The American Thinker

Friday, November 17, 2006
The American Thinker: "When her small town library expanded to Sunday hours librarian Connie Rehm refused to work on her Sabbath and was therefore fired from her long time job, a job she loved. And so this mild mannered librarian sued. And won. Thereby striking a blow for religious freedom for many. Bravo to those little lady librarians who aren’t always so quiet as they strike their blows for freedom one by one. "


I look forward to their defense of the hijab and the Muslim taxi drivers in Minneapolis.

22 comments:

chuck said...

Savannah, MO

Population ~5,000, monthly full time city payroll ~$48,000. Small town indeed. Why didn't they just hire a highschool student or part-timer for Sunday? That's what most towns would do. The library is a branch library, so management may not be local. I suspect we aren't getting the full story here.

Seneca the Younger said...

Do we ever?

On the other hand, as one of the Differently Religioned, I'm more aware than most I think of the common presumption that strict Christianity is perfectly normal and admirable, while strict Something-else-ism is weird and a threat to society.

This goes back at least to when I was thrown out of the Civil Air Patrol squadron I was in for being Not A Christian in about 1972.

So I don't know the whole story --- but I've read enough on AT to question the degree to which they see this as a religious freedom issue.

Knucklehead said...

Like Chuck I imagine there is more to this story.

But let's have a look at the "religious freedom" thing from a "reasonable accomodation" angle. It wouldn't seem, at least on the surface, all that bloody difficult for an emloyer such as the library to find workers willing to work on Sunday. And it was the job that changed. Apparently there was no need to work on Sunday's when the woman took the job.

To me it seems something awful close to a "reasonable accomodation" to allow this employee to not work on Sundays. People expecting to use the public library on Sunday are not in any way inconvenienced by having this librarian unavailable. They can still use the books and other facilities.

If we look at the tazi drivers issue I don't see meeting there demand to be a "reasonable accomodation". Taxi service is typically a licensed and regulated form of public transportation. When you exit an airport needing taxi service you follow the signs to where the taxi queues are located and you climb into the queue while the cabs service the queue. Carrying legally obtained alcohol should not preclude one from using the licensed and regulated transport service.

What about the hijab or whatever? This is a horse of a pretty darned different color. For most of the conduct of daily life visual confirmation of identity is not a big deal. Nobody needs to see who you are to sell you groceries or tranport you in their taxi. Some aspects of normal life, however, do require - at least customarily - visual confirmation of identity. Getting on a plane, renting a car, traffic stops, taking the SAT's, buying booze, etc.

I can see where circumstance can demand the removal of the hijab legally required. I can't imagine how refusing to allow it to be worn at all could be made to stick.

truepeers said...

Seneca, what exactly is this "religious freedom" you affirm? To take the point to its absurd extreme, if I'm a Mexican-American and I want to reclaim the religion of my Aztec ancestors and perform human sacrifice on top of pyramids, presumably you would object. Obviously it's a question of what my religion asks of other people. And I, for one, do not like to be asked to interact with, and treat as my equals, people who think they need to veil themselves from me.

We have to get at the relationship between a political constitution and assumptions about rights and responsibilities therein, and whatever religious freedoms are consonant with this constitution. Inevitably, the nature of this constitutional-religion relationship will be marked by and in some ways "favor" the original agreement or compromise between the dominant religion and the state at the founding of the constitution, which is not to excuse what happened to you in 1972. But if you took "religious freedom" to certain extremes you would start to undermine the constitution and the kind of society founded on it, and no one should have the right to do that.

truepeers said...

Besides, what are we to do with the claim that the hijab is as much a political as a religious symbol? It cannot be entirely clear to me or to anyone to what degree my opposition to hijab-as-veil is a reaction to either or both a political or religious symbol. The problem, again, is that religion and politics cannot be entirely separated (though, thankfully, they have been to a considerable extent in the Judeo-Christian-secular West), because inevitably religious and political scenes are mutually constitutive and re-inforcing.

Seneca the Younger said...

And I, for one, do not like to be asked to interact with, and treat as my equals, people who think they need to veil themselves from me.

Tru, to be blunt, too bad. Tell me a compelling reason other than you don't like it, and I might be more willing to listen, but as I say, I'm made aware on a very frequent basis that the presumption is that Christian observances are "normal" and non-Christian observances are not. In this case, I think I probably agree with Knuck that I think it probably fits as a "reasonable accommodation", and I might well agree that having "liquor" and "non-liquor" taxis isn't.

But then, I grew up in a part of Colorado that had a small group of very conservative Mennonites --- conservative enough that they insist that women should have their hair covered and show no skin beyond wrist and ankle. There was continuing struggle about these girls in phys ed classes, because they felt the gym uniform was immodest. That's the same issue with hijab. If you don't feel that a muslim woman should have the right to dress "modestly", how do you justify making an accommodation for the Mennonites?

I just wonder if AT would be as pleased by a Jew who didn't want to handle pork, or a Buddhist who didn't want their kids pressed to pray to Jesus.

Knucklehead said...

TP,

it's a question of what my "religion" asks of other people

I didn't include "obviously" and scare quoted "religion" because those little tidbits seems beyond the comprehension of many, many people.

A huge portion of people do not recognize that their "freedoms" demand that they make no requests, demands, or tithing of anyone else. Nobody. Worship Gaia, Mohammed, Allah, Ram, Babs, whomever - make yourself happy but keep your hands off my head and outta my pockets.

The last bit is "religion". I really don't want to hear from morons how much they hate "religion" and only "idiots" can be "religious" and then listen to them blather dogma about nonsense. I just don't.

I'd rather listen to real, honest to god, religious people any day than to hear a single syllable out of the loon quasi-religious.

My apolgies to My Fellow Yargbians but it's been a very long coupla weeks and I am particularly fed up with that half of the human population that is below mean intelligence.

CF said...

My recollection is that the law requires "reasonable accommodation" to all religious beliefs, and as others have noted hiring a part time Sunday worker seems to fit that definition, Seneca.

truepeers said...

Tru, to be blunt, too bad. Tell me a compelling reason other than you don't like it, and I might be more willing to listen

I don't care how much of her body someone covers (though nudity is usually inappropriate and rightly illegal in most public places) except for the face. I see face to face interaction as something fundamental to a society in which we say that everyone is equal, not only in rights, but also in responsibilities to engage her fellow citizens with respect when they meet in public to perform the various exchanges that make our society work.

For me, the individual face is sacred, and not private. It is a sacred public good that everyone has some right to share in when a person is in public. No one has an absolute right to privacy (there can be no such right in the sense that its limits can only be publicly determined). I take hiding the face from others as a sign of disrespect because it implies some fear of others or a limit to what one can expect by way of free and open exchange. Stay at home, if you want; but when you come out in public to engage in exchange, you make some demands of us, and I or we have to make some demands of you.

All human society is founded on exchange and the way it is done is not some whim or preference but goes to the core of mutual respect. I imagine some aspects of respect, of good conduct, of esthetic norms, are beyond rational explanation; but that is no reason not to try and fit in to what is deemed acceptable; and total covering or total nudity is not generally considered acceptable and are seen, however rationally or not, to endanger our moral imperative to maximize exchange.

There is also the issue of women's rights and how much pressure is put on women to wear the veil (or to perform cliterodectomies, and other matters over which we might wish to deny a religious right) but I will leave that aside for now.

A more important point, to repeat my previous comment, is that the hijab is not simply a religious symbol but a political one. Generally, we have to permit freedom of speech and political expression, but there are limits. For example, in the 1930s here in Vancouver the Ku Klux Klan came to town and started an active recruiting and political campaign, playing on the economic crisis and wide social discontents to promote their various hate messages and to promote fear of their supposed power. The city council passed a bylaw making it illegal to go in public wearing a hood. Reasonable? I think our answer should depend on the times. We cannot usefully consider such a ban in the abstract. Often, such a bylaw would appear arbitrary and indefensible; but in certain tense social situations, where something critical is at stake, it is not simply right but inevitable that a democratic and constitutional state will lay down some markers to make clear what is and is not politically acceptable by way of movements that would make radical changes in society.

I don't think anyone, not even a majority of voters, has a fundamental right to promote or perform signs in a way that advocates or entails fundamental constitutional or social changes. They can try and do it if they like, and if they are no unbearable threat most of the time no one will try to stop them. But in certain crisis situations, a democatic and constitutional state has a right to protect itself from revolution as it sees fit.

I don't think we are in a crisis situation yet in Canada. But I certainly understand why the Dutch parliament wants to ban the Islamic veil in public. The fact is there is some kind of war ongoing in the world. Some part - how large I don't pretend to know - of the Islamic world is at war with Western civilization. The West has a reponsibility to responsibly defend itself. The veil is a symbol, not only or largely of religious import (as the J-C West distinguishes religion from politics) as many Muslim scholars have said and historical research also suggests - not every Muslim considers it necessary or even good. It is more obviously a symbol of a totalitarian political-religious movement that is at war with the West.

Now, I'm not saying every girl who throws on a veil is a fully committed political warrior. Nonetheless, it is reasonable to see the veil as a symbol suggesting a major, global, culture war. And when there are people in one's society actively calling for some kind of revolutionary change (whether by violence or by mere conversion or demographic change) it is going to cause all kinds of tensions and hatreds. There cannot be any hard and fast constitutional right to promote any symbol one wants if the effect of this promotion can be reasonably deemed to threaten the constitution. Reasonable here is inevitably something of an arbitrary call: the moment, the place and time, when a state or society says no, we cannot have that because it is simply too offensive (crosses a line of what is minimally demanded of everyone in the name of respect for our system of exchange in which we assert and demand the sacrality of every individual) or too threatening to our constituted order. Every society has a right to enforce some minimal standards of conduct and dress on its members. Some degree of assimilation to norms is required everywhere because no society can work if everyone just does whatever the hell they want. There are two sides to "reasonable accomodation" and there cannot be a science to spell them out with any precision. It is a judgment call to some degree.

Seneca the Younger said...

For me, the individual face is sacred, and not private.

Exactly. For you. For you, "the individual face is sacred, and not private." For some Moslems, the individual face is sacred, and private.

I happen to have a copy of the Constitution right at hand, and I can't find a single entry in the Bill of Rights that says "Congress shall make no law ... except when Trupeers asserts his desires are sacred."hlvwa

Seneca the Younger said...

Clarice, I may not have been completely cledar --- I've got the 'flu and it's one of those flus that reduces the IQ by 50 points. I actually agree that finding a part-time Sunday worker is a reasonable accommodation, just as I wouldn't ask an observant Jew to work during Shabbos.

I personally wouldn't probably expect taxi drivers to be able to say they won't carry alcohol, just as I wouldn't expect an observant Jew to be able to force the KFC in which they work to observe kasruth (get another job, utter changes in the basic business aren't a "reasonable accommodation".)

And I'd figure that a Muslim woman who observes the strict version of hijab should be expected to reveal her face when it's required to confirm her identity --- just as it's done in Saudi Arabia.

I just have this running suspicion, which I think Trupeers has made a lovely example, that "freedom of religion" often means "freedom to practice my religion my way, and freedom to practice your religion my way."

CF said...

Fair enough, Seneca. The laws respecting public transport--i.e. taxi licenses--recognize that as a public service they may not refuse to transport people or their belongings for such a reason.
I have a more complex feeling about hijabs and blamed Cheri Blair during the last election for represnting on ( a winning) appeal a schoolgirl who fought a rule against her wearing one in class. The reality is many of these girls are not wearing them out of choice and they are being forced to wear them to preclude assimilation into the larger culture. I think schools should have the reasonable right to set dress standards and to exclude the hijab.

The burqas now banned in Holland are another issue--they actually are worse because they preclude making an identification of the person and have been used by robbers to disguise themselves and by terrorists to escape the authorities.

And, naturally, I regard them as yet another tool to oppress and marginalize women. They are not, aftr all,a religious requirement, but merely a cultural tradition--one which if adhered to fervently enough would warrant never leaving one's home country.

truepeers said...

I just have this running suspicion, which I think Trupeers has made a lovely example, that "freedom of religion" often means "freedom to practice my religion my way, and freedom to practice your religion my way."

-actually you are not even trying to respond to my argument with anything but neatly dissected and decontextualized quotations. I have gone out of my way in these comments to raise the question of how we must deal with the inter-relationahip of the religious and the political, and I have noted that much of Islam simply does not distinguish the religious and political in the ways *WE* do. Yes, Seneca, there is a universal, all-inclusive, WE in any constitutional society, in the sense that any and all social diversity is necessarily dependent on some more fundamental political unity. Forget that and civil war will shortly be around the corner.

(One might also discuss other, yet more fundmental forms, of human unity: In the most fundamental anthropological terms: the differences among religions and languages are less important than the fact that all humans share in the singularity of what the French call "langue" (the universal structure of language - or religion) as distinct from "parole" - particular forms of speech (or religion). Logically, as it must have been historically, what we all share must precede the diversity we have built on it.)

The only thing you seem to be able to do with my arguments is to fit them into a victimary paradigm. In your eyes, I am the voice of the oppressive mainstream, from whom you must have your rights. The very idea that the system of which I am a part is not merely oppressive to minorities but is the very creative, open-ended, guarantee that they can live here with rights and not with daily violence seems foreign to you. The very idea that "reasonable accomodation" is a two-way street, that there are not simply groups of minority victims to whom all accomodation is owed, but rather a debt owed by minorities to the dominant norms (because it precisely these norms on which their freedom to be here, with us, depends) is seemingly foreign to you. It shouldn't be, however, because it is necessary for any functioning society. This is the claim I would like you to address.

Exactly. For you. For you, "the individual face is sacred, and not private." For some Moslems, the individual face is sacred, and private.

-No Seneca, not just for little old me (or even for most Muslims, I dare say), for the large majority of people who everyday make Western society work. The most fundamental form of the sacred in our society today is the sacredness that is accorded every individual as a free agent in a network of public exchange. This sacredness is not simply a right, but also entails responsibilities to accomodate others in this network.

Now, if it so happens that there come among us people with a different and seemingly incompatible form of the sacred, what do we do? Can the conflict be mediated on the terrain of "rights"? You seem to think so but offer no arguments why this is so. Historically, when two fundamentally incompatible forms of the sacred have met, the outcome has often been war.

You seem to believe in some meta-discourse or symbolism that can oversee the interaction among different forms of the sacred within a single society. I haven't the foggiest idea how this could work, other than if that "meta-discourse" asserted its own form of sacrality to which *all* must pay their respects. I am arguing that our according sacredness to the individual as both a private and public person with responsibilities and rights is just this meta-discourse, this dominant or pre-eminent form of the sacred - its superiority proven historically by the freedom it generates, a freedom that, again, does not come without responsibilities to respect others. You want me to respect the Muslim right to wear a veil, but you say nothing about what I may expect in terms of respect from the Muslims with whom I must do business (I cannot refuse public or commercial interaction with them, according to human rights law). Do I, and the many others who feel like me, have nothing to expect but claims that we victimize the other? Do you seriously expect that to be taken as a tenable long-term social dispensation when Islam is, when their numbers encourage it, so often an aggressive, expansionary force?

One or another pre-eminent form of the sacred will either be respected by all, or, if there is a significant group that fights against it we can only have the promise in the future of war or social disintegration. "Bring the Balkans home" could be your motto, unless you can show and convince that the Islamic veil is not a threat, as so many clearly believe, to our fundamental and universal forms of sacrality.

You may carry a grudge, rightly or wrongly, against some CHristian mainsteam. But the historical fact remains that the society in which you live, and the rights it grants you, are in large part the product of a secularization of Judeo-Christian culture. That's to say your secular political and constitutional culture has a relationship to some more primitive religious compact. You might not like it, but that's the way it has to be. No political space can anywhere exist without a relationship to some more primitive or fundamental religious compact. Obviously that's not to say that you have to be Jewish or Christian to practice religion in today's secularized form of Judeo-Christian culture (precisely because this culture has separated church and state). But there simply is no such thing as a society that does not rely on some pre-eminent form of the sacred.

You cannot thus expect some fundamental neutrality. It's not reality, it's the fantasy of those who think history can forever unfold as a story of redeeming victims of the "mainstream". Kill respect for :the mainstream", however, and future generations will hate you for the violent Balkanization it brings. There's not a "third way".

Seneca the Younger said...

But then what about the wigs, hats, and earlocks of the Hasids? I'd bet that a Hasidic married woman who took off her wig would be unlikely to be recognized, at the very least by acquaintances. Our common legal restriction against women exposing their breasts doesn't have any religious basis particularly, it's just a custom. Actually, do any of the common "indecent exposure" rules have any basis other than custom? They're not shared uniformly, even among Europeans --- just go to a French beach or a German sauna. All I can think of offhand is the business about Noah's sons "uncovering their father's nakedness" but it's been 40 years since I was last in Sunday school.

truepeers said...

For some Moslems, the individual face is sacred, and private.

-I'd like to see an argument how, in the Islamic world, women have any rights to privacy. It seems rather, that they simply are denied a right to be in public. When we see Moslem women in the west demanding to articulate their public right by way of wearing a veil, they seem to be confounding two very different traditions in a way that is anything but stable or coherent.

Seneca the Younger said...

Tru, if I appear to ignore some deep argument, it's because I don't see it as deep. You say "for me, the hijab is not merely a religious symbol, but political." And I repeat: "for you." And further, I've got to ask: so what? Are you now claiming that certain political symbols shouldn't be accepted? We're well on our way to shredding the whole First Amendment --- or reducing it to "say anything you like, and worship any way you like, as long as Trupeers approves." Okay, so maybe it's not just you --- but you're the one making specific points saying that something is, to you, unacceptable. And I just don't recall anything in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights --- or the Declaration of Independence, the works of Thomas Paine (the real one, not the moonbat blogger) --- that says "all of these only apply as long as the majority don't object." In fact the Bill of Rights was pretty specifically included in order to protect the rights and liberties of the minority. Sometimes we don't get it right, but that's where it started and that's been in general the way it's progressed.

Some of this is obviated by the fact that you live in Canada --- something I'd forgotten. As we see regularly, both freedom of speech and the status of the constitution as a fixed social contract are rather different in Canada. Which is fine --- t'ain't my country. As much as I liked living in Toronto and London, I wouldn't emigrate there, in part for that reason.

As far as my having a resentment against some practices of Christians --- goddamn right I do. And hardly from just that one occurrence 35 years ago. Now, I don't get as ambitious about it as the devout atheists do --- merely seeing a cross in a town seal, or a moment of prayer at a football game, aren't important. But I'm aware of it --- maybe I'm primarily trying to make a point that there are some of us out here who don't share your assumptions.

In any case, all of this diverges from the original point: the AT article makes a point that this is a triumph for freedom of religion. I hope so. But freedom of religion isn't just freedom of Christianity.

Seneca the Younger said...

-I'd like to see an argument how, in the Islamic world, women have any rights to privacy. It seems rather, that they simply are denied a right to be in public.

I'd like to see an argument how this isn't just your prejudice. Certainly it's not the way that some defenders of hijab put it.

When we see Moslem women in the west demanding to articulate their public right by way of wearing a veil, they seem to be confounding two very different traditions in a way that is anything but stable or coherent.

An argument that I'm sure was familiar to the Quakers who fled England for Pennsylvania, or the Catholics in Maryland. Or various Lutherans, Catholics, and Calvinists during the 30 Years War.

In any case, who's been selling you "coherence and stability"? You didn't actually give them any money, did you? If so, it's probably too late, but you've been conned. And which coherence and stability? The one that would have made blacks --- and at least theoretically, me --- use different water fountains and bathrooms? That system was stable and coherent for quite a while.

truepeers said...

Tru, if I appear to ignore some deep argument, it's because I don't see it as deep. You say "for me, the hijab is not merely a religious symbol, but political." And I repeat: "for you." And further, I've got to ask: so what? Are you now claiming that certain political symbols shouldn't be accepted?

Well, we can await the opinion of others, but I don't think *this* is a serious argument. It is a refusal to engage certain serious questions i have raised by labelling them stupid. I am willing to consider that you just don't "get" my way of seeing because we live in different intellectual paradigms, founded on difference conceptions of the sacred. I'm sure we do. BUt how is this incompatibility to play out? Don't *you* have an obligation to attempt to lay out some deep argument, laying out terms for why we should and can all get along, instead of choosing civil war?

Well, you've made the very smallest of starts along those lines:
In fact the Bill of Rights was pretty specifically included in order to protect the rights and liberties of the minority. Sometimes we don't get it right, but that's where it started and that's been in general the way it's progressed.

-do you really think the founders conceived of this "minority" as every conceivable minority under the sun, including one some of whose leaders would openly declare their objectives as replacing the very constitution?

-do you really think the founders conceived of minority rights as excluding the needs of any workplace, any marketplace, any political or civic association, to have some framework of basic decorum or rules that apply to all? You are basically saying there is no role for government; but in fact no marketplace, no system of exchange can work without government, without rules.

-as for political symbols being outlawed; as I clearly said in my earlier comment, I think there has to be a wide latitude and openness in this regard (i might like to see CHe tshirts banned but I wouldn't advocate it). However, it is simply unbelievable that you think any society can allow something that is fundamentally disruptive or dangerous to exist within it - and it is not for *you* to determine what is dangerous - there are no a priori rules; it takes common sense and judment and listening to people articulate their sense of conflicts. If you think Americans, with all their constitutianal rights, would have permitted people to go about championing Swastikas and Hirohito worship, 1942-45, you're simply wrong. As I said, it is not a question of abstract rights, but of a judgment call according to place and time. Was the evaccuation of the Japanese-Americans from the west coast necessary to preserve peace and order? Debateable in retropsect but it is not to my mind an obvious case of victimization. Was it necessary that these same Japanese-americans not worship HIrohito openly: undoubtedly.

As we see regularly, both freedom of speech and the status of the constitution as a fixed social contract are rather different in Canada.

-I would agree that there may be marginally less free speech in Canada than the US, but in the current pc climate it is going the wrong way in both countires and who knows where it will end up. As for the constitution, I'd argue Canada's - both the written and unwritten Common Law components, is actually a lot harder to amend or change than the American.

IN any case, the constitution is not a social contract if "social contract" is not a coherent idea, as I would argue (in polite society, an argument, btw, should be addressed as good or weak, not simply rejected because it is *your* argument, not mine - child's play), notwithstanding its place in the history of political theory. SOcial contract theory assumes that the people who sign the contract simply do so out of a rational ability to already (before they sign the contract) foresee what needs to be settled and to incorporate the ability to contract before they contract.

If you dig into it, you may see this is not a very satisfactory explanation of what is involved in founding a constitution. What a constitution actually is is an act of faith shared among people. And the whole point of my arguments here has been to open discussion to a recognition of a need for this shared faith that cannot be reduced to legal terms and rights.

In any case, who's been selling you "coherence and stability"? You didn't actually give them any money, did you?

- well, i agree that sometimes war is preferable to stability, but if you are going to denigrate the need for any social consensus you'd better have a good reason for war. Instead, you simply assume that we can claim the system screws us, endlessly, and you will never have to pay the consequences for this game. IOW the WEst can never be hurt by those little brown people in Burqas. Don't be so sure.

-As for the I want to make you or anyone sit at the back of the bus or drink at another fountain: grow up. It's pretty clear I am arguing quite the opposite. I am not the separatist in this argument. The problem is that you refuse to recognize that while in the past an emphasis on rights was necessary, we now live in a world where everyone is pretty much equal before the law that we are reduced to arguing over minor questions like whether a law against public wearing of a veil is some fundamental injustice. It's not like we're saying you can't participate in public, we're saying public good demands some mininal terms of common conduct.

Maybe it *is* time for a paradigm change, when we give less attention to claims of victimhood and more to what can hold us together, in freedom.

Seneca the Younger said...

It is a refusal to engage certain serious questions i have raised by labelling them stupid.

Not stupid, but senseless. Most of the points you raise that I haven't addressed specifically are ones where you assert some grand principle as true -- eg, "We have to get at the relationship between a political constitution and assumptions about rights and responsibilities therein, and whatever religious freedoms are consonant with this constitution."

Commonly, you combine the with a begging of the question, and an assertion that it's only reasonable to believe as you do.

To which the only reasonable answer, from my point of view, is "who says?"

And frankly, Tru, my vision of "polite society" doesn't include the assertion of the right to make other people wear a scarf only in ways that you find appropriate.

-do you really think the founders conceived of this "minority" as every conceivable minority under the sun, including one some of whose leaders would openly declare their objectives as replacing the very constitution?

Yes. Unequivocally. You might find it useful to reference, for example, the Declaration of Independence, or the works of Thos. Jefferson or Tom Paine. Or the accumulation of Supreme Court decisions that have said exactly that. (See, eg, Eugene Debs.)

Or the fact that you're openly espousing replacing that constitution.

do you really think the founders conceived of minority rights as excluding the needs of any workplace, any marketplace, any political or civic association, to have some framework of basic decorum or rules that apply to all? You are basically saying there is no role for government; but in fact no marketplace, no system of exchange can work without government, without rules.

Wow, I'm sure saying a lot. I thought I was out seeing Casino Royale all evening.

But why don't you read above where I wrote about "reasonable accommodations", and come back when you're arguing with me, instead of something you made up.

Here's a hint: you'll have a lot better chance of making an argument I'll buy when you can explain to me why your demand that a muslim woman expose her face at all times is somehow more legitimate than my hypothetical insistence that women expose their breasts.

However, it is simply unbelievable that you think any society can allow something that is fundamentally disruptive or dangerous to exist within it....

Practice, that's the ticket. Y9ou can easily come to believe it if you just practice a little.

Not only do I believe that, but I'd think it to be the absolute foundation of a society of free people. What's voting, if not something that is fundamentally dangerous and disruptive? Certainly Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez think so.

Was the evacuation of the Japanese-Americans from the west coast necessary to preserve peace and order? Debateable in retropsect but it is not to my mind an obvious case of victimization.

Well, to be blunt, the more fool you, then. I'm assuming you were never well acquainted with anyone who was interned --- interned, not "evacuated", "evacuees" aren't usually kept in place with armed guards and razor wire --- and have managed to inure yourself to the fact that those people lost everything, even Sansei whose families had been here longer than some of the "white" people who put them into the prison camps.

Even native born Americans who went on to fight valiantly for the country that interned their parents and grandparents. Who came back to find that their family farms and businesses were gone, irrecoverably, and that some of those parents and grandparents had died in drafty huts without proper medical care.

I, because I follow a Japanese tradition of Buddhism, and because many of the interned stayed in Colorado after the war, do know some of these people, or knew them.

The temple I sometimes attend has a statue, a shrine really, to Governor Carr, who did his best to help the Japanese internees. He recognized the internment as wrong at the time; the US Congress recognized it as wrong, and both apologized and in some small way compensated the people whose lives were shattered.

If you think that it's still debatable whether that was appropriate, then I think your moral compass needs degaussing.

Was it necessary that these same Japanese-americans not worship HIrohito openly: undoubtedly.

Tru, if you don't actually know what you're talking about, don't make a fool of yourself. State Shinto wasn't Hirohito-worship, any more than Catholicism is Pope-worship. The Mikado has much the same role in Shinto as the Pope does in Catholicism: a high priest, someone who has particular special position and can perform certain specific rituals that no one else can. (Such as the ritual that takes place at the Shrine in Ise.)

Because "kami" gets mistranslated as "god", I can see how you'd get there, but it's none the less simply untrue.

In any case, suggesting that the issue was "Hirohito-worship" is as bigoted and ignorant as the notion that John Kennedy shouldn't be President because he was a Papist.

As for the constitution, I'd argue Canada's - both the written and unwritten Common Law components, is actually a lot harder to amend or change than the American.

But considerably easier to ignore, apparently. As I recall, free speech is part both of the unwritten and written Constitutions --- but there have been many cases in which free speech was clearly abridged anyway.

well, i agree that sometimes war is preferable to stability, but if you are going to denigrate the need for any social consensus you'd better have a good reason for war. Instead, you simply assume that we can claim the system screws us, endlessly, and you will never have to pay the consequences for this game. IOW the WEst can never be hurt by those little brown people in Burqas. Don't be so sure.

You're arguing with yourself again. I didn't denigrate the need for "any social consensus" --- I pointed out that a belief in coherence stability is as foolish as a belief in the Easter Bunny. What you get in a complex system is incoherence and instability --- as we've just seen demonstrated, when the whole apparent direction of the US government has been shifted in a matter of days.

As for the I want to make you or anyone sit at the back of the bus or drink at another fountain: grow up. It's pretty clear I am arguing quite the opposite.

No, it's not. In fact, it's pretty clear you're arguing for exactly that, or something awfully similar --- a right to decide which people are "appropriately" in tune with what you think the common assumptions are --- and that other people should be expected to conform thereto. There are a few, a very few, areas in which I might agree --- the rights to "life, liberty, and property", as that quote from the Alabama Constitution put it. Forbidding someone from doing what they want to with a scarf doesn't fit that. In fact, the whole tenor of your argument appears to me to be essentially authoritarian: it's based on the notion that the few can dictate to the many even down to the degree and manner in which one's face can be covered.

I don't accede that authority. I don't serve you.

The problem is that you refuse to recognize that while in the past an emphasis on rights was necessary, we now live in a world where everyone is pretty much equal before the law that we are reduced to arguing over minor questions like whether a law against public wearing of a veil is some fundamental injustice.

All I can figure is that you're considerably younger than I'd thought, and considerably more naive: see, I remember when a Catholic could get horse-whipped, and a few jew boys murdered, for bringing about a little "instability".

If you think that's not a risk any longer, it's not I who should "grow up."

It's not like we're saying you can't participate in public, we're saying public good demands some mininal terms of common conduct.

Including letting you tell some woman how she's allowed to wear a scarf.

Nowe, since you've made such a point of it, let's just look at some of the things you've said that I didn't think really much deserved an answer:

I don't think anyone, not even a majority of voters, has a fundamental right to promote or perform signs in a way that advocates or entails fundamental constitutional or social changes.

This would be a real surprise to the people who came into the South in the 60's to fight for equal rights for "colored" people. It sure as hell seemed like a big disruption to the people there at the time. I know people to this day --- very old people at this point --- who see something fundamentally wrong in allowing black people and white people to marry.

And remember, as white as I look, I'm not white under the laws that applied at the time. I do take this personally.

The only thing you seem to be able to do with my arguments is to fit them into a victimary paradigm.

No, that's your assumption, not mine. I do recall times when I was a victim of religious prejudice that caused me real harm. That's no more a "victimary paradigm" than it is to note that I had a car accident some years ago that caused me chronic back trouble. I'm not an invalid, it isn't something that shapes my every moment ... but it didn't lessen my interest in the enforcement of traffic laws.

All human society is founded on exchange and the way it is done is not some whim or preference but goes to the core of mutual respect. I imagine some aspects of respect, of good conduct, of esthetic norms, are beyond rational explanation; but that is no reason not to try and fit in to what is deemed acceptable; and total covering or total nudity is not generally considered acceptable and are seen, however rationally or not, to endanger our moral imperative to maximize exchange.

Okay, that one's got so many basically dumb things in it it's hard to know where to start. So let's just start with this: when you claim that it's "beyond rational explanation" why your rules should be followed, you assert a right to determine the rules without my agreement, and to enforce those rules by coercion.

As such, it's an assertion that you'll beat me up if I won't go along. I don't consider that an argument; therefore I didn't bother to answer it.

Nonetheless, it is reasonable to see the veil as a symbol suggesting a major, global, culture war.

Nope, sorry, that's not reasonable at all. All following arguments that you base on this "reasonable" assumption are inherently flawed.

What you mean, in any case, is that because there are a few thousands of people who unquestionably are trying to engage us in a war of cultures, then anyone of the roughly one billion of their co-religionists who you feel is doing something symbolic of that, is therefore a threat.

That's a psychological problem, not an argument. Although I guess it does clarify why you didn't feel the internment of the Japanese was a big issue.

In your eyes, I am the voice of the oppressive mainstream, from whom you must have your rights. The very idea that the system of which I am a part is not merely oppressive to minorities but is the very creative, open-ended, guarantee that they can live here with rights and not with daily violence seems foreign to you. The very idea that "reasonable accomodation" is a two-way street, that there are not simply groups of minority victims to whom all accomodation is owed, but rather a debt owed by minorities to the dominant norms (because it precisely these norms on which their freedom to be here, with us, depends) is seemingly foreign to you. It shouldn't be, however, because it is necessary for any functioning society. This is the claim I would like you to address.

I'd prefer to see you address it: it's your argument, consisting entirely of words you're putting in my mouth. Until you made an issue of it, I didn't think it worthy of comment, since it's a mishmash of question-begging and ad hominem.

I will say, though, that I do indeed increasingly see you as a proponent of an essentially authoritarian, and even totalitarian, world view.

One which I find morally offensive, and to which I am philosophically and personally hostile.

truepeers said...

You've said a lot Seneca that deserves a response. However, the Grey CUp - Canada's Superbowl - kicks off in 90 minutes and a man has to have his priorities. Please check back tomorrow.

I will give you a hint as to my response, however. The reason I say the evaccuation of the Japanese-Americans was a debateable injustice is not because it wasn't cruel, not because people didn't suffer, not because the method, incluidng expropriation of property was unjust - all that is true. But aside from methods used, what were the larger choices? As I read the historical record, the likelihood of racial violence on the west coast was very high after Pearl Harbour (there were also a few spies but that is a smaller issue). Agree or not, many of us think a government's primary duty is to preserve public order and protect lives. The US and Canadian govt's had to do something with a volatile situation. They chose evaccuation. It is readily debateable that this choice was the lesser of two evils.

The lesser of two evils, Seneca, that's what our political choices are about. You can refuse the choice and call those who make it "authoritarian" but this is not to address the question of on what the maximization of freedom in future depends. Take the Israel-Palestine example. You will not doubt that many Palestinians are being victimized by Israeli shelling, checkpoints, etc. Does that make any of it wrong? Not if Israel has the better claim to be the kind of society that is advancing freedom in that region over the long term.

Is telling someone they can't veil their face wrong? Perhaps if you only consider it in the abstract, in a historical vacuum. But maybe some of us are less willing to forget the tension and conflict we see all around us in the name of "complex systems" because we figure a fundamental part of human nature is to build order, which people will do, with or without their gov'ts cooperation. Perhaps in building order on whcih freedom depends there is a choice between the lesser of two evils Maybe I am wrong in my sense of policy, but that expansion of freedom is truly my objective. Please reconsider the authoritarian rhetoric - a free society needs rules, and respect for what has worked in the past. There is a difference to note here.

Seneca the Younger said...

As I read the historical record, the likelihood of racial violence on the west coast was very high after Pearl Harbour (there were also a few spies but that is a smaller issue). Agree or not, many of us think a government's primary duty is to preserve public order and protect lives.

The likelihood of racial violence as an excuse? Might as well save that one: Bull Connor's dogs were being deployed to prevent the possibility of racial violence. The moral response of the government should have been to protect the population to maintain order, not impoverish them, intern them, and kill them.


The lesser of two evils, Seneca, that's what our political choices are about. You can refuse the choice and call those who make it "authoritarian" but this is not to address the question of on what the maximization of freedom in future depends. Take the Israel-Palestine example. You will not doubt that many Palestinians are being victimized by Israeli shelling, checkpoints, etc. Does that make any of it wrong? Not if Israel has the better claim to be the kind of society that is advancing freedom in that region over the long term.


Tru, if you can't restrain yourself from putting words in my mouth, I wish you'd take over my side of the argument --- this is too much work, and you're clearly able to carry on on your own.

truepeers said...

tp: It is a refusal to engage certain serious questions i have raised by labelling them stupid.

sen: Not stupid, but senseless. Most of the points you raise that I haven't addressed specifically are ones where you assert some grand principle as true -- eg, "We have to get at the relationship between a political constitution and assumptions about rights and responsibilities therein, and whatever religious freedoms are consonant with this constitution."

Commonly, you combine the with a begging of the question, and an assertion that it's only reasonable to believe as you do.

To which the only reasonable answer, from my point of view, is "who says?"


I don’t know whether to be more chastened at thought of my senselessness or stupidity-:). Anyway, I don’t think the “who says” question is reasonable. I don’t pretend to be the voice of God; yes, I can appear to take on such a voice because our rhetoric derives, historically, from more sacred forms and both of us, as every one who engages in rhetoric does, attempts to sound authoritative (without being too obvious or desperate about it), most of the time. That’s the game; normally people take it for granted that in our kind of society we argue as if we are individuals appealing to our fellow citizens. To reply, well, that’s just your point of view, or that’s just a senseless idea may reflect your honest opinion, but it’s also a brush-off, not a serious argument or engagement. You are of course free to take on my arguments, to ask for clarification, to give here and take there, or just to brush them off and be judged accordingly as wise or not.

Also, you should take for granted that while I have my preferred arguments, I don’t assume, in some authorative guise, that any argument I might have should take precedence over the free exchange of opinion. If I say “we should limit this supposed right in such and such a way”, it’s not to forget that I defer to the rules by which a free society governs itself.

Yes. Unequivocally. You might find it useful to reference, for example, the Declaration of Independence, or the works of Thos. Jefferson or Tom Paine. Or the accumulation of Supreme Court decisions that have said exactly that. (See, eg, Eugene Debs.)

Well, I’m not sure how you are reading the Declaration of Independence – it is a document that makes a claim for the necessity of war to overthrow a constituted order. Anyone can make such a claim, of course; it’s not to say that those charged with protecting a constitution shouldn’t fight back. I don’t know what your Supreme Court has said, though I am familiar with the famous quotation of Justice Jackson that the constitution is not a suicide pact. That’s how I feel. If your judges or Jefferson or Paine have argued otherwise, I think they’re wrong. If there are good arguments there, by all means bring them to the table. But, to take the famous example, the Nazis were more or less democratically elected. I think they should have been violently resisted - by those Germans in the 1930s who could see what a fantastic and unrealistic ideology they had - in the name of protecting the Weimar Republic.

I note that you have recently posted, seemingly approvingly, on Churchill saying the Bolsheviks should have been violently overthrown – it suggests you recognize a difference between a deadly fantasy ideology and a rational constitutional order, correct me if I’m wrong. My beef with Islamists is that they are promoting a deadly fantasy ideology, which if it ever came to power, replacing the current global market society, would require mass death.

Now the question is whether we should just ignore a deadly fantasy ideology when it only attracts a small following in one’s country and give it freedom to express and reveal itself for what it is. I don’t know exactly what the Debs decision was, but even if the court thought it wise to permit the free expression of socialism, that’s not an argument that socialism shouldn’t have been violently resisted at some point if it proved likely to come to power with a majority of votes. Socialism, as at least a few saw at the time, was a deadly fantasy ideology and anyone with that knowledge should be duty bound to deny its right to take over one’s country.

There is something else to consider. The 20thC. battle between liberalism and socialism was a battle internal to Western society. And if we define Western, as I think we should, as the marriage of Judeo-Christian and Greco-Roman traditions, with the tribal cultures of Europe, we are now at a new point in world history where the fundamental historical struggle is no longer internal to the West, but between Western, Islamic, Indian, and Chinese societies (with other lesser players). It is one thing for a court to recognize certain rights for competing parties in an internal conflict – most people were not aware until after Stalin that socialism was a deadly fantasy ideology. It is quite another to assume that every ideology or religion can have equal standing in the West just because we are the only society that welcomes large numbers of immigrants. If it seems evident to us – after due consideration and free exchange of arguments – that there is an ideology out there that is incompatible with Western freedom and order, it is our duty to deny it an equal place at the table. As I will argue below, there is no freedom without first order and one cannot make a serious argument for freedoms without proving their compatibility with the long-evolved system of significant differences – the system of order - on which any mature society’s existence depends. To do otherwise is simply to make a fetish of a self-destructive freedom.

Or the fact that you're openly espousing replacing that constitution.

-you mean because I question the right to veil oneself in public? this is not a serious argument, as if any constitutional debate weren’t a question of competing visions of rights and goods and what trade-offs need to be made. we often have to choose between two less than ideal choices

tp: do you really think the founders conceived of minority rights as excluding the needs of any workplace, any marketplace, any political or civic association, to have some framework of basic decorum or rules that apply to all? You are basically saying there is no role for government; but in fact no marketplace, no system of exchange can work without government, without rules.

Sen: Wow, I'm sure saying a lot. I thought I was out seeing Casino Royale all evening.

But why don't you read above where I wrote about "reasonable accommodations", and come back when you're arguing with me, instead of something you made up.

Here's a hint: you'll have a lot better chance of making an argument I'll buy when you can explain to me why your demand that a muslim woman expose her face at all times is somehow more legitimate than my hypothetical insistence that women expose their breasts.


-well a statement that begins “do you really think” might be taken as an honest question and the latter statement a response to an assumption about your position. Posing questions and giving hypothetical responses are a standard tool of debate. No one is going to be sure you go along with it unless you say so. Of course I am baiting you to some degree, but that’s the nature of free debate. So, if you don’t like my assumption, well, you might explain why instead of invoking your right to brush me off.

Anyway, I can’t find where you discussed “reasonable accomodoations” so I need the hint, but it’s not much to work with. The question of the *legitimacy* of two demands is a question of how a self-ruling nation operates under the rule of law. For the moment, I am merely offering my own opinion for others to weigh. I have no power. As I said earlier, my opinion is based on a respect for what I believe is widely considered sacred (above all other forms of the sacred) in my kind of society: individuals, freely engaging in face to face interaction (when and where it’s appropriate).

tp: However, it is simply unbelievable that you think any society can allow something that is fundamentally disruptive or dangerous to exist within it....

sen: Practice, that's the ticket. Y9ou can easily come to believe it if you just practice a little.

Not only do I believe that, but I'd think it to be the absolute foundation of a society of free people. What's voting, if not something that is fundamentally dangerous and disruptive? Certainly Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez think so.


Again, it is not a serious or logical response to say that a society doesn’t have to worry about what is fundamentally disruptive or dangerous because it – but here we’ve lost our reference - isn’t dangerous. It is to avoid the question what would you do if something were fundamentally disruptive or dangerous. SO, since your own words are sparse, people will naturally assume for now that you think nothing could ever be so dangerous because Castro and Chavez fear free elections, as if once you have free elections nothing can be dangerous. Aside from the obscure logic here, I don’t know whether you are asking the reader to forget the fact that, historically, nothing lasts forever, and that all forms of order are open to erosion and death. We can only ever defer this eventuality which is generally a good thing to do if we want to live in peaceful times.

Now, following the order of the comments I am responding to here we get to the question of the Japanese-Americans. But I will continue this below in response to your more recent comment. I will only say for now that I appreciate your lesson on Japanese Buddhism, sincerely, but it was given by way of avoiding the question of whether it is realistic that a country at war should or can (and this is really more a pragmatic question) allow people at home to communicate or show respect for the (any) symbols of the enemy. Of course, you can allow any right you want, if you are not concerned with the civil strife it will cost, assuming that the government is all-powerful and always has the resources to put down civil strife. But I believe the reality in WWII was more tragic, at least until some time after Midway.

SO to return to the question, why should freedoms be defended at the cost of civil strife in a time of war? To most people, this would seem a suicidal thing for a society to do, unless it were led by people who were so sure the enemy couldn’t really hurt them, which is kind of how I think today’s liberal-left thinks about Islam. It is disrespectful to one’s enemy – a real enemy I believe, more below - to think this way, and it is always foolish not to respect your enemy. It is better to choose the lesser of two evils and keep the peace at home, even if a minority has to pay the cost. Life or society is tragic, to some degree that is unavoidable.

But considerably easier to ignore, apparently. As I recall, free speech is part both of the unwritten and written Constitutions --- but there have been many cases in which free speech was clearly abridged anyway.

-this is a tough question because the Common Law never conveys an absolute right that cannot be limited by parliament (or by the 11 federal and provincial parliaments that are involved in amending the Canadian constitution). Free speech has been limited at many times in British-Canadian history, usually in times of political turmoil, which is not to say you can’t make a constitutional argument in defense of free speech or a historical argument that the law has, over the long term, become more open to protecting speech. Even Canada’s hate speech law, if you read it, looks like it would be extremely difficult to prosecute under, since there are many defenses allowed. However, even though the law explicitly says you cannot be found guilty of hate speech if you are making an honest appeal to your religious understanding of another religion, a guy in Ontario was so found guilty of communicating his hatred of Islam because the Ontario high court permitted itself a dubious interpretation of the facts and the law, and the Supreme Court wouldn’t hear the defendant’s appeal. This is how pc abridges rights that remain on paper or in Common Law.

While I hate hate speech laws and speech codes, I don’t think I would go as far as saying there can never be any grounds to limit free speech – and here I’m thinking of more than the yelling fire in the theatre rule. In most situations there should be very few limits, but in times of civil insurrection or war with a foreign power, there should be limits, e.g. sedition laws. My argument against the veil depends partly on the fact that we are at war with Islamic fundamentalists in Afghanistan, but more importantly at present, I see my opposition to this kind of “speech” being analogous to limits placed on various forms of behaviour that are deemed disruptive of civic or workplace life. There are all kinds of de facto limits on the performance of religious symbolism in public and work settings. There need not be a specific law banning them, but simply an understanding that such and such a practice need not be accommodated – e.g. Rastas smoking weed at work. NO one complains about the “no shoes, no shirts, no service” signs.

You're arguing with yourself again. I didn't denigrate the need for "any social consensus" --- I pointed out that a belief in coherence stability is as foolish as a belief in the Easter Bunny. What you get in a complex system is incoherence and instability --- as we've just seen demonstrated, when the whole apparent direction of the US government has been shifted in a matter of days.

I’m not sure what you are arguing here. If you are saying that human society is so complex that it necessarily goes beyond coherence, I will tend to disagree. The principle of order in human society is directly linked to what is meaningful in terms of our ability to represent and organize order, as part of our scenic consciousness. Human society is a labor in building an order that is meaningful, transcendent. No doubt there is much going on that I am not aware of at any time, things that the various kinds of social scientists try to count and dubiously link to causal arguments about change (I think historical change is fundamentally a question of our shifting ethical understandings, not of putative forces like the Marxists' “material forces”). But much of this goings on is not meaningful to the question of order. Whatever the various environmental or ecological forces at play, human order only exists as it is represented and organized and these representations are both the source of stability (or of paradigm shifts) and of our coherence or self-understanding. I have no idea what the weather will be like next week, or what will happen in the stock market, or how many people will eat pizza or drink mineral water. All these questions belong to complex systems that are beyond my coherence. But ethics, politics belong to a system I can understand – if not instantly when something changes - because they only exist as representation and organization. There are no doubt a large number of representations that we have to take into account to understand the recent election. But it is not beyond coherence. In time, if not already, the pundits and historians will have some general consensus and some open questions but nothing much at stake in their exchange of competing opinions and representations will be beyond coherence

tp: As for the I want to make you or anyone sit at the back of the bus or drink at another fountain: grow up. It's pretty clear I am arguing quite the opposite.

sen: No, it's not. In fact, it's pretty clear you're arguing for exactly that, or something awfully similar --- a right to decide which people are "appropriately" in tune with what you think the common assumptions are --- and that other people should be expected to conform thereto. There are a few, a very few, areas in which I might agree --- the rights to "life, liberty, and property", as that quote from the Alabama Constitution put it. Forbidding someone from doing what they want to with a scarf doesn't fit that. In fact, the whole tenor of your argument appears to me to be essentially authoritarian: it's based on the notion that the few can dictate to the many even down to the degree and manner in which one's face can be covered.

I don't accede that authority. I don't serve you.


Sorry, I don’t see the argument. If you get on the bus with a blaring ghetto blaster, the bus driver can tell you to turn it off or get off. It’s not at all the same thing as saying you can’t get on the bus, or you can only sit at the back, under any circumstances. What you seem to be asserting is that the veil is an entirely integral and inherent part of a person’s identity. You seem to be assimilating a religious sign to the question of how we treat “ascriptive” identities – race, sex, ethnicity. If I’m black, I’m black and nothing will change that and to be denied service on that basis is outrageous. Religion is quite a different kind of category; it is an ethical choice or inheritance, not an irremovable part of one’s identity (though admittedly, if apostates fear death...). As such it is open to compromises in debates about how we should live together. It’s not a question of the few dictating to the many; it’s a question of around what sacred signs does our society have the greatest consensus. Whatever these are, it’s worth defending them because they’re the most fundamental basis of our social order and to lose them would mean social decay and strife.

tp: The problem is that you refuse to recognize that while in the past an emphasis on rights was necessary, we now live in a world where everyone is pretty much equal before the law that we are reduced to arguing over minor questions like whether a law against public wearing of a veil is some fundamental injustice.

sen: All I can figure is that you're considerably younger than I'd thought, and considerably more naive: see, I remember when a Catholic could get horse-whipped, and a few jew boys murdered, for bringing about a little "instability".

If you think that's not a risk any longer, it's not I who should "grow up."


Here we are almost in agreement. You’re right that social disorder is precisely what we should be worried about – but this is a change of tone for you - without letting our worries deceive us as to the dangers out there. But if you are seriously arguing – of course you’re not, but this would be the implication if you respected the logic of my original statement - that a Catholic or a Jew can expect to be treated, under the law in our societies, as fundamentally a different kind of person from others, you’re wrong. I worry about growing anti-semitism today among our people, but as yet it seems entirely beyond the rule of law and rather a matter of how people behave and associate within the realm of their duly constituted freedoms. Similarly a Muslim can expect to be treated equally under our law. Still, for all religions, people can and should expect there to be limits on how much of their religion they can publicly display or perform. We separate church and state, church and productive economy in all kinds of ways.

PLEASE note, I am not arguing against people showing all kinds of symbols of Islam in their dress. I am only arguing against one – the veil – because of its implications for social interaction and the rights of others in this interaction.

tp:I don't think anyone, not even a majority of voters, has a fundamental right to promote or perform signs in a way that advocates or entails fundamental constitutional or social changes.

This would be a real surprise to the people who came into the South in the 60's to fight for equal rights for "colored" people. It sure as hell seemed like a big disruption to the people there at the time. I know people to this day --- very old people at this point --- who see something fundamentally wrong in allowing black people and white people to marry.

And remember, as white as I look, I'm not white under the laws that applied at the time. I do take this personally.


Well I wasn’t thinking of desegregation or inter-racial marriage when I was making my argument. Now you are putting words into my mouth (which is fair game, to a point). Briefly, to spell out what I would consider the kinds of fundamental changes I would resist in Canada: the separation of church and state, the separation of national identity from any specific monotheism, the sacredness of the individual; the sacredness of free exchange; and so on in a similar vein.

tp: All human society is founded on exchange and the way it is done is not some whim or preference but goes to the core of mutual respect. I imagine some aspects of respect, of good conduct, of esthetic norms, are beyond rational explanation; but that is no reason not to try and fit in to what is deemed acceptable; and total covering or total nudity is not generally considered acceptable and are seen, however rationally or not, to endanger our moral imperative to maximize exchange.

Sen: Okay, that one's got so many basically dumb things in it it's hard to know where to start. So let's just start with this: when you claim that it's "beyond rational explanation" why your rules should be followed, you assert a right to determine the rules without my agreement, and to enforce those rules by coercion.

As such, it's an assertion that you'll beat me up if I won't go along. I don't consider that an argument; therefore I didn't bother to answer it.


-again, you’re putting words in my mouth, particularly dumb ones here. I said some aspects of xyz are beyond rational explanation, which cannot be taken to mean whatever you like – you have to ask what I mean by this if it isn’t evident, not assert that I want to beat you up if you don’t go along with me.

Let me try to explain: when we experience human interaction or human art, there is often something about our experience that is not reducible to a rational explanation. For example, people moved by plays can write about Shakespeare endlessly, but they cannot reduce him to some rational formula. No one can satisfactorily explain what makes a great book a great book. This is because the effect of our human experience is anthropologically more important, i.e. prior, than any meaning we might try to ascribe to it. Human bonding must come before any attempt to give meaning to human bonding. The mystery of any sacred sign is that it must work – to provide a moment of peace to the community, something on which competing desires can be focused and held - before we go about trying to explain why it works. Because human bonding is primary to human meaning, we get into all sorts of difficulties explaining why we should do the things we do. Our whole debate here is illustrative of this in many ways. We will always have to deal with the fact that the need for and incorporation of human order necessarily comes before its justification, which is not to deny a role for the latter. As we fight over justifications we erode existing forms of order and create a need for new ones to emerge – which is why all religions change and must be encouraged to change over time. But as I said previously, just because our representations – or social norms - cannot be entirely rationalized or justified is not reason to show them disrespect. There is necessarily an irrational, ritualistic (blind conformity) aspect to every form of human organization. We are left to argue about what are the least irrational forms of organization. In this light, it is dishonest to argue as if there is some perfect, rational, dispensation that the other guy just doesn’t get because he’s too thick. There isn’t one. We all have to make compromises with the pragmatic need for a not entirely rational order - which is not to say it is incoherent, too complex; it's just somewhat mysterious.

tp: Nonetheless, it is reasonable to see the veil as a symbol suggesting a major, global, culture war.

sen: Nope, sorry, that's not reasonable at all. All following arguments that you base on this "reasonable" assumption are inherently flawed.

What you mean, in any case, is that because there are a few thousands of people who unquestionably are trying to engage us in a war of cultures, then anyone of the roughly one billion of their co-religionists who you feel is doing something symbolic of that, is therefore a threat.

That's a psychological problem, not an argument. Although I guess it does clarify why you didn't feel the internment of the Japanese was a big issue.


-it’s not a few thousand Sen. It’s many millions, though I don’t pretend to know how many. The genocidal hatred (of especially Israel, but also America) is pervasive in much of the Middle East. Apostates like Sultan and Manji and others tell us it is common in Mosques in the West. There is much evidence of funding of Mosques here by radical Wahabi, Saudi interests. Opinion polls in Britain show as much as 40% of the Muslim community are opposed to Western society in rather fundamental ways. The leader of the Canadian Islamic Congress actively promotes anti-Israel and anti-American stances, defending Hezbollah, etc. CAIR does much the same. I could go on and on, but if you are not already connecting to this reality actively discussed in the blogs, I’m not sure what the point would be. IN any case, I am not at all sure how much of Islam we are at war with, but we need to conduct this war in a way to find out how much. If, e.g., making modest request of Muslims in the west to assimilate in certain respects - especially in places where the welfare state allows them to survive without much integration in the productive economy - provokes a hostile response and claims that we are victimizing, given certain fundamental incompatibilities between our understandings of the sacred, then we might well think the situation is anything but a small matter.

tp: As I read the historical record, the likelihood of racial violence on the west coast was very high after Pearl Harbour (there were also a few spies but that is a smaller issue). Agree or not, many of us think a government's primary duty is to preserve public order and protect lives.

sen: The likelihood of racial violence as an excuse? Might as well save that one: Bull Connor's dogs were being deployed to prevent the possibility of racial violence. The moral response of the government should have been to protect the population to maintain order, not impoverish them, intern them, and kill them.


well, you can conflate two different scenes, if you want to disrespect my argument that we can only properly address these questions of necessity by reference to historical particulars, not general rules. What the government should have done and what it could have done in 1942 are two different questions. To argue that the governement could have devoted who knows how many resources (it would have been significant) in a time of national emergency to keep the peace on the West Coast after Pearl Harbour strikes me as unrealistic. THere was a short time when AMerica realistically feared invasion. Reality is often tragic. Ofcourse the evaccuation/internment could have been done differently, but that's not the issue I raised.

tp: You will not doubt that many Palestinians are being victimized by Israeli shelling, checkpoints, etc. Does that make any of it wrong? Not if Israel has the better claim to be the kind of society that is advancing freedom in that region over the long term.

sen: Tru, if you can't restrain yourself from putting words in my mouth, I wish you'd take over my side of the argument --- this is too much work, and you're clearly able to carry on on your own.


LOL. However, I still believe that you, as a decent person, will, however much you think Israel is in the right, or not, in its wars, feel that what happens to individuals in these wars is often tragic and unavoidable once war is engaged.

Well, I think I've given you all I've got; do with it what you will.