Friday, July 24, 2009

Who Needs Facts? Cultural Assumptions and Politics

This post is a bit off-topic, but not all that much.

In my view, the war on terror (or whatever we're supposed to call it) is in large part a conflict between people who desperately want to revive a culture which the world left behind centuries - or millennia - ago, and those who want the right to wear trousers or drink beer.

Dubiously-Accurate Beliefs

Dubiously-accurate points of view aren't limited to Islamic extremists, of course. Every group has its crazies, and every group has even more people who aren't all that aware of the differences between what they think is real, and the world the rest of us live in.

A case in point came up this week, when Cambridge police responded to a house break-in and put handcuffs on a friend of the American president's.
"...Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who reportedly has characterized the arrest as 'every black man's nightmare and a reality for many black men.'...

"...'I think it was a pretty straightforward commentary that you probably don't need to handcuff a guy, a middle-aged man who uses a cane, who's in his own home,' Obama told ABC's "Nightline."

"When Obama waded into the story by answering a question about it during his news conference Wednesday night, he admitted that he "may be a little biased" because Gates is a friend.

" 'I don't know all the facts,' he also conceded.

"He said he did not know what role race played, but 'the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home.'..."
Cambridge police aren't taking the right attitude, from some points of view. Instead of pleading for forgiveness and mandatory re-education, they're saying that the criticism is unjustified.

They could be right.

Handcuffs, Harvard, and Feeling Good

I'm sure that the Harvard professor doesn't feel good about being handcuffed. I'd worry about anyone who did get a thrill about that sort of thing.

I've been detained by the police a few times, though: and been very carefully searched for weapons and/or contraband. I could wrap myself in righteous indignation and play the victim - but that would be a bit silly. I hadn't been engaging in criminal activity, but it didn't look like that from the law officers' point of view: and they'd be stupid to take chances. Even if I am some guy who uses a cane.

Back to the American president, a state governor, and assumptions.

Commie Plots, Disco, and Feeling Groovy

When I was growing up, quite a lot was made of Americans who thought that commie plots were behind all the world's problems. We got characters like Frank Burns of "M*A*S*H" out of the heyday of anti-communist hysteria. I still enjoy watching re-runs of that seventies sitcom, by the way.

The seventies are as dead as Disco, the sixties are even further back on the timeline, and the McCarthy era is long gone. I've made the point before in this blog:

In a nation like America, where citizens are expected to vote intelligently, it's a good idea to keep track of what decade you're in. Or, by now, what century. That goes double for national leaders.

Unconsidered Assumptions?

I'm quite sure that President Obama's prestige won't be hurt by this little gaffe. He's charming, charismatic, and a very intelligent man.

I can't help but wonder if this little oopsie doesn't show some of the underlying, unconsidered assumptions that Barack Obama retains.

'Nuff said.

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.