Assistant Professor of French and Francophone Studies Courtney Wells and Associate Professor of Art and Architecture Michael Tinkler recently were featured on “Connections with Evan Dawson” to discuss the controversy surrounding President Barack Obama’s reference to the Crusades during the National Prayer Breakfast earlier this month.
Along with professors from Nazareth College and the University of Rochester, Wells and Tinkler, who both specialize in the Medieval period, provided historical background on the Crusades to contextualize Obama’s comments, as well as to explore the implications of rhetorical references made by ISIS to the Crusades. The show aired on Wednesday, Feb. 18,
Part of the backlash against Obama’s comments, Tinkler said, owes to “the difficulty of the idea of ‘the religion of war’ and ‘the religion of peace’…Looking at this as something that Christianity has gotten past, and that Islam is still trapped in this cycle of violence — that is a terribly uninformed way of thinking about the world….What disturbs people that know a lot about phenomena like the Crusades, is having to help people use them rhetorically, responsibly; that’s part of what we try to teach people — how to make good analogies, how to write well, how to think clearly.”
Wells noted “the importance of not using history as a lens to interpret what we’re seeing through out eyes today but…to understand the complexity of events that clearly does not exist in the rhetoric of a group like ISIS [which is] taking a situation that’s often much more complicated and making it about clear distinctions of us versus them, the West versus the East…There is a big danger that comes with this harkening back and this oversimplification of terms, and I think ISIS is not seeking to look at things in a complex manner.”
On the subject of the Crusades themselves, he said, “What we’re talking about is a range of phenomena that are connected in ways that don’t make it possible to say that this is what was done during the Crusades. Taking a closer look at what we term as ‘the Crusades’ in the plural is a far more complicated history than that.”
Tinkler elaborated on the often over-simplified historical references made by politicians, which can cause controversy: “I really dislike historical analogy by politicians, because it is always clumsy. It often does demonize whole periods, like the Middle Ages.”
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The full episode can be heard here.