We the Misogynists

War talk shows that Western civilization is going down the tubes.

Since the ancient Greeks first defined power relations by sodomizing young boys, reducing women to breeders and keeping a stable of slaves, Western civilization--a notion Gandhi correctly rejected--has been in a state of decline.

Enter the Romans, who later elevated decadence to an art form and combined endless wars with bread and butchery as palliatives for the people. Here, then, are the roots of our democracy and our republic.

So it is no surprise that a son of privilege and a son of poverty are locked in a current power struggle. But acting out a Greek tragedy or a mythological battle wherein the son avenges the humiliation of the father (as well as his own) with spears and fists is a far cry from placing the entire planet at risk for one's personal obsession. And it's certain that a lack of vision, gross incompetence and inept advisers contribute to the unprecedented military course this administration seems determined to pursue.

It is possible to believe that George W. Bush, our selected president, is determined to oust Saddam Hussein because Bush's father failed to do so. It is possible to believe that in order to ensure another term as president, Bush is counting on a "victory" in Iraq in order to divert American attention from the fact that the biggest bully on the block (read "us," as in US, as in United States) failed to capture Osama bin Laden--last year's Page 1 enemy. It is possible to believe that the Bush administration lacks the ability (or perhaps the will) to keep this nation from still another unnecessary war. It is also possible to believe that we want to control the Middle East because we are oil junkies and lack the resolve to get that monkey off our backs. Like many addicts, we are willing to resort to criminal actions to support our habit.

Or, perhaps, this is all about misogyny. If you doubt that we live in a fundamentally violent, woman-hating culture, consider this: On a recent Saturday night, you could tune your television to three hours of uninterrupted violence where women were the victims--all on the same channel. In three Law and Order reruns, you had the entertaining pleasure of choosing from episodes wherein the body of a woman missing for 20 years is found; jewelry identifies the remains of a woman allegedly killed in the collapse of the Twin Towers; or an attacker tears a fetus from the body of a woman.

If you believe misogyny has nothing to do with violence and warmongering, you are sadly misled, tragically ignorant or suffering from hardcore denial. (Sink your brain cells into Riane Eisler's book The Chalice and the Blade for a new perspective on possibilities.) If you hold on to the tired old belief that there has always been war and the strong always prevail (a relic from the days of social Darwinism and a thinly disguised rationalization of "might makes right") you are "thinking" from the oldest part of the brain, the one that evolved before our science developed weapons of mass annihilation.

It is profoundly ironic that while we decry the behavior of what we perceive as misogynist Muslims (who clearly have their own problems with women) we are unwilling to take an honest look at our culture's continuing refusal to acknowledge a similarly deep-rooted marginalization of women. Perhaps this is to be expected: After all, we share the same Western religious roots. Our connections go way back. Whether the women are in Burkhas or Birkenstocks, Western culture, with its beginnings in the Middle East and Mediterranean, retains its archaic but still deeply embedded view of women as lesser creatures.

Consequently, any characteristic associated with women is devalued. And weakness, of course, is at the top of the list. Many fights owe their origins to some swaggering male accusing another of being a "pussy." This attitude contributes to the rhetoric of war.

You do not convince a nation to sacrifice its sons and daughters by extolling the virtues of compromise or the wisdom of knowing when to yield. You use words like "strength" and "win" and "evil" and "right" and "freedom." You do not point to that part of our national consciousness that believes we are entitled to and have the right to go anywhere at any time to do anything to entertain, amuse and divert ourselves (or to increase our profit margin) regardless of the cost. And we believe, or are trying in this desperate hour to convince ourselves, that we can maintain this illusion because, by God, we are Americans.

And as Americans, it is our Christian duty to lead the benighted world in our crusade for a Pax Americana even if at its core is an irrevocable contradiction: continuing war. What a sad and tragic repetition of history to witness an empire's fall.

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