Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Beyond territorial and political occupation

Isn't it a beautiful day when I read Pat Buchanan's column from World Net Daily and think to myself, "This man has a point!"? (This occurs more often than one might think, but I needn't remind you that an individual's political stance lies not within the linear left-right spectrum but within a multi-dimensional schema of social, economic, personal, etc. beliefs.)

This time around, I was intrigued by Mr. Buchanan's critique of America's assumed supremacy as a Moral Super Power. He discusses the fallacy of declaring our occupation of Iraq and our War Against Terrorism as an opportunity to spread women's rights to the Muslim world, questioning the real value of the characteristics generally associated with so-called women's liberation. Though I don't agree that pornography, contraception for teens, abortion, or the ban on the Bible in classrooms represents moral failure on the behalf of Americans, I share Pat's sentiment that Americans feel they have an obligation to save the Muslim population from their backwards values, and that occasionally the new imposed values are skewed, if not backwards themselves.

I'm not a moral relativist. I will never say that subjugation of women is acceptable because "that's just what their culture says is acceptable." You'll never catch me donning a burkha in a display of solidarity with American Muslim women. In short, I do not feel compelled to respect the Islamic world's treatment of women in some misguided deference to multiculturalism and ethnic sensitivity.

Similarly, I do not feel compelled to respect the Western world's treatment of women, which, though obviously not nearly as overtly oppressive as Islam, poses its own cultural and legislative restrictions on the female half the population. The thesis of Pat's column, with which I agree, is that America should be more critical its own values before exporting them to Iraq or declaring a moral war against the Islamic faith.

We in this nation do not have gender (or ethnic, or class, or age) equality, nor have we ever, despite the fact that we pretend otherwise. Women's liberation has been commodified into the "right" to be a sexual object; the "right" to choose between raising children at home or raising children while working and being declared a bad mom; the "right" choose from among dozens of toilet bowl cleaners to keep our houses tidy and our husbands happy.

Our tempered brand of neo-imperialism exports both politics and lifestyles. In addition to assigning our half-assed ideals of gender equality across the globe, we send along environmental policy and irresponsible consumerism. Suddenly a nation will realize that eating meat every day is a necessity, that the best kitchen mops are the disposable kind, and that wasting water is an inevitable byproduct of progress.

If in fact our moral vendetta against Muslims in Iraq comes to fruition, we can look forward to the satisfaction of having one more representative democracy on the map and 26 million more people with the new-found freedom to choose between Cingular and Verizon.


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