Will's Coffee House

John Dryden, Dramatist, Critic, Poet Laureate, and my ancestor, frequented a coffee house called Will's almost daily, where he would hold forth on sundry subjects with great wit and aplomb. Same deal here, only without the wit or aplomb.

Location: Large Midwestern City, Midwestern State, United States

I am a stranger in a sane land...

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


How creepy is it that the articulated views of an avowed Shiite fundamentalist (I'm referring to the recent letter from the President of Iran to our own Chief Executive, readable in its entirety here: http://www.lemonde.fr/web/article/0,1-0@2-727571,36-769886,0.html) come off as much more intelligent, nuanced, and civilized than anything that's come out of Bush's mouth since...well, ever? (BTW, I don't agree with everything--or even much--Ahmadi-Najad has to say in the letter--for instance, I happen to be strongly pro-Israel, and I'm more than mildly irritated at his one-sided characterization of the establishment of the Israeli state--but I wouldn't mind getting into an argument with the guy about why I think/feel that way, and I sense that it would be an argument, rather than two guys yelling at each other and not listening to anything other than the sound of his own voice.)

I can't abide fundamentalism--it replaces emapthy and objectivity, without which we're nothing more than animals with advanced motors skills--but this guy strikes me as intelligent, thoughtful, and convinced of, rather than blinded by his faith. In that sense--and this scares the hell out of me--he's a better leader than ours. Sigh. (Of course, one could cheerfully go off on tangents about the ridiculous human rights violations that exist in Islamic theocracies--word of advice: don't be a woman, or gay, or...well, anything other than decidedly conformist--and I'm no blinkered idealist to pretend that this is a "good guy"--but he's got a grasp on his material that our guy doesn't--and he's smart enough to know that the way to seize the moral high-ground is to point out the hypocrisy of a bully...Hmmm. Maybe it's better than these people don't get the bomb. Too shrewd, all too shrewd.)

Author's Addendum: I should add that what I find most terrifying about this letter is the fact that Ahmadi-Najad argues with such conviction that liberal democracy is an idea that history is slowly proving to have been a failure. I find it terrifying because it's so plausible. Democracy has always been the exception, rather than the rule--and as we see increasingly in this country, it doesn't work when a population doesn't much care that votes are rigged, provided that they like the guy who wins--and when they like the guy who wins because he's of the same religous faith--sincere or not--as they. That terrifies me. Europe is small, and getting smaller. Canada looks big on the map, but it's a tiny amount of people in a large amount of space. And as for us--well, religion is something we demand from our leaders--more than nearly any other quality of character. We're not a theocracy--but when domestic and international policy is based on appealing to the fundamentalist 'base' of our leaders, the distinction is a fine one. Democracy is messy, complex, requires empathy and compromise. Religion--fundamentalist religion--is so damn easy. And humanity is a lazy species when it comes to our willingness to think. I worry. I really do. Ahmadi-Najad is articulate, intelligent, and educated. He also believes in a world that will eventually drive out all non-believers. That those two visions can co-exist suggests either that he's nuts, and I don't think he is--or that he's looking back at history and looking ahead at its implications. And it worries me that he may be right.


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