Blind History

BLIND HISTORY….So, the pope includes some remarks about Islam and violence in a recent speech, and what happens? The Muslim world goes nuts. Benedict’s remarks may have been needlessly insulting, but the vicious and theatrical displays of violence from all over the Muslim world have nonetheless been completely disgraceful.

Charles Krauthammer makes this point today in his usual restrained fashion, and for once I wouldn’t really blame him, polemics and all, if it weren’t for one thing. In the middle of an acknowledgment that all religions have considerable violence in their pasts, this assertion pops out of nowhere:

However, the inconvenient truth is that after centuries of religious wars, Christendom long ago gave it up.

It’s this kind of blithe, self-congratulatory nonsense that makes me wonder where the “clash of civilizations” crowd parks their brains. Cleverly, Krauthammer restricts himself here to “religious wars,” and it’s true that Christendom hasn’t had a genuine religious war in quite a while. But Christendom sure as hell hasn’t given up on war ? not among ourselves, and not against others. Just to name a few, and just to stay within the past few decades, we have Iraq, Kosovo, Bosnia, Nicaragua, Northern Ireland, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Algeria, Cuba, Malaysia, Suez, Iraq again, Greece, and Germany. And it would be easy to add a dozen more if I felt like it.

There’s no excuse for the barbaric reaction to the pope’s speech that’s come from some corners of the Islamic world. But neither is there any excuse for Westerners to pretend that we’ve spent the last century cultivating peace and lovingkindness among our enlightened selves. It’s a stupid distortion of reality and accomplishes nothing except to convince the rest of the world that we’re blind to our own history and our own actions.