March 13, 2006

Love the martyrdom, hate the martyr

An American who had been kidnapped in Iraq was found tortured and killed last week. This has happened before, of course, and each time it has, it's been front page news. But the death of Tom Fox went almost unnoticed. Of all the major papers in the US, only the Washington Post put Fox's murder on the front page, and that's because he was from the DC area. People who don't appreciate how many decisions go into assembling a newspaper or news broadcast are often quick to cry bias when the truth is usually more mundane, but it is hard not to ask if Fox's radical leftwing politics — and in the name of Christianity, no less — made him an unsuitable candidate for public mourning. At the very least, having to explain who he was, what he believed, and why he did what he did would require a sharp break with the accepted narratives and debates of the mainstream media. I don't happen to share Fox's ideological or religious convictions, but I don't think they should disqualify him his rightful tributes in the great American news cycle.

Of course the mainstream media, being irredeemably liberal, only chose to ignore Fox. It did not attack and mock him, as the wingnuts in the blogosphere did. When the National Council of Churches wrote that, "In response to Tom's passing, we ask that everyone set aside inclinations to vilify or demonize others, no matter what they have done," it probably had in mind the terrorists who killed him. But for the Fighting Keyboardists, Fox himself was the target for demonization. If you happen to feel like weeping for the human condition, read some of the tributes from compassionate conservatives.

Some were content to call him a nutball, jerk, fool, and fanatic, and to shrug that he was "on the terrorists' side anyway," and "a sacrifice to his own self-deluded conceit of moral superiority and liberal tolerance." Others challenged his right to call himself a Christian, and doomed him to an eternity in hell (as if that were their call). But the general consensus was that he deserved what he got, being liberal and Quaker and all. And some went so far as to hope for more to come. "I don't think these treasonous SOB's should live the same way I don't think serial killers should live." Note to wingnuts: when you come to see the Islamofascists as doing your work for you, you have officially lost perspective.

Curiously, you'll recall that these same wingnut types responded with outrage when Kos made similar comments regarding mercenaries killed in Iraq who were only "there to wage war for profit."

A web site with the unintentionally ironic name The American Thinker lays out an argument found over and over on wingnut sites: Fox "suffered from a terrible naiveté" in that he thought the terrorists would recognize him as a friend of their cause and not harm him. In fact, Fox thought nothing of the kind. He specifically renounced terrorism and knew full well that what he was doing was dangerous — as the wingnuts would know if they, like the media, hadn't banned Fox's own words from the sphere of acceptable discourse. In one of the first entries on his blog, Fox quoted Ghandi: "If an attacker inspires anger or fear in my heart, it means that I have not purged myself of violence." He then went on:

If I am not to fight or flee in the face of armed aggression, be it the overt aggression of the army or the subversive aggression of the terrorist, then what am I to do? “Stand firm against evil” (Matthew 5:39, translated by Walter Wink) seems to be the guidance of Jesus and Gandhi in order to stay connected with God. But here in Iraq I struggle with that second form of aggression. I have visual references and written models of CPTers standing firm against the overt aggression of an army, be it regular or paramilitary. But how do you stand firm against a car--bomber or a kidnapper? Clearly the soldier being disconnected from God needs to have me fight. Just as clearly the terrorist being disconnected from God needs to have me flee. Both are willing to kill me using different means to achieve the same end. That end being to increase the parasitic power of Satan within God’s good creation.

It seems easier somehow to confront anger within my heart than it is to confront fear. But if Jesus and Gandhi are right then I am not to give in to either. I am to stand firm against the kidnapper as I am to stand firm against the soldier. Does that mean I walk into a raging battle to confront the soldiers? Does that mean I walk the streets of Baghdad with a sign saying “American for the Taking”? No to both counts. But if Jesus and Gandhi are right, then I am asked to risk my life and if I lose it to be as forgiving as they were when murdered by the forces of Satan. I struggle to stand firm but I’m willing to keep working at it.

As I said, I can't embrace either the politics or the religion that led Fox to put himself in harm's way. But I'm at least human enough to mourn his death, and to hope that he died the way he wanted to, forgiving the unforgivable.

Posted by Daniel Radosh


Though I don't share his religious convictions either, he seems like someone very honest, courageous and worthy of respect. If the wingnuts' reaction is the measuring stick of the human condition, I'd rather weep for Luna the Lovable killer whale.

Let us be charitable: it must be difficult for conservatives, whose stock in trade is high-dudgeon moral offendedness combined with a thirst for blood that would make Caligula blush, to witness an example of genuinely moral behavior.

The religious left is generally not allowed to speak in public when the media has anything to say about it, witness the United Church of Christ's ad that wasn't allowed on CBS.

Notice also, for how much you hear about Stephen Waldman, you never hear much of his actual theology.

I don't have a theology so much as a lack thereof, but these people have as much right to, for example, say it's wicked to be rich as rightwing christians have to say being gay is the wicked one.

And while we're on the subject, fuck Isaac Hayes.

Religion is bad !!

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