What follows is an essay that Dave originally had posted on Xen Magazine. Since the magazine and the article are no longer on line, Dave has given me his permission to reprint his essays on the CFG site.
OF Biblical Proportions
November 05, 2004
Thank you for your continued interest in my opinions. I only regret that the circumstances of my schedule are unchanged from my previous letter (and my sincere appreciation for your decision to display it so prominently in the first number of your publication) and so, again, will not allow for the composition of an essay suitable in scope and content to the requirements of the subjects you wish me to address. To refresh your memory, you wrote: “I wasn’t able to find the recent article where you discussed the coming conflict between the Muslim world and the West, but I would like to get your thoughts on exactly that issue. If my memory serves me well (and it may very well not), I believe you wrote something about the burgeoning population of the Muslim world and how that would create nearly insurmountable problems for the West. There are, of course, a myriad of issues facing the incoming president in dealing with the Islamic world. Whether it’s the war in Iraq specifically, anti-American Wahabbism, the long-term future of the West in the face of an exploding Islamic population, or any other issue you see as important, I would be very happy to print your thoughts on such matters.”
Of course, my decision to adopt four of the five pillars of Islam as the vehicle of my own faith—while retaining my fundamental and unshakeable belief in God’s revelation of Himself in the Torah and the Gospels—was covered in rather greater depth in my post-9/11 series of essays, “Islam, My Islam” (serialized in Cerebus Nos. 276 to 282, March to September of 2002) and that is unchanged to this day. I pray five times a day (although not in the prescribed Muslim manner) wherein I acknowledge God’s sovereignty and my belief that Muhammad was His last messenger and seal of prophets, I pay the stated alms to the poor (through the Food Bank of Waterloo Region and St. John’s Kitchen principally) and I fast in the sacred month of Ramadan (which began this morning as I am typing this letter to you). Of course, I’m also a North American, born and bred, so any questions which touch on the West and Islam touch very deeply within my intellectual construct.
I certainly wouldn’t pretend to give counsel to the President of the United States along the lines of, say, Norman Mailer’s Kennedy-era book of collected essays, The Presidential Papers. Although I think Mailer’s own effort was a successful one—in retrospect, given the far-ranging prescience of many of Mailer’s viewpoints and conclusions, John F. Kennedy might have done far worse than The Presidential Papers for his bedside reading—it has to be borne in mind that Mailer was a citizen of the United States and (suspected disloyalty freely acknowledged) speaking from the vantage point of a taxpayer helping to pull his fair share of the load in the geopolitical realities of the early 1960s. For me to pretend to do the same thing from the militarily malingering confines of Canada (we of the rust-bucket navy and $9-billion-dollar-annual surplus revenue piggy bank) would seem both pretentious and vulgar, compounding Canada’s already horrendous track record of freeloading militarily off the taxpaying citizens of the United States of America. But I can perhaps offer a few comments—in the unfortunately limited amount of time that I have available—on what I see as the current shape of the conflict between the freedom-loving democracies of the world (The United States, Britain, Australia, Italy, Poland) and terrorist Islam and how I see that conflict evolving in the future.
As I wrote recently to a Mr. D. B. Little of Texas—who is one of my most cherished and treasured correspondents for the exact reason that he shares my familiarity with Islam and the West but has a far greater knowledge of the Middle East, structurally, than I could ever hope or pretend to have—it seems to me that one of the greater clarifications, one of the greater “sharpenings of perspective” which took place on 9/11 was to recall to the American Citizen and to his national character the extent to which he is a God-fearing individual (you might recall in one of my earlier writings that I pointed out that the universal song on every American’s lips in the aftermath of 9/11 was not the more secular national anthem “The Star-Spangled Banner” but the altogether more devout and—at least as it was sung then—rather mournful and bitter-sweet “God Bless America.”). In a largely secularized country like Canada it seems to me that this surfacing and outpouring of Awareness of God largely escaped notice (where it wasn’t fundamentally deplored i.e. Jean Chrètien taking fierce secular-humanist pride in the fact that the 9/11 memorial service in Ottawa featured no mention of God and no participation by any religious representative).
It seems to me that the United States and its citizens experienced a revival of their intrinsic nature as a largely Christian nation, founded by Christians in the name of religious freedom. As a former atheist and agnostic myself (yet another divide where I can at least recognize a reaction even where I no longer share it), it was easy to see 9/11 through atheistic and agnostic eyes: just another example of the harm that religion does because of the extremist beliefs of its followers. This is why, to atheists and agnostics, the Chrètien reaction seemed the most sensible: religion caused this disaster so religion must be shunned as a consequence—as a first step toward eliminating faith in God from human society as a basis of decision-making. Of course the reaction of believers in God was a very different one: How could God have allowed this to happen? Which was only magnified in the United States: How could God allow this to happen…to us? To which agnostics and atheists and secular-humanists had a hundred ready answers that started at the toppling of Allende’s government in 1973 and continued across the spectrum to “bad vibes, dude.” Which is where agnostics and atheists and secular humanists, it seems to me, always misunderstand the point. The question wasn’t: what did America do to deserve this? That question only goes up so high as is the case with all agnostic, atheistic and secular-humanist “thinking”. The multi-leveled nature of the event itself—which “played out” as a series of disaster movies—left the mental radar screen of the agnostic, the atheist and the secular-humanist quite early in the proceedings: I would guess about the time that the occupants of the upper floors of the first tower began leaping to their deaths to avoid the conflagration rising up to consume them (the implicit “either-or” of the decision—“I’d rather jump and die by hitting the pavement at 32 feet per second/per second than be burned to death by ignited jet fuel”—striking a core “don’t go there” sensibility within the perennial fence-sitting personality of the agnostic, atheist and secular humanist; a “worst of all possible worlds” for those who scrupulously avoid dichotomous choice: where it’s not a matter of “going there” because “there” is, in itself, inexorably coming for you). The non-God fearing mind could take in, to one degree or another that a plane had crashed into the side of one of the towers. It could even adapt to the parameters suggested by the impact of the second plane into the second tower (live on television). “This is like the Challenger Shuttle Disaster: pyrotechnics televised live (only with more casualties).” But, as I say, as the conflagration grew larger and larger and the people began jumping from the upper floors and the upper floors themselves of the first tower started pan-caking downward and the dust into which it was collapsing began to rise like some pestilential Biblical cloud…
…well, there you are. Biblical. Without a frame of reference comparable to the plagues visited upon Egypt (no, even larger than that: the parting of the Red Sea) in the Second Book of Moshe, the agnostics and the atheists and the secular-humanists could relate it only to the largest circumstance in their own purview: movies. This is like The Towering Inferno. This is like The Towering Inferno crossed with The Poseidon Adventure crossed with Independence Day. Which implied the latent core-level of schizophrenia which that assessment would naturally entail (this is real, this isn’t real, this is real, this isn’t real). In all conventional senses of the term, the event disappeared off of their radar screen and—for the God-fearing—moved onto the Big Radar Screen, the Biblical Radar Screen. My own first reaction, looking at the fuzzy picture on CKCO available to me on the studio monitor I had been using for video reference of The Three Stooges (which I had turned on just in time to see the collapse of the second tower) was, unmistakably, “What is God up to?” To the God-fearing there was no question that God had either actively initiated the event or that He had permitted it to take place. The scale—or, rather, Scale—of the event was self-evidently beyond the merely human.
But, I think what the agnostics and the atheists and the secular-humanists failed to recognize in the ensuing weeks was that the clarity which had resulted from the event and which the God-fearing were experiencing on a universal basis had fuzzed out their own agnostic, atheistic and secular-humanist “chattering classes dialectic” to that wah-wah sound the teacher used to make on the Peanuts animated cartoons. Agnosticism, atheism and secular-humanism became background noise—like the electrical hum of a refrigerator which is mostly unnoticed unless you’re listening for it—and about as comparably irrelevant to the reality that the God-fearing were suddenly experiencing, a super-reality that resonated with the core of their faith. In the days that followed, I imagine, to hear the usual culprits on the left nattering about the irresponsibility of the last remaining superpower and the fact that 9/11 indicated a compelling need for greater concessions on the part of Israel over the Palestinian question (i.e. blah blah blah) was to bring awake, in my view, the vast constituency of the God-fearing to the momentous realization that they had been going to their pop-up toasters for years (if not decades!) in search of oracles. Oddly enough, I had thrown away my television a month or so before 9/11 and so was spared what I can’t help but see as the acute embarrassment of the realization: Why am I listening to these people? Followed by the still greater insight: Who ARE these people? And the fundamental answer, sharp and clear as bell came back:
They are not us.
(a short interjection: it is one of the great and lasting benefits of throwing away your television that these sorts of questions no longer dominate one’s interior dialogue. “What sort of an idiot would watch this crap?” That kind of thing. I really can’t recommend too strongly throwing away your television the next time you experience the clarity of the interior question “What sort of an idiot would watch this crap?” It really is the only sensible response. Think of it as throwing away whatever it is that least appeals to you about the content: Paris Hilton, Survivor, Fear Factor. Trust me, you’ll never regret the choice).
President Bush’s early assertion that you are either with us or you are with the terrorists sprang, I believe, from the same deep, clear water of the same well. The refrigerator hum and the pop-up toaster contorted and ratcheted up their “voices” in protest, of course, recognizing the immediate threat to their decades-long hegemony over all fundaments of the global dialogue—ascending and descending their metaphorical musical scales of secular non-ideology, attempting to find egress to the American national character with pop psychology, sociological jargon and the pat, self-contradictory and formulaic anti-American evasions of UNspeak.
No, the line had been drawn in the sand. You are either with us. Or you are with the terrorists. Everyone who had suddenly awoken to find himself paying close attention to what his pop-up toaster was telling him (and was appropriately ashamed of himself), moved mentally, inexorably across that line drawn in the sand from the wrong side to the right side.
And here we stand.
Whereas previously, the Members Opposite—the atheists and the agnostics and the secular humanists—had constituted a temptation and a persuasive counter-argument on most patterns of daily living to the extent that they and their specious arguments had seemed (let the point be granted) more real than faith in God if only because they seemed everywhere to be prevailing, seemed everywhere to be establishing the nature and the parameters and the boundaries of Western reality just on sheer momentum. To cite an inflammatory example, in the space of fifty years abortion had gone from an unthinkable abomination to within climbing distance of a virtue. The world outside of God certainly had momentum on its side, the “logic of the next step” eating up ground in its ten-league boots.
What was interesting was that even as the line was being drawn in the sand and it became readily apparent who, in another political context, could be described as a “terrorist sympathizer”—those unmoved by the words of President Bush and consequently unmoving, sneering from across the line of demarcation at those who would see the world in such “simplistic” frames of reference as “good” and “evil”. Yes, was the unspoken assessment on the part of the God-fearing…yes, you sneer at the idea…
…because you are an apologist for evil, you sympathize with evil and therefore you are evil.
Evil is not (and was never) banal even at the point where one of the Members Opposite had described it as such in the aftermath of the Holocaust when Eichmann was on trial for his useless, wretched and abominable life in Jerusalem. To offer the opinion that there was a banality to evil was to admit to having been co-opted by evil or blinded to evil (which, in terms of net effects, amounted to the same thing). That the secular-humanist mind could not accurately encompass the reality of, let us say, six people being starved to human skeletons and used for hideous and sadistic medical experiments then gassed and then incinerated in ovens, was comparable to that collectivist mind’s reaction to 9/11. Past the number of fingers of both hands in contemplating such a level of inhumanity and suffering, the secular-humanist mind shut downs at the very prospect of so much as conceiving of the human toll involved: six hundred, six thousand, sixty thousand, six hundred thousand, six million. No, it can’t be done. It can’t be contemplated, says the secular humanist mind. I won’t think of it and you can’t make me.
There was only one greater evil possible than that set in motion by Eichman and his cohorts and that was to describe such a self-evident evil as “banal”.
But there was a new awareness viewing the caprices of the Members Opposite, so eager to put 9/11 behind them and “move on,” who rolled their eyes theatrically at the displays of American patriotism and finally just “moved on” some within weeks, some within months, looking for “the way back” to a metaphorical September 10th (now long-vanished as either possibility or likelihood) through music, alcohol, entertainment, sex, Survivor, Fear Factor, Paris Hilton and distractions of all forms and shapes and sizes. Even as the view from this side of the line revealed something morally repulsive and short-sighted in their various choices (preferences!), there was also the realization that there was no urge—none—to suppress or to oppress those who felt that way and who chose such (let us be charitable) unbecoming coping mechanisms. In fact just the opposite. It was one of the points of crystal clarity that the God-fearing experienced about themselves that they (we!) suddenly realized they (we!) were also The Democratic God-Fearing and that they (we!) genuinely held firmly to the view “I may disagree with what you say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” Even as Michael Moore rampaged around the countryside calling the President of the United States “everything but ‘white man’” and had the audacity to have himself depicted on the movie poster for Fahrenheit 9/11 digitally holding hands with his Commander-in-Chief on the White House lawn, there was no serious individual on the God-fearing side of the ledger who would come within a country mile of suggesting that Michael Moore should be arrested for treason or for lending aid and comfort to the enemy in time of war. Suddenly, and without declaration, the entirety of America was composed of First Amendment purists. If you suppress or oppress or persecute dissenting political viewpoints, you are with the terrorists, you are not with us. A watershed moment for Western civilization in any man’s language that largely passed unnoticed in the general conflagration, the bonfire of the September 10 vanities.
As I wrote to D.B., this (it seemed to me) was the test case of whether we genuinely believed in freedom or whether we just paid lip service to it. Uncle Sam had to look at Michael Moore and Madonna and everyone else capering and acting up on the pop-up toaster, knowing that the Muslim world was looking at the same thing. And then Uncle Sam had to turn and look Islam square in the eye and say, “Yeah, them too.” And MEAN it.
Which he did and, I believe, which We, the God-fearing, do.
You see, I think, finally this is what the argument comes down to: A percentage of God’s followers believe that everyone needs to be allowed as much freedom as a society can possibly bear to give them, because the freedom to aspire to be worthy of God’s love and worthy of the life that he gave you is meaningless unless accompanied by the freedom to go to Hell in a handcart if that’s your choice. And a percentage of God’s followers believe that it is God’s will that His laws be imposed on everyone and that the purpose of government here on earth is to impose those laws universally and that if anyone is openly committing a sin that goes unpunished, then the entire community—or, perhaps more appropriate to use the Muslim term, umma—is culpable for having failed God and will have to bear, as individuals who allowed it to happen, the consequences of that sin on Judgment Day.
There are not inconsiderable numbers of people—hundreds of millions would constitute a conservative estimate—that hold the latter view to be self-evident. Clearly, the latter and the former views are irresolvable. Not “tricky” or “difficult to finesse”—irresolvable. Those elements of Shiite Islam and Sunni Islam who hold to the view that the world is divided into Islam and the House of War (The House of War consisting of any country not run by Muslims) are not interested in negotiation. In fact the very idea of vacillating even one iota in the prosecution of the on-going war could arguably place the God-fearing soul in jeopardy. As it says of God in the Koran, he is closer to you than your own jugular vein—an implied intimacy with the Divine which makes mincemeat of the possibility of hidden motives in proximity to compromise (the stock-in-trade of Western diplomacy). It seems to me that this core belief informs the Islamic character and expresses itself in the two primary interpretations of jihad: the one I hold—that every second of every day that you are alive you are at war with your own worst and basest instincts and are expected to prevail over them—and the other which holds that every second of every day the Islamic world is at war with the Collective Infidel (the United States, Israel, pornographic movies, beauty contests) and it is the duty of each Muslim to do his (or her) bit in that war to prevail over the infidel and his vices and temptations: at point of greatest reduction (reductio ad absurdum to the rational Western mind) blowing yourself up next to an infidel as a means of “trading pieces” in the Big Chess Game. The math, of course, doesn’t quite work out. If every Muslim in the world blew him or herself up tomorrow causing anything less than an overall average of approximately six-and-a-half infidel fatalities per homicide bombing, the only people left to repopulate the earth would be…infidels.
As is habitual with my letter-writing, however circuitously, I return to the essence of one of your original questions. For while it is true that we, the occupants of the House of War (I can’t flatter myself that I would be considered anything but a “weird infidel” to the Islamic constituency we’re considering here), outnumber Muslims by a wide margin, it is also true that the birth rate in the non-Muslim countries (and particularly the G8 democracies) is plummeting dramatically even as the Muslim population figures continue to rise exponentially. Already in countries like France with a decades-long history of supplementing population through immigration this is bringing about an exponentially-rising Muslim population—many from France’s unhappy colonial experience with Algeria—which has a decidedly smaller-than-normal propensity for assimilation. If (as I theorize) those Muslims take it as a given that God is closer to them than their own jugular vein and hence no motive can be hidden from Him, the same is not true of their collective window on the western democracies where all is fair in love and war and that fooling the infidel is often no more difficult than taking petrodollars from a baby. One of the more easily (and, I think, foolishly) overlooked elements of the aftermath of 9/11 to date is the near-universal silence of the Muslim world. Even three years later, the number of Muslims (or, for that matter, “lapsed” secular-humanist, former Muslims) willing to express outrage at the attacks or to deplore the targeting of civilians is so limited as to be anecdotal—the occasional newspaper article: “Hey! Over here! We found one who thinks Islam and the West have to find some live-and-let-live compromise solution and who is willing to go on record as saying so.” Very occasional, as in, I can think of two offhand.
So it is difficult to determine exactly what the “state of play” on the Muslim side of the game might be at this point. Is there a large hope abroad in Islam that 9/11 constitutes the first act in a Muslim takeover which will consist of equal parts “oil leverage,” exponentially greater levels of population growth and terrorist attacks or is this a minority view? And if it is a minority view, how small or large is that minority? Is the minority getting larger or smaller?
That leads me into unhappy territory for the West, what I call the Gay Roommate Syndrome in our post-1970 Feminist society where marriages have become interchangeably-gendered with both husband and wife going off to work in the morning, both doing the housework, both doing the shopping, both largely distracted from their families by the time constraints and demands of job, job, job. It’s not difficult to see this as the source of the declining birthrate and—among the progeny produced by such unions—the declining marriage rate and, more perniciously in population terms, the declining successful marriage rate (those who can make it past the four-year mark without splitting up). Every year I get my Eid al-Fitr (the celebratory feast at the end of the Ramadan fast) card from Reflections on Islam addressed to “Dave Sim + family”. It is inconceivable within Islam, as constituted, that an adult male who is making financial contributions to charity would not have a family.
Please don’t shoot the messenger. I’d rather crawl through broken glass and iodine than a) go back to my own unhappy marriage now (happily) twenty years distant or b) try to figure out how to make the Gay Roommate Syndrome work with a wife who considers herself interchangeable with me in all particulars save a few anatomical variations. All I’m saying is that the marriage and childbirth vectors in Western society are plummeting from left to right on the chart even as the comparable vectors in Islam are rising with no sign on the horizon that either fact is going to be modified or even slowed in the short or long term. And if what you are attempting to determine is Who Rules the Roost? it seems to me only common sense that the faction with the valid claim to laying the most eggs (so to speak) is, in the aforementioned long term, going to have the more persuasive argument to be made and the greater likelihood of prevailing.
Even stepping back from the Unspeakable Precipice the previous subject represents when the (too?) easily-wounded feelings of feminists are at stake, the Big Picture focus becomes no sharper as we attempt to discern the exact contours of “here and now” reality. What does the average Muslim think of democracy? Reportedly there was a greater than 80% turnout for the recent presidential election in Afghanistan among a largely illiterate population…
(interim president Karzai’s party affiliation being represented on the Canadian-designed imagery-based ballot by a set of scales, the largest of the former warlords by a stallion—reminding us of Osama bin Laden’s observation that “when someone is given a choice between a strong horse and a weak horse he will naturally choose the strong horse”—and three other parties pictorially represented by an image of the Koran: perhaps inadvertently splitting the fundamentalist Muslim vote?)
…but does that interest in democracy extend anywhere in Islam in secular-humanist directions? I suspect not. I suspect that the best that can be hoped for is that democracy is amenable to Islam and Islam is amenable to democracy as a means of determining an overall course direction for a given Muslim society, but this will always be in jeopardy when faced with the sizeable minority—as example, the Sunni population in largely Shiite Iraq. It is one thing in North America to say, well, okay the people have spoken and to basically bite your tongue for four years or ten years or fifteen years: however long the exact opposite of your most deeply-held beliefs is holding sway over your country at the highest levels (eleven years and counting in my case). Put another way, it would take a sincerely devout and rigid-minded Conservative to believe that he could tolerate only six more months of this Martin person and then he’s going to have no recourse, in the sight of God, but to pack his Chevrolet Impala full of plastic explosives and drive it into Carolyn Parrish.
The separation of “church and state” we Westerners accept as a societal given is not the same thing as the separation of “mosque and state” (nor—a much deeper subject for another time—the separation of “faith and state”). A Muslim’s faith runs deeper than his loyalty to his local mosque and is largely concerned with the disposition of his soul on Judgment Day. I can’t imagine too many Canadians wondering if the vote they are casting will count for them or against them on The Last Day and I can’t imagine too many Muslims wondering “anything else but” if democracy does take hold in Afghanistan and Iraq. The al-Jazeera network did a “man in the street” interview segment a while back, evidently, asking if the average Muslim “man in the street” would ever shake hands with a Jew. Overwhelmingly, the answer was no and largely faith-based. To shake hands with a Jew would be a betrayal of Islam. A comparable sensibility inhabits the schism between Sunni and Shiite. To the average Sunni Muslim, a Shiite is lower than the lowest vermin on the earth, an abomination in the eyes of God and bound, each and every one, for unquenchable fire on the Day of Judgment. It makes the five-hundred year schism between Catholics and Protestants look like a tiff between two high-school girls’ cliques by comparison.
I’m afraid I must be taxing your patience with my seemingly inexhaustible verbosity so I’ll just touch briefly on your final question about what the “incoming president” (of course I’m hoping for the incumbent, no “incoming” about it!) will be facing in the world of Islam. I would say my fundamental concern is the intrinsic “centrist” stance of most political parties in the G8. Again, as I wrote to Mr. Little, I think the danger posed by that stance is that it was developed as a means of containing the Soviet threat during the Cold War. i.e. If our position is way over here and your position is way over there, then the wisest man in the room takes up a political position halfway between the two, splits the difference and an accommodation is achieved (most of the SALT and SALT II negotiations as well as Reagan’s final go ‘rounds with Gorbachev amounted to determining where the agreement was going to be reached midway between America’s position and the Soviet position). Interesting that one of the most serious miscalculations, in my view, was that of Jimmy Carter who chose to base much of his presidency on the decision to pull back from as many “flashpoints” around the globe as he could, based on his own best assessment that the world’s realpolitik would most benefit from everyone getting a little extra breathing room. Arguably that gave Ronald Reagan sufficient space to raise the stakes and ultimately bring the Soviet Empire to crashing ruin. But it’s worth noting that the response in Iran—that is, the Muslim reaction to Jimmy Carter giving everyone a little breathing room—was the 444-day Hostage Crisis at the American embassy in Tehran. To the Muslim political mind, there is only “strong” and “weak”. Retrenching is weakness and provokes an aggressive response. Look at all the trouble the Israelis are having trying to withdraw from the Gaza Strip. It’s viewed as weakness and weakness always provokes an aggressive response from militant Islam. The most glaring example of that would be the Camp David negotiations in 2000 where Bill Clinton—with his good-natured southern “hail fellow well met” and direct “cut to the chase” approach to negotiation—charmed (I’m not sure there’s any other word for it) Ehud Barak into giving away 95% of the candy store. West Bank, Gaza, Muslim Jerusalem, Muslim capital in Jerusalem. And what was Yasser Arafat’s response? He walked out on the agreement and began the bloody Intifada which continues to this day. There is only “strong” and “weak” to the Muslim political mind. If Ehud Barak and Bill Clinton were willing to give Arafat 95% of what he was asking for, the only conclusion Arafat could draw from that was that they were afraid of his strength, that he was much stronger than he thought he was. They would only offer him 95% if they secretly believed that he could take 100% on his own.
So, I would have to say that that’s my biggest concern in the overall “Islam versus the West” scheme of things. From Afghanistan to Iraq to Camp Delta, it seems to me that the United States is demonstrating that it’s strong and that it’s not afraid to use that strength to replace totalitarian rule with elected democracies and to “stay the course”. As long as that view prevails and is reinforced everywhere on the ground, I think we will live to see a democratized Islam around the globe. But if the compassionate Western instinct begins edging into the equation and the decision is made to ease up the pressure under the assumption that compassion will always generate reciprocal compassion, then, I think the situation will degenerate quickly into a three-steps-forward-two-steps-back decades-long military nightmare.
Given that there are no gradations in the Muslim political mind that I can see between “strong” and “weak” the only sensible option is strong. As strong as you have to be and for as long as you have to be and, as George W. Bush has said, not one day longer.
Again I apologize for the cursory nature of my answers and promise again that if my correspondents “let up on me” sometime in the near future that I will attempt to write something of genuine interest and depth for you.
As always, I remain yours sincerely,