Playing the part of The Gad About Town on last night’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” on HBO was Dylan Ratigan, a former anchor and reporter for CNBC and MSNBC who is no longer on television because he tended to say true things correctly with his outdoors voice. The show is aired live, so it was a subdued one because last night’s violence in Paris was still unfolding.
Bill Maher addressed his panel, “When the Charlie Hebdo thing happened, the week after, everybody said ‘Je suis Charlie.’ But not really. They didn’t really stick with them … I’m gonna ask you this question that people asked after 9/11, because I don’t think we really know the answer: Why do they hate us?”
The guests, Dylan Ratigan, Jay Leno, and Michael Steele, looked at one another for a moment and Maher said, “I stumped the panel.” Ratigan stepped up:
RATIGAN: Because we finance the capital flow into Saudi Arabia that then arms the population that has power in Saudi Arabia to oppress the population that does not have power in Saudi Arabia, which then is deprived of basic resources in Saudi Arabia, which is then radicalized inside the Muslim religion and then lashes out irrationally, violently, murderously, against innocent people who did nothing. We need to be accountable in our own government and in our relationship with Saudi Arabia. … We’re financing the oppressor.
MAHER: I think you’re seeing that a little through America-centric eyes. I mean, that certainly is part of it. I don’t know if that’s the main thing on their minds, the financing aspect.
RATIGAN: I’m saying it doesn’t exist without that relationship. We politically—the only thing we can control is our relationship, our accountability, with our government, and our government chooses to fund and be present in Saudi Arabia.
Here is the video of the segment:
I have been writing about Raif Badawi, a Saudi Arabian blogger who was convicted of “insulting” Islam and sentenced to 10 years in jail and a whipping, 1000 lashes with a cane. I have been writing about several prisoners in that country who face beheading for the supposed crime of protest. I have been writing about the coldly impossible illogic that sits at the heart of a theocratic legal system.
I wrote this a few months ago:
Saudi Arabia is a theocracy that has religion, one particular religion over all others, serving as its legal and judicial spine. A major offense in that system is “insulting” that religion.
I do not name the particular religion in my posts about this story because it is not the religion itself that is the issue—Islam is a major faith and it teaches love as each religion teaches love as the highest ideal—the problem comes when a government decides to become a theocracy and then decides that a free-thinking citizen represents a threat to either those holding power or those holding religious power, and that it must squash that freedom of thought. That it must punish thought itself. That it must shed the blood of thinkers.
Every nation that has been a theocracy at any point in its history possesses this bloodshed in its past. Every one. Thus, the specific religion that is at the heart of this particular story is not the issue, nor is religion itself, for that matter. The abuse of and executions of citizens by the state for possessing independent thoughts and for sharing them, that is the issue. As Raif Badawi put it, and I will again quote: “States which are based on religion confine their people in the circle of faith and fear.”
On several occasions, readers have “corrected” me and pointed out that the particular religion ought to be named, that the particular religion ought to be blamed.
No. Fundamentalism is what needs to be named. Fundamentalism is what needs to be confronted. Saudi Arabia is a theocratic nation. ISIL (or ISIS) wants to be one, is fighting a “revolution” to become a nation that will be a theocracy and will oppress. (My country, America, does not have lily-white hands. Oppression is a part of its history. I can wish this was not so, but that is America-centric of me.)
The people who committed mass murder last night in Paris quite possibly thought of themselves as “revolutionaries,” but they were not. They are not. They were the polar opposite. Revolutions are fought for freedom. What freedom is being fought for? The freedom to oppress?
There is no freedom, no greater good, no humanity, in dictating which god to pray to, how to pray, the existence of one god or God, or the nonexistence of God. There is no revolution in killing innocents (some of whom were quite probably Muslim) because their country does not officially pray to the same god.
Murderers are murderers and they always have been, but murder is not an idea. It is not a political statement. It is empty and totalitarian.
The universe is indifferent and entropy is a reality, but alongside entropy, the universe possesses—or was given—creativity. There is no indifference in creativity. Fundamentalism, of whatever stripe—in power or fighting to be in power—pretends to be political, but it is a political declaration of being pro-entropy, which is an untenable stance.
We live in an increasingly neurotic era, globally. America, my home, has spent more than a decade (some would insist the number is more like six decades) attempting to strong-arm the world into agreeing with its own self-regard.
Murder is murder. It is not an idea. It is a vacuum, and vacuums are totalitarian in their lack of purpose. History teaches us that ideas fill the vacuum, the murderous vacuum. Flood the world with more ideas, please. Love is stronger than hate. That’s an idea. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” That’s another one.
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