Sunday, September 16, 2001

Holy war

See no evil

        “We are engaged in a monumental struggle of good against evil,” President Bush said as columns of smoke were still lifting thousands of lost souls to the heavens.

        It doesn't get any clearer than that. Good vs. evil.

        Our enemies agree.

        “They believe we are evil,” said former NSC official Daniel Benjamin on PBS. “They are revolted by American culture.”

        He was explaining that the worldview of fundamentalist Islamics is pretty much unexplainable. They see this battle not just as a struggle to evict the great Satan United States and the infidel Israel from their holy land — they also see beyond to a much larger spiritual battle.

        Some Christians and Jews see it that way too, but their views are usually scorned as purple Kool-Aid fantasies.

        We cling to the secular here-and-now and mock the spiritual dimensions. But our enemies are fighting a Jihad. A holy war against Christians and Jews.

        Noga Maliniak, an Israeli who grew up under the cloud of terrorism, says Americans are about to discover what Israel has known for generations: “It's not something you can explain. They think a different way.”

        We're not supposed to say that on America's cultural campus. It's politically incorrect to mention differences, unless they are the approved cultural traditions celebrated at street festivals.

        But Lt. Col. Maliniak, who was the highest ranking woman in the Israeli Defense Forces before coming to Cincinnati as Israeli Emissary for the Jewish Federation, said we need to get over that.

        “Americans are so accepting of pluralism. For the fundamentalistic Arabs, there is no acceptance. There is one truth only.”

        She was horrified by scenes on TV of Palestinians dancing in the streets, singing and handing out candies to children to celebrate the terrorist attacks on Tuesday. Palestinian officials quickly stepped in to suppress the coverage and squelch the spontaneous dance of death, but they could not erase what the world had seen.

        “What brings people to this kind of response?” Mrs. Maliniak asked. “It's hatred, taught since they were little kids. Hatred of the Western way of life.”

        America's first and best impulse is to make sure our anger does not spill over to all Arab-Americans and Muslims. Hatred and murder is not part of their religion anymore than human sacrifice is part of Christianity and Judaism.

        We cannot fall into the trap of hating our neighbors. Welcoming all races and religions to our shores is what made our country great. But even that virtue can and will be used against us.

        Mrs. Maliniak has learned to live in the valley of the shadow of death, where days and nights are haunted by the hovering threat of shattering glass, thudding bombs and blood stains on sidewalks. Her advice:

        “I can tell you personally, the way we chose in my family, by decision, was not to get up in the morning and feel fear. The best way to deal with the terror is to go about your ordinary life.”

        “But all the time, above your head, you know there is a meaning for you to live in Israel. Americans don't think of that — what it means to live in America. Not everybody can cope with that.”

        This week I also spoke to Jennifer Stephens, who wrote the letter on this page next to a disturbing picture. I read her letter and looked at the photo. I saw the monster and the crucifix. Some will see them, some won't.

        Jennifer thought of the end times. “Its the first thing that popped into my head,” she said.

        There's something else in that picture: A metaphor. Some see the face of evil; others don't; and some will see it and deny it.

        But it's there.

        With God's help we will overcome it.

        Contact Enquirer Associate Editor Peter Bronson at 768-8301; fax: 768-8610; e-mail: Cincinnati.Com keyword: Bronson.


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