Oriana Fallaci, RIP, the Pope, and a Sad Age
Rarely has the death of a public intellectual affected me as much as the passing of Oriana Fallaci. I never met her, and only received a brief note once from her accompanying a copy of The Rage and the Pride. The story of her career is well known, but her death, at this pivotal time, was full of paradoxes and yet instruction as well.
Radical Islam is, among other things, a patriarchal movement, embedded particularly in the cult of the Middle-Eastern male, who occupies a privileged position in a society that can be fairly described as one of abject gender apartheid. Islamism is also at war with the religious infidel, not just the atheist—and, in its envy and victimhood, fueled by a renewal of the age-old hatred of the Christian.
But so far, with very few exceptions other than the lion, Christopher Hitchens, the courageous William Shawcross, and a few others, the Left has either been neutral or anti-American in this struggle. And few Christians in positions of influence and respect have publicly defended their faith and the civilization that birthed it.
Candor, after all, can get one killed, exiled, or ostracized—whether a Danish cartoonist, a Dutch filmmaker, a Wall Street Journal reporter, or a British-Indian novelist. So here, ill and in her seventies, returned Ms. Fallaci one last time to take up the hammer and tongs against radical Islam—a diminutive woman of the Left and self-proclaimed atheist who wrote more bravely on behalf of her civilization than have most who are hale, males, conservatives, or Christians.
Her fiery message was as timely as it was caricatured and slandered: Muslims who leave the Middle East to live under the free aegis of the West have a moral duty to support and protect the civilization that has welcomed them, rather than romanticize about what they have forsaken; Christianity is more than a religion, but also a powerful emblem of the force of reason, in that it seeks to spread belief by rational thought as well as faith; and that affluent and leisured Westerners, bargaining away their honor and traditions out of fear and for illusory security, have only emboldened radical Islam that seeks to liquidate them.
I wish she were still alive to scoff at the politically correct, the appeaser, and the triangulator, but alas she is gone, defiant to the last.
And what are we to make of poor Benedict XVI, the scholastic, who, in a disastrous display of public sensitivity, makes the telling point, that Christianity, in its long evolution to the present, has learned to forsake violence, and to defend its faith through appeals to reason—and thus can offer its own experience in the current crisis of Islam. And by quoting from the emperor rhetorician Manuel Paleologus—whose desperate efforts at strengthening the Morea and the Isthmus at Corinth a generation before that awful Tuesday, May 29, 1453 all came to naught—the Pope failed to grasp that under the tenets of radical Islam of the modern age, context means little, intent nothing, learning less than zero. If a sentence, indeed a mere phrase can be taken out of context, twisted, manipulated to show an absence of deference to Islam, furor ensues, death threats follow, assassins load their belts—even as the New York Times or the Guardian issues its sanctimonious apologies in the hope that the crocodile will eat them last.
We learned the now familiar rage with the Danish cartoons, Theo Van Gogh, the false flushed Koran story, the forced change of “Operation Infinite Justice” to “Enduring Freedom”, the constant charges of “Islamaphobia”, and a horde of other false grievances that so shook the West, traumatized in fear of having its skyscrapers, planes, trains, buses, nightclubs, and synagogues blown apart or its oil cut off.
So, yes, we know the asymmetrical rules: a state run-paper in Cairo or the West Bank, a lunatic Iranian mullah, a grand mufti from this or that mosque, can all rail about infidels, “pigs and apes”, in language reminiscent of the Third Reich—and meet with approval in the Middle East and silence in the West. But for a Westerner, a Tony Blair, George Bush, or Pope Benedict to even hint that something has gone terribly wrong with modern Islam, is to endure immediate furor and worse. In short, no modern ideology, no religious sect of the present age demands so much of others, so little of itself.
In matters of the present war, I have given up on most of the neoconservatives, many of whom, following the perceived pulse of the battlefield, have either renounced their decade-long, pre-September11 rants to remove Saddam (despite the 140,000 brave souls still on the field of battle who took them at their word), or turned on the President on grounds that he is not waging the perfect fight and thus is not pursuing the good war. The Paleo-right is as frightening as is the lunatic Left. My old Democratic party is long dead, their jackals trying to tear apart the solitary and stumbling noble stag Joe Liebermann, the old center taken over by the Kerry and Soros billionaires, and the guilt-ridden academic, celebrity and media cadres.
So we really are left with very little in these pivotal times—the will of George Bush, of course, the Old Breed unchanged since Okinawa and the Bulge that still anchors the US military, the courage and skill of a very few brave writers like a Hitchens, Krauthammer, and the tireless and brilliant Mark Steyn, but very, very few others. No, this is an age in which we in the West make smug snuff movies about killing an American President, while the Taliban and the Islamists boast of assassinating the Pope.
So long may you run, Ms. Fallaci, you who by now have learned that, yes, there is a soul, and, yes, yours was indeed saved for eternity if only for its singular courage and honesty alone. And dear Pope: clarify, contextualize, express sorrow over the wrong interpretation of your remarks, but please don’t apologize for the Truth—not now, not ever.