Camille Paglia on Obama's Cairo speech.
IN THE COMMENTS: Paddy O. writes:
She seems to want some kind of Mullah Obama, who can parse religions in expert ways so as to provide a path in which all religious devotees can, at the same time, be convinced by their own misunderstanding of others and the wrong nature of their own religious awareness that invokes chaos.
She wants a Messiah, a clear figure who dashes aside millennia of religious and cultural conflicts within a single speech. And, the fact is, people don't even want to listen to a messiah on these topics. The issue is religious but it's so much more than religious. It's about ego, and power, and control, using religion as a tool as much as a source.
Obama's lack of fervor is probably the best thing that can be delivered to a region wracked with fervor. Blessed are the peace-makers, after all.
Fervor is not overcome by more fervor, a waged war of passion. Rather, fervor is overcome by refusing to engage in the frenzy, absorbing and deflecting the rage into something constructive. The sins of the world are not addressed by talking them over in excited and rhetorically impressive ways.
She is conflating fervor with belief and frenzied excitement with persistent character. Most fundamentalists aren't acting out of real fervor for their chosen god, most are acting out of insecure egos who are attempting to manipulate the seen world so as to secure their own identity as dominating and secure their meager faith in some kind of obvious sign of their supposed devotion.
The religious passions of so many are not really religious at all, but are expressions of a deep-seated insecurity in the face of a rather dismissive world.
Obama's approach won't really change anything, but America is not the salvation of the middle east, and cannot leap into the frenzy with the same passion. We are the people who can show, in our actions, what it means to live for something greater -- our children, our future, our peace -- and how a steady approach is the way lives are built and rebuilt.
The Middle East does not need more fervor. It needs calm, but a calm that is trustworthy, and listening, and pushes for real changes in substantive ways within the societies themselves, pointing out that the answer is within not by changing someone else.