Archive for American Politics

Random Encounters

Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocrities. The latter cannot understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit to hereditary prejudices but honestly and courageously uses his intelligence. –Albert Einstein

I’ve been working for a small law office in Brooklyn for about 3 weeks now and have come across some interesting people. This morning a man (Caucasian, probably in his 40s) came in who had come in once before during my week of training. The first time he came in, he asked if he could have a poster that was up on our office window. He was really taken by the artwork and knew nothing else of the subject matter, neither did he especially care for it at the time. The poster is an advertisement for the National Popular Conference for Palestinians in the U.S.

The guy came by today just to let me know he actually looked up the artist and he was very impressed by what he found. He then picked up another poster for an upcoming event that had a photo of a little girl from Gaza with rubble in the background, and asked how can people not be moved by such an image? I said well, apparently the world doesn’t find it that moving based on the state of events. He replied how people just don’t care and it’s sad.

As disappointed as I am in people sometimes, I also find it hard to believe that most people simply don’t care, and we began to talk about the impact of the media on the public mind and how I’d rather give the world the benefit of doubt because people are probably just ignorant and unaware of the full story. He looked at me and chuckled and said “God bless you kiddo, but as you get older you become more and more cynical. The world is just selfish.” He then talked about his grandson and how he’s trying to keep him on the right track and prevent him from becoming one of those selfish types.

Despite his jaded views, talking to this man was incredibly reaffirming and just refreshing. I mean the man didn’t know much about the issue before and he did some research on his own based on a poster he happened to pass by that really spoke to him– and now he’s trying to cultivate the same beautiful spirit in his grandson. For me that’s all the reassurance I need, despite his contrary view, that there is hope for humanity yet in this troubled world.

This experience definitely makes up for another encounter I had with some crazy Daily News photojournalist, also white and in his 40s or so, who went on and on about the evil nature of Jews. He also praised Saddam Hussein and kept calling him a hero, and said how unlike the American government, the man never killed women and children. Umm, really??! He also let me in on a “secret” about how we would spiral into a deep depression and Obama would be assassinated for the purpose of inciting a race war that would distract people from the economic collapse and keep them from blaming the real culprits, who are naturally, the Jews.

What hurt me about this encounter was that he acted, and even mentioned, that he was letting me in on his thoughts because he trusted me and knew I would understand. In other words, because I am Arab, I would naturally agree with his views and what he apparently perceives to be the typical views of Arabs and Muslims. I don’t know what disturbs me more though, his views, or the possibility that he’s right in his assumptions?

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What’s Michelle wearing?

michelle_obama_carrie_bradshaw

 

Why is it that every time I see Michelle Obama on TV people feel the need to discuss what she’s wearing?  The woman graduated from Princeton University, has a degree from Harvard Law and is one of the best speakers I have heard, but judging by what I hear, her dress seems to be the most intelligent thing about her. Have people forgotten that she gave one of the more riveting speeches at the DNC and has always been the driving force behind President Obama?  Why has she become a mannequin on display? Why is this nation more concerned with her wardrobe than her achievements? 

The sexism on display is astounding. And what’s more astounding is how we’ve come to accept it as normal. While we speak about President Obama’s policies on the economy, we ask the First Lady about her policy on the upcoming Spring fashion. Can we stop this please?

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Why We Have to Look Back

This week, I released “Reining in the Imperial Presidency,” a 486-page report detailing the abuses and excesses of the Bush administration and recommending steps to address them. Arthur Schlesinger Jr. popularized the term “imperial presidency” in the 1970s to describe an executive who had assumed more power than the Constitution allows and circumvented the checks and balances fundamental to our three-branch system of government. Until recently, the Nixon administration seemed to represent a singular embodiment of the idea. Unfortunately, it is clear that the threat of the imperial presidency lives on and, indeed, reached new heights under George W. Bush. (John Conyers Jr., Washington Post)

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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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Hooray, Election Day!! Now what?

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“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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I believe in miracles…I think

 

I’m going to be honest. I’ve been wavering on my support for Obama ever since he spoke at the AIPAC conference, and his support for Israel became more and more concrete. He is, after all a politician and I’m just scared that he’s going to disappoint. Maybe it’s so it’ll be easier for me to deal with if he doesn’t come through. I’m scared that someone who can gain such popularity among a group of conniving politicians so entrenched in BS can’t possibly be as noble as he seems. I’m scared that people will think that somehow one man can heal a nation; that all that’s required of a population is to fill out a ballot. That’s just the first step. Without us, one man can’t do anything. Without his people, Ghandi would be nothing. Without MLK’s marchers, he would be a footnote. But most of all, I’m scared that he actually is what he seems. And all it takes is someone with a gun to tear all of it down. In a world where we are bombarded with reality shows, we forget the reality around us, how permanent things are.
We invest so much in one man, and we expect miracles. But isn’t the ascendence of a black man to the White House a miracle itself?
YES, WE CAN.
GOBAMA

oj

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Remembering Indianapolis

I will preface this by saying once again, that I am not in favor of all of Barack Obama’s policies, particularly his foreign policy. However, as a man, he is undeniably who I would want to be running this country. After reading this speech below, I am reminded of Obama;s speech on racism during the whole Jeremiah Wright debacle.  I can’t wait for a leader I can be proud of. If only for four years.  

On the day MLK Jr. was assassinated, Robert F. Kennedy was on his way to a campaign rally in Indianapolis. He was advised by police to cancel his appearance, which was before a primarily African American audience in a poor and dangerous neighborhood.

He refused.

Instead, he climbed the platform, with no speech prepared, and said what is pasted below.

That night, there were riots in over 180 cities across the US.

Indianapolis was silent.

oj 

Robert F. Kennedy on the Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

Ladies and Gentlemen – I’m only going to talk to you just for a minute or so this evening. Because…

I have some very sad news for all of you, and I think sad news for all of our fellow citizens, and people who love peace all over the world, and that is that Martin Luther King was shot and was killed tonight in Memphis, Tennessee.

Martin Luther King dedicated his life to love and to justice between fellow human beings. He died in the cause of that effort. In this difficult day, in this difficult time for the United States, it’s perhaps well to ask what kind of a nation we are and what direction we want to move in.

For those of you who are black – considering the evidence evidently is that there were white people who were responsible – you can be filled with bitterness, and with hatred, and a desire for revenge.

We can move in that direction as a country, in greater polarization – black people amongst blacks, and white amongst whites, filled with hatred toward one another. Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand and to comprehend, and replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand, compassion and love.

For those of you who are black and are tempted to be filled with hatred and mistrust of the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I would only say that I can also feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man.

But we have to make an effort in the United States, we have to make an effort to understand, to get beyond these rather difficult times.

My favorite poet was Aeschylus. He once wrote: “Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”

What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.

So I ask you tonight to return home, to say a prayer for the family of Martin Luther King, yeah that’s true, but more importantly to say a prayer for our own country, which all of us love – a prayer for understanding and that compassion of which I spoke. We can do well in this country. We will have difficult times. We’ve had difficult times in the past. And we will have difficult times in the future. It is not the end of violence; it is not the end of lawlessness; and it’s not the end of disorder.

But the vast majority of white people and the vast majority of black people in this country want to live together, want to improve the quality of our life, and want justice for all human beings that abide in our land.

Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.

Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our people. Thank you very much.

Robert F. Kennedy – April 4, 1968

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