Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

October 27, 2005

More From the “Religion of Peace”: “Israel must be wiped off the map.”

Filed under: — Different River @ 5:04 pm

The new president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, had this to say yesterday:

Ahmadinejad denounced Israel and said a new wave of Palestinian attacks “will wipe this stigma from the face of the Islamic world.” Citing the words of the founder of Iran’s Islamic revolution, the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Ahmadinejad said: “Israel must be wiped off the map.”

Notice that according to Ahmadinejad, the mere existence of Israel is a “stigma [on] the face of the Islamic world.”

The mere existence. It doesn’t matter if Israel intends no harm to anyone, treats the Palestinians like royalty, or gives up land (except maybe all of it — remember, this is what they say after the Gaza evactuation!). It’s mere existence is the problem. And is not a political problem, but a religious problem — a problem “of Islam.”

I’m sure there are many peace-loving people among the world’s 1.3 billion or so Mulsims — but there’s no denying that certain elements of the Islamic leadership make no pretense that they are leading a “religion of peace.”

In Memoriam, Rosa Parks

Filed under: — Different River @ 3:42 pm

Rosa Parks passed away Monday night. She was 92.

“Jane Galt” has some thoughts on the significance of her most famous achievement.

The question is, roughly, since Rosa Parks had the full backing of the NAACP’s lawyers, and knew she would might be a test case, was her action truly courageous? After all, others before her had been arrested for refusing to give up a seat on a bus; why was she different? The previous person arrested was an unemployed unwed single mother and Rosa Parks was a respectable married woman with a respectable job; according to this theory it was not her courage that mattered, but the fact that she her personal characteristics would draw more sympathy and highlight more clearly the injustice of the bus segregation laws. Jane says Mrs. Parks was taking a risk of being arrested and maybe beaten, therefore she was courageous and that’s that. Some of her commenters say that she was deliberately being a test case, so she was just playing her part in a well-orchestrated plan; in effect an actor reading her lines, albeit in a real-life drama.

They may both be right to a degree, but in either case I think the misses the point: The point is, segregation was going to continue until someone did something about it. It was not inevitable that someone would, and it was certainly not inevitable that that someone would be peaceful and nonviolent about it.

It is quite likely that by 1955, even most Southern whites were not all that enthusiastic about there support for segregation (how else could a centuries-old system have collapsed in less than two decades?), but the fact is, in most situations, most people just “go with the flow.” I suspect that in 1955, the white Southerners consisted of a relatively small proportion of extremely ardent supporters of segregation, an even smaller contingent of ardent opponents of segregation, and a vast middle of people who didn’t care all that much, didn’t think about it all that much, but supported segregation by default since, well, it had just always been there and things seemed fine to them, so why change?

This middle had to be moved — and it had to be moved by clear and convincing moral suasion, not by violence that would engender fear of change. The “go with the flow” contingent had to be made to feel uncomfortable supporting segregation by showing them it was clearly and obviously unjust. They would still “go with the flow” — but the flow would change. The alternatives were to keep things as they were, or to attempt violent rebellion which would have entrenched the “go with the flow” crowd in their pro-segregation position.

Rosa Parks — and those like her — provided the moral suasion necessary the “change the flow.” There was no guarantee that without her and others like her that “the flow” was ever going to change.

One of the clear lessons of the history of injustice (and probably the history of everything) is that most people just go with the flow — only a few think about where that flow is going, and fewer still are able to change it. Rosa Parks was one of those few. It doesn’t really matter whether she feared jail, or felt safe with an army of lawyers and activists. Someone had to play that role, and she played it.

For the record: There were other, previous bus boycotts — 1953 in Baton Rouge, and even previously in Montgomery in 1900 — but although those succeeded in desegregating bus systems (only temporarily — until 1920 in Montgomery), the didn’t spark the nationwide attention that Rosa Parks’ 1955-56 boycott did. Much of this was due to the efforts of Edgar D. (“E.D.”) Nixon, the President of the Alabama branch of the NAACP (of which Rosa Parks was the Secretary), who organized the boycott and recruited Martin Luther King, Jr. to be its public face — in part because he though King would be more charismatic. Nixon was so right about King that most people have now completely forgotten about Nixon.

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