Friday, July 22, 2005

Making Peer Pressure Work

When I heard on the news last week that a group of imams had issued a fatwa against terrorism in the wake of the London tube bombings, I thought it was about time. Now, not even a week later, there are more bombings and attempted bombings, and I discover that the imams have issued lots of fatwas against terrorism. Unfortunately, it seems that, just like Christians, Muslims have a tendency to obey the rules that please them and ignore those that displease them.

In an article in the Tablet, Abdal Hakim Murad acknowledges the problems of using censure and public condemnation against disaffected young Muslims. The trouble lies in a schism in Islam. A group called Wahabis regards everyone else as infidels: Christians, Jews, other religions, and most importantly, other Muslims. The Wahabis are the Aunt Maudes of Islam. Aunt Maude was a Pentecostal who was confident that everyone except Pentecostals was going to hell. The Wahabis have given themselves permission to stamp our tickets and send us there.

At times, tolerance is overrated, particularly the tolerance of intolerance. If every imam and mufti in every country not only condemned the violence of the Wahabis, but also exposed their plans for terrorism to the authorities, there might be a chance to control the violence. Exposing extremists to the authorities is both the crucial factor and the sticking point. Because Wahabis consider mainstream Muslims infidels, mainstream imam’s fatwas are ignored. Mainstream imams, aware of being ignored, or worse, of becoming targets of violence themselves, increasingly shrink from criticizing Wahabism.

No one likes the prospect of living where anyone could call the authorities and make allegations that would cause the victim’s incarceration. But who wants to live in a society where anyone standing next to you could blow themselves to kingdom come and take you with them?

One of the key precepts of the radical fundamentalist fringe is the principle of dissembling. Simply put, it is acceptable to pretend to live at peace with your neighbors if they are unbelievers and your goal is to spread Islam. Perhaps Muslim elders could take a page out of that book and use it for the goal of repairing the reputation of Islam in the world.

© 2005

Sunday, July 17, 2005

DO Something

While it is obvious that there has been a great deal of wrongdoing in the current administration in Washington, it may not be obvious why no one seems willing to do anything about it. Aside from the fact that the first mission of the rich and powerful is to preserve both their riches and power, surely someone hears the voices in the crowd screaming “Impeach them!”

Yes, people are hearing, but she who pays the piper gets to call the tune. Friends, we may be paying someone, but it ain’t the piper. The goal of the neo-conservative movement is to allow business to run everything. Without a doubt, they have achieved that goal, but they want absolute freedom for businesses to do anything it takes to make a buck, or rather, lots of bucks.

The biggest supporter of political campaigns is not the average Joe, nor is it the U.S. government, but it should be. Corporations, those make-believe beings that get all the respect and autonomy of people with half the rules and none of the punishments are the big campaign contributors. And politician’s claims to the contrary be damned, money buys access and votes. Always has; always will.
The only way to topple the current regime is to launch a massive call-fax-email-write campaign to deluge the U.S. House and Senate with calls for impeachment. I have already written both my senators and my representative in the House of Representatives. Have you? If you haven’t, and you want to, click the link below. Hell, write the president and demand his resignation, while you are at it. He is your employee, in case you forgot.

But wait. Before you write, you should realize that your activism could get you in trouble. Your boss, if you have one, and your clients may object to your politics, particularly if they are a business concern.

A year ago, I put a graphic from in my email signature. A client, one who supplied about 75% of my business last year asked me to remove the graphic from my emails. The client cited the reason that it might give an impression of bias. Political speech is, by its nature, biased. I resisted until it became clear that to refuse was to wave goodbye to a lot of income. In the end, I capitulated. I may be opinionated, and I may be brave, but my family needs to eat, just like everyone else.

If your corporation is actively practicing union-busting, encouraging political contributions to one party or another, or telling you that political activism is incompatible with employment with them, you are caught in the same bind. So, keep it outside work, but keep at it. Unless, of course you like the way things are going.

If you are happy at the prospect that you or your child could be drafted to go to Iraq and get blown up, keep your mouth shut. If you like paying for health-care services for employees of companies that do not pay their employees a living wage, stay mum. If the prospect of warmer summers in Texas (which are already 10 degrees hotter than hell) with more hurricanes appeals to you, by all means stand behind your commander-in-chief. Just remember the fate of lemmings.

Maybe there are too many cynics in this country. “They’ll just do whatever they want to do anyway,” they think. Maybe so, but the least we can do is try to keep the country from self-immolation. We may get a bum deal; we might tick people off, but at least the niggling knowledge that we could have tried, but did not will be laid to rest. I sin much more often by omission than by commission.

Maybe people are waiting for the "pendulum to swing the other way," politically speaking. Um, the pendulum is more like a see-saw. Until our side balances the 50 kids on their side by getting 50 kids on our side, we will be left high and dry. Agreeing is great, but acting is crucial.

To find the addresses and the names of your representatives in Congress, click
© 2005

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Stopping the Terror

"On the one hand, you have people working to alleviate poverty and rid the world of the pandemic of AIDS and ways to have a clean environment and, on the other hand, you have people working to kill people," he said. "The contrast couldn't be clearer between the intentions and the hearts of those who care deeply about human rights and human liberty, and those who kill, those who've got such evil in their hearts that they will take the lives of innocent folks." Mr. Bush said. "The war on terror goes on."

—George W. Bush, speaking about terrorist bombings during the G8 Summit in Scotland, quoted in the New York Times, July 8, 2005.

“You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.”
—Bob Dylan

Londoners got a taste of the reward of the deluded this week, as a series of coordinated bombings ripped through the public transit system at rush hour. While the Brits are stoic, and Mr. Bush is trying to make some international political hay, believing the fairy tale becomes more dangerous by the day.

George Bush continues to spout the by-words that have kept him in power—terrorism, Al Quaeda, War on Terror, etc.—while remaining absolutely blind to the fact that the terrorists are using the only tool they have that gets international attention. There is a quick way to solve the problem of Islamic terrorism, and one so simple that even Mr. Bush could grasp it if he tried. The solution lies in allowing the U.N. to issue an ultimatum to Israel: either create an equitable situation for the Palestinians or suffer the consequences. The United States has a part to play in the solution as well: minding its own business, which means doing nothing. Allowing the aggrieved parties to engage in whatever means necessary to resolve their conflict is not some privilege we can grant. It is the right of the peoples involved.

Because our government has tipped the balance of power for so long, Israel would likely face military conflict with many of its Arab neighbors. Not surprising, when one considers that the typical Palestinian/Israeli confrontation finds rocks and bottles pitted against automatic weapons.

Westerners have become the targets of terrorism because their governments have supported Israel unconditionally, without regard to the problems of the Palestinians. The fact that during the creation of Israel, half the population of Palestine was evicted from lands it had inhabited for generations never seems to appear on Westerners’ radar screens.

What other possible motivations could the terrorists have? They admit publicly that they carry out these attacks in solidarity and sympathy with the Palestinians. Why would they lie about their aims?

Karl Rove calls this point of view “offer[ing] therapy and understanding [to] our attackers.” Rove may be a king-maker, but he cannot have thought very deeply on the motivations of the conflict, or he would have to admit that the United States has thrown its lot in with the wrong side this time. Turning around and asking for directions are not within the repertoire of men like Rove and Bush. Being wrong is not an option, so admitting the fact is less of an option.

While Westerners can deplore their methods, honesty dictates admitting the just cause of the perpetrators. The things Islamic terrorists are demanding are only their just due. Talk about nation building and alleviating poverty rings hollow when an entire ethnic group is denied the right of self-determination with our cooperation and aid. Worse than empty, it becomes hypocritical.

Westerners have been so wracked with guilt since the holocaust that they have been unwilling to see the parallels between the actions of the Nazis and those of the Israelis. While the Israelis stopped short of the despicable genocide of the Nazis, their practices have been discriminatory and unjust. Not a fitting posture for a people who were rescued from total destruction themselves only 60 years ago.

It is not the right of the United States to decide which nations may exist and which may not. The U.S. government has taken to throwing its weight around with such abandon that one wonders why we have not been the target of more terrorism. Until Israel is stripped of its sacred cow status in U.S. foreign policy, little will change, except that eventually, countries that are less afraid of the truth will cease supporting us, and we will find ourselves alone with Israel facing a hostile world. Such a prospect bodes ill for our own right of self-determination.

© 2005

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

The Good Fight

I had words with an Army recruiter last week. He called for my 18-year-old daughter. I knew very well what he wanted, and I told him he could speak to her “over my dead body.”

“Enjoy your freedom,” he replied snidely.

I think I will. Not the first volley of words to be exchanged with military recruiters over my children, it is unlikely to be the last.

I do love my country. I would sacrifice my own life, or even that of my child to defend my country and to make it possible for Americans to continue to enjoy their freedom, but the situation in Iraq is another thing entirely.

The neo-cons have a way with words that really bothers me. Their talent lies in calling things something other than what they are, and then convincing the public that the sow’s ear in its hand is really a silk purse. The purposefulness of their distortions is nothing short of diabolical. Most distressing of all is the American public’s willingness to swallow whatever they say.

The Army sergeant who told me to enjoy my freedom honestly believes that he recruits soldiers to defend it. He hears that the war defends freedom, and cannot or will not see it for the expeditionary excursion it is.

At the Independence Day celebration I attended, one of the emcees announced a tribute to our armed forces, and told the audience to “Thank them for defending us.” Defending? I am grateful that there are men and women willing to risk life and limb to protect me. I have nothing against the armed forces. They are merely a tool. Unfortunately, the tool is being misused, with the result that we become less safe by the day.

Every soldier who dies or suffers grave injury is one less protecting us. Every soldier who goes overseas and does Bush’s bidding makes us enemies in the Arab world with each non-combatant he or she kills, mistreats, or injures. Death and injury are the stock and trade of war. Participation in war injures the spirit in such ways that soldiers come to mistreat those seen as “others”. The consequences are inevitable. More enemies plus fewer defenders equals less safe, a case of simple arithmetic.

Then we have the young people who return from the grimness of war so spiritually wounded that they no longer have any ability to know right from wrong, who become predatory, violent people with little to check their antisocial impulses. These are not theoretical people. They are not maybes. They came home from Vietnam and Korea and World War II, and they come home today from Afghanistan and Iraq. Veterans’ Administration hospitals will be busy with them for decades.

Poor kids are dying for the right of rich kids’ moms to drive them around in Hummers. Poor kids are paying for their education with their blood and with body parts. No children of legislators are in harm’s way, depend upon it. No matter how much they sing their praises and proclaim the heroism of the dead, they continue to be dead, and their deaths continue to have been wasted.

Am I unwilling to sacrifice my child for the “American way of life”? You bet your ass I’m unwilling. My children were not born to die so that corporate tyrants can let their CEOs live like kings. My children will not give their lives so that I can drive around for $1 a gallon in an SUV that passes everything but the gas station. My children will not die in some trumped-up excuse of a war that is nothing more than a grab for petroleum-rich land, even if I have to die or go to prison to prevent it.

The American way of life has become so corrupted by political collusion with corporate greed that my grandmother would not recognize it. She risked her son to stop the spread of fascism. Bush is not doing the same with our children; rather he ensures the spread of terrorism with their lives. It is time to ask if this is an appropriate use of our children’s blood.
© 2005

About Me

I love my country, that is why I criticize its absurdities; I love my freedom, that is why I do it publicly.