Just Because Bush Is Always Wrong Doesn’t Mean the French Are Always Right

First, I want to call your attention to a fantastic column by Harold Meyerson in yesterday’s Post. Entitled “The Grounds for Celebration,” it does a wonderful job of articulating something that too many antiwar protesters tend to gloss over: The removal of Saddam Hussein was a noble goal — there, I said it. But there are an infinite number of “noble goals” in the world, and just because something is a worthy goal doesn’t automatically mean it should be undertaken. In this case, the Bush regime never stopped to consider the consequences of the war — the likely irreparable damage to our international standing, the establishment of a precedent for war-because-we-feel-like-it, and, most significantly, acceptance of the idea that a president can come right out and lie to the American people in order to start a war. I suppose that’s easier to do when you honestly believe that God himself has spoken to you and given you a divine mission. The rest of us call that “crazy.” In any case, the article’s far more detailed and enlightening than my little rant here. Go read it.

Okay, now that that’s out of the way, I’ve got something else to bring up. Apparently, not only does Jacques Chirac have no spine, but he’s apparently also a religious bigot. Tough words, coming from me, particularly since I’ve veered awfully close to that line on more than one occasion. But his recent announcement — that he’s going to push for an outright ban on any substantive symbols of religious faith in public schools — is religious discrimination at its worst. The law (and it’s not official yet, although similar yet less harsh ones are currently on the books in France) is designed for one purpose and one purpose only: To make life so uncomfortable for Muslims that they’ll leave France. France has a long history of strict separation of church and state. Okay, that’s a good thing; I’m all for that. But where this proposal goes off the deep end is in barring not only proselytizing (which I can understand) but also the wearing of large crosses, Jewish skullcaps, and — here’s the kicker — headscarves. And that’s what this is all about. The Christian majority is uncomfortable with the influx of Muslims over the past few decades, and they want something done about it. Sure, this law will inconvenience a few Christians, and irritate some Jews, but it’ll really hit the Muslims. I put this question to the French: Okay, you’ve got problems with the Islamic religion. So tolerance for differences ain’t your strong suit, but we can live with that. But in what possible way is some other student wearing a headscarf adversely affecting your kid? And Chirac wants to go ever further, saying not only that such attire will be prohibited in public schools, but that private companies can also begin barring it as well.

There is some sense in portions of the proposed law. For example, the elimination of the right to have female (usually Muslim) patients be seen exclusively by female doctors at public hospitals. Given the scarcity of resources in public health care, I can see that one. I don’t think hospitals should be required to make such a concession when it proves unreasonably difficult or infringes on the care provided to other patients. Still, as a basic courtesy, it should be permitted on a case-by-case basis if resources allow.

I’m certainly not a religious person, by any stretch of the imagination. I don’t consider myself an atheist for the very same reason I don’t ascribe to any particular religious sect — the very nature of religion precludes its evaluation by rational, scientific means. There’s no way to objectively prove the validity of any religion (ask Douglas Adams about that). The argument is logically meaningless, and for me, not worth consideration: It’s not a rational issue — it’s a deeply personal one. State-sponsored atheism is equally as pointless as state-sponsored religion. Religion, for many (if not most) people, is a deeply ingrained part of their lives. No law is going to change that by simply saying it, particularly in a society where we’ve removed religious authority from our governmental leaders (a message little George apparently hasn’t gotten).

Whew! Okay, after that, I need a little good news... and what do you know, here it is! A federal appeals court has just delivered a big F-U to John Ashcroft and his goose-stepping legions at the Ministry of Justice (not to mention the rest of the Duh-bya regime). Got news for you, assholes — we’ve got this document called the Constitution, and it explicitly prohibits the secret incarceration of U.S. citizens. You’ve got 30 days to transfer Jose Padilla to the public criminal justice system... or release him. I ain’t saying Padilla’s a model citizen — hell, he may even have done what you say he did — but you’re not gonna be able to pull your “national security” blanket over everyone’s eyes and hold him forever on just your say-so.

Which brings me back to Meyerson’s column. Probably my favorite line in his piece was his iteration of the things that would make the United States more secure than the capture of Saddam Hussein.

Last on his list is “if John Ashcroft stepped down as attorney general.” Hear, hear.


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