Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Simple as Black and White

The world, as I see it, is not so simple that things can easily or typically be categorized in black and white dichotomies. There are frequently shades of grey that color various angles of issues that many people, on the surface, have one lone view to which they adhere without fail.

Whether the issue is affirmative action, euthanasia, abortion, political affiliation or a specific politician's efficacy or lack thereof, most of us believe what we believe and (when necessary), if pressed, our views can be expressed in very simple terms. When the topic is one of faith rather than simply of fact, that dedication and stubborn adherence to a belief -- even in the face of overwhelming fact disproving or discounting one's beliefs -- the only "solution," per se, is agreeing to disagree.

Then there are certain topics, like the Holocaust, which somehow manage to cut across religious and political affiliations and receive similar treatment from all but the most extreme among us. To wit, today in Tehran, Iranian President and asshole extraordinaire Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hosted a conference which openly questioned the legitimacy of the Holocaust.

You'll recall Mr. Ahmadinejad is the first world leader who in quite possibly fifty years who openly called for the destruction of another nation. His speech approximately three months ago calling for Israel's destruction was like chalk on the geopolitical chalkboard. Aside from Syria, there was a mass outcry against his comments, decrying his beliefs and his desire for Israel's destruction in tandem with his nation's simultaneous, so-called peaceful nuclear ambitions.

There is mention of this particular conference all over the place; if you haven't seen evidence of this incident, look here or here or here. Essentially, what Ahmadinejad has done is assembled, on an international scale, a collection of scumbags, dickheads, morons and bigots, coupled with ignorami, liars and an otherwise collection of despicable human beings who have more in common with fecal matter you might step in than world leaders or emissaries of anything remotely resembling intelligence or respectability. To quote the first above-linked piece penned by author Anne Applebaum, "The guest list was selective: No one with any academic eminence, or indeed any scholarly credentials, was invited. One Palestinian scholar, Khaled Ksab Mahamid, was asked to come but was then barred because he holds an Israeli passport—and also perhaps because he, unlike other guests, believes that the Holocaust really did happen."

This was not an assembly of free speech, thinkers or some unbiased group of people looking to unearth truth. This was a bunch of assholes assembled by the supreme asshole; participants of this "conference" included David Duke, a former KKK leader, and a dozen or so other denizens of bigotry. Among the invitees were also ultra-orthodox, anti-Israel Jews (is there anything more hypocritical or ridiculous than Jews against Israel, aside perhaps from Jews for Jesus?), French and German Holocaust deniers, and an assortment of supporters of groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and other groups whose military strategy include bombing hospitals, schools and places where civilians congregate. In other words, these are people -- collectively speaking -- who possess extremely unpopular, ridiculous, biased, repulsive thoughts -- and who are so unwilling to tolerate the existence of anything that differs from theirs that they are willing -- happily -- to take up arms against those who disagree with them.

Each time I hear David Duke's name, my first response is "he's a joke." Similarly with Ahmadinejad. Unfortunately, at least with respect to anti-semitism as it exists in the international forum, one cannot simply dismiss kooks, imbeciles and jerks. These are not people on the fringes of their respective societies; these are people who proudly proclaim their hatred, ignorance and beliefs in a public setting. It was easy to dismiss Hitler's Nazis before the Beer Hall Putsch semi-legitimized the repulsive, grotesque re-working of German nationalism and government, just as it is to ignore the hordes of neo-Nazis that prowl lower-class neighborhoods throughout Germany, parts of France and pockets of the Europe we don't see on the Travel Channel or in tour books.

The point is that as much as this conference, and its participants, are clearly disturbed, hateful human beings, the fact is that one of the inmates -- namely, Ahmadinejad -- have control of the asylum. For now, and until Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons, Ahmadinejad is merely a punch line; however, our failure to take another major player in world politics -- Hitler in the distant past, bin Laden in the recent past -- has similarly produced disastrous results. Dismissing an imbecile whose views contradict yours at work, in a social/party setting or on an Internet forum is one thing; doing so when said imbecile is at the helm of a nation that historically is known for radical, zealous, dangerous behavior is another.

And inasmuch as David Duke, upon his eventual return to the US, will continue to be known as a fraud of epic proportion, the fact that this "conference" took place reminds us that ignoring something like what took place today is a good way to insure it continues. The concept of "out of sight, out of mind" is the antithesis of international responsibility. Whether you want to cite the Marshall Plan or Kennedy's policy of containment, the bottom line is that ignoring this type of activity -- outrageous, inflammatory, repulsive and public -- is the best way to allow it to grow and expand and gain legitimacy.

One day, I hope the only mention of Ahmadinejad is his obituary in a bombing campaign instituted by Israel and several other nations, including the US, Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom. For the short term, however, I am hopeful that the next mention of Ahmadinejad is not in the context of this ridiculous "conference" but instead his response to Israel's destruction of his nation's "peaceful" nuclear program.

It's easy to dismiss stupidity, hate and finger-pointing. It isn't, however, when that malicious intent is coupled with the capability of killing a number of people on a mass scale. There's no "ignore" button in real life; Internet bullies and soap-box conspiracy theorists are easily quieted. In the real world, however, pretending something or someone will just go away or disappear is not only ineffective and unrealistic, it's dangerous and can, and could very well, have disastrous results.

When will we learn?

Let's hope we already have.

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