Wednesday, 7/19/15

  1. Islam as Punk Rock
  2. Ennui
  3. Clashing on Immigration
  4. RFRA under attack
  5. Sexual Fluidity? Polymorphic Perversity? Fad?
  6. PTSD and the Myth of Progress
  7. Ode to Cumberland Avenue and Highway 231
  8. Behold! I Show You a Precedent!

1

I suspected that weariness with being sexualized was a factor in American girls and young women converting to Islam. I was caught by surprise, though, that it could contribute to Muslim girls becoming radical (as in Islamic State) Muslims:

They were smart, popular girls from a world in which teenage rebellion is expressed through a radical religiosity that questions everything around them. In this world, the counterculture is conservative. Islam is punk rock. The head scarf is liberating. Beards are sexy.

Ask young Muslim women in their neighborhood what kind of guys are popular at school these days and they start raving about “the brothers who pray.”

The Islamic State is making a determined play for these girls, tailoring its siren calls to their vulnerabilities, frustrations and dreams, and filling a void the West has so far failed to address.

In post-9/11 austerity Britain, a time when a deep crisis of identity and values has swept the country, fitting in can be harder for Muslim girls than for boys. Buffeted by a growing hostility toward Islam and deep spending cuts that have affected women and young people in working-class communities like their own, they have come to resent the Western freedoms and opportunities their parents sought out. They see Western fashions sexualizing girls from an early age …

Asked by their families during sporadic phone calls and exchanges on social media platforms why they had run away, the girls spoke of leaving behind an immoral society to search for religious virtue and meaning. In one Twitter message, nine days before they left Britain, Amira wrote: “I feel like I don’t belong in this era.”

Social media has allowed the group’s followers to directly target young women, reaching them in the privacy of their bedrooms with propaganda that borrows from Western pop culture — images of jihadists in the sunset and messages of empowerment. A recent post linked to an Islamic State account paraphrased a popular L’Oréal makeup ad next to the image of a girl in a head scarf: “COVERed GIRL. Because I’m worth it.”

(Jihad and Girl Power: How ISIS Lured 3 London Teenagers) To be fair, I did say “contribute.” These girls also seemed affected by “Islamophobia” at home and violence against Muslims abroad. In my confirmation bias, I may have overlooked even more contributing factors.

It is a scandal that sexualization of women has become so pervasive. Part of it is that “sex sells,” resulting in the sexualization of commercial messages – and of television, where the eyes and ears (and groins) of viewers on behalf of advertisers is what television sells. Another part is the frog-in-pot phenomenon whereby “Christian” parents haven’t noticed what’s happening to them and to their children.

When I made pilgrimage to a monastery near Florence, Arizona, I found surprisingly strict guidelines for proper attire. Part of this clearly is for the sake of the monks, who want to live like monks 24 x 7 x 365, without incitements to lustful reveries by glimpses of flesh that would pass without objection in a parish outside the monastery.

But modesty is a Christian virtue everywhere. We need to regain it for the sake of our own souls. I’m pleased that most men and women in my parish  dress modestly.

If we avoid scandalizing others into Islam, or into radical Islam, that’s frosting on the cake, not the primary motive.

2

Seldom has Rod Dreher so thoroughly given voice to exactly what I’m feeling:

As I have said many times, I have nothing good to say about the Republican presidential field. This may be unfair. I have not taken a considered look at their platforms, and rejected them as lacking. As we get closer to the primaries, I will be looking more closely, but at this point, as someone who has been alienated from mainstream politics for about a decade, I don’t feel much obligation to look more closely. Every single thing I hear coming out of the mouths of Republican candidates for president is a retread of the things we have heard every four years for as long as I can remember. Let me be clear: I have kind of a bad conscience for not looking more closely, but so far, they look like carbon copies of each other. I could be wrong, but I don’t think I’m wrong.

I believe that the Republicans don’t think that there’s anything wrong economically in this country that giving big business (as distinct from small business) more power, and increasing globalization, will not solve. I believe that Rand Paul possibly excepted, they think that there’s no foreign-policy problem that the application of military force will not solve. I believe that they would be better on “social issues” than Democrats, but I also believe they don’t really care about them, and in any case, those “social issues” are being worked out primarily in the culture, not in politics. Mind you, I think the Democrats would be marginally better on economics and foreign policy, and a lot worse on social issues (especially religious liberty, which is massively important to me). As a conservative, I typically vote Republican in national elections, by default, but my heart is not in it, and has not been since 2004. I am the sort of conservative who longs for a constructive populism.

3

Pat Buchanan says “Immigration is the issue of the age.”

Burled in the story was an astonishing statistic. Germany, which took in 174,000 asylum seekers last year, is on schedule to take in 500,000 this year. Yet Germany is smaller than Montana. How long can a geographically limited and crowded German nation, already experiencing ugly racial conflict, take in half a million Third World people every year without tearing itself apart, and changing the character of the nation forever?

Ilya Somin says Nations can and do exist without immigration restrictions.

If we take Trump’s theory (and others like it) seriously, the Declaration of Independence did not make the United States a nation because it did not establish any immigration restrictions. Even worse, it condemned George III for “obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners [and] refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither.” Instead of celebrating Independence Day on July 4, we should commemorate the enactment of the Chinese Exclusion Act.

Since Buchanan didn’t say that nations must secure their borders to be nations, they’re not actually in disagreement. But Somin is sure as heck in disagreement with The Donald, whose mouth he quotes as his introduction.

4

Among the educated, secular urban elites with whom American Jews identify most closely, recent decades have seen a growing tendency to regard membership in a faith community as ominously parochial, traditional moral codes as divisive and exploitative, and attachment to tradition as retrograde. In this cultural environment, there seems decreasing reason to exempt any aspects of human belief, behavior, morality, or expression from legitimate government intrusion. American society is thus rethinking the relationship between church and state, returning once again to a fundamental question: once the state has spoken, why should it make room for what the church, any church, has to say?

[I]n March of this year Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, took to the pages of the Washington Post to proclaim:

There’s something very dangerous happening in states across the country. A wave of legislation . . . would allow people to discriminate against their neighbors. Some . . . say individuals can cite their personal religious beliefs to refuse service to a customer or resist a state nondiscrimination law.

Cook’s articulation of the new anti-RFRA movement captures its spirit perfectly—as well as its misconceptions. Every RFRA, including Indiana’s, incorporates a balancing test. For a claim to prevail under the statute, the party claiming a religious exemption must establish either that the law in question does not serve a compelling government interest or that (as in Hobby Lobby) a narrow waiver would not harm that government interest. Given the near-universal agreement that the prevention of discrimination is indeed a compelling government interest, it’s unclear how anyone could take seriously Cook’s caricature of these laws as “allow[ing] people to discriminate against their neighbors.”

Yet many do take the caricature seriously—and Cook’s decision to devote his time, his energy, and the reputation of the world’s largest company to this issue suggests that he himself believes the caricature fully. Indeed, while anti-RFRA commentary of a more legalistic bent has tended to focus on unclear or idiosyncratic language in the Indiana law in particular, most opponents of the statute have followed Cook’s lead in challenging its and RFRA’s putatively overarching purpose. By its very nature, they say, RFRA allows religious believers to follow their own moral codes and exempts them from the governing moral judgments of mainstream society. For those who adhere to those governing judgments, such an exemption is, by definition, immoral.

(Bruce Abramson, in Mosaic) Part of the power in this article is how thoroughly it lays the historic foundation before contrasting today’s radical departures. The other part, frankly, is that for many Americans, it’s easier to sympathize with a threat to observant Jews today than with a threat to observant Christians.

I highlighted and saved it.

5

That there would be some movement in this direction is no surprise to me. That fully 49% of youth would identify as something other than “fully heterosexual,” though, is stunning.

Doesn’t this prove that “born this way” was more a slogan than an statement of fact? Or are that many kids willing to experiment with what we used to call “polymorphic perversity” once the stigma bars are down?

I am honestly somewhat baffled by this.

6

Before there was PTSD, there was shell-shock. It may be particularly acute if you believe the myth of progress:

In his previous book The Searchers, Loconte explains the virtue of disillusionment, how it can serve—even with brutal and terrible imperfection—to sever us from harmful fantasy. He returns to that theme now with the example of the pre-war Myth of Progress.

This myth, says Loconte,

was proclaimed from nearly every sector of society. Scientists, physicians, educators, industrialists, salesmen, politicians, preachers—they all agreed on the upward flight of humankind. Each breakthrough in medicine, science, and technology seemed to confirm the Myth.

Christian ministers and theologians got swept along, baptizing and proof-texting all manner of bogus utopianism. And then it all went to hell. Every oracle of progress, including the preachers, looked like fools or charlatans. When the survivors cleared the rubble [of war], many mistook the Myth for Christianity itself and tossed both in the garbage bin.

The war made utopianism impossible. But for those who could disentangle Christianity from the failed Myth of Progress, it remained a vital force for renewal. Tolkien was—and Lewis became—two such people.

“Fortified by their faith, they proclaimed to their generation—and ours—a True Myth about the dignity of human life and its relationship to God,” says Loconte. Through the characters they created, “we are challenged to examine our deepest desires, to shake off our doubts, and to join the struggle against evil.”

(Joel Miller)

7

The Indiana Department of Transportation apparently has a new protocol for determining when an intersection is dangerous enough to need a traffic light. Instead of counting vehicles for a week with a pneumatic hose across the road, count weekly deaths for a year.

Smooth move, INDOT!

8

With apologies to the Apostle Paul and Jesus, “Marvel not that The Donald is so popular. Behold! I show you a precedent!

* * * * *

“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.