It is human nature to ignore gathering storms until the tornado, hurricane, cyclone, or blizzard comes into plain view.
In recent years, repetitive weather disasters have caused so much physical damage in certain areas of the U.S. and elsewhere in the world, that today some preparations, with the aid of new and sophisticated technology, do take place.
But gathering storms of political disaster do not seem to merit the same attention as the weather. Perhaps it is the naïve belief that these storms of the recent past, such as world wars, holocausts and ethnic cleansing, cannot recur that inspires such passivity.
In an advanced capitalist democracy such as ours, there is also a resistance to any deliberate change in our comfortable lives, and instead of vigilance we have indulged ourselves in a chronic politics of spectator political combat, reserving our emotions and passions for rhetorical electoral contests which have become so abstract they are essentially meaningless in the real world.
The gathering storm of the 21st century is quite visible in many places in the world, but apparently not sufficiently for many Americans to see it coming. When individuals, including the president of the United States, try to warn the citizenry that this storm has yet to hit the country in full force, they are dismissed by many Americans, most of them bitter partisans of the party out of power, as well as pacifists and radical populists, as prevaricators, warmongers and incompetents.
This rhetoric, of course, does not alter the course of the incoming storm. In fact, as warm inland seas transform tropical ocean storms, the storm can be intensified into a hurricane.
The recent assault on Pope Benedict XVI for remarks he made concerning religious violence is only a case in point. The pope's speech, read carefully and in its entirety, is a plea for reason and dialogue between conflicting worldviews.
It is also a statement that this new pope understands there is a gathering storm against the civilization of which the church he leads is one of the mainstays and beneficiaries. While the reaction to his remarks in the Islamic world was predictable, the outpouring of criticism in the secular Western world was surprising for its anti-Catholicism and its shallow dim sight.
In fact, the attack on the pope was only the latest signal from the supranational terrorists that their target was not merely the state of Israel, the American government and Jews everywhere.
Evangelical Protestants, already identifying with Israel and the fate of Judaism as tied with their own, had very early recognized the gathering storm. So did individual Catholics. But with the brutal reaction to Pope Benedict XVI, the terrorists made plainer than ever before their true target and goal, the destruction of western civilization itself by violence.
Liberal religious persons, and secular Christians and Jews, in many cases, remain skeptical of the storm ahead, and often lead the rhetorical campaigns in the media and in political campaigns to denounce those who warn of its imminence and try to prepare for it.
When the next wave of attacks do come, these naysayers, of course, will try to make the world forget their shortsightedness, just as the isolationists did after Pearl Harbor, just as those Frenchmen who caved into Hitlerism tried to do after the Vichy regime fell, just as Europe tried to do after the Holocaust was revealed in its full horror, just as the Common Market did after ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia, just as Africans are doing while Darfur sinks into further depravity.
It is a social pattern which goes back to the time we all lived without civilization in caves.
Western civilization, with all of its warts and defects, is the only pattern of hope and true progress the larger world has ever known in its millennia of human activity.
Fascism emerged in the early 20th century in Italy, Spain and Germany. The slogan "Long live death!" was made notorious by Spanish fascists. In a famous confrontation in 1936, the great Spanish philosopher and writer Miguel de Unamuno responded in Salamanca to a speech by fascist General Millan-Astray in which the general had repeated the slogan "Viva Muerte!" ("Long Live Death!") with a speech of his own, declaring "There is a time when to be silent is to lie."
He then denounced General Millan-Astray and the Spanish fascists for their assault on Spanish civilization and culture. (The next day, Unamuno, in his 80s, was arrested and he died soon thereafter.)
After France fell in 1940 and its fascist Vichy puppet regime was created, French colonial territories throughout the world were left to choose their own sides. In the Middle East, the French territories chose Vichy.
It should be no surprise to hear from the leader of Hamas in Lebanon today that the difference between his group and the Israelis is that whereas the Israelis cherish life, his group celebrates death (including the suicide bombers). As the great Islamic scholar Bernard Lewis points out recently in his essay "Freedom and Justice in Islam," Nazi organizers came from Germany in the early 1940s to restructure social regimes in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, promoting a permanent vicious hatred against the Jews, and forming Ba'athist (fascist) parties throughout the region. (I would add that the grand mufti of Jerusalem, the Muslim leader in British-mandated Palestine, and who later provoked the 1948 war there, was also a Nazi sympathizer who went to visit Hitler in Germany in 1941 and returned to inflame existing local conflicts into deep hatred against Jewish settlers.)
Islamo-fascism is literally Islamo-fascism.
When American apologists for terrorists, and others who feed on their own political correctness or other grievances, recently criticized the use of the phrase "Islamo-fascism," they attempted, consciously or unconsciously, to avert the world's attention from actual and historical origins of the hatreds in the Middle East, and the womb of the ideology of much of the terrorism from which has grown a supranational threat and a gathering world storm.
Recent gloating by these apologists that they had successfully suppressed the term "Islamo-fascism" by associating it with their negative perceptions of President Bush, Prime Minister Blair, and the efforts to prepare for and combat the gathering storm, was premature. The term is exactly and historically accurate. It will not go away. Nor will the storm.