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August 08, 2007

The "Eternal Hatreds" of the Arabs
Posted by Shadi Hamid

I don’t like reading Camille Paglia, and I was reminded why this morning. Exhibit one:

The 2008 presidential sweepstakes have hit the doldrums as the pack of eager candidates of both parties dutifully make their rounds and tread water like tar. Whoever survives this corrida-by-boredom will presumably have the brass cojones to run the government. By what national curse must we suffer another year of this?

I don’t even know where to begin. It’s as if someone was trying to do an imitation of Chris Hitchens with only two shots of vodka and failed miserably. “Tread water like tar.” I have never heard this before (and apparently no one else on the planet has either. If you search for the phrase on google, you'll find that it has never actually been used before). And what the heck is “corrida-by-boredom”? The only “national curse” we must suffer another year of is the most egregiously bad administration in modern American history. Paglia might be bored, but most democrats are actually quite excited. We have three excellent candidates in the top tier to choose from, each of whom would make a great president. Even no-shots like Biden and Richardson are pretty damn good. So, those of us who are Democrats – and proud ones – are enjoying this campaign season, and are looking forward to seeing how the candidates handle difficult issues as the race heats up.

However, that is all nothing compared to this graf:

Meanwhile, the war drags on in Iraq, where the worthless Baghdad government has fled the blistering summer heat while American soldiers, laden with their battle gear, suffer and die. When will this fruitless exercise in nation building end? No one will ever resolve the eternal hatreds and ethnic rivalries of the Middle East, which have been churning and festering for 5,000 years. The extremist Muslim drama is only half the story.

What exactly is an “eternal hatred”? What is she referring to? These “hatreds” have been “churning” for 5000 years. Really? I would love to know what incident could have possibly set off those pesky Arabs 5000 years ago. What event is Paglia thinking of? In the following sentence, she hints at an answer (although the wrong one), making a vague reference to the “extremist Muslim drama.” Islam was founded 1400 years ago, so there seems to be a mathematics issue here.

No matter, if you thread the words “hatreds,” “festering,” “extremist,” and “Muslim” together, then you’re probably in good shape, if not necessarily in good company. To imply that Arabs and Muslims are somehow consumed by “eternal hatreds” – and ones that cannot be solved no less – is just a degree or two removed from the blatant racism of the American right, as expressed in venues like the National Review. Paglia obviously doesn’t think much of this area of the world, or the people who live in it. They’re more than a bit backwards, after all. They clearly aren’t capable of democracy, nor deserve it. Damn Iraqis.

I will (try to) stop there. There are more "problems" in her column, including, among other things, Paglia's dramatic misreading of American film:

Aside from Francis Ford Coppola's "Godfather" series, with its deft flashbacks and gritty social realism, is there a single film produced over the past 35 years that is arguably of equal philosophical weight or virtuosity of execution to Bergman's "The Seventh Seal" or "Persona"? Perhaps only George Lucas' multilayered, six-film "Star Wars" epic can genuinely claim classic status.



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Maybe she's referring to the constant wars in the Bible. Although while those were quite nasty and involved genocide, I'm not sure that they were dramatically different than the rest of the world. Not that long ago western Europe was driven by by 'eternal hatreds and ethnic rivalries' after all.

As a quick clarification, I get that those wars were obviously pre-Islam. I'm just grasping at straws as to what she means.

I don't like Paglia much either, but I do find most of the staged, ritual competitions rather uninteresting and unenlightening, and 95% of campaign discourse to be insipid and shallow. So I can understand her boredom.

As for her metaphors, the water/tar one strikes me as a bit clumsy. But the fact that it's never been used before doesn't seen like a fair knock. Writers are supposed to devise novel metaphors rather than lean on cliché, aren't they?

OK lets see how amircans hiory is:

-Killing milloins and millions of Red indain native people of amirca to occupy thier land (this is a real terroest act)

-Racism and slavery of inoccenet blak african people

-killing 3000000 vitnameis for a foolish case

-and now the iraqies turn to be killed for oil

all of this had happen in your small peroid of history (300 years I guss) .... I mean You had breaking all the nations recoreds of killing and peldjing inccent people
in a small period of time ..Amirca is the mother of terror in all the world so shut your fucking mouth and dont speak about your fake democrcy

I am an arab and there is nothing called "Eternal Hatreds" .I never heard about it . it is anther silly lie like your silly democrcy.

see you around in hell

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