I found a link to a site called Pinupsforvets, the source for the picture above, and its evocation of 40s idealism and romanticism appealed to me. Now I suppose the 40s pinup would have been called a form of pornography and denounced from the pulpit back in the 40s. It seems peculiarly innocent now next to the likes of Playboy, Penthouse, Cheri, and other magazines that have no hesitation in going where only gynecologists and gastro-enterologists have gone before.
So am I saying that we’re fighting for the right to be slightly immodest and sexy? Actually, I am. When you read the various al-Qaeda scribblings you find that what they want is to set up a political entity that will enforce their peculiar ideas of morality. Ultimately, inshalla, they seek to impose Islam, by force, on the world. Now so far Allah hasn’t exactly been willing to let them impose on too much of the world. In four wars they’ve been unable to bring Israel to its knees. You would think that normal people would say at some point “Hey, maybe Allah wants us to get along with Israel, and we should make peace.” The idea that Allah isn’t on their side after all never seems to have struck their “mutthead obtundities.”
In the West, in the wake of the religious wars that caused Europe so much suffering, an understanding has slowly emerged that no matter how much we may dislike someone’s religion we will not go to war over religion. World War II, for example, started in response to a land grab by Germany, not in response to its repressive policies towards Jews, Christians, or to various ethnic groups. There has been repression and religious violence such as the Terror of the French Revolution, or the attacks on Mormons when that religion was starting. On the whole, however, the West has not gone to war over religion since the 1600s. A consensus has gradually emerged that however silly I may think your religious beliefs are I will not force you to give them up. If you want to revive the worship of the Norse gods, that’s fine. You can open a temple, or dedicate an oak, or whatever, and I won’t object on religious grounds, and urge that you not be allowed to have your temple or your oak. Now that doesn’t mean that I can’t object that your temple or oak will cause a huge influx of traffic into my neighborhood. Nor does it mean that I give up the right to say that your religion is silly, or to urge you to convert to my religion, or lack of relgion. What it means is that we’ve undertaken to disagree, and taken a tacit pledge that though our disagreement may be profound, and even heated, it will not pass from angry words to angry and violent acts.
In the process of becoming religiously tolerant we’ve also become socially tolerant. We may regard the Hasidic Jew as a strange sight, but we don’t force his wife and daughters to wear miniskirts, and they don’t force ours to dress according to their ideas of modesty. The Amish can drive their buggies down the same roads that we use for Ferraris. If we see some sixteen year old girl with her navel pierced and her shorts cut ultra short, we might yearn for when we were twelve and she would have been an older woman, but we don’t go up to her and force a burqa over her, or threaten her or her parents. If we think someone we’re dealing with is gay, and we’re put off by that, we’ll minimize our interaction, and not call the morals police to put him or her in jail.
Places that have an overdose of morality, or moralism, however, won’t allow the Hasidic Jew (as in Saudi Arabia), and do enforce a uniform dress code on all. Gays were persecuted under the Taliban. Al Qaeda is intolerant. You adhere to their standards of religion and morality or you die.
It’s really this simple, we say that we are free to choose. We are free to choose Allah, Wotan, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of Jesus, or even no god at all. We are free to choose to be straight, bi, gay, or confused. We are free to choose to dress as a 40s pinup, or to dress in an Edwardian suit, or to wear a tie, or not to wear one, to wear flip-flops to church, or to wear Gucci loafers there. We are free to pray as often as we feel like it, or not at all, if we don’t. We are free to choose any or all of these things at any time as it suits us without incurring legal disapprobation. Were Al-Qaeda to succeed in evoking the ghost of the ancient caliphate they would be poised to further attack the West, and to bring about the end of the freedoms that we should cherish.
The best way to summarize it is to say that we are fighting for the right to argue “What is the good,” rather than being told what the good is, and the right to pursue that good even some of us think that the good others are pursuing is wrong, foolish, or even evil.
So yes, we are fighting for the 40s pinup, along with a whole bunch of other good things.