Those who contend Americans have a short memory might be well served to look back a mere forty score years ago, to Marseilles in the year of our lord 1212. It was a time of chaos and enforced ignorance, and thus a time of great opportunity. It was a time of tragedy and great personal loss for the masses while the elite expounded on their ability to interpret the unseen. It was an era ruled by a vengeful god, who, in his first and foremost command, proclaimed there were to be no other gods but he alone, with vengeance and violence for those that would cross his worshippers. In short, it was a time a lot like America today.
Infidels, non-believers, berserkers, in short, followers of Islam had gained control of the Holy Land and our armies were proving helpless against them. Though most of us had only heard of the fabled Holy Land, we were continuously exhorted that it was worth dying for. The people there had the wrong beliefs. It’s like they weren’t even people at all.
Across the land a cry rang out and the simple people, the children, the innocent and guileless rose up to take the matter into their own hands. Surely their purity of spirit and true faith in the Lord, our very Christian god, would overcome the heathen whereas our weaponry had not. The sheer power of our unwavering belief in the rightness of our Christian god would surely be enough to overcome any lesser beings’ superstitious hocus-pocus over their tawdry talismans.
So we massed, in our anger and our righteousness, first to Genoa, then eventually around to Marseilles, where in 1212, two kindly merchants at tremendous personal sacrifice agreed to help us in our final leap of our noble crusade, and so, like lemmings we boarded their ships ….
Never to be seen again. Sold as slaves the thirty thousand European peasants and youth who took part in the fabled “Children’s Crusade” disappeared from history into a fate generally imagined to be “worse than death.” And those two “kindly” merchants of Marseilles, the Halliburtons and Raytheons of their day, were in cahoots with the bogeymen Muslims all along and sold the questing Christians for a clear eyed profit. In some versions of their legend, the merchants are later captured and hanged for a plot to kidnap a king, but that would be in a world where the wicked get punished and the kind are redeemed.
A place decidedly not the Obama America of 2009, where banks are rewarded for impoverishing the rest of us and religious war in the Holy Land is still framed to demonize the Muslim. Though Muslim religious extremists are blamed for inciting violence in the name of their vision of god, America steadfastly and incrementally has retrofitted our military to march onward as Christian soldiers. Because, after all, our Christian religious intolerance is so much more sanctimonious and thus justified than any other religion’s zealotry.
Now with the stage duly set by last week’s news item of Muslim guys plotting to launch RPGs at a synagogue, this week a Muslim convert guy is accused of shooting up recruiting station in Little Rock. And in the same time and news cycle, ironies of ironies, in the latest of what is appearing to be an inexhaustible series of right-wing gun users intent on lighting up America like it was their personal amusement park, an abortion doctor has been shot and killed in his own church in Kansas, by yet another right-winger following orders from his minister du jour, in this case Bill O’Reilly.
As the day to day gun violence of American life begins to approach Bruckheimer-esque levels, I think it is safe to say, or rather unsafe to say, that the shooting war for the post-Obama America has now openly begun. And, as the summer thrill season heats up, it seems our box office isn’t the only aspect of the public arena enthralled by angels and demons.
Of course the advantage the rest of Europe had in 1212 over America today is that the Christian fanatics and opportunists who comprised the thirty thousand or so that took part in the crusade walked out of their society, not among it. The Holy Land was a lot farther away from their day to day life than the religious war that is on the edge breaking out right here at home, in racially and religiously mixed America.
Also, modern day America is a whole lot bigger than Europe of the early 1200s and even though Christianity is in decline here, and thus feeling embattled, there are still millions more American Christian zealots ready to kill for their love of man, with most of them living near most of you.
Good luck, America, welcome to Marseilles 1212. Simply follow the kindly merchants who will lead you on your way. Perhaps your faith will set you free—
--mikel weisser writes from the left coast of Arizona.