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Chopped hands don’t matter … over there

Glenn Greenwald annoyed me yesterday. What gives? He’s one of my go-to people for new and useful insights. He’s got no business disappointing me.

What set me off was his column The islamists are coming. In his masterful way, he laughs at the wingnuts who are hot and bothered about the about the imminent Islamist invasion.

Every now and then, it is worth noting that substantial portions of the right-wing political movement in the United States … actually believe that Islamists are going to take over the U.S. and impose sharia law on all of us. And then we will have to be Muslims and “our women” will be forced into burkas and there will be no more music or gay bars or churches or blogs.

Can’t happen here, he said. Not to worry.

Well, duh, but there is a much bigger issue than how wrong the wingnuts are. Just because we aren’t losing rights under sharia over here (we’re losing them for other reasons, of course), doesn’t mean other people aren’t being robbed of their human rights. It IS happening. It is happening over there. That matters. It is no more acceptable over there than it is over here.

In a more perfect world, I carped, he’s writing a column making that clear right now. Well, he has updated that column, pointing out that there are other choices besides believing that ultimate evil comes with cloth on its head or believing that Islamists pose no danger at all.

But he’s still looking at it through a US lens. He’s still not explicitly making the larger point. Human rights matter. They matter in Baghdad just as much as they do in Baltimore. Women under house arrest for being female are suffering, even if they’re not Americans. Gays murdered in the Middle East are just as dead as American gays would be. These things may not be our problem, but that doesn’t stop them from being huge, life-threatening problems.

(The fact that sharia can be an improvement over even worse sinks of lawlessness and corruption doesn’t change the fact that it tramples human rights.)

What bugs me is that progressives seem to worry more about tiny minds confusing them with a wingnut than standing up for what’s right. Kevin Drum once made that point out loud. “And yet, I know perfectly well that criticism of Iran is not just criticism of Iran. Whether I want it to or not, it also provides support for the Bush administration’s determined and deliberate effort to whip up enthusiasm for a military strike. … I end up saying very little.” He falls for the same fallacy as the wingers themselves: ignore the merits and argue about the messenger.

Enough already, okay? Rights don’t become expendable because a rabble rouser supports them, briefly. When some gasbag suddenly promotes human rights, don’t panic. Ask the bag whether he or she is as staunch when the problem is Christianists.

The real problem isn’t wingnuts, here or there. The real problem is that human rights are under attack, there AND here. That is the real fight, the big fight, and the one we’re slowly losing while our best minds worry about being confused with moonbats.

The real threat is theocracy, meaning the imposition of beliefs by one group on others. Talk to a teenager in rural Missouri, trapped by somebody else’s beliefs about embryos, if you think it can’t happen here. Talk to someone who needs stem cell treatment.

It IS happening here. We don’t need no stinkin invasion to accomplish that. If every progressive on the planet doesn’t fight it loudly, explicitly, repeatedly, if every progressive doesn’t keep making the connections between human rights everywhere, then we’ve already lost. Sure, we have a long way to go before we reach the Dark Ages depths of sharia law, but we’ll be on the same road.

And that, I guess, is why I got so irritated by Greenwald’s column. It is ridiculous that there are people outside of asylums who think scimitar-wielding Moors are about to come boiling over the Pyrenees. Laughing at them is both fun and necessary. But always, always, always point out the real issue at stake. Either everyone lives in freedom, or nobody does.

Other links: digby, On the road to Aztlan and Mecca, makes the same point I’m making here, but more obliquely; Podvin, Always the lesser priority; quixote, Are women are human?

Crossposted at Shakespeare’s Sister