The U.S.’s approach to the Middle East frequently seems less policy than fated inevitability. The U.S. requires oil from that region for its survival, therefore it underwrites despotic and corrupt regimes, and bears the consequences of those alliances. Yet neither the need nor the alliances are written in the stars.
The alarm has been sounded over the future of reading. We are rapidly becoming a culture of the image, not the word, we are told. Those who have been saturated in the hyperkinetic visual stimulus of electronic media are losing patience with the page and the more linear habits of thought needed to follow communication structured by printed words, sentences, paragraphs and chapters.
The U.S. Post Office says it will need $2.5 billion for additional security in response to the biological war being waged against Americans through the mail system. The airlines have already received a $15 billion bailout in the wake of the September 11 attacks.
If the conflict in which the U.S. is now engaged is not one of the storied “clashes of civilizations” predicted by Samuel Huntington, it does involve a potentially deadly clash of perceptions. Those in the West who have joined the war on terrorism view Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaeda terrorist network as self-professed agents of the mayhem that has struck the U.S.
There are no atheists in bio-hazard suits. Perhaps that sentiment has never been strictly true, even when we were still talking about foxholes. But fear does have a way of turning the mind to matters of ultimacy.
Thirteen nuns who were kidnapped from their monastery north of Damascus last December were released in March in an apparent exchange for prisoners held by the Assad regime. Despite this good news, Christians in Syria continue to be under siege. A jihadist group in the city of Raqqa gave local Christians an ultimatum: convert to Islam, pay a protection tax, or be killed. Although accurate numbers are hard to come by, one estimate says that 450,000 of the 2 million Syrian refugees are Christians. Syrian Christians who have fled their war-torn country report kidnappings, murders, ransacking of their shops, and pressure to convert (Christian Science Monitor, March 10).