Monday, October 20, 2008

Breath of the Beast #6- Asking the Right Questions

A new Beast Story is always worth the wait. Its been a while since I've had the opportunity to publish a new Breath of the Beast Story. They are far more rare than I thought they would be when I started this blog with my own. I know that many of you have read my original post and the other BotB stories that I have linked up over in the left hand column- If you have, you know that each story is different. Some of these awakenings were set off by big, shattering events and others have been inspired by subtle nuances that just happened, on a particular day, for no apparent reason, not to go unnoticed.

This is yet another unique variation. Our writer, lets call him Bill, was as close to becoming a victim on 9/11 as anyone would want to be and yet, escaped unscathed and unconverted. He was, however enlightened (in the sense that he was, at least compelled to think, seek knowledge and ask questions that prepared him, at last, for a final, subtle moment of revelation.

Bill is a professional writer so the prose is clean and terse and his ideas are clear and honest. Read and enjoy- I'll have a couple of comments at the end. Here us his story:


I felt the breath of the beast for the first time over dinner with a group of colleagues recently.

Before I tell this story, I should explain as background that I was on the last PATH train into the World Trade Center out of New Jersey on Sept. 11, 2001.

We were headed into Tower One either as or just after the first plane hit. As I left the train, I smelled jet fuel. I exited the building by walking out under the gaping hole the first plane made. I was walking up Church Street when the second plane hit. I turned around just in time to see the side of Tower Two blow out.

One would think I would have felt the breath of the beast that day. I didn't. I knew Islamists had been trying to nail us for a long time and that this time they succeeded.

To me the world had not changed. It simply finally caught up with us. 9/11 did change my reading habits, though. I began to ravenously digest everything I could get my hands on about Islam, the Middle East and America's relationship with it. I tried to read material from all political perspectives, but quickly got fed up with the Norman Finkelsteins and Noam Chomsky's of this world. I really did try, though.

Over the ensuing seven years, I learned that the situation in the Middle East is not remotely as complicated as people have been telling me. For example, Egypt and other surrounding Arab countries could end the plight of the Palestinians in about 15 seconds if they wanted to. I also learned that Islam is not a religion of peace.

Moreover, I learned Palestine is a culture of death and that the Arab world routinely embraces conspiracy theories so zany they make Oliver Stone look like King Skeptic the Reasonable.

I also learned that over the centuries, Islam has periodically gained enough strength to overrun surrounding civilizations and that this might be shaping up to be one of those times.

The current birth rates of Westerners and Middle Easterners speak for themselves.

In any case, I'm a trade reporter and was in Las Vegas covering a conference recently when some colleagues and I decided to go out for dinner.

Trade reporters are generally like their consumer brethren in that they're overwhelmingly liberal.

Hence, I was the only conservative at a table of six.

This being October 2008, the presidential election was bound to come up.

My colleagues were curious as to what I felt. I think they find me a curiosity, because they know I'm reasonably bright, but yet am still a conservative.

I told them in no certain terms that I had never been so disgusted with an American election.

My vote for John McCain would be a vote against Barack Obama the socialist, I explained. I practically spit the words. I think I said: "I hate 'em all" as I was on my second martini.

Then a fellow reporter across the table said: "I think a president with roots in the Koran would be a good thing. I'm sick and tired of Christians … well maybe I should stop there."

I said: "Yes you should stop there. I'm not a Christian but I am sick and tired of liberals' kneejerk demonization of them."

Then the conversation mercifully shifted.

There it was: the breath of the beast.

First, let me be clear. Though I believe Obama poses an economic, cultural and national security threat to the U.S., I do not think the threats he poses have "roots in the Koran." Though, Louis Ferrakhan's praise of him is deeply troubling.

Still, I could not believe what I had just heard. "A president with roots in the Koran would be a good thing?"

The ignorance of that statement took my breath away. Did my colleague have any idea what Islam has in store for him?

Here sitting across the table from me was truly nice guy who witlessly embodies the evil that liberal apologism poses to Western culture. Here was a symbol of the large percentage of the American population that is so ashamed of its heritage, it no longer wants to defend itself. He had no idea what he was calling for and how it would impact him if he got his wish.

He couldn't have realized that what he was saying was akin to: "I think a president with roots in a religious/political movement that seeks to obliterate our civilization through violence and cultural jihad would be a good thing," could he?

He also couldn't have realized what he was saying was akin to: "I think a president with roots in a movement launched by a pirate and pedophile, many of whose modern-day adherents routinely beat and murder their wives and daughters over some infantile conception of 'honor' would be a good thing."

Did he think he was showing himself to be enlightened by saying this? Did he realize that as an American secular liberal, he would be part of the second group murderously persecuted in a worldwide caliphate?

I didn't feel the breath of the beast on September 11, 2001 as I escaped from a burning World Trade Center. But my brush with death that day drove me to learn as much as I could as fast as I could about those who seek to destroy me.

As a result, I was able to recognize the stench of the breath of the beast seven years later when it came from a colleague making an obscenely ignorant statement over dinner.

The beast isn't just in those who want to kill us. It's also in those who refuse to acknowledge the beast exists.

YBM-Two things I find myself moved to point out-

First, The honesty with which Bill describes looking up and seeing the second plane hitting the tower and blowing out the side of it and still being able to tell us, "One would think I would have felt the breath of the beast that day. I didn't. I knew Islamists had been trying to nail us for a long time and that this time they succeeded." is stunning to me. The world is full of people who will aggrandize themselves by making themselves out to have been more prescient and "on top" of a situation like that than they were at the time. Bill, here, gives us a more accurate kind of self-observation that enables us to understand that even at such times and occasions as 9/11 minds don't change without preparation and background.

The other observation I'd like to make involves this sentence: "I think they find me a curiosity, because they know I'm reasonably bright, but yet am still a conservative.” I found the phrasing ambiguous- its almost as if he tacitly agrees with them that “intelligent conservative” might be a bit of an oxymoron. Conscious? Unconscious? I asked Bill and he says that he was merely representing the way his friends saw the situation. I have no doubt he is right at the conscious level but I also believe that at a deeper level he still may have the unconscious habit, as Groucho did in my last post, of mirroring the prevailing blindness- even though his mirror had been effectively shattered.

For those of us who have experienced The Beast ourselves, it is essential that we recall and understand that its existence and menace is not as obvious as it seems to us now- that the persistence of the mirror is very strong. Without enough time and information, experience itself, no matter how profound, may not be enough. Without the intellectual honesty and open-minded curiosity Bill applied to the experience of 9/11, his friends' idiotic remark would have passed un-noted.

5 comments:

Nancy Coppock said...

I agree that the line "they know I'm reasonably bright, but yet am still a conservative" provides much fodder for thought, especially when linked to the fact of Bill's quest for understanding the 9/11 war.

Because of his quest for knowledge, through his conversation with peers, Bill ultimately received wisdom. Now Bill understands the fallacy of the intellectually stunted bearing the ability to discern intelligence.

One mark of The Beast is that truth is replaced with a lie, and that lie is accepted prima facie without thought or examination because of that human weakness, Pride. The lie is clothed in the raiment of kings and princes, but manufactured by that scam of a tailor in the fairy tale. But yet they prance and preen in the presence of the wise never realizing we can see their asses in all their revealing glory.

In this Alinsky-ized culture, the wise, ever vigilant to appear tolerant, attempt to have a "normal" conversation with a 'necked', insane poseur of competence.

Where's Chico's shout, "Are you people freakin' nuts? Your bits and pieces and pimply butts are on clear display! You're 'necked' and that ain't in the "Classical" sense!!

shoprat said...

We do sadly have a culture that makes one be, be at some level, apologetic for our conservative politics or religious beliefs. That is certainly nothing to ever apologize for.

Sadly there are those on the left who are so hung up on the class struggle ideology of Marx that they are literally unable to see any other enemy but the economic one. That is why so many on the left consider Islam a friend, because they see it as a co-belligerent against the all-evil capitalism. They cannot conceive of a religious/philosophical enemy.

lgude said...

Bill's story confirms my experience that the moment of recognition of evil is not necessarily the most dramatic moment, but often just an ordinary moment when you happen to see the problem. Like here in Australia good white people think you are being racist if you don't shoulder all kinds of guilt and responsibility for the problems of Aboriginal people. Yet my best Aboriginal friend is constantly distressed at the bad behavior of Aboriginal people this kind of treatment encourages. I realized recently that post colonialism seeks to take responsibility for the entire condition of Aboriginal people as if the Aboriginal people involved were not fully human people of equal moral agency. It is still treating them as children - just like their grandfathers did. And the results are just as 'genocidal' - to recycle one of their treasured tropes. It's Colonialism inverted and a key to recognizing it is that the post colonialists are still in control even as they are busy making the social problems worse by not allowing Aboriginal people be responsible for their own behavior.

Yaacov Ben Moshe said...

Lgude- There is the mirror image again- we think we are "not" colonialist anymore because we look in the mirror and the images left hand is doing what our right hand does...

My Left Nut said...

I think our dilemma as “conservative” intellectuals was solved with your closing statement:

Without the intellectual honesty and open-minded curiosity Bill applied to the experience of 9/11, his friends' idiotic remark would have passed un-noted.

By simply removing some words you solve the mystery. There is a difference between “intellectual curiosity” and “intellectual honesty and open-minded curiosity”. I have often gotten into online jousting with Liberals and had difficulty understanding the impasse until I realized that they scan over the bulk of the issue and arm themselves only with the soundbites for the here and now to form their arguments, not thinking about the underlying issues, causes or consequences of any given action or inaction.

Also, how many Liberals in the same position would read Ann Coulter and Noam Chomsky - knowing they are diametric opposites - for a balance before formulating an opinion? - Bill essentially says he did (not ness. Ann). I know I did and still do on most issues.