Monday, February 18, 2008

Asked and Answered

Sam asks,

"Given your displeasure with many things about the American government, do you ever wish you could move to some other country than the United States?"

Although I enjoy traveling and hate idiocy, to be honest, when I picture my "dream life," I picture living in a moderately-sized house (complete with the required fun add-ons, of course, like slides, secret passages, and whatever the heck a "conservatory" is) somewhere in the US with reasonable access to the (relatively) unspoiled outdoors. In an ideal world, maybe I'd have friends or timeshare opportunities to spend parts of the year in other countries- preferably in a few continents. I can't decide if this is because I'm too entrenched in my conveniences here ("I can't picture my life without my favorite Dim Sum restaurant") or if it's just because I'm lazy. Also, I don't want to have to learn about a whole new series of political issues and spectrums. I'm still trying to figure out the "Natural Law Party."

Anonymous wants to know, "What is the meaning of life?"

I am happy to report that I successfully solved this at the semi-precocious age of seventeen as part of a high school assignment, in which I summed up the meaning of life in the wonderfully individualistic "everyone has to create their own meaning." To be fair, this was mostly ripped off from Jean-Paul Sartre and Chaim Potok.

Tzipporah wonders, "What is your name?"

I was named after my grandmother, whose Hebrew name was Channah. However my English name (which happens to be a patron saint of several European countries, bizarrely enough) has no good Hebrew equivalent. If I wanted to be a stickler for my parents' intent I suppose I could go by Chananiah, but let's be honest; that just sounds weird. As it is, I'm presently mulling over "Yisrael," after a g.g.uncle, and whose meaning seems to jive fairly well with my personality.

Sam's curious: "What are your feelings on the whole Archbishop Rowan Williams brouhaha?", and tries to sneak an embedded link past my watchful eyes. Just for that, Sam, I will link to many other sources for information to spite you. So there!

Anyway, as I understand it, people are mad because Williams made a fairly realistic statement that, given the present population trends in Britain (and the precedence of Orthodox batei din), it seems fairly likely that Sharia courts will, at some point, have some legal standing within British common law. Some right-wingers say this represents the abandonment of Western culture and jurisprudence because Islam, unlike Judaism, is conquest-oriented. I'm not so convinced that this is the end of the world, especially if the ground rules from the get-go are, as Williams suggested, firmly established to ensure and protect human rights. On the other hand, there are other more practical reasons this might be unworkable- like the fact that different groups of Muslims don't agree on how Sharia is or should be interpreted. That said, I am also aware of the tricky issues surrounding the mixture of church and state (then again, the UK doesn't have the same approach to this as the US).

Anonymous queries: "Do you believe that "a small number of extremists" is to blame for radical Islam today, or is this a more widespread problem?"

I think that assigning all the blame for radical Islam today to a "small number" is a little too myopic/optimistic. The problem is that radical Islam is an ideology and a system, and really represents a large cross-section of the Muslim world, not unlike (forgive the expression) Zionism in the Jewish world. This is the same reason it is so tricky and challenging to track exactly who is friend and foe in the Islamic world, much less identify and distinguish real threats from mere blowhards. The real question is how does one classify the shape and boundaries of radical Islam: where are the limits of authority/responsibility/culpability, how should governments and civilians deal with these groups, and perhaps most importantly, how do you engage with their more moderate co-religionists and work with them to make sure that the radicals (whether small, medium or large) remain contained, or at least keep from growing? Size is not the issue as much as influence. The challenging thing is that as an ideology, radical Islam has a reach far beyond its most loyal members- you don't have to be willing to kill or die in order to give the idea support, which in turn allows it to reach ever farther to other potential supporters.

Tzipporah wants to know: "What is your favorite color?"

As a kid, it was red. Then, blue. I've been in a "brown and green phase" for a number of years now (I anticipate this will be useful when the revolution comes and I have to play Survivorman).

Sam: "What price glory?"

One's soul.

Anon: "Will Israel survive the next century?"

Only if it's very, very careful. Frankly, I'm far more worried about all of Israel's internal problems (forever relegated to back-burners) than terrorism issues.

Tzipporah: "What is the average flight speed of an unladen swallow?"

I'm going to say five. Furlongs. Per cubic meter. Yeah.

Thanks for the good questions.

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