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Does God Love War? with Chris Hedges

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Event Name: Does God Love War? with Chris Hedges
Transcription Date:Transcription Modified Date: 5/9/2019
Transcript Version: 1


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PART 1
[Music]
so let me introduce you to our first
speaker again there I feel like there's
half the people in this room no one
speaker a lot about one speaker the
other half knows a lot about the other
speakers so if it's you already know
this bear with me Chris Hedges has been
a reporter for the New York Times and he
was its Middle East bureau chief in the
mid 90s he's reported from conflicts and
Wars all around the world starting with
El Salvador in the 1980s he has written
from 50 different countries and he's
written a lot about conflict and war and
seen a lot and he's also written two
books that are related to that topic one
which was a fascinating book with a very
transmitting title which is war is a
force that gives us meaning that's the
title of his book is available in case
you want it second one is more recent
one losing Moses in the freeway the Ten
Commandments in America and he as I
understand it he's working on another
book which should come out soon we hope
and he teaches a friend soon as I
mentioned right now so before I bring
him up here I want to read one quote to
you from him and this is taken from the
introduction to Wars a force that gives
us meaning he's just a paragraph and I
just want to read it for you I've been
in ambushes on desolate stretches of
Central American roads shot at the
marshes of southern Iraq imprisoned at
in Sudan beaten by Saudi military police
deported from Libya and Iran captured
and held for a week by Iraqi Republican
Guard during the Shiite rebellion
following the first Gulf War strafed by
Russian mig-21s in Bosnia fired upon by
Serb snipers and shelled four days in
sarajevo with the deafening round of
heavy artillery that throughout
thousands of bits of iron fragments i
have seen too much of violent death i
have tasted too much of my own fear i
have painful memories that lie buried
and untouched most of the time it is
never easy when the surface
ladies and gentlemen please welcome
Chris Hedges
[Applause]
thank you very much and thank you Sofia
it's just a tremendous honor to be here
with Sheikh Hamza and this great
community in San Francisco the
vanquished no war they see through the
empty jingoism of those who use the
abstract words of glory honor and
patriotism to mask the cries of the
wounded the senseless killing war
profiteering and chest pounding grief
they know the lies the victors often do
not acknowledge the lies covered up in
stately war memorials and mythic war
narratives filled with stories of
courage and comradeship they know the
lies that permeate the thick
self-important memoirs by immoral
statesmen who make wars but do not know
war the vanquished know the essence of
war death they see that war is a state
of almost pure sin with its goals of
hatred and destruction they know how war
Foster's alienation leads and evitt ibly
to kneel ISM and is a turning away from
the sanctity and preservation of life
all other narratives about war too
easily fall prey to the allure and
seductiveness of violence as well as the
attraction of the godlike power that
comes with a license to kill with
impunity but the words of the vanquished
come later sometimes long after the war
when grown men and women unpacked the
suffering they endured as children what
it was like to see their mother or
father killed or taken away what it was
like to lose their homes their community
their security and be discarded as human
refuse but by then few listened the
truth about war comes out
but usually too late and we are assured
by the war makers that these stories
have no bearing on the glorious violent
enterprise the nation is about to
inaugurate and lapping up the myth of
war and its sense of empowerment we
often prefer not to look
the current coverage of the war in Iraq
does not expose the pathology of war we
see the war from the perspective of
troops who fight the war or the equally
skewed perspective of foreign reporters
holed up in hotels hemmed in by drivers
and bodyguards and translators and
official minders there are moments when
wars face appears to these voyeurs and
professional killers perhaps from the
backseat of a car or a small child her
brains is e'en out of her head lies
dying but mostly it remains hidden and
all our knowledge of the war in Iraq has
to be viewed as lacking the sweep and
depth that will come one day perhaps
years from now when a small Iraqi boy or
girl reaches adulthood and unfolds for
us the sad and tragic story of the
invasion and bloody occupation of their
nation I have spent most of my adult
life in war I began two decades ago
covering wars in Central America where I
spent five years than the Middle East
where I spent seven and the Balkans
where I covered the wars in Bosnia and
Kosovo my life has been marred let me
say to formed by the organized
industrial violence that year after year
was an intimate part of my existence I
have watched young men bleed to death on
lonely Central American dirt roads and
cobblestone squares in Sarajevo I have
looked into the eyes of mothers keening
over the lifeless and mutilated bodies
of their children I have stood in way
houses with rows of corpses including
children and breathe death into my lungs
I carry within me the ghosts of those I
worked with my comrades now gone we make
our heroes out of clay we laud their
gallant deeds and give them uniforms
with coloured ribbons on their chests
for acts of violence they commit or
endure they are our repositories of
glory and honour of power
self-righteousness patriotism and self
worship all that we want to believe
about ourselves
they are our plaster saints of war
the icons we cheer to defend us and make
us and our nation great but they are
part of our Civic religion our love of
power and force our belief in our right
as a chosen nation to wield this force
against the weak and rule this is our
nation's idolatry of itself and it has
corrupted our religious institutions
just as it has corrupted religious
institutions in other nations fusing the
will of God with the will of the state
to create a potent and deadly form of
idolatry when those who return from war
find the courage and the honesty to
disrupt our festivities our love affair
with ourselves our worship of this Idol
we cast them out like lepers we condemn
those who returned from war for their
own mutilations we listen only when they
speak from the script we hand them if
they speak of terrible wounds visible
and invisible of lies told to make them
kill of the false Civic religion and
Idol we worship we fill our ears with
wax not our boy as we say not them bred
in our homes endowed with goodness and
decency blessed by our God for if it is
easy for
to murder and kill if the nation is not
blessed and righteous and glorious what
does this mean about us and so it is
simpler not to see we do not listen to
the angry words that pour forth from
their lips wishing only that they would
calm down be reasonable
get some help go away we the deformed
brand are returning profits as madmen
and cast them into the desert wars come
wrapped in religious and patriotic
slogans calls for sacrifice honor
promises of glory they come wrapped in
the claims of divine providence it is
what a grateful nation asks of its
children
it is rut what is right and just war is
waged to make the nation in the world a
better place to cleanse evil and war is
touted as the ultimate test of manhood
where young men can find out what they
are made of war from a distance seems
noble it gives us a feeling of belonging
of comradeship of power of a chance to
play a small bit in the great drama of
human history it promises to give us an
identity as a warrior a patriot a
believer as long as we go along with a
myth the one the war makers need to wage
war but up close war is a soulless void
the world of war descends to barbarity
perversion pain and an unchecked orgy of
death it is a state where human decency
and ten tenderness is crushed where
those who make war work overtime to
reduce all love and sensitivity to smut
and filth in war the moral order is
turned upside down all that is repulsive
and feared in peacetime is lauded and
cheered in war the noise the stench the
fear the cries of pain the eviscerated
bodies the bloated stinking corpse
spin us into another universe and in
this moral void often blessed by the
church or the mosque or the synagogue
the hypocrisy of our social conventions
our strict adherence to religious edicts
and virtues and utter refusal to honor
others comes unglued war for all its
horror has the power to strip away the
trivia and the banal the empty chatter
and foolish self-righteous obsessions
that fill our days it lets us see the
Reverend William William Mahaney a
Catholic chaplain in Vietnam tells of a
soldier a former altar boy in his book
out of the night the spiritual journey
of Vietnam vets who says to him hey
chaplain how come it's a sin to hop into
a bed with a mamasan but it's ok to blow
away gooks in the bush consider the
question that he and I were forced to
confront on that day in a jungle
clearing may Haiti writes how is it that
a Christian can with a clear conscience
spend a year in a warzone killing people
and yet place his soul in jeopardy by
standing spending a few minutes with a
prostitute if the New Testament
prohibitions of sexual misconduct are to
be stringently interpreted why then are
Jesus's injunctions against violence not
binding in the same way in other words
what does the commandment thou shalt not
kill really mean of all the commandments
that are broken the Torah says only
those who murder can never be certain of
forgiveness for forgiveness the Torah
says can only be granted by the murdered
victim murder leaves a stain it marks
you the Hebrew word to kill rosh appears
in the hebrew scriptures 46 times and
the commandment is probably better
translated as do not murder although
this remains debated by biblical
scholars there is a difference between
killing someone
is trying to kill you and killing
someone who does not have the power to
hurt you
the first is killing and the second is
murder but killing and murder are both
sinful and those who kill even in
self-defense must harbour the pain of
taking another life within them the
failure of religious institutions whose
texts are unequivocal about murder to
address the sinful state of war has left
them unable to cope with the reality of
war these institutions have little or
nothing to say in wartime because the
God they worship is often a false god
one that promises victory and blesses
violence we all have the capacity to
commit evil it takes little to unleash
it for those of us who have been to war
this is the knowledge that is hardest
for us to digest the knowledge that the
line between the victims and the
victimizers is razor thin that human
beings often find a perverse delight in
destruction and death and few can resist
the pull Wars may have to be fought to
ensure survival but they are always
tragic always sinful they always bring
to the surface the worst elements of any
society those who have a penchant for
violence and a lust for absolute power
it was the criminal class that first
organized the defence of Sarajevo and
when these criminals were not manning
roadblocks to hold off besieging bosnian
serb forces they were looting raping and
often killing the Serb residents who had
remained in the city war exposes the
existence of original sin of the sin of
the world in theological terms war is
sin Reitsma Haiti this has nothing to do
with whether a particular war is
justified or whether isolated incidents
and
soldiers war were right or wrong the
point is that war as a human enterprise
is a matter of sin it is a form of
hatred for one's fellow human beings it
produces alienation from others and
niall ism and it ultimately represents a
turning away from God the Marines and
soldiers who fight in Iraq did not plan
or organize this war they do not seek to
justify it or explain its causes they
were taught in school in worship at home
to Mel the rhetoric of the state with a
rhetoric of their religion they were
taught to believe the symbols of the
nation and their faiths were inner woven
and the will of God became the will of
the nation but this trust this belief is
shattered in war and those who face
combat see the myth used to send them to
war implode they see into Wars essence
which is death war is always about
betrayal betrayal of the young by the
old of idealists by cynics of soldiers
by politicians the institutions
including religious institutions who
mold us into compliant citizens can
often never be trusted again after war
and this betrayal is so deep that many
fun never find their way back to faith
they nurse a self-destructive anger and
resentment understandable but also
crippling ask a combat veteran
struggling to piece his shattered life
back together about God and watch the
words of raw vitriol spew out of his
lips an anger that races like a
cascading torrent from within his soul
it is this betrayal that causes the
great chasm
between those who have been to war and
those who have not the occupying troops
in Iraq live in what the psychiatrist
robert jay lifton calls atrocity
producing situations in this environment
where troops are surrounded by a hostile
population simple acts such as going to
a store to buy a carton of coke means
you can be killed the fear and stress
leaves troops viewing everyone around
them as the enemy and when the enemy is
elusive shadowy and hard to find they
begin to project blame for the attacks
against them on all Iraqis the rage
soldiers feel after a roadside bomb
explodes killing their comrades is one
that is easily directed lifts and argues
to innocent civilians who may in fact
not support these the insurgents but it
is a short psychological leap and a
massive moral evil it is a leap from
killing to murder and in wars such as
Vietnam Iraq or the Israeli occupation
of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip
murder soon begins to dominate the
conflict a hostile environment means
that the occupying forces swiftly become
socialized to commit atrocities these
killing projects are never described as
such at home they are put in terms of
the necessity of improving the world of
political and spiritual renewal you
cannot kill large numbers of people
without a claim to virtue our own
campaign to rid the world of terror is
expressed this way as if once we destroy
all so called terrorists we destroy evil
but the reality on the ground is
undeniable as any soldier marine who has
watched his unit fire on an iraqi car
too close to a checkpoint and then
peered into the backseat to see the
gruesome remains of a murdered family
knows war especially modern industrial
warfare sees the raising of villages the
aerial bombing of towns the deadly toll
long after the war is ended of landmines
strewn about the countryside and the
spread of disease poverty and birth
defects caused by the poisons and
destruction left behind murder is always
an intimate part of war but at an
insurgency such as Iraq murder outstrips
killing the local population is viewed
as a base of support for armed
insurgents and soon targeted and the
emotional cost is corrosive and
debilitating all this unleashes a crisis
of faith the god these soldiers and
marines knew or thought they knew fails
them they go to war unprepared for the
capacity we all have for atrocity for
evil that is carried out in the name of
God freedom and democracy and many
combat veterans are burdened by this
betrayal this is why they return and
often turn their backs on organized
religion not because they have become
godless but because they have been
misled by religious leaders leaders who
choose perhaps because of their own
naivete not to teach them about the
capacity we have for evil and the
hollowness but the hollowness of a
religious Creed
that worships the nation and the self
where is God in war it is the question
all of us who have been to war must face
I think the answer is God is not there
for war is a godless endeavor and when
love compassion and human kindness are
replaced by the vast grotesque panorama
of violence and destruction of war God
is banished human beings who have the
freedom to choose good and evil cannot
expect to feel the power of the divine
when they embrace a world of sin at that
moment they shut out the divine in war
we face our demons we discover the
darkness that allows us when restraints
are cut to commit acts of horror against
the weak and defenseless including
children we discover the ghoulish
delight human beings can take in killing
we discover that all is not right with
the world as we had been taught that
honoring nation and family and a god
that leads to victory and righteousness
and success does not mean that will be
we will be saved or indeed victorious or
even successful we discover the lie we
have been told the cheap idolatry of our
civic religion one that grafts the will
to power to the will of God and in this
knowledge we make a painful
self-discovery not only about ourselves
but about the human community the naive
belief in the goodness of the nation and
the individual one that gives us comfort
and moral certitude is obliterated
forever we peer into the human soul and
what we see looking back terrifies us
but out of that pain and alienation
comes knowledge and hopefully a desire
to reclaim life although the darkness we
confront and bare becomes our cross and
all of us who have been to war carry it
there are many who cannot permit the
emotionally reassuring myth of a good
and moral nation a nation ordained by
God to carry out a civilizing mission by
whatever means necessary in the world
to be shattered and these people who by
their support of the war send the young
to die or Pratap perhaps to return home
maimed in spirit and body blame those
who returned from war and speak the
truth about war for the message this
retreat into blind patriotism which is
always at its core about self exaltation
is comforting and morally reassuring but
once you master a people by force you
depend on force for control isolation
always impairs judgment and we as a
nation are very isolated now through
Citadis wrote of how Athens expanding
empire led it to become a tyrant abroad
and then a tyrant at home the tyranny
Athens imposed on others it finally
imposed on itself the lust for war the
desire for profits saw the Athenians
lose sight of the ideals that were their
great gift to us ideals that should be
our legacy to others we live on images
and slogans that perpetuate fantasies
about our own invulnerability our own
might our own goodness and these
illusions blind us we cannot see
ourselves as others see us we had fed
the heart on fantasies William Butler
Yeats wrote the hearts groan brutal from
the fair it is 1967 in the West Bank and
the Gaza Strip and we have become Israel
our Empire has expanded and in that we
have become pariahs we are propelled
forward not by logic or compassion or
understanding but by fear we have built
an alliance against terror with Israel
and Russia
to note two nations that do not shrink
from gratuitous and senseless killing in
the Israeli occupied territories in
Chechnya and those who are not with us
and few are with us now we ridicule and
belittle and condemn we have become the
company we keep much of the world
certainly the Muslim world one-fifth of
the world's population
most of whom are not Arab see us through
the prism of Iraq Palestine and Chechnya
and this prism is one that is igniting
the dispossessed and deteriorating by
the hour our security and safety the
attacks on the World Trade Center
illustrate that those who oppose us
rather than coming from another moral
universe have been schooled well in
modern warfare the dramatic explosions
the fireballs the victims plummeting to
their deaths the collapse of the towers
in Manhattan were straight out of
Hollywood where else but from the
industrialized world did the suicide
bombers learn that huge explosions and
death above a city skyline are a
peculiar and effective form of
communication they have mastered the
language we taught them they understand
that the use of indiscriminate violence
against innocents is a way to make a
statement we leave the same calling
cards we delivered such incendiary
messages in Vietnam Serbia Afghanistan
and now Iraq it was Secretary of Defense
Robert McNamara who in the summer of
1965 defined the bombing raids that
would kill hundreds of thousands of
civilians north of Saigon as a means of
communication to the communist regime in
Hanoi war is the pornography of violence
it has a dark Beauty filled with a
monstrous and
the grotesque the Bible calls it the
lust of the eye and warns believers
against it war gives us a distorted
sense of self it gives us meaning it
creates a feeling of comradeship that
obliterates our alienation and makes us
feel for perhaps the first time in our
lives that we belong war allows us to
rise above our small stations in life we
find nobility in the cause even bliss
and once in a conflict the shallowness
of much of our lives becomes apparent
the fruitless search to find fulfillment
in the acquisition of things and wealth
and power is laid bare the trivia that
dominates our airwaves is exposed as
empty chatter war allows us to engage in
lusts and passions we keep hidden in the
deepest most private interiors of our
fantasy life it allows us to destroy not
only things but human beings and in that
moment of wholesale destruction we wield
the power of the divine the power to
revoke another person's charter to live
on this earth the frenzy of this
destruction and when unit discipline
breaks down or there was no unit
discipline to begin with frenzy is the
right word seized armed bands crazed by
the poisonous elixir our power to bring
about the obliteration of others
delivers all things including human
beings become objects objects to either
gratify or destroy or both and almost no
one is immune the contagion of the crowd
sees to that force
Simo of all rights is as pitiless to the
man who possesses it or thinks he does
as it is to its victims second it
crushes the first it intoxicates drawn
into the world of war it becomes hard to
escape
it perverts and destroys you it pushes
you closer and closer to your own
annihilation spiritual emotional and
finally physical it destroys the
continuity of life tearing apart all
systems economic social environmental
and political that make life possible
that sustained us as human beings I
covered the war in El Salvador from 1983
to 1988 by the end I had a nervous
twitch in my face I was evacuated three
times by the u.s. embassy because of
tips that the death squads plan to kill
me and yet each time I came back I
accepted with a grim fatalism that I
would be killed in El Salvador I could
not articulate why I accepted my own
destruction and cannot now there came to
be a part of me maybe it is a part of
all of us which decided I would rather
die like this then go back to the dough
routine during the war in El Salvador I
worked with a photographer who had a
slew of close calls and then called it
quits he moved to Miami for one of the
news weeklies but life in Florida was
flat dull uninteresting he could not
adjust and soon came back from the
moment he stepped off the plane it was
clear he had returned to die and just as
there are some soldiers or war
correspondents who seemed to us immortal
and whose loss comes as a sobering
reminder that death has no favorites
there are also those in war who are
locked in a grim embrace with death from
which they cannot escape he was
frightening to behold a walking corpse
he was shot through the back in a
firefight and died in less than a minute
Sigmund Freud divided the forces in
human nature between the arrows instinct
the impulse within us that propels us to
become close to others to preserve and
and the Thanatos or death instinct the
impulse that works towards the
annihilation of all living things
including ourselves for Freud these
forces were in eternal conflict he was
pessimistic about ever eradicating war
all human history he argued in
civilization and its discontents is a
tug of war between these two instincts
taste enough of war and you come to
believe the Stoics were right we will in
the end all consume ourselves in a vast
conflagration there is a constant search
and war to find new perversities new
forms of death when the initial flush
phase a rearguard and finally futile
effort to ward off the boredom of
routine death and this is why we would
drive into towns in Bosnia and find
bodies crucified on the sides of barns
are decapitated and mutilated this is
why those slain in combat are treated as
trophies belonging to the killers turned
into grotesque pieces of performance art
I know soldiers that to this day carry
in their wallets the identity cards of
men they know they killed they take them
everywhere they show them to you with
the imploring look of a lost child they
will never understand in war we deform
ourselves our essence we give up
individual conscience maybe even
consciousness for the contagion of the
crowd the rush of patriotism the belief
that we must stand together as a nation
in moments of extremity to make a moral
choice to defy wars enticement to
challenge the idol and the Civic
religion can be self-destructive but war
is necrophilia and this necrophilia is
central to soldiering just as it is
central
to the makeup of suicide bombers and
terrorists it is hidden under platitudes
about duty and comradeship it waits
especially in moments when we seem to
have little to live for and no hope or
in moments when the intoxication of war
is at its pitch to be unleashed and when
we spend long enough in war it comes to
us as a kind of release a fatal and
seductive embrace that can consummate
the long flirtation with our own
destruction many of those I worked with
as war correspondents during the past
two decades could not escape they could
not break free from this dance with
death they wandered from conflict to
conflict seeking always one more hit by
then I was back in Gaza and found myself
pinned down in another ambush a young
Palestinian 15 feet away from me was
shot through the chest and killed I had
been lured back but now felt none of the
old rush just fear it was time to break
free to let go to accept that none of
this would or could or should return I
knew it was over and I was lucky to get
out alive Kurt short brilliant
courageous and driven could not let go
he died in an ambush in Sierra Leone
along with another friend Miguel Gil
Moreno his entrapment his embrace of
fana Toph's of the death instinct was
never mentioned in the sterile and
antiseptic memorial service staged for
him in Washington
everyone tiptoed around it but for those
of us who knew him we understood he had
been consumed I had worked with Kurt for
10 years starting northern Iraq literate
funny seems the brave are often funny he
and I passed books
back and forth in our struggle to make
sense of the madness around us his loss
is a hole that will never be filled his
ashes were placed in the lion cemetery
and sorry Havel for the victims of the
war I flew to Sarajevo and met the
British filmmaker Dan Reid it was an
overcast November day we stood over the
grave Dan lit a candle I recited a poem
the Roman lyric poet Catullus
had written to honor his dead brother by
strangers coasts and waters many days at
sea I come here for the rites of your
unworldly bringing for you the dead
these last gifts of the living and my
words vain sounds for the man of dust
alas my brother you have been taken from
me you have been taken from me and by
cold chants turned to shadow and my pain
here are the foods of the old ceremony
appointed long ago for the starlings
under the earth take them your brother's
tears have made them wet and taken to
Eternity my hail and my farewell it was
there among 4000 war dead that Curt
belonged he died because he could not
free himself from war he was trying to
replicate what he had found in Sarajevo
but he could not war could never be new
again Kurt had been in East Timor and
Chechnya Sierra Leone I was sure meant
nothing to him
Kurt and Miguel could not let go they
would be the first to admit it spend
long enough at war and you cannot fit in
anywhere else it finally kills you it is
not a new store
it starts out like love but it is death
war is the beautiful young nymph
in the fairytale that when kissed
exhales the vapors of the underworld the
ancient Greeks had a word for such a
fate at Pier OSIS it means to be
consumed by a ball of fire and they used
it to describe heroes thank you
[Applause]
you

PART 2

[Music]
you
Hamza Yusuf story is both of the east
and the west of both Islam and America
born in southern Washington State used
to become a Muslim in 1977 he then
embarked upon a search for knowledge
that took him to the United Arab
Emirates to Saudi Arabia to North and
West Africa where he pursued studies in
the various disciplines of Islam and he
has translated a lot of modern English
into modern English several classical
Arabic texts since September 11th he had
advised the President of the United
States he had addressed the House of
Lords in the Welsh Assembly in the
United Kingdom he has counseled the
Secretary General of the Arab League and
several Arab foreign ministers and
before I asked him to come up here I
would like to read a short quote from
him this is taken from a speech that he
gave at the 2004 annual convention of
the Islamic Society of North America
which is sort of the largest Muslim
gathering in United States and this was
right after the massacre in Beslan
Russia where about 334 people were
killed at the school including half of
them er about children and he told
people this gathering Muslims dead
Muslims should condemn this with no
uncertain terms and then he said this we
do not count numbers we do not say they
killed 30,000 or they killed 3000 we do
not count numbers every soul is sacred
and this has to be established on the
earth once again the teaching of Abraham
the Abrahamic faiths share the sanctity
of life and the Muslims must assert
their Abrahamic truth we have to
reassert to the Abrahamic people that we
are the last extension of the Abrahamic
truth that there is a God and that he
communicates with his creation and he
calls them to his unity and he calls
them to the highest morality known to
humankind
because the naysayers who attack
religion are attacking the best of
humanity and it is only the absence of
religion in religious people that leads
to these types of atrocities in the name
of religion it is not religion itself it
is the misuse the abuse the assault on
religion in the name of religion that
leads to a hatred in the hearts of other
people and that is why our prophet
warned us beware of extremism and
religion because it is extremism and
religion that destroyed the people
before you ladies and gentlemen please
welcome Hamza Yusuf
[Applause]
it's midnight I don't know him in the
name of God the most merciful the most
compassionate most allotted I say to
Mohammed wanted slightly was sent him to
SEMA what I heard I went up word idea
darling now first of all given that
we're in Berkeley
I don't want anybody to hold it against
me that I advised the president I also
would say that he did not take my advice
I I just came from six weeks of touring
I was in the UK I went to Denmark and
and then to cut out where I was involved
in what they called a high-level United
Nations meeting there and the United
Nations was actually founded according
to its foundational documents as an
attempt to actually end war after World
War one there was an attempt to found
the League of Nations which did not
succeed was Wilson's dream and he
actually had a stroke during the
Versailles Treaty but it really never
formulated or came to anything but the
United Nations was founded apparently to
end war what's interesting is that the
five permanent members of the Security
Council of the United Nations
beginning with the United States are the
biggest sellers of armaments on the
planet and I it's a little like putting
Jesse and Frank James on the board at
the bank you know it's it's a very odd
thing if you think about it you know
that these people are the people that
are supposed to give us security and yet
they're flooding the world with
armaments and I really believe that the
great moral task ahead of us is to bring
down the armaments trade I think it's
probably it is the great moral issue of
the 21st century in the same way that
abolition was the moral issue of the
19th century and in many ways civil
rights was the issue of the 20th century
I absolutely believe that ending the
arms trade the global arms trade is the
moral issue of our generation whenever
you see these wars and Chris Hedges and
we we have to honor him for his his
courage to do what he did but whenever
you see these wars you should really
know that the arms that they're using
were not produced in those countries
Sierra Leone does not have armaments
factories Sierra Leone has diamonds and
diamonds buy weapons because that's how
the weapons were purchased in Sierra
Leone the seventh largest purchaser of
arms on this planet is Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia does not produce it's a
country of 19 million people it does not
produce armaments it is follows India a
country of over a billion people Saudi
Arabia has 19 million people and yet it
is the seventh largest purchaser of arms
why it doesn't use them when they were
threatened with invasion they asked the
Americans to come
so the reason is because it's a way of
recycling petrol dollars back into our
economy that's all it is
it's raytheon's welfare its General
Electric all of the we bring good things
to death really I mean these are and
we're all complicit you know we have
lights you know GE when you put that in
there we're all we're supporting it and
and that's you know that's the challenge
that we have and I don't envy the young
people because the world that we're
offering them do you the world that
we're handing over to our children for
God's sake do you know I mean I just
feel like we should be doing something
for these children I look at my children
I've got a seven-year-old that's
constantly asking me questions and he
recently asked me if you had to choose
would you rather have a hot death or a
cold death and I don't know if he was
referring to you know nuclear holocaust
as opposed to the global warming that's
actually making our weather in the Bay
Area a little colder but I when I look
at my child with his bright eyes and his
total trust in me and then I have to
realize that he needs to come of age he
needs to leave the Garden of Eden and
and and and abandon that innocence and
come to a realization of the type of
world that has been handed to him much
of it is defined by war we don't like to
think about the conflicts globally but
we are almost directly involved in all
of the major conflicts around the globe
somehow this country our country the
United States of America we are a
country of
like all great nations immense paradox
immense paradox and that's probably at
the root of war because war is
paradoxical on the one hand nobody wants
to go to war or so we say on the other
hand it's something that our culture
rebels in the great generation Tom
Brokaw telling us about the great
generation the great generation bombed
Hiroshima and Nagasaki with nuclear
weapons the great generation is guilty
of war crimes against huge civilian
populations in Germany Hamburg Dresden
we don't like to think about that
because collectively all of the Germans
were guilty
we demonized them not we but the people
before us I was once in a grocery store
and and it was a Time magazine cover
somebody was buying it ahead of me and
it had a big mushroom and it said why
did we drop the bomb that was the time
headline and and the lady bringing it up
said why did we drop the bomb and I just
said listen I didn't have anything to do
with it all right
nothing I wasn't even born yet and I
don't like that implication you know of
Time magazine the the Perron says ticket
typical Omaha de l'homme cosa but those
people are gone and they have what they
earned your previous generations and
this is part of the major problem that
we have on this planet is collective
guilt is this projection of guilt on to
a collective group of people what
Erikson calls pseudo speciation it's a
great word I like words like that pseudo
speciation Erik Erikson the psychologist
said that pseudo speciation is our
propensity to to basically otherwise
people to deem them as less than human
it's what Hitler did with the Jews in
Germany they were less than human under
mensch I think is is the word the
Germans considered themselves uber
mensch
you know like Superman Nietzsche's
Superman so everybody else was Minch and
then you had the less than human
I was once in Spain we were going up a
street in in Granada and very unusual
person was asking for money on the
street and I really I mean sometimes you
see people and you you really marvel at
just their form and where they came from
the womb they came out of it's it's
fascinating but I I was struck by this
person and the person I was with his
Spanish mane he said I were chosen from
on osaki you know he said there's a lot
of info on Manos that was the first time
I'd ever heard that word you know less
than human which the person wasn't but
it was that is pseudo speciation it's to
deem somebody as less than human and we
can't go to war without doing that you
cannot go to war without doing that to
other people
it's called Guantanamo zhing your enemy
right
Guantanamo zhing your enemy they have no
rights they're not human they're
terrorists and terrorists are evil and
we're good and therefore by eliminating
evil we're doing something that is good
this is the justification if you're not
with us you're with the terrorists which
was an attempt at paraphrasing Christ
who made a spiritual statement he's not
with me is against me which is a
spiritual statement but unfortunately
and this is a problem I know that God
once did speak through a bush but we
have we
we have a president who's who's
misunderstanding that that was a burning
bush that that wasn't that wasn't a
burnt bush that was a burning bush you
know and that's a problem with this
country is that we're not setting our
sights high enough really we're not
aiming high enough as a people and when
you don't aim high enough you either
shoot yourself in the foot or you shoot
your friend that's that's a big problem
that we've got in this country you know
it's time that we really started setting
our sights a little higher because the
the foundational principles of this
civilization are very high ones and and
although unfortunately there were
atrocities and there's terrible things
that occurred at the hands of the early
people in this country but again we did
not inherit their evils but we have
benefited from their good and it's very
dangerous to demonize people because of
some of their actions and not
recognizing all of their actions because
all of us are an admixture of good and
evil and in the melodramatic world of
cartoons where good is good and evil is
evil all that was the cartoon as I grew
up now they're quite different Superman
lives in a parallel universe and there's
a negative Superman so there's there's a
whole lot of the thing children are
getting but when I was growing up and
that was the time you know little before
me
George was growing up as well and so
that you know we were given cartoons
where things were clear things were
black and white good people wore white
hats and bad people wore black hats
which is problematic for the Iranian
mullahs right I mean they really fit the
bill don't they you know I was actually
just with Ayatollah Hitomi in in a pop
up he was at the UN he's a he has a PhD
from Germany in German philosophy right
here I mean you know people assume he's
kind of a you know some kind of medieval
throwback I mean the man is is really
far more sophisticated than a lot of
rulers that we've had in the West so
this pseudo speciation is what happens
in the melodramatic universe now what's
interesting is we have a biological
problem because if you look at children
at about seven months a child after an
intense bonding with the mother actually
begins to recognize strangers and often
will be frightened of them they'll
sometimes actually look and cry and it
happens to good people it's not always
you know don't assume they're seeing
something that that you're not although
they might be don't assume they're not
but this is what they do they begin to
recognize something that is foreign or
alien the family is the first in-group
that we have the family is our in-group
what's outside of the family is an
out-group when you go to school you also
have in-groups and out-groups our
society thrives on this idea as I was
driving here I was passing by these Phi
Beta Kappa and you know these sororities
and fraternities around Berkeley which
is a classic in-group out-group
phenomenon when you when you join a
fraternity there's a hazing you have to
get you know really drunk I mean they
kill them sometimes these four people
but really in hazing people die in that
initiation that rite of passage but you
bond you know like George was in in the
Skull and Bones Club and they have very
intense bonding they actually you
apparently have to go and dig up a dead
person and spend a night in a coffin
with a dead person I don't know if those
things are true but people write about
them
that and it's very odd but it's not I
don't think it should shock you
you know if you've just seen you know
the type of things that people are
capable of doing I mean Chris talked
about necrophilia you know it's I mean
lions don't do that you know
monkeys don't do that humans do that
right really it's we're capable of just
immense depravity but these in-groups
and out-groups this is the essence of
war now if you look at what what what is
the foundation of war where does it come
from there's people that again say no
people are men don't like war women
don't like war there's actually whole
social theories that refute conflict
theory that war is thrust upon people I
don't believe that we have a society
that relishes war Patton said anybody
that says Americans don't like a war is
a liar Americans love a good war I mean
that's General Patton now he liked war
obviously I mean it was a passion with
him really very intelligent man I
actually read his his notes from World
War two it's called
our war and on the very first entry he
just arrived at North Africa and he said
just finished the Quran he ended the
entry by saying just finished reading
the Quran a good book very interesting
so I thought that was I mean you know
nowadays just wonder about the generals
nowadays but he was going to a Muslim
country he wanted to work out what they
were about so you read a foundational
book if you want to understand America I
don't know what you would read you know
I don't I think you'd probably have to
see a Quentin Tarantino film
right - real or go to you know big-time
wrestling right go to one I wonder where
all those people come from in those big
giant auditoriums are they walking
around out here are they in the grocery
stores with us you know you just have to
want I mean if you if if you want to
inculcate peace it's a very odd thing by
teaching young children you know having
these two wrestling used to be a noble
thing you know two people got to and
they wrestled then they shook hands
afterwards they don't do that anymore
you know they hit each other over the
head with boards and and smash their
heads up again it's supposed to be fake
but kids can't determine and we had one
for 13 year old boy jumped on this five
year old kid and killed him shattered
his spleen and he got it from big-time
wrestling you know that's why they have
these big don't do this at home and the
only reason I know about big-time
wrestling it's very popular in Saudi
Arabia they actually really like
big-time wrestling and they're convinced
it's real I was once in a in a I was in
a you know uh gajja plays and and
coffeehouse and they were watching and I
said that's not real and they said no
it's real look
I gave up you know how do you argue with
him there's look he threw him down he
fell down it's real so but promoting
that type of a culture because I really
believe Abu Horeb is a direct result I
call these guys Quentin Tarantino's
children they're kids that grew up on
violence on pornography garbage in
garbage out and I really was hoping for
one eye it was a bit of optimism on my
part but I was actually hoping that
perhaps our country would just for a
brief moment be able to recognize our
shadow just to see an aspect of our
culture of who we are
because we are a beret that is part of
us and to deny that to to say it has
nothing to do with the United States of
America is to deny our shadow and Jung
believed that the more you denied the
shadow the greater it grew the greater
it grew unless you were able he felt it
was like a seesaw that you're you're you
know the the beautiful aspect of the
human soul had to be in balance with the
shadow and and and if it wasn't if you
denied it you elevated it and what we do
in war is we project our shadow onto
others this is what we do all the
despicable qualities that we hate about
ourselves we project them on the other
do you see the Arabs you know hate women
they're misogynistic look at some of the
statistics in our own country
pornography is the number one media
industry in the United States of America
what does that tell us about our culture
and how we view women because I mean the
the Arabs that I know
they love women really and I don't say
that you can interpret that as you like
but there's those type of Arabs as well
but every Arab learns from the time
there are little children and gender to
talkto akadama Toma hot paradise is at
the feet of the mother that's what the
Prophet Muhammad taught his community
sallallahu said of paradises that at the
feet of the mother I know
Arabs it would never greet their mother
without kissing her hand and kissing her
forehead would do anything for their
mothers really so we can project all of
that darkness onto the other and it
enables us to demonize them to treat
them despicably to carpet-bomb them to
brutalize them and things that Chris
talked about in his talk that he's seen
I mean I saw some of it in the refugee
camps in the shower during the Afghani
war against the Russians just the faces
of the people and that's that's what
happens when you demonize the other it's
just very easy to degrade cover them in
feces violate them with sticks I mean
this is this is what people can do and
what's interesting to me about war and
religion because it's a paradox religion
of all the religions Islam is most
associated with militancy it's seen as a
militant religion and there's certainly
a militant aspect about Islam Muslims
are people certain eats and said when he
was at the when he was in the gulag in
Siberia and he wrote this it's a very
beautiful passage in one of his books he
said of all the people in the gulag the
one people that refuse to be subjugated
by the Russian guards were the chase
they would not submit to the humiliation
they always stood up and they would
fight and he said in the unusual thing
about this is it they actually gain the
respect of the Russian guards and the
Russian guards had a type of fear of
them chase nians
there the name for their capital Grozny
is fierce Tolstoy wrote a book about a
chase knee and Mujahid called Haji Murad
about the nobility of the chasing and
warrior chase nians are very free and
independent people and one of the things
that islam teaches is never to be a
slave of anybody but God never bow down
to anybody honor people respect people
but never allow a person to abuse you
that's at the essence of the Islamic
teaching because you have been in noble
by God according to the put on all of
the children of Adam and Eve have been
in noble by God we have a human dignity
that is essential to our nature our
character and in honoring that dignity
we must honor others and in honoring
that dignity we do not allow ourselves
to be dishonored and the Prophet
Muhammad said a believer does not
humiliate him or herself so that's
something very essential and that's why
the Palestinians are resistant people
it's difficult for them and even if they
lash out in in heinous ways if you don't
understand what is the essence of that
then you're missing the point you're
missing the point because while I
condemn the use of indiscriminate
violence I'm completely opposed to it
and I believe that blowing up buses in
Tel Aviv is indiscriminate violence I
don't I don't agree with it I've always
been against it I've read arguments for
it by certain scholar
from the middle-east I've never been
convinced by them but it happens and the
question that I think we're confronted
with Dostoevsky said it's very easy to
hate those who do evil but it's very
difficult to understand them and even
and this is one of the great things
about the poet's and why we need the
poet's out in September 1939 he was
sitting in a dive in New York City when
he heard about the invasion of Poland
and he said that scholarship could
explain what was unleashed he said ask
what happened at Linz what unleashed
that imago a psychopathic God I in the
public know what all schoolchildren
learn those whom evil is done do evil in
return
and that's a lesson that we need to
learn we need to learn that what we are
seeing is a projection of ourselves it's
a projection of ourselves and they also
they me we all need to see this on all
sides because as long as we pseudo
speciation the other as less than human
the kaffir right the disbeliever the
infidel justifying with that abuse of
that other then we fail to learn the
essential truths of our tradition
whatever it might be because at the root
of war is injustice it's greed it's
selfishness and it's a total lack of
concern for the suffering of others and
all of those things religions came to
free us from and that's apps
truth whether it's Hinduism whether it's
Judaism Christianity Buddhism Islam they
came to expose to us the worst qualities
our shadow so that we might know
ourselves better and until we have
greater self-knowledge and this is what
we're confronted with a absolute
imperative to have self-knowledge
because that's what this is about it's
about learning about ourselves through
the lens of the other Imam Shafi one of
the great scholars of Islam was once
asked how did you get such excellent
character he said I always listen to
what my enemies said about me and I took
it seriously our enemies have something
to teach us in Latin the word enemy
comes from in amicus not friend not
friend somebody who's not a friend which
in the pre-modern world that's the way
it was viewed the tribe and everybody
else there's a there's a a tribe in the
Amazon called the wary tribe waa RI and
their word according to a linguist even
Pinter their word for dinner or for food
is not a wary
which he said was problematic if you
were ever invited to have dinner with
them being unwary but that that is the
pre-modern world the tribe do you see
the tribe it's me versus them the Arabs
have a proverb me and my brother against
my cousin me my brother and my cousin
against my neighbor and me my brother my
cousin and my neighbor against everyone
else I mean that that's one view of the
world that's a view that our religions
came to remove tribalism provincialism
partisanship nationalism is a disease
it's a disease and I don't believe
patriotism is a disease love of your
country is not a negative thing it's a
good thing people always say my country
right or wrong but they forget the
actual quote of the Admiral that made
that he's a brilliant
I mean extraordinary man he was a
warrior in he actually was in the war of
Tripoli de quatre I think we have
Decatur Illinois Georgia they're named
after him Stephen Decatur or Decatur I
don't know how they say that but in his
famous toast he actually said our
country may she always be right
may she always be right in her foreign
affairs but our country right or wrong
very different to my country right or
wrong when our country is in the wrong
we need to stand by the truth that is
not tribalism that is patriotism because
that comes from love doesn't come from
hate it comes from love of your country
and that's why we're living in a time
when dissent has become once again a
dangerous word a dangerous word if you
ask me does God love war I would have to
say I don't believe God loves war war in
the Quran is used four times the word
it's a negative word in the Quran how
there are two times in which war is
declared by God on people when they
engage
which is considered an economic
injustice it's prohibited in the Torah
it was prohibited in church canon law
and Aristotle said it was most unnatural
form of money or wealth acquisition
condemned by all the ancient
philosophers and much of what we're
witnessing around this globe is directly
due to in immense debt in these
countries all around the globe that are
paying exorbitant yuzuriha s-- returns
to industrialized countries that have
lent them money designed read
Confessions of an economic hitman really
read that book it's an important book
about what we do and where that
resentment comes is trying to understand
it at a deeper level that's what we need
to do so but God according to the Quran
the Quranic narrative there is a verse
in the logic urban America Deen God does
not love those who aggress and there are
two types of war there is a no war of
aggression and there's a war of defense
and all of our religious traditions give
people the right to defend themselves
whether it's Christianity with its just
law theory
st. Augustine st. Thomas Aquinas
believed that it was absolutely
congruent with the teachings of
Christianity the right to self-defense
watching what they call the double
effect which is very stringent criteria
for when good can cause evil so
collateral damage carpet bombing all
these things I mean bombing people from
the air that's one of the things we have
a mechanism in ourselves that protects
us from inflicting people with pain it's
called sympathy compassion pity I mean
these are very powerful emotions that we
acquire early on usually given to us by
our mothers and when you distance when
you use weapons where you drop bombs
from 30,000 feet there's no room for
those inhibitors
there's no room for those constraints so
it becomes pushing a button we don't see
the results of what that button does one
of the things about the and why books
like the unimportant and we honor kale
and people like her that are trying to
bring these images to people one of the
reasons why they're so important is to
see that true side of war what it does
to people the effects it has on just the
common people one of the things that
general william Westmoreland who was
back in the old days in Berkeley he was
called waste more land he was one of the
Vietnam generals but general
Westmoreland who I think is famous for
saying we had to destroy the village to
save it but he said Vietnam was the
first uncensored war and we you don't
censor war it creates confusion in the
public mind what type of confusion
because that's very Orwellian what what
it creates in the public mind is moral
conscience an understanding that what
we're doing is morally wrong it's
repugnant and that is what we have to
take it out I really believe and and I
think we should be inspired by the
abolitionist movement which began in the
late 18th century by 12 people in a
small house in London that house is
still there it's honored when they began
that never did they believe in their
wildest dreams that they would end
slavery in their lifetimes but they saw
it by 1732 the British had outlawed by
1832 the British had outlawed the slave
trade it took some time to stop it but
they did it and it was done by a handful
of men and women committed to that
mostly working in fact really entirely
working from the best of the Christian
tradition the best of the Christian
tradition and that movement took off it
was a great movement in the nineteenth
century in this country
I really believe that it's people like
that that need to emerge from among us
that are really willing to recognize
that we are facing a choice between
consciousness and catastrophe if we
don't wake up we're on a perilous path
to our own destruction and we are the
first generation as it's been said many
times that has in its hands the capacity
to destroy itself our species war is
still a major threat people are
suffering from it all around the world
nuclear proliferation is a major threat
Pakistan and India disaster really it's
a disaster failed States we have a lot
of work to do I really hope that people
will take that home with them and I hope
we can have some more discussion and
conversation and I really Chris Hedges I
read his book when it first came out war
as a force that gives us meaning I
really recommend to all of you that you
read that book it's an important book
because in the absence of meaning war is
certainly one substitute and our our
country right now is suffering from a
vacuum of meaning and purpose
consumerism just doesn't do the trick
you know no matter how many trips to
Walmart you make those products never do
what they say they're supposed to do
they just don't it looks good in the
store and you get it home and it just
seems so different when I first saw it
and before you know it it's in some
corner of the house right and then it's
in the garage sale so consumerism
doesn't do the trick and if you replace
the sacred it's always empty things that
you try to fill that void with god bless
all of you thank you very much
[Applause]
you
you

Part 3

you
but we're going to go ahead and get
started the conversation as we sit here
one of the things that both of you
talked about war a lot but I noticed not
quite enough about religion so I'm going
to trying to bring up some religious
issues about religion Chris Hedges I
know you're working on a project right
now that has to do with the religious
right I can share that the audience can
you talk a little bit about what part of
the religious right what what you
focused on well I want to preface that
by saying that I grew up in the church
my father was a Presbyterian minister my
mother graduated from seminary and was a
professor I graduated with a Master of
Divinity from Harvard Divinity School
which is the degree you get if you are
going to be a preacher I was not
ordained but I did the academic work so
that's the orientation I come from of
course as you know I spent about two
decades abroad and meant much of that
time in disintegrating States covering
countries where extremist movements one
thinks of for instance the nationalist
movements in the former Yugoslavia
appropriated religion was nothing
religious about slobodan milosevic
but he certainly knew how to manipulate
a language and the iconography of the
Serbian Orthodox Church as well as bring
much of the leadership of the Serbian
Orthodox Church into his campaign of
genocide that was carried out in Bosnia
and of course then later Kosovo so
having spent a lot of time around people
who claim to speak in the name of God
for activities that I felt and I think
knew certainly understood were
antithetical to their own religious
tradition as well as my own coming back
to the United States and listening to
the language of the pat robertson's and
the four wells and the Dobson's
I found deep similarities between their
ideology of hate
and exclusion and bigotry and
self-righteousness and language of
violence the the belief that those who
did not embrace their peculiar brand of
Christianity were agents of Satan they
were the demonic forces this triggered a
great deal frankly of anger within me as
somebody who is a Christian and
certainly informed very deeply by my own
religious tradition that somehow my
struggle and stand before God was
worthless because it didn't conform to
their particular vision I think that
that kind of language is poisonous
dangerous in a civil society because it
creates an exclusive group which
empowers itself at the expense of all
others and I have seen such groups at
work in the Middle East in the Balkans
in Latin America in Asia and and it's
those similarities that frightened me I
think you spoke about patriotism it's
certainly a love of my country and a
love of my religion that has led me to
write a book that is not a history of
the Christian Right but very much an
assault against the Christian right I'm
not willing to give people who preach
hate religious legitimacy even if they
claim to speak on behalf of my religion
I'm the use of up I want to follow up on
that if this idea of the religious right
we have similar parallels in other
religions around the world mobile
religions is it's not it's not supposed
to be right or left it's supposed to be
straight right but you know we have that
strain everywhere that that sort of
fundamentalism if you want to call it
that but I wonder if you talk about why
it is so appealing why is it so popular
why does it why is that straight yeah
people accepting I mean part of what's
happening is religion is still reacting
to modernity modernity the Vatican I
think their definition is is a good one
they defined modernity as the
privatization of religion what Steven
Carter calls God is a hobby you know
it's permitted to tinker with God in
your garage but you know one two if you
bring them out onto Main Street and so
religion because people of faith are
informed by their religion and it's
difficult to divorce it's like it's it's
like telling a black person that you
know you can only be black in private
for you know because identity races is a
very important aspect of identity even
though I don't believe in race because I
think it's it's basically been proven
biologically to be a construct but
appearance of race you know different
forms that we have African Asian these
inform people's identity in a world that
you're given a box you know white
Caucasian Asian Mexican other I always
check other because I don't like to be
categorized in those boxes I'm not from
the Caucasus Mountains and I don't feel
comfortable being defined as a Caucasian
but you know I religion is an identity
and that one of the things is you know
we don't accept racial slurs anymore in
the public space it's it's complete
condemned but religious slurs are still
particularly religions that are not our
own but what drives that do and so I
think you know what what you're seeing
is a reaction still the Muslims are
definitely reacting to modernity because
in the Muslim world as you know I mean
you've been there religion is just you
know there's a call to prayer five times
a day it wakes you up at fudger at dawn
and so religion still deeply informs
people's lives
Arabs even secularized Arabs are
constantly using religious formula in
their language that have have really
disappeared from the English language I
mean we used to use a lot like God speed
it was very common term you know God be
with you goodbye is actually a
contraction of God be with you but
people used to use these God willing was
was used the Spanish say ojala which is
from insha'Allah but you know
insha'Allah God willing and that's what
it's supposed to mean now it means maybe
so so you know there it's still deeply
informed by religion and there's three
religious responses to modernity one is
assimilation another is withdrawal and
and the fourth is confrontation and and
so we're seeing a confrontation going on
now and we're in a period of what you
know as sociologists call enemy where
things of the carpets been pulled out
from under people and and we don't
really have a ground for morals anymore
for for really we're just seeing a lot
of major changes in society and religion
which is often informed by pre-modern
concepts of morality which are still
very important to many religious people
they're having they're really groping
with what's going on so you know some of
it is growing pains because there's
things we need to abandon from the past
but others are genuine conflictual
experience inside but there's a reason
why your brand you know what do you
render the slammd of what you talked
about is appealing to people but also is
Osama bin Laden's random what he talks
about Islam that's very appealing to a
lot of people around the world um then
I'm trying to understand what well add
new to me is it's like a Spartacus
character found it's it's the rebellion
of the slaves and so there's a lot of
people that see that that's what they
see like a Palestinian in in Han Eunice
you know who's grown up all his life and
just uh durably unbelievable conditions
and they feel a lot of resentment so
when somebody strikes back you know it's
it's I think I don't think it's these
people aren't if you know if you
actually personalize the suffering
they're against it
do you know but it's more symbolic and
and that's something that's very easy to
do when things are distant when you
watch them on television you know
there's people that can watch you know a
news thing on Rwanda and
and turn off the television go eat
dinner or they'll eat dinner while
they're watching it you know so this is
the ability for humans just to shut
things off inside and I think that's
what happens to people but I really
believe that Islam is in crisis
the Muslims are in crises and we need I
think a new discourse there's a
discourse that was borrowed largely from
the Marxists and it was Islam a sized
you know and and and and Marxism is is
rooted in my estimation it much of it is
rooted in in resentment and some of that
resentment is is obviously valid but
resentment is not a rung on the
spiritual ladder you are much goober
you're quite passionate about your
dislike if I might call it that above
the religious right of the crib you know
and I'm just curious whether that's
something that you feel is really
obviously feel it's dangerous but what
exactly is the threat that they pose you
talk about language they use inaudible
what is the threat that they pose
I think the religious right you know it
what it's done if you look closely is
appropriated language of evangelical
Christians as well as of course the
language of American patriotism but they
have really changed or they have taken
over the institutions and shunted aside
those people within evangelical
institutions who don't buy into this
concept that they have a right to create
a Christian America you I all urge you
to look at Jimmy Carter's book you know
he does a pretty good job of this Jimmy
Carter himself being an evangelical who
when the Southern Baptist Convention was
taken over by these so-called Christian
Reconstructionist these people who
wanted to organize and
and create a drive for political power
but when when all those evangelicals who
didn't buy into this were ruthlessly
shunted aside and you can go back and
read about the the purges that took
place in the Southern Baptist Convention
in 1980 to see this and and and so what
we're seeing is a kind of
cannibalization I mean I don't come out
of the evangelical tradition I come out
I'm a Presbyterian and come out of the
sort of liberal wing of the Presbyterian
Church but these people are not
evangelicals although they look like
evangelicals and and I think that that
that's important to remember that these
people have to have appropriated these
issues that many people care about these
value issues appropriated the language
and and I think the other the other
important point to remember and I think
you've spoken very eloquently about this
is that we do live with a kind of moral
rot I mean the and sometimes there are
most prescient social critics I think
what they what they offer as a solution
is far worse but they're not always
wrong about understanding the problem
but and I just want to say one other
thing I think that the big draw is that
we have created in modern society all
sorts of forms to destroy the human
community so that these people are very
lonely and very isolated you know the
biggest growth of this movement is in
the exurbs
why because there's no community center
there's no connection with their
neighbor they live in these big empty
houses with palladium windows they get
in these big empty cars they drive to
these big soulless offices and they go
home and and I think as writers like
Karl Popper and Hannah Aaron have
understood well and Aaron calls it
atomization as but it's that that
solitude that loneliness that despair
ultimately that is the the essential
element that creates totalitarian
movements this is a movement that and
you know all you have to do is turn on
the 700 club or TBN or you know they
listen to Benny Han or any of these
people who reach tens of millions of
Americans within their households in a
parallel information
system network by which these people
never have to hear reality base news at
all I listen to the language they use
about us I'm just curious I think there
is no III you know I there is reality
base news and and it's it's you don't
see it much anymore on television but
there is such a thing as going out and
reporting a story and and a belief that
other viewpoints are important that
there isn't you know that that not
everything that you report about has to
conform to a law of history that leads
to Armageddon and you know and and and
and much of much of the attack on the
public school system and the effort to
promote the teaching of creationism and
the attack ultimately on the reality
based news media I mean they hate the
New York Times and I was just in a and
and I'm sure we can all critique the New
York Times but the I was just in a
seminar in Missouri where they were
teaching teachers how to teach
creationism and in the middle of it they
went off on a diatribe against the time
so I'm sure was the only Times reader in
the room but what they were doing was
the same thing they were doing by
creationism they were trying to create
this is a system that believes in magic
it's in superstition and signs and
wonders it's not a reality based system
in all reality based systems Inc like
science for instance you know honest
dispassionate intellectual in course it
inquiry and and and you know news
reporting that is not that doesn't carry
a particular is a threat to them and so
they are trying to destroy those
institutions and and and it is not a
matter of wanting their voices heard
it's a matter of wanting that those
reality based systems to be eradicated
but as some people believe that that
that's what the leading to is kind of
borders on being fascism do you think
this is fascism in some form I think
that I thinking the mentality is a
fascist mentality I think if you take
the
the main pillars of fascist ideology yes
I think that they are America's fascist
and humble use of do you think there are
similar fascist leanings and other
religions in Islam and why they're
definitely you know whenever a person
who is informed by faith irrigates to
themselves the gods voice that that's
the most dangerous type of religion one
of the beauties of Islam that I love is
that any scholar that ever gave a relief
at WA they would always end the fatwa by
saying and God knows best you know in
other words this is the best that I can
do at understanding this issue but I'm
human I'm fallible and and and there's
their God speaks through language for
people that believe in revelation and
language is symbols and symbols are open
to more than one interpretation
literalness tradition in religion
historically is not the majority of
religion it's always very small sects
within religion but unfortunately it is
becoming a much larger movement that it
ever was I mean the Catholics are not
literalist they've never been literalist
the the predominant Muslim tradition
both Shia and Sunni is not literalist
tradition I mean there are things that
are taken literally you know because
language is language and something if it
means something it means something just
like law the law is what it stated but
much of the tradition is open to
multiple interpretations and you know
the rabbi's say if you get three rabbis
you get four opinions that there's a lot
of truth in Islam like that you know
that that you really and Islam is closer
to rabbinical Judaism in that it really
does have a very fluid interpretive
community so but the these people do not
have I mean I was just on a Danish
television program
and they brought up this person and he
said there's no such thing as extremist
Islam or moderate Islam there's only
Islam and you're either Muslim or you're
not in other words you're either
following my definition of Islam or
you're not a Muslim that's what he was
really saying and you know my response
to that was my Islam encompasses his
voice I mean I'm not going to negate
that he's a co-religionist but his Islam
does not encompass me you know he's
drawn a very narrow circle and defined
that as Islam my circle is much broader
and I think religion by its nature if it
is not inclusive it's dangerous and and
and these voices that want to arrogate
for themselves the voice of God and tell
us what God is saying without any
ambiguity I don't believe that because I
I boot you know it's very interesting
that in the Islamic tradition before you
can comment on the Quran you have to
master jihad poetry which is pre-islamic
poetry it's actually a prerequisite
before you can interpret the Quran and
and part of the reason is that poetry
precedes revelation all great revelation
is preceded by by poetry and in fact you
know this is in in the Hindu tradition
in India in the Islam even you know if
you consider Plato or Socrates at least
from some kind of prophetic tradition
which many Muslim scholars did
there is no Socrates without Homer I
mean Homer is you know it's he is the
basis for a Socratic thought and the the
beauty of poets is they're never
melodramatic I mean if you look at Homer
and you know William Blake thought we're
never gonna get rid of war until we
changed the foundational book Western
civilization he thought yet to get rid
of the Iliad
but the Iliad could be read as as a
really anti-war testimony and the thing
about Homer that I love is Homer's a
Greek but he never lets you know whether
he's really on the on the Trojan side of
the Greek side he just he won't he won't
do that he won't fall into that trap
and he presents the nobility of the
Trojans and he presents the nobility of
the Greeks and he presents you know he's
actually I think a little harsher on the
Greeks you know if anything
Menelaus I mean there's people in there
that just don't come out looking very
well whereas Hector you know it looks a
lot better than than the Greek leader so
I think when when you teach poetry and I
really believe that that's what we have
to reintroduce into these curricula I
think poetry is a antidote for for
fascism
I think it's an antidote for fanaticism
I really believe that and I'm and people
who know me know that I really believe
in in in teaching literature and and in
spreading literature great literature
for that reason and one of the things
that I've noted is I've never met you
know any of these people that had an
appreciation of literature and somebody
once said to me you said that the
fanatics never liked poetry and then he
quoted some line of poetry which was
doggerel you know from some fanatic and
and I couldn't give him a lesson on what
doggerel was as opposed to really
worthwhile poetry well and I enjoy
reading doggerel everything I write some
doggerel on the issue of literalism
certainly among you know the Christian
literalists is that they're not actually
literalized they're selectively
literalists having studied the Bible
they clearly pick out what is useful to
them and ignore the rest there are many
things in the Bible for instance they
don't believe they don't believe as many
writers in the Hebrew Scriptures wrote
that we have a big dome over us and God
is looking down on us through little
people's cold stars they there are Pat
there are laws in Leviticus that they
don't want to try and enforce such as if
you curse your parents you shall be
executed you know they they create you
know this whole concept of the rapture
is not in the Bible there are
contradictions all throughout
Gospels in the story of the life of
Christ with some Gospels have Christ
being baptized by John the Baptist and
in Luke John's already in prison I mean
it you can't do it I mean the the
writers of the book of Genesis thought
the earth was flat
how can you talk about teaching
creationism in schools among people who
don't understand that we live on a globe
and so clearly there's actually Tom
Thomas Friedman who writes for the New
York Times
yes he clarified that it's actually flat
but I think that those are all tip offs
that there's something else behind this
agenda right and that it is very much in
our interest as Americans who want to
protect the pluralistic and open society
that we live in that we begin to peel
back that religious veneer and uncover
what it is they're actually seeking I
mean look closely at the way they
actually define basic terms of American
democracy such as Liberty you'll hear
them talk a lot about Liberty and
President Bush often speaks in code to
that but when they define Liberty it's
the liberty of being liberated by Jesus
Christ
it is they've taken traditional concepts
that that everyone that is a kind of
common currency in this room and
distorted those concepts so that they
may use the word but they say one thing
it means one thing to us and another
thing to their believers and and in many
ways the book that I'm writing on the
Christian Right is a kind of literary
criticism of the religious right to give
people another vocabulary and another
language by which they can explain and
understand this movement which i think
is very dangerous to our country
obviously I want to
[Applause]
a couple more you said you were saying
earlier that you know that your concept
of Islam is wider and perhaps more
tolerant there's room for and in
relation to what Chris head is talking
about in Christianity I'm wondering
whether people would say similar things
that he's talking about the religious
right people would say about say the
Wahhabis well we don't understand that
but I'm curious what whether you think
that your concept of Islam enclosed them
and if so how do you steal well it does
in that I can't deny they're there from
my faith I mean their their
understanding is not my understanding of
a lot of the same words we're looking at
the same texts and we're coming to very
different conclusions about those texts
so I can't I'm not going to say they're
not Muslim and I actually have some
friends that are from that tradition the
more educated you get I mean there's
there's something that Imam and Matt
city was one of the great Tunisian Imams
they said that he became so
knowledgeable in Islam he rarely saw any
sin because he would always say oh
that's the even of so-and-so you know
that it just there was he found excuses
for people and the Prophet Muhammad
peace be upon him he said the believer
is somebody who looks for excuses for
others and and the hypocrite is the one
who's always looking for the faults and
and you know there's there's a verse
there's a hadith that says that the
believer will look for 70 excuses before
he'll find fault in a person and I had a
friend who was trying to get in touch
with me for a while and I wasn't getting
back to him and he said he'd left me a
message said I'm at 69
ah good I just wanted you know I think
the point that you made about inclusion
is a really important one that you know
having lived much of my life outside the
United States in other faith communities
I fully understood that virtuous and
righteous people arose in all societies
among all faiths to stand up for the
oppressed for me God you know didn't
give any one people one nation and
exclusive ability to understand the
power of the transcendent and this was
of course you know having lived seven
years in the Middle East you know the
the my close contact with Islam
especially how important it was for
Palestinians struggling for their own
dignity and their own survival and and
and I think that that this issue of
inclusion is key because there there
must be a kind of respect for the
various paths that that cultures and
religions have made to struggle with
that experience of the transcendent and
for me that's the greatest testament to
the reality of God and but what this
hard religious right is doing is
excluding that possibility that for them
they are denying my right to be as a
believer and much of my anger against
them comes from that I don't deny their
right to be I don't deny their right to
worship as they see fit and find meaning
in the paths that they take what angers
me and I think when you spoke about the
church names is that that they dismiss
my struggle and the struggle of all
others including people of others faith
as not only worthless but a force of
darkness and and once we cross that line
it's not a matter of dialogue it's it's
a fight for survival
and this becomes the great paradox of
tolerance because I believe in tolerance
I believe tolerance is a great virtue
but if we tolerate the intolerant
then both tolerance disappears and the
intolerant along with it and tolerance
and you know virtue theory is actually a
mean between intolerance and soft
headedness you know the ability of just
not to because even the Buddhists who
are usually they really get off easy
with the world religions because they're
always kind of seen as the good guys and
and you know and I not you know my
mother actually practices Tibetan
Buddhism so our family get together
interfaith dialogues but but one of the
things that whoo suey I think is his
name he was a Chinese Buddhist teacher
from the 7th century um he said when
enlightened beings tolerate evil and
allow it to spread they are no longer
enlightened beings they're demons and
and the the Buddhist actually do have a
just war theory I mean they believe that
there there are times when it's actually
right to to take up arms monks are not
supposed to do that but but Buddhist
laypeople are actually allowed to do
that so and that and that I got that
from dr. Thomas Cleary who's you know
just a phenomenal Buddhist scholar and a
resident of the Bay Area but you know
unfortunately religion is often used as
a justification for for war and and but
I mean the the the most fundamental
verse about war in the Quran actually
states that it permission is granted to
fight for those who are being aggressed
upon and had it not been granted mosques
synagogue in 'z with
synagogues temples churches and mosques
would be destroyed and so the idea is
really it's the defense of the sacred
that that is something worth defending
and there's a verse in the Quran that
says party to whom at acuña fatahna
fight those who are aggressing on you
until persecution ends you know the idea
of religious persecution which is a lot
of what this country is about was was
about that I mean people look on the the
Puritans as as a really negative group
of people and and there's some negative
things about that but they you know when
they when they came here they were
fleeing a persecution that was going on
in England and it took a little while
but if you look at the founding father I
mean I find it really interesting that
they were so set on this issue this one
single issue and they really wanted a
plurality of face and and if you look at
some of the early documents when they
were when they were discussing the
question during the Continental Congress
of what they're called religious tests
which is where they wanted to test
people to make sure they were
Trinitarians before they could hold
public office but one of the things that
one of the arguments that was made was
if we don't have religious tests it's
it's possible that a Mohammedan or a Jew
could actually become president of the
United States and ayrton who was from
Zizek South Carolina actually said this
recorded I'm missus in our you know
founding documents he said if the the
American people ever chose a Mohammedan
to be President it would be for one of
two reasons the country had become
Mohammedan and or they found him to be
the most upright and acceptable person
for the job and in that case that was
their prerogative so the fact that they
discussed that issue is really
interesting to me and I think it gives
lie to allow the Religious Right who
quote people like Patrick Henry you know
Patrick Henry's I really he was I mean
we just
had his great-great
great-great-great-great granddaughter
was just here a Virginia gray Henry she
stayed at my house one night so and I
and I always kind of chide her on that
you know what a great grandfather you
had cuz give me liberty or give me death
right every American's supposed to know
that not that maybe did mean that type
of Liberty that the fundamentals were
talking about but um Patrick Henry was
after the Revolution you don't hear
about him anymore because he those type
of people are completely marginalized
people like Thomas Paine was too radical
do you know because he was totally anti
religion and Patrick Henry was too
radical because he was too religious you
go to the top and and so I really think
people fail to recognize how weary they
were of that encroachment of religion
and the reason they that a lot of
historians believe john adams lost the
presidency his his second term to
jefferson was because he was too
religious he started these thanksgiving
days where everybody in the country was
supposed to fast and americans didn't
like that you brought up this issue and
that's one of the questions from the
audience i'm going to bring that up when
you were talking chris up there and your
opening remarks we came across sort of
as being completely so anti-war and that
you do not believe this any so the
question really is is there a just war
do you believe in a just war and i know
you've said before in your writings that
you're not a pacifist so can you just
talk a little bit about that idea with
where you come from
i am i just have problems with the term
just war because it appears to give a
moral quality to war i think that there
are wars that are inevitable sitting
around Sarajevo at the height of the
siege with the people in the city and
having a discussion about pacifism would
have you know evoked gales of laughter
you know the fact is you know we knew
that the Serbs were a few hundred yards
away we knew what they've done in the
Drina Valley we knew that if they broke
through those lines at best people would
be displaced and many of them would be
killed and they would lose their homes
that was not a question
so one fully understood that very
natural reaction in the case of Bosnia
for people to pick up a weapon and
defend their families their community
and their city but that didn't save them
from the poisonous effects of war and
and I think that's what I I think that
that part of that mythology of wars
being glorious and and or that you know
the the way this war was sold to us that
it's you know just a big video game that
that disconnect from the reality of war
allows us to fall into morasses
such as the one we've fallen into Iraq I
think we always have to understand what
war is that war when we carry out war
it's always tragic and it always is
corrupting to the soul even if it's done
in what we could quote on Poe call to
Just Cause there I wanted to reinforce
what you'd said about the the Jewish
tradition about blood and because
there's a prophetic hadith that that the
Prophet Muhammad was a lot of said he
actually said that everyone will have
room on the day of judgment except
people that have spilt blood the and
that's actually the first thing
according to some tradition that people
are judged on and there's a very
interesting Imam Shahani who's a
theologian early theologian he in his
section on jihad he mentions a very
intriguing tradition about David that
when he was building the temple every
time he would build he would come back
the next day and the rocks were all they
were back where they started and so he
asked God to explain to him and he said
you're building this on blood
and he said but it was blood that was
shed in your path and he said it was
still blood that was shed and so you
know Imam Xiao Tong Xiao Tong he says
about that he said this is a proof that
shedding blood is never a good thing in
the eyes of God and that even when it's
done and and has some legitimacy like in
self-defense and things like that
something is taken from the the people
that shed blood and that restoration is
part of what religion is is very good at
is trying to restore and renew the
person by you know the rituals that are
done that people do to purify but it's
that process of a tone which I think is
real I think that you know that's why
you find I think the people who can cope
best are those people who after being
forced in that situation where they had
to take life really make an effort after
war to dedicate their lives to
protecting and conserving life and and I
think that I very healthy would you know
Vietnam and I and I'm really troubled
about these young people that are going
to come back from Iraq but we forget one
of the things are blinded out in iron
John was that there have been more
suicides from Vietnam vets than people
then people died in the war 54,000 we've
been more suicides and you know my
brother used to drive a cab in in the
city and and who told me many times he'd
picked these people up at night late at
night at bars and he would drive and
they would weep the whole way back to
their home and tell him about what they
did in Vietnam and there's still people
out there you know 20 percent of our
homeless or Vietnam vets you know I mean
there's there's a whole generation that
we haven't really dealt with very well
and the pain and suffering that goes
with that which is is I was I was
telling
Kail earlier that I met a guy in Memphis
and you know I spent about half hour
with him and you know I just asked him
at the end eval you said you were you in
Vietnam he said yeah a nice
you're in combat he said yeah and it was
just something there was a look in his
in his eyes you know it's I mean there's
there's there's a look that some people
get that just have seen a little bit too
much you know things that they shouldn't
have seen and I I just think that we
fail to really understand how
traumatizing these events are and you
know a lot of these people are going to
need a lot of help from us from the
community you know in reintegrating them
one of the things that happened in
Afghanistan was that after the Russians
you know people forget 1.5 million
Afghan people died - 13 thousand Russian
soldiers I mean it's you know pirate
victory but one of the things that was
done is it is that this you know the CIA
went there and supported this this whole
effort and gave them RPGs and you know
all this weaponry and when it was all
over there was no rebuilding there was
it we just washed our hands this country
washed our hands of that event and left
these people there to their own devices
you know really traumatized people that
just saw an incredible amount of
suffering and and it hardens people I
mean you know I worked in an intensive
care unit and the first time you stick a
person it's very difficult you know but
you just you get inured to it and and
you know inflicting putting that IV I'm
an 18 gauge needle it's always asked for
a 21 gauge needle or something he chose
it those 18 gauge ones hurt um let me
we've got a couple time for a couple
quick questions I want to work these in
you both have you know Chris you've
written from the occupied territories
and and West Bank and Gaza and and you
both have studied this issue quite a bit
is this and it's not a trick question
but it's is this really about religion
is that a big part of that of the
conflict between Israelis and
Palestinians or is it as a lot of people
believe simply a territorial issue I
mean I tend to agree with a massage
it's a real-estate issue and it needs to
be sorted out I personally believe that
the
the Jewish community today living in
Israel most of them are not from the
original occupying generation and I
think that that that needs to be
understood that a lot of these people
were born and raised in that country of
known no other country but that country
and I think it's it's time for people to
yeah it's just such a complex issue and
I don't even you know we can go there I
know dr. bezu hands here as well so I
mean he's certainly a lot more informed
about than me but I I do believe that
religion has obviously some component
because the the Jewish claim is a
religious claim even though a lot of
Jews there I mean I think it's around
you know 60 or 70 percent are considered
secular Jews but the Orthodox Jews don't
even recognize there at least one large
branch of the Orthodox Jewish community
doesn't recognize the state because the
Messiah has to bring about the the
formation so it's a complicated issue
but Christian want to jump in there
you've written about recently about in
about the issue that lies within the
Christians and yeah and and and well
real estate is huge I mean you know
Palestine was a Muslim country from the
7th century until 1948 and most Israelis
have terrible historical amnesia in
confronting that issue the
I think it's an issue about real estate
but it's also an issue of repression for
those of us who have to work in places
like Gaza and watch these people be
stripped of their dignity and humiliated
the notion that you know take a list
drop a list of the restrictions imposed
on South African blacks during the
apartheid regime and draw up a list of
the restrictions imposed on Palestinians
and it's pretty much the same with the
difference being that as far as I know
the South Africans never sent attack
helicopters and f-16s to bomb townships
I think that the American supply
american-supplied and I think that the
what has happened you know when I first
went to Gaza in 1988 Hamas was a
nonentity and what happened is that
people have been reduced to you know
subsistence living at this point would
be kind there's been a kind of African
ization of the Gaza Strip with people
struggling now to live on less than $2 a
day they can't move they don't have you
know potable water often running water
it is just become a desperate desperate
situation and one of the things that
strikes me when I'm in the refugee camps
and and watching the power of Islam is
that everything has broken down in terms
of structure and control but people get
up for the morning prayers five times a
day they don't have jobs they don't have
enough to eat chip we're seeing terrible
malnourished now among Palestinian
children but it is the structure of
Islam in its various forms and it has
various forms in Gaza just as it does
throughout the Muslim world gives a kind
of foundation to the lives of these
people and holds them together and it
just breaks my
are to you know and I think it breaks
the heart of all of us who have spent a
lot of time in the territories because
what what the Israelis did to Gaza they
are now doing to the West Bank this is
really about breaking the back of the
Palestinians in the West Bank and again
reducing them to the same struggle to
survival that we see in Gaza and and and
and where do people finally turn in that
desperation
so is it religious no I mean I think
that that you know the the wars that
I've covered are usually manufactured
Wars they're built out of terrible
repression and terrible injustice and
terrible abuse but of course they often
times especially when people are pushed
to the extremes that's all they have
left to cling to unfortunately they
often cling to very apocalyptic visions
and and that huge religious social and
political center gets swept away I'm
going to leave you guys with one last
quick question that some people have
asked here and I think it's a good way
to end the evening what how would you
what advice do you have what would you
tell people who about fighting these
strains within our own religions and and
how do we speak of how do we affect
anything what what's not looking for
practical advice particularly about how
to think about this maybe well I mean
I've said this many times and I do
believe it um Jonathan Swift said that
we have just enough religion to hate one
another and not enough to love one
another and I really believe that what
we're suffering from in our religious
traditions is a lack of religious
understanding I think when you really
delve deeply into religion you arrive at
very similar centers and primarily you
know the Dhammapada which is that one of
the earliest Buddhist texts said that
hate can never be fought with hate but
it must be fought with love and this is
an eternal truth and there's a prophetic
tradition that says none of you truly
believes until you love for your fellow
man or any woman
what you love for yourself and one of
the things about I spoke about pseudo
speciation and Guantanamo zhing others
that the antidote for that is to
recognize that we are one self we come
from oneself and the Quran says that
your creation was from oneself and your
resurrection will be of one self and to
see oneself in the other you know that
this is a part of me John Donne said no
man is an island but each is a part of
the of the main that we we are united in
a common bond of humanity and there are
demons amongst us and and that is
without a doubt but they're not the norm
you know they're there they're very
unusual people I don't know how they got
that way but they're out there and
they're in their very dark and and
they're difficult I mean they cause for
me a very disturbing resonance you know
just in trying to understand what that
is but I really feel that and teaching
that to our children you know live the
dream I mean this is a school you know
celebrating Martin Luther King and and
and dreaming moral imagination is very
important and teaching our children that
it does not have to be this way every
great movement of social change in human
history came from people imagining
something different than what was and I
think we have to teach our young people
to imagine a world with social
institutions that engender human
flourishing because we we've inherited
social institutions a lot of us don't
even know where they came from but we've
inherited social institutions that have
become very dystopic they're very
dysfunctional and and I really think
that that we as as as as thinking
citizens we're not subjects I mean that
this not yet the this this you know this
country is based on citizenry and
citizenry is a response
ability you know we were answerable to
what goes on you know we really are and
that's why we owe it to our children
I've got five children and I owe it to
my children not to become a cynic not to
become a pessimist I can't do that I
can't do that for their sake and for all
our children's sake because they remind
us of what's right in the world and and
and so I really for our children's sake
we have to help them imagine something
very different than what it is
[Applause]
Chris I wanted to just ask you the same
question but with one observation in a
lot of our writings and and what you
said tonight also you seem to have a
sense of despair and that's one thing
perhaps you can address how do how do we
overcome that I have despair that I got
pretty depressed realize I did too I
write I write a happy book I have
despair because I hear the radical
fringes of my country in my society
speak in hate talk and having covered
conflicts I always know that you first
get people to speak in the language of
hate and violence before you get them to
act carry out acts of hate and violence
that language is not benign and why is
the radical fringe of the Christian
Right fighting hate crimes legislation
because then they know the things they
say about secular humanists and gays and
lesbians and Jews and Muslims and and
nominal Christians can often be defined
as hate talk and I think that that
tolerance as we spoke before is
extremely important but there are
moments and I think we have reached a
moment in our society when those of us
who care about a tolerant society have
to stand up and fight for it and we have
to say that that there are things that
you cannot say you cannot call for the
eradication of people of other faiths or
other lifestyles or other ways of being
you cannot demonize them you can't
dehumanize them which is really of
course what they're doing they're
dehumanizing them and you know there was
a great quote by dr. King you know and
it's probably fitting that we end with
his words he said I can never be who I
ought to be until you are who you ought
to be and you can never be who you ought
to be until I am who I ought to be
[Applause]
thank you so much
[Applause]
you