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Colloquy with a goat

by Greg Swann

A she-goat called Ana McDonald came in from the pasture to bleat in the San Antonio Express-News. Her crooked little thesis is straightforward enough: Since quibbling moral equivalizing about ancient apocrypha is faring so poorly--what with dangerous ideologues actually reading the Koran and studying the history of Islam--inventing more contemporary quibbling moral equivalizations might work better. But no mere craven propagandigoat is Ana McDonald. Not content to pull the wool over the eyes of San Antonians, she knits her yarn with synthetic cashmere: It's not just that antique Westerners were even worse than their Islamic counterparts, but, amazingly, the modern children of Athens can only aspire to be almost--but not quite--as morally worthy as ancient and contemporary Muslims. So cocky a little goat is she that she actually begins her bleating with these precious words: "As unlikely, incredible and totally illogical as it sounds"...

Indeed. It's called leading with your chin. Plus which, she's a girl. Probably wears glasses, too. But I'm going to clobber her anyway.

I will give her the bold-italic text, although I can't believe you'll have trouble telling us apart.

As unlikely, incredible and totally illogical as it sounds, radical Muslim leaders like Osama bin Laden, Yasser Arafat and yes, even Saddam Hussein strive for an ideal that Americans can endorse: social justice.

First, social simply denotes a group, and justice often means whatever the owner of the gored ox says it means. The mafia boss who whacks a snitch is pursuing his idea of social justice. But second, the West and America are devoted to individual justice.

Here is our most cherished democratic standard--equality

Individual liberty.

--yet it predates us by 1,400 years.

You have to fail a very easy math test to get a job as a newspaper columnist. Hellenic culture is twice as old as Islam, not that the age of either proves anything.

Indeed, American democracy owes much to Islamic example.

This is known by a technical term-of-art: Making Things Up. The American republic owes much to Athens, more to Rome, still more to medieval jurists like DeGroot, still more to philosophers like Locke and statesmen like Jefferson. It owes nothing to Islam. The most notorious Islamic republic is Iran. Reciprocally, it owes nothing to Jefferson.

Speaking of an early Islamic concession of power, McDonald says:

Ali's position is strongly aligned with our own belief that political leaders get their power from the community that put them into office--and can take them out.

There is no such alignment, but there is an analogous event in the pre-history of Western democracy: The signing of the magna carta by King John, brother of Richard the Lionheart. In exchange for his conceding power to the armed English nobility, they agreed not to 'take him out'.

Indeed, our entire system of checks and balances is an elaborate manifestation of this ancient display of common sense.

It is not. To say B is similar to A is not to say B evolved from A. Moreover, McDonald is saying that our republic is almost as good as their theocracy.

Ordinary citizens should be able to voice their opinions and concerns.

Surely. Just like Salmon Rushdie. Or Isioma Daniel. Or Kola Boof. Or Khaled Abou el-Fadl. Or Hashem Aghajari.

You see! We're just darn near almost as good as Osama bin Laden, who directed and financed the murders of thousands of innocents. We're approaching the heady moral heights of Yasser Arafat, who daily oversees homicide bombers as they slaughter Israeli civilians dozens at a time. We are within shooting distance, as it were, of Saddam Hussein himself, who but for the grace of his own ineptitude might even now have a nuclear weapon.

Alas, we have a moral defect, one that does not afflict our Islamic moral superiors:

[O]ur wealthy live quite differently than our poor, so Muslims judge us immoral.

One wonders if McDonald understands just how much wealth bin Laden and Arafat and Hussein control. But first, one wonders if McDonald is equipped to understand anything at all.

On the international scene, where entire countries live with disease and famine that we would never tolerate here, the gap is even more vicious.

Another failed understanding: How is it that we would never tolerate disease or famine here? That's the trouble with those starving Zimbabweans: They're too doggone tolerant! But of course McDonald's real argument, one we've heard before a time or two-thousand, is that America is vile because it is not a communist hell-hole like Zimbabwe. Disease and famine aren't the problem. The problem is that free people can escape them by freely producing wealth.

So when radical Islam attacks America, they are trying to attack social injustice.

And you thought it was because they want to compel us to submit to their barbaric religion! But, of course, you also thought McDonald was writing about Islam, when it turns out she's writing about communism, just like everybody else in the newspaper.

In the process, they violate their own value system.

But wait! She still needs Islam, doesn't she? And don't you go hinting around that Mohammed hated Jews. After all, he didn't slaughter the three Jewish tribes of Medina. Not all at the same time, he didn't. So don't go saying that slaughter is a part of the Islamic value system!

When bin Laden and Arafat recruit suicidal men to destroy innocent lives, when Saddam resists the just call for weapons inspections that could avert a nuclear disaster, they have forgotten that a good Islamic leader must be merciful and compassionate.

See! They're good-bad, but they're not evil! Just forgetful, that's all.

By Islamic definitions, they are not good leaders.

Pay no attention to the vast hordes of worshipful, fanatical, suicidal followers. And do your best to fail to recall that Mohammed had the same hordes of insane thugs in his thrall, too.

Now you may think this looks like work, but it's no harder than arguing with any other goat. We've slapped and rapped on ol' McDonald, and snipped and clipped her quite a bit, too; see the original for the full breadth of her vision. But we will leave her peroration unmolested:

A good leader consults with others before making decisions. By submitting ourselves to the wisdom of the international community, America will remain a good leader in the best international tradition.

That is to say: Modern America can never hope to be as good as ancient Islam. Yet America can only be good if it is a communist cesspit. But if it is a communist cesspit, it won't be attacked by modern Islamic gangsters. And they're not really gangsters, anyway, they're just misunderstood. All of which leads to this inarguable conclusion: The United States should kiss the backside of the UN.

Now we all know that in the East--the ancient, power-sharing, socially-just Islam--our little goatlet would be skewered and roasted for daring to speak up at all. But even so we can't blame McDonald for creating this mess. It's what goats do, after all, if you let 'em indoors. But the person who edited her column, the person who desecrated paper and ink and a high-speed press to spread this goat dung--that creature should be put out to pasture.

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