November 20, 2004

Coalition of the Circumcised II

It's good to see that I don't need to feel so lonely anymore in my thinking that the current world situation is not so much one of a clash of (religious) civilisations, a la Huntington, but one in which the very project of the Enlightenment in Europe and the USA is under siege from a wide range of "fundamentalists" from the desert religions. It just makes me want to go all Freudian and suggest all this moral values intolerance wowserism is just them being jealous we still have our foreskins to treasure.
Now Timothy Garton Ash, always very readable and knowledgeable, expressed it succinctly:
"Battle may soon be joined to preserve the strict separation of church and state that the founding fathers intended. Or, to put it another way, to defend the legacy of the Enlightenment. No wonder liberal Americans have been feeling so blue. But there is one silver lining to the cloud hanging over them. Overstated though the dichotomy is between red and blue America, it does mean that no one who is at all well informed can believe that America is Bush and Bush is America. If the west is divided, the dividing line runs slap-bang through the middle of America. And, on the other side of the pond, through Europe. We don't have so many Christian fundamentalists any more. Compared with the American religious right, Rocco Buttiglione, the withdrawn Italian Catholic candidate for European commissioner, is a dangerous liberal. But we do have Islamic fundamentalists, in growing numbers. And, I would say, we have secular fundamentalists: people who believe that to live by the tenets of Islam, or other religions, is incompatible with what it is to be fully human, and want citizens to be educated and the state to legislate accordingly. While I have been in America, the possible consequences have been played out on the streets of prosperous, pacific, tolerant Holland, with the murder of the filmmaker Theo van Gogh, and the counter-attack on an Islamic school. If America has its culture wars, its Kulturkampf, so do we. And ours could be bloodier. So the expressions of European solidarity after the September 11 2001 terrorist attacks ( "Nous sommes tous Américains" ) should acquire a new meaning and a new context after the November 2 2004 elections. Hands need to be joined across the sea in an old cause: the defence of the Enlightenment. We are all blue Americans now."
If you had any doubts this is just a rant from a foreign visitor to a blue state, even Andrew Sullivan made it his quote of the day.

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