Tom makes what I take to be a perfectly legitimate point: that grim humor may be a useful form of coping with terror in the face of death among combatants, but it is gauche to the point of mindless insensitivity when the White House engages in it. In retrospect, President Bush set himself up for reminders of having ducked active combat when he affected a flight suit to land on an aircraft carrier on the other side of the earth to declare the war in Iraq over before grim reality had even set in there. More colorful representations of him seem appropriate. Let's leave the humor about war to the"insiders" who face it on the ground.
Fair enough. But what distinguishes that drawing of the line from Hindutva's drawing of the line against critical western scholarship about Hinduism? O.k., there are no threats of assassination among us. I assume that we agree that it is, at the very least, gauche to the point of mindless insensitivity when Hindutva threatens the life of western scholars, suppresses their publications, and ransacks offending archives in India. But is there a line of mindless insensitivity which critical scholarship must not cross when it examines Hinduism? Is critical scholarship a western construct that somehow must inevitably traduce whatever it touches? I have to admit that when David Adesnik mocks the Hindus with: "We feel your pain ...", my sensitivity sensors buzz a little, even if I don't want to call in the censors. It seems insensitive, even if I want to defend free inquiry. In short, to arrive at a question which wouldn't have made any sense had I posed it at the outset, why ought the White House not make sport of war's grim realities if western scholars ought to be able to hold up alien traditions to critical examination? Tell me if it still makes no sense.