Friday, August 27, 2010

Kurlansky's Third Lesson Redux: Look in the Mirror NYC


There are still plenty of lessons from Mark Kurlansky's book on nonviolence, but the recent spate of histrionics about the "Ground Zero Mosque" (which, to channel Mike Myers' character Linda Richmond, is neither at Ground Zero nor a mosque—discuss), I couldn't help but think of the previous lesson I blogged about: in war, one begins to resemble the enemy.

Of course, that presupposes that what's going on is a "war," and, in terms of what's going on in Iraq and/or Afghanistan, it just ain't. But for our purposes, what's more important is that the situation is being framed rhetorically as a war, and a lot of people have accepted that frame.

And those people who have accepted that frame are, just as Kurlansky posits, looking exactly like the people they claim to be fighting. More than that, they are taking on exactly those aspects of the "enemy" they claim to despise.

I couldn't help but think of this when seeing the footage of the louts protesting the "mosque" and accosting the African American man they assumed was Muslim ("He musta voted for Obama!").

Hadn't I seen such scenes before? Hadn't all of us?

Sure! In places like Iran and Pakistan where Islamic radicals were protesting the evils of America.

But that's only a superficial comparison. I wondered if there were examples of Muslim crowds protesting the building of Christian churches. Off to the Google machine!

It took me all of 30 seconds to find what I was looking for.

In February of this year, a crowd of 150 radical Muslims in Indonesia protested the building of a Protestant church. Just as in the mosque case in New York, the civil authorities had okayed the building. And just as in the mosque case (and similar cases that have cropping up across the U.S.), hateful bigots were looking for legal loopholes such as zoning regulations to find ways of stopping the perfectly lawful building of an "infidel" place of worship.

The more you look at conflicts like this, the more you realize that the apparent opposing sides are not the true opposing sides. The galoots making idiots of themselves in New York are the same galoots in Indonesia. They just speak with different accents.

These folks are on the same team. They want the same things. They believe in the same things. The delicious irony is that pointing this out to people on either "side" infuriates them both.

If you needed any further proof of Kurlansky's third rule, look no further than NYC and Indonesia.


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Obama's Peaceable (and Sensible) Ground Zero Mosque Rhetoric

A bunch of folks, including the sometime/part-time governor of Alaska, have accused President Obama of being either A) wrong in his remarks about the “Ground Zero” mosque, or B) unclear or contradictory in his remarks. Neither of these accusations is true. In fact, Obama’s statements on this issue have been entirely correct morally and factually and also entirely consistent. I’d add that I think they are a great example of what “peaceful” rhetoric can be.

Obama said on Friday that Muslims, like anybody else in America, are completely free to practice religion in any way they see fit, as long as they do so within the context of the law. On Saturday, he pointed out that he had *not* said anything one way or the other about the “wisdom” of building this particular mosque, but simply that it was absolutely within the law to do so.

Would we want a president to say anything other than this? The entire purpose of having freedom of religion enshrined in the Bill of Rights is precisely to point out that it doesn’t make a bit of difference what anyone-- you, I, or even the president—thinks about someone else’s right to practice their religion. It’s not a matter of opinion or majority rule. You get to worship God (or not) the way you want to, particularly on your own property. No one, and I mean no one, can possibly offer an argument that says the government could or should interfere with the building of this mosque. At least, no one can offer an argument that would be consistent with well over two centuries of Constitutional law as well as the most basic tenets of the American form of government.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Nonviolence: Lesson #3

Have you heard about the Centennial Park church?

You might remember that in 1996, a terrorist bomb exploded in Centennial Park during the Olympics, killing two people and injuring more than a hundred. Eventually, authorities arrested Eric Robert Rudolph, a sometime-follower of a right-wing Christian identity movement, after he had been found to have bombed several other buildings.

Now, the city of Atlanta is actually allowing a Christian church to be built two blocks away from the site of this terrorist attack by a religious zealot.

Why can't the builders of this church recognize the pain they are causing? Building a church so close to the site of a terrorist attack done in the name of Christianity disrespects the families of those who were killed and injured in that attack. The city government needs to do something to stop this, even if the church is being built on private property.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Greenspan Warns Against Continuing Bush Tax Policy

Economic violence is violence, and the massive redistribution of tax burden onto the shoulders of the middle class via the Bush tax "cuts" was a punch to the gut of the majority of Americans.  Of all people, Alan Greenspan (often in the past a proponent of similar sorts of economic violence) recently warned against continuing the Bush tax policy (as the GOP would like to do, despite their caterwauling about deficits). 

Another good article on the issue by Fareed Zakaria can be found here.

And here's a graphic representation of what happens to the debt if the tax cuts for the wealthy are extended without offsetting cuts.