Wyrd Words: GENOCIDE – Whose Tool is it?

Greetings, and welcome back to Wyrd Words. Keeping the Thor in Thursdays, every other week here on Agora!

Religious politics on the western side of “the pond” are notorious for being a tad ridiculous. So when big political news stories emerge, like the recent events in Iraq, it’s really no surprise that the standard of research behind the responses is somewhat subpar. As we saw only a few weeks ago, we’ve already established that our laws can be founded exclusively in religious rhetoric, and that actual facts really mean about as much to the court as the number of licks it takes to get to the center of a tootsie pop. Possibly less.

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“It is the opinion of this court that the number of licks shall be three. Four shalt thou not lick, neither lick thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three… Because Bible.”

 

For those of you who have simply given up on trying to make sense of America’s conservative religious lobbies, or simply have no room for “spelunking into a soul-crushing pit of madness” on their itinerary, here’s the CliffsNotes version:

 

THE PROBLEM

Recently American media has been FLOODED with reports of the events going on in Iraq and our government’s decision to send military assistance. An organization known as ISIS has been attempting to set up a Caliphate (khilafa: An Islamic state governed by religious leaders) and has thus been driving non-Muslims out of their area of influence. One of the groups that’s being hit the hardest by this purge is a small religious community known as the Yazidi, who follow an Abrahamic faith that falls a little outside the spectrum of the “big three” (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam). Of the three they are thought to be most closely related to a very early form of Christianity, so it’s understandable that the Christian community in the USA would have some very strong opinions on the matter. (And if the Republican party could use that outrage to attack the administration, well then that’s just a happy coincidence…)

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THE ARGUMENT

When this issue first came to the attention of the American public, there was an outcry demanding that the government supply humanitarian aid for the Yazidi. The administration, however, was still hesitant to commit to any kind of long-term engagements in Iraq. (Seeing as it worked out so well for us last time…) So far this was all pretty par for the course. Arguments for and against US involvement were, while passionate, all still fairly reasonable. We had good reason be cautious about going into Iraq, like the past 11 years of very expensive guerilla warfare. We also had very good reasons for getting involved, like an armed military group that’s threatening to (further) destabilize the region, not to mention a GENOCIDE IN PROGRESS. Unfortunately, political rhetoric rarely stays this logical, and inevitably outside agendas always seem to muddle an already complex debate.

 

WHERE IT ALL WENT CRAZY

Within a week of the initial news, we had the first signs that the “productive” stage of the debate was about to end. While the administration was still attempting to determine if we would get involved at all, the religious right decided to use the Yazidi’s situation to attack the Democratic party. Suddenly the Yazidis were oppressed Christians, and Obama was abandoning them to their fate. (The more fringe elements of conservative media generally used this as an opportunity to tack “Because he’s a secret Muslim” onto the headline.)

Even this isn’t TOO extreme for American political rhetoric. We’ve already established that the Yazidi religion is most likely an offshoot of early Christianity, so it’s natural that they would feel a certain empathy with their plight. The crazy bit came after the White House announced that they would be assisting by sending military advisers and humanitarian aid.

Talk about an about-face! If you could get whiplash from political one-eighties, we’d all be in neck braces!

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“I’ve got to stop following these people…”

Now the Yazidi were about as popular among the religious right as they are with ISIS. Suddenly these weren’t oppressed Christians that were abandoned by our “godly nation”. Overnight they magically became “Satanists” and “Fire Worshiping Pagans”. (Which, ironically, is EXACTLY what ISIS says about them.) These people attacked the administration for not helping the “Christian” Yazidi fast enough, and then turned around and attacked them again for assisting the “Satanist” Yazidi while somehow ignoring the plight of Iraqi Christians.

There is an entire population of people that are being systematically EXTERMINATED, and these various conservative media outlets have proven that they only care so long as this genocide can be used to further their agendas. The issue may be presented in religious terms, but the goal is entirely political. (Having much more to do with classic “Red vs. Blue” posturing than any actual matter of faith.) They are able to present two apparently contradictory stories to the same audience, convince people to believe them, and use both to support their actual goals, because the average American consumer has simply decided that they no longer care about facts. Too many people would rather accept whatever they hear from a thirty second sound bite than do five minutes of research to find out what’s actually happening in the world around them.

We live in an age of information and have vast stores of knowledge and human experience at our fingertips. We have the ability to explore and understand the world for ourselves. All we need to do is choose to use that power.


Wyrd Words is published on alternate Thursdays. Subscribe via RSS or e-mail!

 

About Alyxander Folmer

Alyxander Folmer is a student of Anthropology at ASU, focused on analyzing and building religious communities. He is a devoted Heathen, and married to a Rabbi in training. Interest in Pagan interfaith relations lead him to join the committee for the formation of the Pagan Chapter at the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy, where he hopes to utilize his training in community building and cultural exchange. The majority of his work can be located at http://www.heathenhof.com/


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