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November 09, 2006 - Image 31

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2006-11-09

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Editorials are posted and archived on JNonline.us .


The Ripple Of Reason


he recent death of
Oriana Fallaci did not
get much attention in
local media. But this courageous
Italian journalist was willing to
stand up to Europe's intellectual
elites and tell them that their
moral cowardice in the face of
Islamic terrorism was shame-
ful and that their willingness to
blame Israel for all the world's ills
was disgusting.
As a result, she was ostracized
by former colleagues and even
prosecuted in France for inciting
racial hatred — meaning she
spoke the truth about an incon-
venient subject.
The same voices that opposed
her were raised again when Pope
Benedict XVI dared to raise the
issue of jihad. Does that term, he
asked, still imply conduct of holy
wars followed by forced religious
conversions? It wasn't a condem-
nation. He wanted to open an
honest dialogue on the issue with
Islamic leaders.
But his speech at a German
university touched off the usual
riots in the usual alleyways of
anarchy, fueled by extremists who

deliberately distorted what he
said; much as they had distorted
the Danish cartoons that touched
off similar displays earlier in the
Although he was called upon
to apologize, the pope refused.
Good for him. He regretted what
he said was misunderstood, but
there was no apology. Nor should
there have been.
The question he raised is basic,
and it was brilliantly expanded
upon by Lee Harris, author of
Civilizations and Its Enemies,
in the Weekly Standard. Harris
says that Pope Benedict was ask-
ing whether we want to live in
communities based on reason or
communities based on force.
There is no barrier between
religious belief and reason, he
says. The only barrier is between
those who want the freedom to
pursue religious truth in their
own way and those who want
to impose belief upon them. He
frames it as the struggle between
Socrates and Muhammad for the
soul of Europe.
The structure that we call
Western culture is based on

Judeo-Christian religious and
moral precepts, the Greek spirit
of free inquiry and a Roman
sense of order. All of this is
repugnant to jihadists who feel
they are compelled by divine fiat
to convert individuals who cher-
ish such things — by the sword
if necessary.
Pope Benedict understood that
Europe's elites no longer have the
spine to defend what they believe
in. That's because they don't
believe in much of anything.
That was the message he was
trying to get across. It is time for
Europe to consider what would
be lost if communities of reason
were attacked and dismantled.
Liberalism shorn of the free-
dom to embrace reason is impos-
sible, an outright contradiction.
That was the deeper and most
compelling meaning of Pope
Benedict's speech.
And it is also why Harris
dedicated his article to Oriana

Dry Bones





E-mail letters of no more

than 150 words to:

letters@thejewishnews.com .


Reality Check

'Sorts' On The Border


was doing some research in
Canada on a travel article
several years ago and paid
a visit to the Jack Miner Bird
Sanctuary, outside of Kingsville.
The drive involved going down
some dirt roads; and when I got
to the U.S. side of the bridge, the
customs agent took notice of my
muddy tires. He found this suspi-
"What were you doing in
Canada," he asked.
That's when I developed
brain freeze. For the life of me,
I couldn't remember the name
Jack Miner. Instead I blurted out:
"Observing migratory waterfowl."
This was not a good answer.
Obviously believing he had either
a wise guy or an especially stupid
drug dealer on his hands, the
agent pulled my car aside and
ordered a top-to-bottom, inside-
and-out search.

That's the closest I've come
to panic at the border until
last month. Once again, I was
on a journalistic mission of
the utmost delicacy: checking
out the new sports book at the
Windsor Casino, accompanied by
my wife and a friend.
I have an infallible talent
for picking out the lane at U.S.
Customs that places me directly
behind the driver with "Death
to Infidels" tattooed over his
eyebrows. Sure enough, this was
no different. It was grindingly
slow going before we reached the
We were using our passports
for photo ID. Within a few sec-
onds of the agent placing them
through a scanner, a computer-
ized voice could be heard saying,
"Alert! Alert!"
Sometimes I am slow on the
pickup, but I knew pretty fast

Our passports were
that this was not good.
Sure enough, our pass-
returned to us
immediately, and
ports were confiscated;
we were directed to
we were free to be
embraced by the
an adjacent parking
area and told to enter
welcoming arms
of America. I don't
a shed.
want to say I was
I am fairly certain
shaken, but at din-
that neither Sherry nor
Georg e Cantor
ner it took both •
I is a terrorist; and our
Colt_ Imnist
hands to stir my
friend seems pretty
trustworthy, too. So
I suppose that isn't quite as
what else could it be?
bad as the four couples I heard of
In my mind I could hear the
agent saying: "Mr. Cantor, accord- years ago who decided to come
home from Toronto with the guys
ing to the IRS computers you
in one car and the women in the
deducted a Caribbean cruise as
other. The men were pulled aside
a business expense on your 2001
an inspection at the bridge,
federal return. I assume you
when the agent opened the
brought the documentation for
bag and found it was filled
that with you."
with frilly underwear ... well, I
Given the choice of being
accused of terrorism and facing
could see where that might be
the IRS, I'd pick number one.
I'm glad they've decided
It was all a mistake, of course.

against patting down seniors at
the border to make sure they're
not dangerous smugglers bring-
ing in cheap prescription drugs.
But I'm wondering. If the
computer flagged my passport
once, what happens if it does that
a second time? Do I get labeled
as a habitual offender? Can I get
deported to my grandfather's
shtetl in Lithuania?
I don't think migratory water-
fowl are worth the risk.

Note: I'll be speaking at 2
p.m. Sunday, Nov. 12, at the
Jewish Book Fair, in the JCC in
West Bloomfield, on rriy new
books: A Season in the Big
House, about Michigan football,
and Out of Nowhere, about the
2006 Tigers.

George Cantor's e-mail address is


November 9 p 2006


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