Every now and then, I wonder why I put up with some of the more annoying trolls who infest Wizbang’s comments section. And every now and then, one of them proves their worth by inspiring me. They’re kind of like that grain of sand that gets into an oyster’s shell (no resemblance to very welcome resident commenter Oyster) and irritates the mollusk into growing a pearl around it.
The other day, I wrote a piece about the latest example of Islam inflicting its ways on the West, under threat of violence. (It’s a recurring theme with me, and I don’t bring it up anywhere near as many times as it happens.) In the comments on that piece, mild pain in the ass “hyperbolist” threw out a question.
Question for all the chest-pounding cowboys: if one were to grant that Islam is the enemy of the United States, what then ought to be done about it? I don’t want to hear “Democrats would bend over and take it!”, because that’s not a solution. If you were king of the world, what would you do? Kill Muslims until they stop hating your freedom? Build a giant wall around the Middle East? Seriously, if this is the Greatest Threat Ever, as many of you seem to think it is, what should the U.S. do to confront it? Apart from linking to really shitty Victor Davis Priapus Hanson essays on your blog, I mean.
It was a dishonestly-worded question, with the same kind of built-in presumptions that are in the “when did you stop beating your wife,” but it got me thinking. What should we — as Western society, not just as Americans — do about Islam?
As has been repeatedly pointed out, not all Muslims are raving psychos. I believe that a majority of Miuslims are not only not a threat, but a boon to the world. I’ll even go so far as to say the vast majority of them fit that category, and the psychotic militants — the “Islamists” — are a tiny minority.
But even granting that the dangerous ones are — to pick a number out of the air — five percent, that means that if the world population of Muslims is 1.1 billion, we’re looking at 55 million crazies.
Here’s where my thinking owes a debt of gratitude to Senator Edward Kennedy. Thanks to him, I have a ready-made metaphor I can use.
Ted Kennedy, as many have noted, is not a small figure. I’ll be charitable and put his weight at 250 pounds. (Whether or not he weighs that is irrelevant; I’m assigning him that for mathematical simplicity.)
Ted Kennedy is currently undergoing treatment for a brain tumor. The tumor is malignant and growing.
I haven’t seen any reports on its actual size, but let’s say that the tumor is the size of a golf ball presently. As I noted above, Ted is not a small man, and even on his large frame, his head is somewhat disproportionately large. So that tumor is a very, very small percentage of his total body mass. Even granting it weighs half a pound, that means it constitutes 0.2% of his total mass.
But that tumor holds a significance — and a power — far out of proportion with its physical size. Left untreated, it would kill him, and in fairly short order — long before it grew to represent one percent of his total mass.
Let’s hold that medical model a bit longer. Brain tumors are vicious things. Ted’s revealed itself by triggering seizures in the senior senator. But sometimes they present other symptoms, including psychotic behavior. (One such case may have been Charles Whitman, the Texas Clock Tower sniper, who killed 17 people and wounded 31 more in Austin, Texas in 1966.)
That’s my model: the Islamic faith is just an average person, no better or worse than anyone else. But deep in its brain, it has a malignant tumor called “Islamism” that is growing. And it is starting to express itself by making the person lash out in psychotic fashion.
Normally, I tend to be a laissez-faire type of guy. When it comes to medical ethics, I am a strong believer in the right to refuse medical treatment, the right to determine one’s own medical fate, and — especially — the right to die. That last part is probably shaped by my own medical condition; I have a particular condition that inconveniences me on a daily basis that I find annoying — but while manageable, is incurable and will eventually kill me in a manner I find extremely unpleasant. I have no intention of lingering for months and years with all the infirmities and disabilities it will undoubtedly wreak on me; when it gets unbearable, I fully intend to stop bearing it — and I will be extremely brutal — emotionally and verbally, if not phsically — to any who would deny me my right to skip the inevitable final stages.
But back to my point: here’s my neighbor with a malignant brain tumor. I don’t particularly like this guy (here my choice of Ted Kennedy as metaphor continues to serve me well). Indeed, I think that he’s caused far more problems in the neighborhood than good. But I don’t want to see him die, for heaven’s sake, especially in such an ugly fashion. So I would urge him to treat his condition, and even offer to help out in any way I could — transportation to treatment, helping out around the house, even just giving him an ear to bend if that’s what he needed. But should he choose to not treat the tumor, to let it run its natural course, I would respect that, too. The treatments for brain tumors are not pleasant. Radiation, chemotherapy, surgery — all are tremendously unpleasant, and they all operate under the same principle: “we’re going to do things that have the potential to kill you. We just hope that our calculations are right, and we kill the tumor first and stop before you die from it.” It’s more than understandable why some people might just refuse treatment.
But my moral principles would be set aside once Ted started acting psychotic from that tumor. If he started lashing out violently at those around him, making unprovoked physical attacks and issuing death threats, my moral obligation would be not to leave him be, but to stop him. Because at that point his decision to refuse treatment was posing a clear and present danger to those around him. At that point, the moral obligation of those around him are to either forcibly treat his condition, or isolate him and keep him from posing a danger to others.
And that is how I have come to see Islam: a person, much like myself, that I don’t particularly like, but don’t have any special hatred for. But a person with a very serious, potentially fatal growth at their core that occasionally triggers psychotic episodes where they lash out and cause grave harm on others. And I try — very hard — to not blame the individual for their actions caused by that tumor. I don’t always succeed, and I have quite a bit of anger that their denial of their problem has caused so much harm to innocents, but I try like hell to reserve my hatred for the tumor, not the person who carries it around in their skull.
OK, that’s over 1200 words, and all I’ve done is diagnose the problem. I’ll continue this later today.