Knock knock. “Who’s there?” “Armageddon.” “Armageddon who?” “Armageddon tired of waitin' for this war.”
I’m driving to pick up my mail, and listening to G. Gordon Liddy on the AM band. His guest is an “expert” on Islam who is explaining that Islam is a false religion that worships a deity called Allah rather than the true God whose name is, of course, God.
Hearing this, I went ballistic. Allah in Arabic is the same as El in Hebrew, Deus in French, Gott in German, Hananim in Korean, and… wait for it… God in English. I grabbed my cell phone to call the show, but could not get through. I was livid. The ignorance that passes for wisdom in this country is outrageous, and worse— dangerous.
I believe the American people are being primed for a religious war with Islam; not radical Islam, not Islamo-fascists, not Islamic terrorists, but Islam itself. Listen to right wing talk radio, watch almost any news program, read any of the new books on nuclear Iran, or drop by your local Rapture Right church, and you will discover a powerful effort to prepare the American people for a 100 Year Crusade to save God and Country.
Listen to what we are being told: every Muslim is a potential terrorist; every illegal alien is a potential terrorist; every Democrat is a collaborator with terrorists. The drumbeat is incessant and unending. Iraq is only the beginning. We will be at war with Iran before the nation votes in a new president.
No, that is wrong: we are already at war with Iran in Israel and Iraq. And it will only get worse. I fully expect the government to reinstitute the draft, and offer a fast track to American citizenship to any foreigner willing to die for what would be his or her country if he or she is lucky enough to live. In fact I have no trouble imagining the government restricting citizenship only to those who join the crusade. Shades of Starship Troopers.
The keys to the government’s strategy (and here I am speaking not only of our government but all governments fomenting this war) are ignorance and fear. If we hope to thwart this effort, we have to overcome these hurdles. While I am no expert in any of this, I cannot stand idly by, so here are three things I think we can do quickly to begin quelling this madness. The first two are addressed to everyone, the third to my Jewish readers specifically.
1. We must fight ignorance by creating and disseminating free of charge a simple and compelling articulation of the fundamental Abrahamic principles at the root of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam: justice, compassion, hospitality, love, and trust. This exploration must be state-of-the-art and downloadable on to computers, cell phones, and other digital devices.
2. We must fuel a revolution in religious thinking by reclaiming the power of myth and metaphoric thinking. We need storytellers not clerics, prophets not priests, shamans who can open us to the divine rather than enslave us to their vision of it.
3. As the High Holy Days come to a close and we Jews prepare for Sukkot we must reimagine our sukkah as Abraham’s tent, open on all four sides to welcome loved ones, friends, strangers, and even so-called enemies. Sukkot must become a week for breaking bread and sharing our lives with our Christian and Muslim neighbors. Welcome one another with compassionate curiosity, asking what is it like for you to be a Jew or Christian or Muslim in America today? What are your fears, your hopes, your dreams? How can we support one another in achieving justice, promoting compassion, and building a truly post-tribal global village?
This is a start. Each of these ideas needs careful attention and fleshing out. If I can find the money to make the time, I will work to create the first, design a program for the second, and write a guidebook for the third. If you would like to help, please let me know.
Whatever you can do, you must do it now. If we fail, we will begin the short slide into a long war that can only end in Armageddon.