Saturday, September 11, 2010

Got bigotry?

Media Matters has a timeline of hate speech and violence (although MM does miss an event or two, such as the stabbing of a cab driver in NYC) by our right-wingers since the story first broke about the Park51 Islamic Center.

What 9-11 means? It's a matter of perspective

This year marks the ninth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center twin towers and Pentagon. In the aftermath of that attack, several narratives emerged. There was of course the official narrative favored by our corporate and governing elites: one that emphasized nationalism and militarism, along with Manichean "clash of civilizations" imagery. Such imagery has been brought to the fore this year with the right-wing freak out occurring over a proposed Islamic cultural center that is to be constructed near the site of the WTC towers. Another narrative held that the proverbial chickens had come home to roost: that the attacks were blowback for decades of oppression and exploitation at the hands of the US corporate and political establishment. This second narrative was perhaps expressed most infamously by Ward Churchill, but can be found in the writings and speeches of others of varying levels of prominence. Still others view this day as a stark reminder of the destructive power of religious and political fanaticism - a point well worth bearing in mind. Finally, for the more conspiracy-minded, there was the "false flag" narrative that likened the attacks to the Reichstag Fire that cemented Hitler's hold on power in early 1930s Germany.

What we shouldn't lose sight of is that in all the memorials this year is that what 9-11 means or "should mean" has a great deal of variability among individuals across the globe. There is no doubt in my mind that terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center twin towers and the Pentagon were a terrible tragedy that would be exploited by our own ruling elites in the US. However, let's not forget that September 11 marks the anniversary for numerous other events: some tragic, some inspirational.

1. Let's remember that 37 years ago, the democratically elected government of Chile and its President Allende were overthrown in a US-backed coup that resulted in Allende's death. Countless thousands of people were executed or "disappeared" during Pinochet's reign of terror that subsequently followed this tragic day in history. Let's remember the victims of the coup and its aftermath.

2. Forty-one years ago today, in 1959, the US Congress authorized food stamps for Americans living in poverty. For those congressional leaders who voted to aid those in need, let's remember them.

3. On this day in 1851, in Christiana, Pennsylvania there was a stand-off between several ex-slave families (led by William Parker) and a posse of several armed white men led by a slave owner (Edward Gorsuch). By the time the stand-off ended, Parker and the remaining ex-slaves prevailed, and Gorsuch paid for his attempt to re-enslave these families with his life. That day was a stark reminder of the struggle that lay ahead for those endeavoring to break the bonds of slavery in the U.S. Let's remember Parker and those brave families who were willing to stand up for their human rights and dignity by any means necessary. The same day that was rife with tragedy at the beginning of our current century marked the sesquicentennial of what was truly a day of triumph for Parker and his crew.

4. On this day in 1945 retiring Secretary of War Henry Stimson sent a letter to then-President Harry Truman urging that the Truman administration follow a cooperative path with the USSR as the Soviet government worked to develop nuclear energy and weapons capability. Said Stimson:
“I believe that the change in attitude toward the individual in Russia will come slowly and gradually and I am satisfied that we should not delay our approach to Russia in the matter of the atomic bomb until that process has been completed.... Furthermore, I believe that this long process of change in Russia is more likely to be expedited by the closer relationship in the matter of the atomic bomb which I suggest and the trust and confidence that I believe would be inspired by the method of approach which I have outlined.”

Stimson reasoned the Russians would at once pursue obtaining such a bomb for themselves. It was not a secret, as Americans were for years led to believe, but an industrial technology being explored before the War, and which the Soviets would obtain in, say, four to twenty, years.

In a reference to the US "having this weapon rather ostentatiously on our hip," Stimson noted, "their suspicions and their distrust of our purposes and motives will increase. It will inspire them to greater efforts in an all out effort to solve the problem."

"The chief lesson I have learned in a long life is that the only way you can make a man trustworthy is to trust him; and the surest way to make him untrustworthy is to distrust him and show your distrust."
Tragically, his advice was ignored by the Truman administration, and what followed was a protracted "Cold War" that served only to inflate our elites' Military-Industrial Complex and sense of paranoia at the expense of much more humanitarian endeavors. Let's remember Stimson's words, as our current White House (p)resident threatens to pursue a belligerent reaction to Iran's efforts to become a nuclear power in its own right.

5. On this day 104 years ago Mohandas Gandhi began his famous Satyagraha in opposition to British imperial rule. Although requiring decades, Gandhi's efforts at nonviolent resistance begun on 9-11-1906 would prove successful. Let's remember Gandhi and those he's inspired to follow a different, nonviolent path in the struggle for freedom and dignity.

6. On this day seven years ago, the world lost one of the truly great slapstick comedians, John Ritter, who died of a heart attack. Ritter is likely best known for his role as Jack Tripper in the late 1970s and early 1980s sitcom Three's Company (based on the British sitcom Man About the House). Let's remember Ritter and others like him who've shared the gift of humor in these troubled times.

7. Two years ago on this day, indigenous campesinos were massacred by right-wing forces in what turned out to be a failed attempt to overthrow Bolivia's democratically elected President, Evo Morales. As several people observed as the events unfolded, the coup attempt was eerily reminiscent of the one in Chile that led to the installation of Pinochet. Let's remember those in Bolivia who died that day, and those whose hard work prevented the coup from succeeding.

Clearly, This day marks the anniversary of numerous events - some tragic, some uplifting. But bear in mind that ultimately today is merely another day on the calendar. We need not be straight-jacketed by the events of the past, nor need we forget them. There are many lessons to be learned from the events mentioned above with regards to human freedom and dignity. Let's spend some time today pondering those lessons.

Let's end by going back to September 11, 2001 for a moment. For me, it will be remembered as a day when we saw the schizophrenic character of American society in sharp relief. The acts of courage and helpfulness by countless individuals, and their willingness to reach out to others was truly inspiring. On the other hand, the American tendency to engage in belligerent jingoism and to immediately blame and attack people, nations, and cultures for the bombings reared its ugly head that day and in the aftermath, which to me was truly sickening. Sadly, the latter won out in the aftermath leading to an America that has since been on the warpath, with little regard for the consequences - either at home or abroad. Although our hope of the tide turning may be faint, that hope is the one candle we do possess in these dark times. To take a line from the late Bob Marley: "light up the darkness."


Something to make wingnuts' heads explode

There was a mosque on the 17th floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center. Contrary to the Aryan mythology propounded by our nation's right-wing extremists (i.e., the victims of the WTC bombings were white Christians), the make-up of those who worked in the WTC was quite diverse and included a substantial number of Muslims of numerous races and ethnicities. To give you an idea about the article:
Given the vitriolic opposition now to the proposal to build a Muslim community center two blocks from ground zero, one might say something else has been destroyed: the realization that Muslim people and the Muslim religion were part of the life of the World Trade Center.

Opponents of the Park51 project say the presence of a Muslim center dishonors the victims of the Islamic extremists who flew two jets into the towers. Yet not only were Muslims peacefully worshiping in the twin towers long before the attacks, but even after the 1993 bombing of one tower by a Muslim radical, Ramzi Yousef, their religious observance generated no opposition.
On September 11, 2001 as I watched the coverage of the unfolding disaster as I prepared to go to work, I had a sinking feeling that ultimately it provide cover for those spoiling for a Holy War. It didn't take long before our former President would start using terms like "evil-doers" and "axis of evil" and speaking of "the war on terra" in a manner that felt akin to a religious crusade, draconian laws such as the Patriot Act were foisted upon us, and in some circles hate speech, physical assaults, and property destruction of those deemed "unacceptable" became more commonplace (and increasingly part of our mainstream discourse).

 Not only did those who died that day not deserve what happened to them, but they do not deserve to be dishonored by hatemongers who try to justify their actions on their behalf.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Christian counterparts to Osama bin Laden

Consider this part of an on-going series on our own homegrown terrorists and terrorist wannabes. I've said before that the profile of our own terrorists is predominantly white, male, and "Christian". I use the last term in quotes because the types of movements that produce their own bin Laden counterparts are typically of the Christian Identity and Dominionist variety, which I consider an abomination. I've noticed that numerous commentators use the term Christianist to characterize these folks in much the same manner that Muslim extremists have been labeled as Islamists. To the extent that there is something positive to the narrative, it is simply that our own home-grown extremists are small in number relative to the population at large (a statement that I could make about practically any group of extremists anywhere else). Unfortunately, in a climate marked by a combination of economic turmoil due to what I see as decades of mismanagement, and a rise in the shrillness of ethnic and religious hate speech by right-wing demagogues (fueled in large part by shoddy journalism practices) that has effectively given extreme views mainstream cover, such terrorists (and those who would be) are increasingly emboldened.

Enter our latest contestant: Justin Carl Moose. We're fortunate he was caught in a sting operation before he could really do any damage. Just what is this guy about? Take a look for yourself:
Moose is charged with providing information related to the manufacture of an explosive, destruction device or weapon of mass destruction to the informant, who he believed was plotting to bomb an abortion clinic.

In an undercover operation, federal officials state they had the informant provide Moose with a name and address of a clinic he was supposedly targeting.

Officials are not saying what city the clinic is in, other than it was in North Carolina.

A message left seeking comment from a federal public defender assigned to Moose’s case was not returned Thursday. A call to a phone number listed at the man’s residence went unanswered.

According to federal court documents, FBI agents based in Greensboro began investigating Moose in early August after being notified by the Planned Parenthood Association about a man advocating violence against women’s health care clinics on his personal Facebook page.

Agents verified Moose’s ownership of the web page and noted it contained numerous anti-abortion postings, videos and images that support others convicted of murder or attempted murder at abortion clinics, along with links about building explosives.

On the Facebook page cited in the complaint, which was still online Thursday, Moose describes himself as:

“Whatever you may think about me, you’re probably right. Extremist, Radical, Fundamentalist...? Terrorist...? Well... I prefer the term “freedom Fighter.”

“End abortion by any means necessary and at any cost”. “Save a life, Shoot an abortionist.”

The FBI analyzed the links regarding explosives and found they provided credible information for building functioning devices.

In one post, Moose allegedly taunted federal authorities by acknowledging he was likely being monitored, writing:
“To all the feds watching me: You can’t stop what is in motion. Even if you bring me in, my men will continue their mission. Furthermore, I will not go peacefully. Do you really want another Waco?”

In the complaint, agents state they obtained search warrant for Moose’s online accounts and that he was actively communicating with other known anti-abortion extremists.

In the messages, Moose allegedly made comments such as:
“As far as I’m concerned nothing is off limits to stop abortion. Anything and everything goes. I have learned alot from the muslim terrorists and have no problem using their tactics.”

On Sept. 3, the complaint states the FBI utilized a confidential informant who had a recorded phone call with Moose, who explained “his best friend’s wife was planning to do something he strongly opposed.”

Before the informant could say the woman was planning an abortion, Moose allegedly said “say no more” and when the informant said he wanted to stop the procedure, Moose allegedly replied “I understand, and I can help.”

The next day the complaint states the informant, who was wearing an undercover recording device, met with Moose at a Concord restaurant.

There, the informant stated he planned to “destroy the building where his best friend’s wife is having an abortion” and Moose allegedly went into fine detail about building three explosive devices and instructed the informant on how to deploy the devices to create the most damage at the clinic.

The complaint states at one point, Moose stated he is a member of the extreme anti-abortion group “Army of God,” stating: “If they put me away right now, if I never make it home, it doesn’t matter because I have told you everything you need to know.”

The FBI said the two men had another recorded phone call on Sept. 5 and Moose provided more information about building the explosive devices.
Similar local coverage can be found here. Think Progress has its own coverage, placing Moose's behavior in a somewhat broader context.

Things not to say

Whenever I read a sentence that begins along the lines of "I'm not a racist, but..." I can pretty well figure how that sentence will end. Case in point, thanks to the miracle of Openbook (using the search term "mosk" - yes people actually spell mosque that way):

In a semi-literate rant against the proposed Park51 project (an Islamic center in Manhattan), Bianca Morris spews,
i aint racists
She should have stopped there before she started digging a hole from which she could never leave. But NO! She had to go on...
but them smelly bastards killed thousands of white ppl on that spot now they wana get on there knees n prey on that spot
Where to begin. Where to begin. Do we start with the factual inaccuracies or the outright racism? I'll leave that one up to you, the reader.

At least the next guy was up-front about his racism:

He might as well have used the n-word. He all but says it right there on Facebook for the world to see.

So it goes. In the meantime, I'm left to ponder the following question: where are we going, and what's with the hand basket?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

How did "9/11 victim" become sloppy shorthand for "white Christian"?

This quote comes from Alyssa Torres, whose husband was killed on September 11, 2001 during the WTC bombings. She has some very understandably pointed criticisms of the mass media, which seems to be fueling hysteria rather than actually inform.