I was having a discussion with a customer today about the elections yesterday and the announcement about an hour ago that Donald Rumsfeld will be looking for a new job and someone else will be taking the position of Secretary of Defense.

The person I was speaking with has made it quite clear in the past that they are conservative in their views, but I was somewhat surprised with the “with us or against us” position that came out during our conversation.

I had commented about how surprised I was that President Bush had made the announcement so quickly after last night (the Republicans loosing the House and possibly the Senate). I also commented that it felt a bit curious that after the statement the previous week that he wanted Rumsfeld to stay in his job until the end of the current term, 2008. Where I thought it was a bit of back peddling after the elections, my conversant accepted Bush’s statement that he had not finalized the staff change plans and did not want to speak to soon. Ok, but I cannot help wonder, “Why say anything then?”

The conversation somewhere changed course and it became targeted on the problems of the Middle East and radical Islam in particular. I feel that, from my experiences and people I have spoken to, that part of our problems have been due to our sometimes-arrogant way in handling other cultures while not really considering them. We have had a tendency to be so sure of our superiority and power that we sometimes offend others and do not seem to care. This is not a partisan thing, but a national trend, not unlike the statement I heard as a kid of the “ugly American tourist.”

Where we both agreed that there are many aspects of Middle-Eastern cultures that by our standards range from uncivilized to outright barbaric. My other talker made mention of a program on Radical Islam they had seen on FOX and it was apparent that their opinion was quite similar if not shaped by the view of barbarism that the program showed. I have not seen the show, but having followed the politics of FOX for a while, I would be suspicious of the balance of the program, little less its intent. FOX has a history of playing right along with the Republican ideology machine and the President had been making statements that a vote for the Democrats was a vote for the terrorists, which they associate with Islam in general, but the more radical sects in particular.

I don’t say the America is to blame in totality (I’m not that gullible), but I do think that our tendency to think that we have some right or obligation to enforce our playbook upon the world, our lack of sensitivity to the cultures and opinions of those we deal with, has made the world a much more difficult place than it needs to be. Many of the middle-eastern difficulties, in my opinion, are likely to have their source in the late ‘30s to early 40’s when the then current powers sliced up the area and created nations that have never existed before that time. They did not seem to take into account that fact that, in Iraq for example, many of the groups have disliked each other for quite sometime and some of them, Sunni and Shia for example, outright hate each other and will never like each other.

The other party to my conversation felt that it was an anti-American stance to advance the idea that we should be respectful of other cultures and their sensibilities. As for the idea that our lack of the above might be part of the problem, they “need to get over it.” Such things out of the past can’t be carried forever, they are over and done.

At the end of the conversation when I was about to drop them off, they asked, “If these have been building up, why now? What has made the Radicals decide to attack at this time?”

I said it was two things as far as I could tell:

  1. The natural resources that the area sits on have given them a power and currency to use and leverage to be able to wield it to their advantage.
  2. With the advances in technology, the internet and satellite communications of verbal and video materials have thrown the traditional structures of community authority into chaos. The world used to be able to experience a bit of the “other” world and still live in the world and culture of your home. Today’s world inundates the world with conflicting pictures and ideas and the “old school” is fighting for its survival.

    Listen to what the “offended” parties say about the outside cultural influences. As much as I love living in this country and all the choices that are available to me, the fact that many people are overpowered by the massive selection and unable to make choices unto themselves and that is Americans, we were brought up in it. If we have difficulties handling this collection of options, what do we expect of second or even third world countries and cultures? Those in positions of authority eventually become frightened of the changes around them and people do not deal well with change.

I am not really into following politics, as I’ve joked before, politics: poly-a Latin word meaning many, and ticks-small blood sucking creatures. ;-)

As far as yesterdays elections go, I will say this. I’m glad to see the Democrats win as many seats as they did. Not that I am particularly fond of the Democratic Party (I am unaffiliated with either one—Independent), but the situation was just too one sided and the whole checks and balances that is part of the genius of how our government is designed, was unable to perform its function. Now we can at least have one side keeping an eye on the other.

Written by R. A. Burgener

After finishing the 850 mile trek of self-rediscovery on California's El Camino Real from San Diego to Sonoma, California, Robert continued, via Greyhound, to Portland, Oregon, where he is becoming familiar with the concepts of weather and seasons after 30 years in Los Angeles.

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