Archive for November, 2008

On the Mindless Menace of Violence

mlk_rfk63

I posted about RFK before.
Below is a link to a youtube video and a complete transcript of another of his speeches, this time with more than just five minutes to prepare it.
It’s pretty self explanatory,so I can’t really comment on it.
It’s heartbreaking to see our world has changed very little in dealing with our neighbors.
And it’s terrifying how easily so much hope can be erased by one flick of the finger.
God willing, Obama will be the President RFK never got the chance to be.

-oj

On the Mindless Menace of Violence
City Club of Cleveland, Cleveland, Ohio
April 5, 1968 (Day after MLK was assassinated

This is a time of shame and sorrow. It is not a day for politics. I have saved this one opportunity, my only event of today, to speak briefly to you about the mindless menace of violence in America which again stains our land and every one of our lives.

It is not the concern of any one race. The victims of the violence are black and white, rich and poor, young and old, famous and unknown. They are, most important of all, human beings whom other human beings loved and needed. No one – no matter where he lives or what he does – can be certain who will suffer from some senseless act of bloodshed. And yet it goes on and on and on in this country of ours.

Why? What has violence ever accomplished? What has it ever created? No martyr’s cause has ever been stilled by an assassin’s bullet.

No wrongs have ever been righted by riots and civil disorders. A sniper is only a coward, not a hero; and an uncontrolled, uncontrollable mob is only the voice of madness, not the voice of reason.

Whenever any American’s life is taken by another American unnecessarily – whether it is done in the name of the law or in the defiance of the law, by one man or a gang, in cold blood or in passion, in an attack of violence or in response to violence – whenever we tear at the fabric of the life which another man has painfully and clumsily woven for himself and his children, the whole nation is degraded.

“Among free men,” said Abraham Lincoln, “there can be no successful appeal from the ballot to the bullet; and those who take such appeal are sure to lose their cause and pay the costs.”

Yet we seemingly tolerate a rising level of violence that ignores our common humanity and our claims to civilization alike. We calmly accept newspaper reports of civilian slaughter in far-off lands. We glorify killing on movie and television screens and call it entertainment. We make it easy for men of all shades of sanity to acquire whatever weapons and ammunition they desire.

Too often we honor swagger and bluster and wielders of force; too often we excuse those who are willing to build their own lives on the shattered dreams of others. Some Americans who preach non-violence abroad fail to practice it here at home. Some who accuse others of inciting riots have by their own conduct invited them.

Some look for scapegoats, others look for conspiracies, but this much is clear: violence breeds violence, repression brings retaliation, and only a cleansing of our whole society can remove this sickness from our soul.

For there is another kind of violence, slower but just as deadly destructive as the shot or the bomb in the night. This is the violence of institutions; indifference and inaction and slow decay. This is the violence that afflicts the poor, that poisons relations between men because their skin has different colors. This is the slow destruction of a child by hunger, and schools without books and homes without heat in the winter.

This is the breaking of a man’s spirit by denying him the chance to stand as a father and as a man among other men. And this too afflicts us all.

I have not come here to propose a set of specific remedies nor is there a single set. For a broad and adequate outline we know what must be done. When you teach a man to hate and fear his brother, when you teach that he is a lesser man because of his color or his beliefs or the policies he pursues, when you teach that those who differ from you threaten your freedom or your job or your family, then you also learn to confront others not as fellow citizens but as enemies, to be met not with cooperation but with conquest; to be subjugated and mastered.

We learn, at the last, to look at our brothers as aliens, men with whom we share a city, but not a community; men bound to us in common dwelling, but not in common effort. We learn to share only a common fear, only a common desire to retreat from each other, only a common impulse to meet disagreement with force. For all this, there are no final answers.

Yet we know what we must do. It is to achieve true justice among our fellow citizens. The question is not what programs we should seek to enact. The question is whether we can find in our own midst and in our own hearts that leadership of humane purpose that will recognize the terrible truths of our existence.

We must admit the vanity of our false distinctions among men and learn to find our own advancement in the search for the advancement of others. We must admit in ourselves that our own children’s future cannot be built on the misfortunes of others. We must recognize that this short life can neither be ennobled or enriched by hatred or revenge.

Our lives on this planet are too short and the work to be done too great to let this spirit flourish any longer in our land. Of course we cannot vanquish it with a program, nor with a resolution.

But we can perhaps remember, if only for a time, that those who live with us are our brothers, that they share with us the same short moment of life; that they seek, as do we, nothing but the chance to live out their lives in purpose and in happiness, winning what satisfaction and fulfillment they can.

Surely, this bond of common faith, this bond of common goal, can begin to teach us something. Surely, we can learn, at least, to look at those around us as fellow men, and surely we can begin to work a little harder to bind up the wounds among us and to become in our own hearts brothers and countrymen once again.

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“Angry” Criticism of Obama

"Caged Hope"

As noted in the post below, what people seem to forget is that Obama is human. He will inevitably let people down, because “people will eventually diappoint you if you know them long enough.” (“Synecdoche, NY” – Fascinating movie)

I’ve criticized his pick of VP ( I never hesitate to mention that Biden received the Friend of Zion award from Israel). I’ve also expressed disdain for his choice for Chief of Staff (see previous post from Electronic Intifada). But in the end, they won’t make the final decisions. That is left to a man who has shown clear judgement in the past. But, still, I am reminded of what Presidential candidate Eugene Debs said early in the 20th century: “It is better to vote for what you want and not get it – than to vote for what you don’t want and get it.” Have I become, as one writer has termed it, a political “Judas, selling [my] ideals short for political gain?”

Below is an excerpt from a popular Middle Eastern professor’s blog who is, often times, quite “angry.” He brings up valid points. But what’s important is not to dismiss his criticisms, as a lot of Obama supporters do, but USE them. Be aware of them. Listen to them. Because it is this criticism, this disagreement that fosters change. But at the same time we must be sure not to blame all the injustices on some conspiracy that will constantly keep Arabs down, or keep Palestine or Iraq occupied, but instead turn to ourselves. How do we, as people, inform the public, and thus give Obama a platform on which he can remove support of Israel as an occupying force. In the end it’s easier to give up on change. It’s easier to say Obama is just like the rest of the politicians. It’s easier to back down and blame Obama for selling out, to give in to that self fulfilling prophecy, than to pressure him and ourselves to live up to the ideals set before us. So, to the author of the excerpt below, I welcome your Obama bashing. In fact, I demand that it continue. Because without it, we would be nothing more than sheep.
We have at least four years. While we shouldn’t be praising him as our saviour, we shouldn’t be prejudging him on decisions he hasn’t made yet.

oj

REMEMBER ME: OBAMA BASHING BEGINS HERE

It was a noisy night in Washington, DC. Cars were parading the streets and honking their horns all night long. People around were very excited and people walked the streets and yelled and shouted in joy. AlJazeera offices: now that was a different story. The chaos there could not hide the festive atmosphere. People took bets and they had a sheet with staff names. I asked who was betting on McCain: no one, they said but they were betting on when the results would come in with news of Obama victory. People were excited and emotional. As I sat with the three anchors listening to Obama victory speech, I would make critical comments. I could tell that people did not enjoy that and there was a white technician who was very emotional got really mad at me because I was being critical of Obama. I ran into Lawrence Korb (former assistant secretary of defence under Ronald Regan) and I asked him if he had endorsed Obama. He said that he did not do that publicly but that he was advising him on defense and national security policies. He said that there is a move to appoint Richard Halbrooke as Secretary of State. I said: but the man (in addition to annoying the hell out of me) is the biggest self-promoter in the world. I woke up to day and put on Fox News: yesterday, at the GYM I turned to Fox and the people in the GYM were about to kill me. Not Fox, they yelled. I said: are you kidding. They are hilarious and I will derive a lot of pleasure watching them this week and in weeks to come. Fox mentioned the headline of Al-Akhbar newspaper which referred to Obma as “the black Jack Kennedy”. I was not amused and I did not like that headline by Al-Akhbar at all. Why should the White Man always be a term of reference? He is not Jack Kennedy: and even though I don’t support Obama but he is much more capable and effective than Kennedy, and he did not use his daddy’s money to achieve victory, and Obama wrote his own words. The festive coverage of the Arab press is really bothering me and I tried to express that in my appearance on AlJazeera. I will write about that soon in Al-Akhbar. Those who supported Obama: you will be disappointed and you will remember my caution. Remember me when Obama will endorse an Israeli war on a refugee camp and on a Lebanese village, and he will call that justified self-defense. Remember me when Obama will mourn the deaths of Israelis and will celebrate the deaths of Arabs and Muslims. Remember me when he orders his first bombing campaign on some remote area of Pakistan. Remember me when he betrays the poor in favor of Wall Street. Remember me when he will betray the aspirations of black people in favor of the white middle class that is now the headline of the Democratic Party. Remember me when Obama will not fight for his health reform plan, and will he not deliver on many of his promises. Remember me when Obama will stick to his campaign promise of opposing gay marriage. Remember me when when Obama will continue to blame the failure of the American occupation of Iraq on the Iraqi people themselves. On Angry Arab: the Obama bashing has just begun and will continue unabated.

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A choice of hope or clinging to our worst fears…

I feel like I’ve been in a daze as of late. It’s ironic that only one day after America’s most historic election, I feel like I’m going to mentally implode from having to deal with the accumulation of conflicting thoughts. What’s even more ironic, is to see that people across the Muslim and Arab world seem to be more thrilled with Obama’s victory than Muslims and Arabs in this country.  As a Muslim Arab-American female, I almost feel like I’m not entitled to believe in anything anymore. I just feel myself getting sucked into the negativity of a few summers ago, and I so don’t want a return to that stressful time neither am I about to rehash that period on this blog. But it was that experience that left a deep impact on me and gave me particular insight into people’s character and motives, and has left me marveling over our eagerness to knock down and pounce on the idols we set up. That behavior scares me because the presence of it means nothing is to be depended on, no one is to be trusted, not even ourselves. We can’t even hold on to our own leaders for too long before turning our backs at the first sign of trouble. And I feel like we do this all the time and it’s what we’re used to because it’s something we’ve inherited from the politics back home. It’s almost like we resist the urge to believe in another possibility and we do our best to find a flaw, a reason to abandon something or someone. But if you can’t trust your own people, who’s left to fight for?

Obama has for the first time ever, connected me to this country’s history. And maybe it’s because I’m not so willing to let that feeling go now that I have it, this sense of belonging, that I find myself defending the man to those who are waiting for him to prove their every doubt– and in many instances egos– right. Or maybe I’m just tired of assuming the worst, of the constant flux of negativity that we seem to have grown accustomed to. Why isn’t it ok to believe in the possibility of a better world? Why should that statement sound foolish and naive to me?

First off, I have not drunk the Obama kool-aid and will forever remain a skeptic of any leader who claims to possess the answers. Aside from the vindication of seeing a qualified black politician ascend to what is considered the highest post in the world, there was no way I was willing to subject myself to another Republican administration.  But then there is the promise of Obama’s words. For the past two years, I’ve watched this man unite and invigorate Americans young and old, black and white. Last night I watched him bring America to tears because we could actually feel America’s potential burning alive within us, and also because we so badly want to believe that he can fix a broken America. To see a born leader come along in my lifetime and bring together not only Americans but people from around the world, is deeply inspiring. It feels really good to know that such leadership is still possible.

I’ve been over the what-ifs, and I know that if Obama had come out in support of my causes, he wouldn’t have had a shot in hell. But does that point to an inherently ignorant, racist America? Yes, some people can never be reached but they are in the minority. It’s easy to condemn and judge the “idiots” who just don’t get it, and it’s easy to assume that their only motive is to punish me for being Muslim or Arab, or whatever.  Of course a presidential candidate can’t come off in support of Palestine, nor could he pose in a picture with two hijabis behind him… America isn’t ready yet, as sad and painful as that is for us to comprehend. It took over two centuries to see a Black man reach the presidency, do we seriously expect the man to brandish his Muslim roots and to come out in support of our causes down to the T? Americans have been subjected to the worst kind of programming and for a long time now they’ve been taught to fear anything Middle Eastern. When it comes to our issues, their attitudes have been shaped by the media, politicians, and an absent Muslim/Arab voice.

Today broke the news that Obama selected a pro-Israel hardliner to be his Chief of Staff. I’m going to for once hold my tongue and wait until he actually starts running this country. He has four years to prove to me that he is on the side of right, and will try his hardest to bring America over to that side. I fully accept that I did not elect a magician or saint to office, but a man who has to make the best of the world he was handed.

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Hooray, Election Day!! Now what?

votes

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it’s time to pause and reflect.”
-Mark Twain

I have this really uneasy feeling about Obama now.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still voting for the guy, and I’ll be happy to have a President I can respect for his intelligence and conduct.
I just feel like I’ve spent so long rooting for this moment that I’m afraid of what will happen afterwards.
What happens now? What do we do now?
I think I’ve used the election as a distraction, along with a litany of other distractions, to take my attention off the stresses of life from personal issues, to romantic issues, to educational issues. Over the past 20 months I’ve been able to watch pundits analyze political minutiae, browse polls, laugh at impersonations, sneer at the mudslings and cheer for the hope of a greater country. I’ve been able to quarrel with friends and family over Healthcare plans, crazy pastors (though he spoke the truth), Ron Pauls and Dennis Kucinichs, a weepy woman, a robotic Republican, a really old man…and the list goes on. When it’s over, whether or not Obama wins, I will feel this sad longing for the struggle.
I think it’s a fear a lot of people have. It’s the type of fear many men have when they get married, longing for “thrill of the chase.” It’s a fear that drives many corporate CEOs to committing suicide once they’ve ascended to the top of their company, knowing they’ve achieved everything they could hope for, and so have nothing left to strive for.
As I write this at 1:30PM on Election Day, nearly five hours before the first polls close, I wonder just what I was struggling for. If Obama wins, how bittersweet will that win be? How much easier was it to blame a shitty life and a shitty world on a shitty President than to have to possibly face the fact that “the fault, dear Brutus, lies in ourselves?” How good did it feel to scapegoat everything on an incompetent President and an evil administration rather than face the reality that evil will exist and still exists everywhere and in everyone no matter what color their skin is, or what color their state is on a political map?
I guess it’s like the feeling a Red Sox fan must’ve had when they finally won the World Series after 86 years. You’ve grown so used to the struggle, that when it’s gone, you miss it. And moreover, you’re scared the struggle was never worth it.

oj

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