Know Thy History, or "I am not a blank slate!"

I thought this was great. Here’s a guy on a political talk show who is supposed to be defending Bush’s ill advised comments about appeasement and Nazis . However, he doesn’t have a clue what he’s talking about. He has no sense of history and no notion of the actual comparison he’s making. He only knows that Bush and other hardliners have said that anyone willing to talk with our enemies is an “appeaser.”

One of the things I try to teach my writing students is to recognize and avoid logical fallacies, and one of the most commonly used fallacies is the “faulty analogy”: comparing two unlike ideas and drawing conclusions from one and trying to apply them to the other. This conservative pundit can’t even say he’s making a faulty analogy because he doesn’t actually know what the analogy is that he’s making. I can’t think of a better example of how debate and thoughtful exchange have been reduced to sound bites and sloganeering-as-analysis in our current media environment.

I have seen this same “appeaser” argument crop up from a variety of individuals, many of them devout Christians. I must admit, I don’t understand how the teachings of Christ are in anyway compatible with the militant dogma being offered up by hard right. Luke 6 famously tells us to “Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.” For me, this sentiment is the core of Christian teaching, and yet it is so easily set aside by those who… I honestly can’t fathom their motives… support a militant, “kill them before they kill us” approach to American foreign policy. What is more disturbing is that the militant right has been able, at least on some level, to label those who contest a “violence as a first resort” policy as unamerican or unpatriotic. The bitter irony is that those who profess Christianity the most (pres. Bush) are the least Christian among us.

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4 thoughts on “Know Thy History, or "I am not a blank slate!"

  1. Heh, once I got past the NBC commentators’ cloying smugness, I found that I agreed wholeheartedly with them. The pundit clearly was an idiot and has no place on the radio, TV or whatever his medium is. I’m sure it made Olbermann’s and Matthews’ day. Matthews was practically salivating.

  2. You’re very right, Tony. The commentators are much too smug, and they know that they’ve scored a “gotcha.” However, like you say, it’s the pundit’s fault. If I’m a conservative going on a “liberal” talk show (we’re too free with those terms–I don’t consider Mathews liberal per se), I had better prepare more than sound bites.

  3. You’re on very shaky ground when you try to analyze foreign policy in terms of ‘Christian’ or ‘non-Christian’.

    After all, who was it that commanded Saul to kill all the Philistines, including women, children, and animals? Why didn’t Nephi turn the other cheek, instead of cutting Laban’s head off and then robbing his house? And let’s not forget Captain Moroni marching back to Zarahemla and putting to death all the king-men who would not swear allegiance to the Chief Judge. Hateful, un-Christian, war-mongers, every one of them!

    I think we all get that you don’t agree with the Iraq war or the Bush Doctrine. But if we’re going to evaluate everyone by a small sliver of the Sermon on the Mount, then I guess we’ll have to exclude many of the ancient prophets from the faithful few.

  4. I think that if you read my comment more carefully, you will see that I don’t assert that there is NO time when a military solution is un-Christian (I’ll forgo the complexities of the New Testament vs. the Old Testament). Rather, I state that the current foreign policy of the Bush administration (the militant Right) is un-Christian. I may be nit picking or lack understanding of the Bible, but I don’t see how a “preemptive” war could in any way be consistent with the teachings of Christ. Add to the tragedy of Iraq the refusal of the Bush administration to talk with our enemies (thus precluding a peaceful resolution), and I am forced to wonder exactly what it means to be born again. Perhaps Christ had our era in mind when He warned us against “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”

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