Sunday, November 21, 2010

saints, patriots, heretics and traitors (part one)

For the past couple of days I've been thinking about how to best process the recent flap involving Eric Cantor. For those who hadn't heard, Rep. Cantor is a Republican Congressman from Virginia who is set to become the highest ranking Jewish Congressman in history. He also had a recent one-on-one meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, where he assured the PM that "the new Republican majority will serve as a check on the Administration and what has been, up until this point, one party rule in Washington," and that "the Republican majority understands the special relationship between Israel and the United States, and that the security of each nation is reliant upon the other."

Several bloggers are pointing out that Cantor's comments could constitute a felony (a violation of the Logan Act) and in fact Cantor himself has made similar accusations against other members of Congress who have had independent interactions with foreign leaders. Others in the blogosphere are even accusing Cantor of treason and calling for his impeachment. I think he should definitely be given some sanctions for pledging to a foreign leader that he would serve as a check on the White House, but I'm not holding my breath.

The Cantor incident made me think about the general problem of how members of different religious minorities in the US (Catholics, Jews, Muslims) have often been accused of having divided loyalties. And more generally, it's made me think about how the various communities themselves view the relationship between loyalty to God (or religious community or religious principles) and loyalty to ones country and the demands of citizenship.

When minorities are said to have split loyalties (or accused of being unpatriotic or "unAmerican") it can often be rooted in ignorance and can be dismissed as an expression of prejudice or bigotry. (A good example would be how John F. Kennedy's Catholic faith was made into an issue when he was running for President.) And so I'm tempted to say that all such language is illegitimate... except that there are cases of people like Cantor who are exceptions to the rule. On the Christian side we could also point to Premillenialists who base their foreign policy on their anachronistic reading of Biblical eschatology instead of what is objectively in the best interests of the United States and its citizens.

(more later...)

OpEd News: Cantor, Thy Name is Traitor by Saman Mohammadi
Salon: Eric Cantor's Pledge of Alleigance
Laura Rozen: Before Clinton meeting, Cantor's one-on-one with Bibi

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