Wednesday, October 30, 2019

The Final Solution: Getting With the Program

Black Standard used by ISIL
Many states have outlawed conversion therapies for minors ("Colorado Bans 'Conversion Therapy' for Minors,NYT, 6/1/19), a move that reflects a broader understanding and acceptance of gender and sexuality, in all its forms. But what about terrorism? What if your child’s a terrorist and went off to join the Caliphate? Now that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been killed, there will undoubtedly be an influx of ISIS members seeking to return to their countries of origin ("Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, ISIS Leader Known For His Brutality, Is Dead 48,NYT, 10/27/19). In American PastoralPhilip Roth’s emblematic central figure Seymour, “Swede” Lvov, has a daughter who’s a 60s style radical responsible for a bombing in which someone has been killed. Once a pickle, no longer a cucumber. There’s no turning back, at least in the case of poor Swede.  He will never get his daughter back--at least the ideal that once existed in his imagination. That’s the problem with millenarian ideologies, they’re the incubus or succubus that sexually implants itself into their hosts. It’s all a little like the horror classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers in which people became inhabited by pods. The fictional condition actually has an analogue in neurology, Capgras Syndrome, where imposters appear to be inhabiting an otherwise familiar seeming person. "Nxivm: How a Sex Cult Leader Seduced and Programmed His Followers," (NYT, 6/14/19), ran The Times headline, detailing the machinations of Keith Raniere. ISIS plainly has no monopoly on violently transformative behavior. On a mass scale the Cultural Revolution in China and the genocide that occurred in Cambodia under Pol Pot illustrate the powerful hold of ideology which can turn the relatives and friends you thought you knew into a frightening strangers.

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