Friday, September 03, 2010

American Taliban

It's the new book by Markos Moulitsas Zuniga of Daily Kos fame. From what I can tell, the thesis of the book is: their tactics and on the issues, our homegrown American Taliban are almost indistinguishable from the Afghan Taliban.


A number of liberal voices have taken issue with Kos' book, arguing that it's an intellectual analog to the odious Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism. I myself haven't read the book and don't plan to read the book; I read my share of polemics during the Bush years, and I'm done with it.

I want to point out this post on the subject from Ta-Nehisi Coates, though. Coates et al. are right: there are substantive differences between the American Right and the Taliban, those differences being pretty much everything the Taliban does that make them our enemies. Even if they reflect similar values, believing that women will be sluts if we allow them birth control is a far cry from believing that women will be sluts if we don't throw acid in their faces. Believing that gays shouldn't be allowed to marry is hardly the same as believing that gays should be executed. And of course, the Christian Right pretty rarely engages in violence in furtherance of its cause.

That being said, though, there is a grain of truth here, and that's where I'm not sure if this book does its greatest service or disservice. I can't help but think that the reason Kos is taken so much flak for this comparison is his decision to use "jihadists" instead of "Islamic fundamentalists." The two are often conflated, but they're different in the same way that (to break my own rule and use an analogy) Christian fundamentalists and abortion clinic bombers are different. Just because there are Christian fundamentalists who bomb abortion clinics, it doesn't mean that Christian fundamentalists as a rule want to bomb clinics or agree with bombing clinics. For all the right wing bluster about "the left" being in bed with Islamists, the group in America with the most in common with Islamic fundamentalists is undeniably Christian fundamentalists.

The difference between our fundies and their fundies is one of degree rather than one of quality. So yes, the Christian Right does not believe gays should be executed, but they do believe that they are undeserving of the full rights of straight people. They may not force their women to wear hijabs or burqas, but they do believe in patriarchy, teaching their daughters that a woman's place is in the home and that the husband is the king of the household. They may not want Sharia law, but they do want more religion in our laws. They share very similar views of "decadent" liberals and atheists. They both approve of the use of torture. They agree that Iraq and Afghanistan are battles in the great clash of Christianity vs. Islam. They both agree that we should go to war over Israel.

Does Kos' book "move the Overton window" allowing for discussion of these similarities in respectable circles, or does it delegitimize any and all comparisons by association in the same way that Dan Rather's false documents rendered any discussion of Bush's special treatment in the Texas Air National Guard verboten? I'd like to see the former, but I fear the latter.

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