Tuesday, September 19, 2006

What have the Arabs ever done for us?

A Tribute to Tonight's Show (The Colbert Report, Monday Sept. 18th, 2006)

[A Reply to George Bush; With some apologies to Monty Python]

What have the Arabs ever done for us?


That's right. Zero. And that ain't nuthin'.

Without the Arabs we wouldn't have the memories and ancient classics of human thought; the wisdom of Socrates - put to death in a democracy so tainted with fear, for nothing more than having an idea; the warnings of falling prey to sophism - the art of making the weaker argument seem the stronger - destined to bring an unaware democracy to decline; the wisdom of Aristotle, with ethics and politics inseparable, he taught the theory of constitutions, their rise, their fall, and the causes of each.

Upon that foundation - the wisdom of prior ages preserved and passed on to us when our own had grown dark and bleak; when we had forgotten who we were and where we were going - Madison laid that of our nation. We had learned from the past the mortal disease to which popular governments had always fallen; and discovered through our reason therein the potential of a cure. Our Constitution now lays dormant, as if a dark age had once again befallen. Its form remains ... but an empty shell, a mere facade. Ideas were what informed it, infused it, gave it life - they were its substance, its sole. Who will remember them for us this time?

Yes, the Arabs gave us ZERO. But I'm not talking zip, nada, nuthin'.

They gave us that concept of a number that wasn't. And they preserved for us a dream of a world that wasn't but could be. They valued what we had forgotten. Ironic - they, appearing so different; yet to whom we are forever indebted for our "culture." They gave us concepts on which we built our economies, our technologies, our prosperity ... and preserved for us the idea of polities capable of nurturing and preserving our true happiness. If not for them would we have seen the light emerging from out of that dark age back then?

They gave us the dream of America: the recognition that we were not destined to be subjects to the interests of a ruling few; the belief in a practical striving for a common good; the recognition of our nature to progress - tomorrow can indeed be a better day; if, that is, we remember who we were and what we were striving to become. They gave us the America schools taught us to be proud of; the America that could lead by example without force. They saw ideas that transcended cultures, connected us as mankind, and enabled us to again value freedom, equality, justice and the common good. That dream remains a possibility. But we have gotten lost along the way. In pursuit of our individual "American dreams" we have lost that which united us, that which could unite all, that which made us more than a nation, but a hopeful experiment for all mankind. They remembered this for us then when we had forgotten; who will remember for us today?

You may think the Arabs gave us nothing; that we have no common dreams; no indebtedness; no bond. That we are an "us" and they are a "them" and that is what we are destined to remain. But you, my friend, have forgotten, somewhere along the way, who you actually are - and more importantly - could be.

Good night and good luck.
Charlie Grapski
a citizen

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