problem now is that, by now, we have repeatedly accepted the apologetic posture vis-à-vis Islamists’ violent demand for respect (from Muhammad Cartoons to The Innocence of Muslims). And so we have increasing difficulty reasserting basic principles of reciprocity in response to the Islamists’ demands for the highest levels of tolerance and acceptance from Western civil societies. By acceding to their one-way demands that we “respect their feelings,” the West has tied its hands with a foe whose target is the very fabric of civil society which makes our democracy possible and our fantasies of world peace dreamable.
And yet, for a variety of reasons that we desperately need to address and so far have not, we cannot even talk about this problem.
The Benghazi story offers a close look at the most disturbing elements of the nightmarish situation in the world today. We now know that, in the face of an extended and concerted attack by al Qaeda on our ambassador and staff in Libya on the eleventh anniversary of 9-11, our President not only told all of our forces that could have intervened, to stand down, but for the next two weeks told the nation that the attack was the result of a despicable movie about Islam that provoked spontaneous demonstrations of anger.
What was the result on the global stage? A massive win for al Qaeda. They inflict a daring and humiliating raid in which they kill the US ambassador to Libya, while we stood down and our President blamed an American citizen for the incident. The filmmaker apparently should not exercise his right to the same “free speech” that Islamists insist upon when they spew genocidal hatred at their own targeted foes. Can the degradation of such basic, precious principles be without consequences? Can we ignore and defy reality without paying a price down the road? Is al Qaeda on the wane, as the President continues to insist? Or are they the strong horse?
Much of this seems inexplicable. Why wouldn’t the president try and save our – his! – people in Benghazi during the long hours that they were under fire? Why did he not even assemble the key task force that could have given him his military options? Why, especially in the midst of a close election campaign, would he openly lie to the American people about both the cause of the incident and about his own behavior – matters that would surely come out?
I may not be right about the answers I give, but I am afraid that I am, and it fits closely with many other patterns of behavior our president has displayed since coming to office.
He did all these things because he does not want, at any cost, to offend Muslims, including some fairly radical ones who wish us great ill. He didn’t intervene because it would anger the Libyans and all the other “new regimes” increasingly dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood that the Arab “Spring” has brought into being. He insisted that the attack arose from anger about a movie disrespecting Islam, because he has adopted a Muslim definition of what constitutes legitimate discourse about Islam, in which any Muslim violence is the product of infidel provocation, not Muslim aggression aimed at silencing anything they consider disrespect.
Thus, our own government officials are banned from using terms like “radical” or “extremist” Islam, from even teaching our law-enforcement about the very enemy they need to defend us from. When Major Hassan (whose colleagues failed to flag his jihadi rantings for fear of being called Islamophobic) shot up a room full of his fellow American soldiers while shouting Allahu Akhbar, the Department of Defense insisted it be called a “workplace accident.” When a marine was killed by a fellow American turned Jihadi, he refused to grant him the purple heart, lest he acknowledge this was an act of war. When an American Lieutenant Colonel taught his students about the problem, he was dismissed. And President Obama justifies this policy of newspeak, lest the very mention of Muslim extremism offend moderate Muslims.
Is this a joke? Would any genuinely moderate Muslim be offended by a denunciation of extremists who target them even more than they target infidels? Only an inacceptable gag order on an urgent discussion of the problem of radical Islam can explain our speech paralysis, and our ill-advised dismissal of those brave enough to break that silence, as right-wing Islamophobes. This silence is not cost-free, and its consequences for people around the world, and the health of the progressive values that might help them in their suffering, go far beyond what we believe is at stake in this election.
Consider women’s rights. The same man who champions women’s rights in the USA and claims his opponent wages a “war on women,” systematically (if unconsciously?) strengthens a world-wide movement so misogynist and oppressive of women that it beggars the differences between him and Romney. If you’re voting against Romney because you think he’s bad for women, consider that you may be trying to protect maximal rights for “us,” even as your vote sends back to office a man under whose administration misogyny has grown the world over. Nor is this indirect: Obama treats the Muslim Brotherhood as if it were moderate, as if it were a partner in building a new and better life for the Middle East.
Whether by intention or by personality, Obama’s hand is limp on the steering wheel of governance and diplomacy: he plays nice cop with the toughs, and tough cop with the nice.
So why is he even still in the running? At some basic level, it’s because we, his people, don’t really want to think about the matters I’m raising, we really would like to be left alone to enjoy the good life we’ve miraculously forged with our productive, free societies. We also like to think well of ourselves, and if voting for an African American proves we’re not racists, then why not do so? If voting for someone 11 years after 9-11 who placates Muslims at home and abroad shows how open-minded and tolerant I am, then why not?
Such attitudes, understandable as they might be, also, make us easy marks for a mainstream news media which, in adhering to an unprofessional political correctness, has shamelessly mis-informed us of the situation. Those of us old enough to remember Watergate and Iran/Contra-gate and Monica-gate know how relentless the press can be when it has a president in its mandibles. And yet, despite a stream of revelations of the President’s shameful, possibly criminal behavior in the Benghazi affair, our mainstream news media does not discuss it. What more telling clue of a rogue media than the dog that did not bark at this otherwise so tasty – and revealing – a tale.
I have some familiarity with the news media’s mood swings, their loud barking and their sudden silences. We Israelis have been the object of the their advocacy journalism for a long time. We know about how they can magnify anything that makes us look bad, even as they fall silent on what might make Palestinians, or Arabs, or Muslims look bad. No wonder many people in the West have not even been exposed to the (ample) evidence that Israel is on the front line of a global anti-Western Jihad.
Those Americans who were shocked to see the first debates, which so dramatically reversed the public’s mediated impression of the two candidates, should know that we Israelis know this “advocacy effect” well. Since the turn of the millennium, we Israelis have felt the heavy hand of an advocacy-ridden press cramming everything they can, into their pre-potted Israeli-Goliath vs. Palestinian David morality tale. Ever since I discovered Pallywood in 2003, I realized that our Western mainstream news came from an Augean Stables of dysfunctional habits, feeding toxic tales disguised as news into the information circulation bloodstream. Even as they accuse us of bullying the “poor Palestinians,” they bully and demean us, because we do not strike back.
Americans who rely on their mainstream news media to give them a basically accurate view of what’s happening here in the Middle East (and that apparently includes our Secretary of State and Intelligence community), are in for a much worse surprise than the one they discovered in the first debate. Our media can not only distort when, in pack mode, they want to; but they can also invert reality, blinding us even as we need the sharpest vision.
If the media did not bark at the wave of genocidal Jihadi insanity that invaded the Palestinian public sphere at the outbreak of the Oslo Intifada, why would it bark at Benghazi. As one French news producer noted during the Intifada of the ZUS in France in 2005: “Politics in France is heading to the right and I don’t want rightwing politicians back… because we showed burning cars on television.” Who can withstand so corrupted an information stream?
So I say to a nation of people traumatized by 9-11 (and its consequences), and in love with TV characters who can catch a lie a mile away… do not vote for a president and administration who, on principle, believe dishonest people who wish us and our democracy ill.
The American version of the Emperor’s New Clothes is The Wizard of Oz. It is in our national ethos that “children” who have seen the man behind the curtain, grow up (and become journalists). And it needs to become part of our national ethos, that some people who think they’ve grown up, have taken over behind the curtain.
I appeal to my fellow Americans, as citizens of a global civil culture, show that you can rise above your own concerns – no matter how significant – and consider that your vote this time has a major impact on the whole world. And if you can’t vote for Romney – believe me, I feel the pain – at least, please consider not voting for a world-scale catastrophe-in-the-making, Barack Obama.
I may be wrong. I wish I were. But before you vote, you owe yourself and the world, the small exercise of asking yourself: “What if he’s right? What then…”