The Stoic Traveler

"Wherever I go, it will be well with me."

27 September 2006

For want of an Opera, the War was Lost

Gentle Reader:
When I set out to write this post, the Berlin Opera had cancelled a scheduled run of Mozart's Idomeneo, Re di Creta (Idomeneo, King of Crete).
I was livid.
As I proceed to write it now, the Berlin Opera, at the encouragement of a newly-founded German/Muslim dialogue group. decided to reverse the decision and proceed with the scheduled run.
I am still livid.
In part this is because, as an angry young man, I am obligated to stay livid until my hair completes its task of falling out, but that's only a small part.
The larger issue is my subject tonight: Pre-Emptive Surrender, Charles Martel, and the Art of War.
Contrary to the actions and some statements of Our Glorious Leader, HRMH George I the current struggle between the forces of so-called "Radical Islam" and the forces of Western Civilization is existential. No, it is not a catfight between Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre, rather it is a battle for the existence of one or the other. The two have not coexisted peacefully, do not coexist peacefully, and can not coexist peacefully and retain their identities. Either the West must give in to and adopt Shariah, thus destroying at a stroke the last thousand years of intellectual and moral evolution; or Muslims must realize that a thick skin is necessary to deal with the modern world, and that Allah really doesn't need mere humans to defend him from Danish cartoonists and German Opera impresarios. You, observant Reader, can probably tell where I come down on this one.
At any rate, the decision of the Berlin Opera is a clear example of why the West will likely lose this conflict. Or, at least, why the Islamic Caliphate of Europe is not such a far-fetched idea. Recall that there was no threat made against the opera company, no indication of violence from the 3 million-odd Muslims living in Germany. Instead, the Berlin security forces recommended that they cancel the opera because it might offend someone and cause violence.
They canceled because it might offend someone. Because that offense might lead to violence. Germany, or at least Berlin, has surrendered before it even girded for battle. So much for the warlike Hun...
Sun Tzu, in his treatise "The Art of War" maintains that a victorious commander wins the battle before he comes to blows. The defeated commander comes to blows, then figures out how to win the battle. I regret to say that I think the United States is progressing in a similar way in its so-called "War on Terror." It went to war by invading Afghanistan and Iraq, and then tried to figure out how to win. Of course, the Bush White House does not even seem to have considered the possibility that HRMH would not be equal to the rhetorical and ideological war. A war hasn't been planned this badly since Olaf the Hairy, High Chief of All the Vikings, ordered ten thousand battle helmets with the horns on the inside...

P.S. Ten points to whomever tells me what Charle Martel has to do with this post.

14 September 2006

Contradictions and Contretemps

Do I contradict myself?/
Very well, I contradict myself./
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
-Walt Whitman, Song of Myself
This might very well be my motto. It is, after all, the mark of an educated person that he can hold to opposing ideas in his head without necessarily being persuaded by either. I rather enjoy the occasional inconsistency, and am more than willing to acknowledge them. And so...

Inconsistency, the First: Religion and Baseball
It is one of my rules, or rather one of the rules drummed into me, that I do not discuss religion in polite society. I might alienate someone, and have done so more than once. Those of you who know me, know that there are rarely times when I shy away from talking religion. Often, these times inolve a corn, grape, or barley distillate. Shows how powerful the rules are, but I digress.
My real topic: the National Anthem, Baseball, and "God Bless America."
I went to a Cardinals game a few nights ago (Astros at St. Louis, we spanked 'em). I enjoy watching baseball unless the Belleville Middle School Honor Choir, composed mostly of smoke alarms, dog whistles, and ten year-old girls are sitting behind me. Little girls shriek and when they are just behind my ears, they are the most horrid sonic phenomenon in history. At any rate, the announcer came on and asked the stadium to stand for the National Anthem and God Bless America.
Now, I've been to ballgames post-9/11, so the GBA thing is not news to me, but it is still upsetting. No matter how much better a song it might be, Berlin's "God Bless America" (GBA) is not the national anthem. It does not posess the same relation to this country as the "Star Spangled Banner." Please Stop Standing for "God Bless America"!
When it is sung in conjunction with the national anthem, that is as a ceremonial thing during a time of war, it becomes very alarming.

The idea and purpose behind it is clear: Gott mit uns! God is on our side! Whatever happens we have got the Maxim gun, and they have not! Et Cetera, et cetera: Jingoism and evocation. It's a standard response in wartime for any nation. Hell, during the War for Independence, Americans changed the lyrics from the British National Anthem (i.e., "God Save the King") to include a verse running:
"Arise, O God, arise/Scatter our enemies/And Make them Fall"
I would have no problem with re-using that idea; it's an honest statement of what most Americans would like to happen: the complete and utter destruction of the militant, destructive forces in Islam. Americans want to feel safe and be safe. This is good.
GBA, however, asks for God's blessing. I am no theologian, but I have read the Bible. My understanding is that a blessing is not supposed to be a good thing only for the person being blessed, but rather a gift of strength to make the world a better place. In other words, a person is "blessed to be a blessing" as Abraham was in Genesis 12:2-3.
I am not at all convinced that the United States' actions in this "War on Terror" have been a blessing to the world. Indeed, we seem to have sown chaos and terror wherever we go. Of course, this is all in the name of "God-given liberty," so that makes it alright. All men want to be free, after all. If they don't, never mind. We'll abolish all mankind.