Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Problematic Crusades (2)

So, The LA Times has an article about new care packages intended for troops in Iraq. Great, right? Everyone likes cookies.

Alas, these packages don't contain cookies. They contain "Bibles, proselytizing material in English and Arabic and the apocalyptic computer game 'Left Behind: Eternal Forces' (derived from the series of post-Rapture novels), in which 'soldiers for Christ' hunt down enemies who look suspiciously like UN peacekeepers." The distributor of the packages, a fundamentalist Christian ministry called "Operation Straight Up," was hoping also to launch an entertainment tour for the troops called the "Military Crusade." The Defense Department has now pulled the packages and won't distribute them.

The article goes on to talk about the increasingly close relationship between Christian evangelical organizations and the US military.

Anyway, this all, I think, sort-of connects back to what I've said earlier about the memory of the crusades in the West. But this is a little different because my point here is about the word "crusade" itelf. In many instances, the use of it seems fine. A group's "crusade" to save a reservoir. A "crusade" to save energy in Johannesburg. etc. There's an assumed justness to those causes.

But when the term is connected to violence, it becomes so much more problematic. Pres. Bush's use of the term at the beginning of the Afghanistan war. The above example. etc. When used as such, the word takes on meanings more closely in line with the original event. Religious violence and still, perhaps in some people's eyes, justness of cause.

Words, images, and symbols all have multiple meanings. Nothing is or means anything else definitively. It means a whole bunch of things, so be comfortable with all of those meanings if you're going to use it. And if someone is comfortable with all of those meanings, it can tell you a lot about them.

3 comments:

L.C.McCabe said...

Words have meaning, huh? Like Operation Infinite Justice?

As if the U.S. could possibly be the source of bringing justice about infinitely.

I'm surprised to hear that the Defense Department pulled those packages, but am glad. We don't need any more overt religiousity added to the mix in this unpopular unending occupation.

Linda

Another Damned Medievalist said...

must come back and read this carefully! You realize you and Jon Jarrett are upping the ante on blogging the MA, don't you?

Matthew Gabriele said...

Thanks, ADM. I aim to please...