- Important: All passwords were reset on 06/15/11. Old passwords will no longer work. Click here to retrieve your password.
- Subscribe to Our Free Dewsletter
We are non-commercial, all volunteer and supported by our readers. Please help sustain the Dew by making a donation.
History Repeats itself in Libya… Sort of
On September 11th, The United States Embassy in Cairo issued a statement condemning the attempts of “misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims.” The statement was in response to growing outrage stemming from an anti-Islamic movie produced in America. The movie was recently translated into Arabic and viewed via the internet throughout the Middle East and other Arabic speaking nations.
Although the statement issued by the U.S. Embassy was intended to assuage the offended and deter potentially violent reactions, attacks on American embassies ensued in both Egypt and Libya. Another attack followed on September 13th in Yemen.
The original statement by the U.S. Embassy met criticism from, among others, Mitt Romney. Romney cited the statement as “akin to an apology,” and felt that the statement did not “defend [American] values,” implying that the President did not support the first amendment freedom of speech exercised by the American film maker.
So let’s say Romney is right. Let’s make the inference Romney wants us to make and say that President Obama’s take on the first amendment is that it is not absolute, that it does not extend to those who offend Muslims. Even if this stretcher (as Mark Twain would call it) were accurate, it wouldn’t be the first time America denounced a foundational value in the face of Muslim opposition.
In America’s infancy, the government faced troubled waters, quite literally. American merchant ships were being attacked off the Barbary Coast by Muslim pirates. In order to establish more peaceful relations with the Islamic North African nations (modern day Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco), the American Congress proposed and unanimously ratified the Treaty of Tripoli in 1797.
The controversial legacy of this treaty lies in Article 11:
As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen,—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.
The American Congress at the time clearly saw a benefit to denouncing America as a fundamentally Christian nation. The benefit was the safety of American sailors and hostages from hostile, state-sponsored Muslim pirates.
Now, if you are of the opinion that the United States was founded on the Christian religion, this section of the treaty can mean one of two things: 1) you are dead wrong, or 2) the United States was simply trying to ease relations between Americans and Muslims by telling an outright lie. I tend to favor option one, but I certainly wouldn’t put it past an American government to lie in a treaty. (By the way, if Congress did blatantly break the ninth commandment in the treaty, it does not help the argument that American government was founded on the Christian religion.)
Whether or not America was “founded on the Christian religion” can be debated, but the fact that it was founded by imperfect Christians who touted the guiding principles and values found in the Christian Bible is an indisputable truth. Still, the statement in Article 11 is clearly an attempt by the American government to distance itself from any American value derived from Christianity.
This brings us full circle to the statement made in Cairo.
In an effort to protect innocent lives, the American Embassy in Cairo distanced itself from a specific value that Americans hold dear: freedom of speech. Did America revoke the freedom of speech from the hateful individuals whose handiwork incited the violence that resulted in the murder of another American? No. Did America apologize for those hateful individuals’ actions? Yes, but only in an effort to safeguard Americans from the consequences of those idiots’ actions.
Ultimately, what has been revealed through Mitt Romney’s commentary regarding the situation in Libya is the unwavering belief many people have in American exceptionalism. But this is not simply a belief that America is exceptional; it is an arrogant worldview that incorrectly assumes that America can do no wrong and that Americans are always right, no matter who is killed as a result of their actions—even other Americans.
Worthy of Comment
Also on the Dew
The French Impressionists attempted a rendering of what they saw, an "impression" yes, but the interesting aspect is best illustrated by Seurat's Pointillism. Interesting because in the late 1800s there was a shift in emphasis among painters of an adventurous nature, what came to be called the "avant-garde," from the "subject" depicted to the "act" of perception. This shift may have grown out of or been influenced by then current scientific theories of how the eye works, but I believe it was based in an emerging self-awareness. The excitement was not about "how" I see but "that" I see. I Read on →
Every human culture, it seems, has had some notion of the sacred, and has placed that notion at the center of its worldview. From this, we can conclude several things: 1) that a sense of the sacred – like other universals, such as language and music – is an inherent part of our humanity; 2) that therefore we can conclude that this sense has served the cause of life of our kind through the eons in which we developed; and 3) that the experience of “the sacred” possesses an important kind of power, that it is not just an inherent part of us b Read on →
One night about three years ago when Jake was five, I was settling him to sleep with a book about Chicken Licken. I hadn’t met her before but Jake knew her well. When we got to the end of the book and he asked for another story, I was too tired to fetch another book, and didn’t want to disturb his sleepy state, so I made up a variation on this theme. We lay with our eyes closed, imagining. Taking the character’s name in vain, we casually began to invent life situations and adventures for Chicken Licken. “Chicken Licken goes to school” Read on →
There were superficial reasons—when he thundered on the political scene at the Democratic Convention in 2004 and then rode on the wave of that thunder to his election in 2008—to compare Barack Obama with Abraham Lincoln. There was the Illinois connection, for instance, and the gifted orator connection, and the “new birth of freedom” connection. Add to these the evident high esteem, even reverence, held by Obama for that towering mentor of his spirit, and it is easy to link the two of them. But what about things deeper than the surface? A sobering intimation arose in me, in the wake of the Read on →