As I've said elsewhere (It's Time We Recognize We Have a New Kind of Enemy) we are fighting a new kind of enemy, one we are ill-equipped to defeat.
For one thing, the playing field isn't level. We play by rules that include honor, humanity, justice, and decency. The enemy knows none of these - they will say anything, do anything, hurt anyone in the name of their ideology and what they call religion. They will lie, cheat, and distort the truth to fit their view of the world, and they don't care who gets hurt or how many people die as a result of their actions.
So how do we fight them without ourselves becoming them? This has been the critical question any time people who are committed to human values go up against others who have no such commitment. It would be easy if we were willing to be like them - to lie, distort, even kill in the name of our view of what is right, but then we would be no better than they are.
And, given our values, we can't even shut them up - to do so would violate the values we hold most dear - freedom of speech, the right to a speedy trial, to confronting your accusers, and on and on. So what can we do? They say we should be like them - that the ideals on which this country was founded only apply to those whom they favor, and can be waived for those they deem enemies. Set aside for a moment that to do that would cost us our soul, if we tried to do it to them they would hide behind those exact ideals that they so willingly abrogate for others.
By now, you may be suspecting that the enemy of which I'm speaking isn't Al Qaeda or Hamas. I'm talking about the extremists in this country who have cynically turned one of history's worst natural disasters to their own political ends.
I'm talking about Pat Robertson, television evangelist, who, hours after the quake hit said publicly that "[the Haitian people] got together and swore a pact with the devil if he would get them free of the French," and "the Devil said OK." Understand this was not a metaphor or imagery on Robertson's part - he stated it as historical fact and went on to say that, as a result, Haiti has been cursed ever since.
I'm talking about the mouth that roars - Rush Limbaugh - who the morning after the earthquake said "this will play right into Obama's hands" - that the President will use it to "burnish their credibility with the black community, both light-skinned and dark-skinned" (the last is a shot at Harry Reid). Limbaugh went on to say we should give no aid to Haiti, that it will just "make them lazy" and speaks the words "compassion" and "humanitarian" as if they were something foul in his mouth.
To a lesser extent, I'm talking about commentator Brit Hume who had the gall to publicly tell Tiger Woods that he should give up the Buddhist faith in which he was raised and turn to Christianity.
When there is a new outrage committed in the name of Islam by the likes of Al Qaeda, people here are quick to ask where are the moderate Muslim voices - why is there no outcry from within Islam against these extremists? In the same vein, I ask where are the moderate Conservative voices crying out against these heartless idiots?
Be clear, if you identify yourself as a conservative, Limbaugh, Beck, and their ilk say they are speaking for you, and if you don't disown them, then that claim will stand. If you are a Christian, Robertson and Hume claim to be speaking for you. Where is your voice?
As I said, this is a new kind of enemy, but like the enemy outside, they will not be defeated until people of good will for whom they claim to speak and act stop quietly acquiescing and speak out against them. This week they have proclaimed their inhumanity in your name - will you let it stand? Which side are you on?
(Also published in the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza)
Follow Ed Gurowitz, Ph.D. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/egurowitz