Saturday, April 01, 2006

Blessed are the peacemakers...

Alright, this Jill Carroll matter is getting odder and odder.

This post, on AlterNet, pretty much sums up my feelings, whether Jill Carroll is a Christian, or not:

Apparently Jill Carroll's attitude is just too damned Christian for conservative America. Angry and suspicious at her lack of vitriol for her captors who killed her translator but released her, the National Review-ers are doing a pile-on while the producer of the Imus show is doing his best to sound like an overgrown fratboy.
Athenae took the overgrown fratboy to school; out behind the woodshed, actually. And CJR called his remarks "absolute lunacy." But that's not what bugs me. What bugs me is this, also from that Alternet post:

After yesterday's Podhoretz comment that Carroll may be a latter-day Patty Hearst, Podhoretz's little acolyte (and the LA Times' newest columnist) Jonah Goldberg is "getting a very bad vibe" by Carroll: "MAYBE IT’S JUST ME... But Jill Carroll is increasingly starting to bug me... But it would be nice to hear her say something remotely critical of her captors..."
E&P and Think Progress point out the obvious: how many of these critics have spent 82 minutes in captivity, much less 82 days in what is the most dangerous city in the world? How dangerous? Consider this opening paragraph from the Boston Herald:

Jill Carroll, described as “emotionally fragile,” went reluctantly to Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone - the place her captors had warned her was infiltrated with insurgents - and spent Friday in seclusion, recovering from 82 days of captivity (ermphasis added).
Ms. Carroll's actions and dress starting to make more sense, now? 82 days in captivity, and the first interview is with the Sunnis, and she's told even the Green Zone is not safe for her? Ask yourself: what would you do? Rush to explain yourself to the satisfaction of Jonah Goldberg and Howie Kurtz? Neither would I. And scared? Yes, she was very scared:

Jill Carroll wondered from day to day whether she would grow old or die a hostage.

"It was like falling off a cliff for three months, waiting to hit the ground," the 28-year-old American reporter said Thursday after being released by her kidnappers.

A shuffle from car to street to the branch office of a Sunni Arab political party and then to its headquarters brought Carroll to freedom on a beautiful spring day in Baghdad.

When she walked into the Iraqi Islamic Party's branch, she was still wearing one of the head scarves and enveloping embroidered dresses given to her by her captors. The black gloves of a conservative Muslim woman, also given to her by her captors, hid her hands.

Shortly after Carroll's arrival, the head of the party telephoned The Washington Post's Baghdad bureau. Carroll, a freelance journalist who wrote for the Christian Science Monitor, said she wanted to see familiar faces and had had many friends on The Post's staff since the early days of the war. Devoted to mastering Arabic and Middle Eastern culture and to covering Iraq, she was particularly close to the paper's young Iraqi interpreters and reporters.

In the party leader's chair-lined offices, with Sunni politicians looking on, Carroll and her friends were reunited. They embraced and cried through her first conversations in English in more than 80 days.
Take all that into account; and then take this into account:

Party leader Tariq al-Hashimi presented her with an embossed Koran in a plush box. The Koran was for the true followers of Islam, Hashimi said, and he mentioned the Iraqi people. Accepting it, Carroll said her suffering was nothing compared with theirs.
The real issue of the reaction to Jill Carroll is part of what I was trying to get at: we dare not see people as anything but enemies, or friends. "Peacemakers" are what we name rifles and missiles. We don't like them when the come packaged as human beings. Again, as Alternet says:

The point, the mission Carroll has been on from the get-go, is that seeing the enemy as human beings with their own customs but essentially like us, makes it that much harder to kill and fight and support killing and fighting. These right-wingers are angry because this kind of humanizing threatens to expose them to a different reality, a reality in which human lives are at stake and not just "ragheads" and "terrorists."
I learned this in seminary, about the Hebrews, and the Jews of 1st century Palestine, the clouds of witness that attest to the presence of the living God: they were not strange figures in stained glass or children's bible illustrations: they were "human beings with their own customs but essentially like us." It was a great revelation. It meant I could, and did, worship the living God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jesus. But I also learned that Jesus was killed, not because he was a peacemaker, but because he proclaimed the basiliea tou theou, the empire of God that rivaled the empire of Rome. It seemed a reasonable conclusion: why would you want to kill someone who simply preached, and enacted, peace?

Jill Carroll is not a "Christ figure," in the sense Northrop Frye meant the term; and her life is certainly not in danger because she has not cursed her captors and called them vermin. But I am beginning to understand why Pilate would want to dispose of an itinerant rabbi, one with the presence and charisma to sway hundreds if not thousands while alive, and at least the presence to sway disciples and believers and followers long after his death (even setting aside the pneumatological explanation). And it wouldn't have to be because he preached a competing political vision.

It could very well be because he was such an effective preacher, and teacher, of peace. It could very well be that lesson is the one the powers that be simply cannot tolerate.

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