Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Modern Day McCarthyism

There has been a common theme perpetuated across college campuses and on mainstream television lately. "Academics", journalists, and politicians have propagated a new ideology. Similarly to how there are sects within religion (for example: Orthodox Judaism and Reformed, Catholic and Protestant, so on and so forth) there now seems to be "Muslim" and "Islamist." This distinction has also manifested itself into Good Arab v. Bad Arab. What do these pseudo-identities mean and what purpose do they serve?

According to Daniel Pipes, David Horowitz, Bridgette Gabrielle, the '3 ex-terrorists', and others of the sort these distinctions are made to better serve the Arab and Muslim communities. They say things along the lines of: most Muslims are moderate, but some are mean, angry, bad "Islamists." Most Arabs are alright, but watch out for the violent ones.

What's wrong with this people ask. I understand that some people are bewildered by the fact that Arabs and Muslims are offended by these speakers and their messages. Why do organizations on campus turn down offers to cosponsor these events? Don't these communities want to condemn terrorism and separate themselves from it? After talking to some of my friends about the issue and rethinking the WearYellow.WalkOut protest we put together last year, I'll share some thoughts. Keep in mind that this issue deserves extensive detail, but I just want to touch on a few ideas.

1) Imagine this ideology existed elsewhere. For example, when Bill O'Reilly stated that there are "Black people and then there thugs" the progressive community threw a fit, and I stood alongside of them in condemning his remarks. How ridiculous would it be if we congregated on campus to discuss the differences between Timothy McVeigh type of White people and the Jones' next door. Obviously, there are good and bad in every community. Do we need to have 'educational' events about this? No, not unless we have an agenda. What agenda might that be? Glad you asked.

1b) The intent for these events is simple: to instill fear in Americans. These remarks, books, speakers, etc perpetuate stereotypes and promote racial profiling. These events are justified because of the times, similarly to how McCarthyism was back in the day. Governments can easily control the masses with one tool: fear. When people are scared they will do things that they wouldn't normally (i.e. support an unjustified war, accept internment camps, etc).

1c) Now that the average American has been told that there are "two different types", what comes next? Are people supposed to retain that information and just sit on it? No, people act on their fears. A simple Google search will provide evidence in regards to the number of hate crimes committed against Arab Americans each year. These crimes are perpetuated by these lessons of good Arab v. Bad Arab, good Muslim v. Bad Muslim, and the such. How is one supposed to differentiate between these 'good and bad' Arabs and Muslims? How do you go about finding them? You don't. It's a scary tale of guess and check.

2) So, making this distinction between the 'good' and the 'bad' Arabs and Muslims is destructive as I stated above. However, let's take a step back. The distinction that Pipes makes between "Good Arabs and Bad Arabs" begs the question: what defines "bad?" 9/11 shocked Americans and proved to be the worst hit on our own soil. Palestinians feel their own 9/11 every time an Israeli fighter jet fires on a government building. Israel feels 9/11 every time a suicide bomber makes his way to Tel-Aviv. The sad fact is that terrorism does exist in the Middle East, only in a different way than the media would have you believe. Western sponsored state terrorism exists in almost every single Muslim and Arab country. This is where Pipes' simplistic message becomes offensive. Instead of discussing the impact Western colonization has had on the geopolitical and social makeup of the Middle East, Pipes conveniently decides to explain terrorism as a Muslim phenomena, making it a problem for the Muslims to deal with. The fact of the matter is, Daniel Pipes couldn't be farther from the truth. By making terrorism a problem for the Muslims to deal with, Pipes ignores the West's explicit support for undemocratic Middle East regimes and how that has instilled in the Arab world a deep-seeded frustration with the leaders of the West. In addition, no matter how you feel about the creation and existence of the State of Israel, it was, and continues to be, a colonial project, the likes of which haven't been seen since Europe's collective subjugation and devastation of the entire continent of Africa. But I've digressed. When it comes to the definition of "bad," I would assert that what's good to the West is in fact bad to the Middle East. Marines in Beirut: BAD. Sharon in South Lebanon: BAD. Black Hawk in Somalia: BAD. Support of the Shah in Iran: BAD. Support of the Saudi Monarchy: BAD. Gulf Wars 1 & 2: BAD. BAD. BAD BAD BAD. Books upon books have been written about the West's skewed, violent, and internationally illegal interventions throughout the Middle East. To say that the collective Western deconstruction of Middle Eastern society and Western Orientalist (Yes, you should read the book) views of Islam have had no effect on the creation of "radical Muslims" and "bad Arabs" is to demonstrate a lack of common sense. The fact is, the West helped create extremism in the Middle East when it put guns into the region, not books. The West helped create radicalism when it supported regimes that refused to allow religious political parties to participate in government in the 50's and 60's.

Lastly, I want to add a bit of commentary. Who goes to these events? People offended by the remarks or those who love hearing things that they want to believe. From pictures of the Pipes event, I saw a young lady wearing a pink "Happy Naqba" shirt. I must say that I have never been more offended by a student at Michigan and that is not a comment that comes easily. I have been offended plenty. The Naqba translates to 'the catastrophe' and refers to the 1948 exodus or displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians (although there are over 5.5 million to date). Some progressive scholars have compared the Naqba to the Trail of Tears and others have compared it to other horrific events in history. To call the Naqba a sensitive issue is an understatement. It is now observed as a day of remembrance and sorrow. Imagine a community suffering from a cataclysm that haunts them to this day, and another individual essentially celebrating that event. I cannot begin to express my disappointment and disgust. My point is that these events aren't educational. They are used to promote fear, reiterate ignorance, and simplify complex issues.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Classiest program around...

I believe that this Bo speech compliments my post below, and reiterates the spirit that is Michigan. If "inspiration" were an mp3 this would be it:

Friday, October 26, 2007

The win column, the loss column, and the FIGHT column...

Great leaders set great expectations for themselves. Not only do they bear the weight of their own expectations, they often carry their team's with them. The media, the fans, and the commentators come second to only 'the team.' This is important to remember when all that is expected is not met. The standards at Michigan are high, and whether you are captain of the soccer team, project manager of the solar car team, or leading the football team, you strive to meet and exceed them. Those expectations are often rooted in victory, but some things cannot be measured by the win and loss column.

Now, don't get me wrong. The first question my dad asked me every time I came home from a game was, "Did you win?" If the answer was 'no', he would stop and look me in the eye. The second question came after some silence. "Did you try your best?" My answer was always the same and my father's response never altered. "Yes, I tried my best." My father would look up, nod, and say, "At the end of the day, it's not about whether you win or lose. It's about how you practice, how you lead, and how classy your program is. It's about what you left out there." Now, I don't completely agree. It's definitely about winning or losing; if it weren't, then I wouldn't be an alumnus of the University of Michigan. However, I stand by his emphasis on leadership and character. It's not enough to play; it's not even enough to win. It's about leading a team and playing in a dignified manner.

This becomes most difficult when the expectations a leader sets for her/himself are not met. It takes true leadership to keep Fighting, to keep playing, and to win when the ultimate expectation is not possible. We have seen other leaders and programs falter when the car crashes, when the goals weren't scored, or when the kick was blocked. However, at the University of Michigan, we are not afraid to aim as high as possible and then continue to Fight when that expectation is out of reach. That takes character, that takes class, and I am humbled to be surrounded by the great leaders that have continued to Fight regardless of the stakes. Thank you for continuing to drive, thank you for continuing to play the game with such Fire, and thank you for continuing to inspire me.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Batter Up

I was watching college football when a GM commercial came on. If you thought that American car companies couldn't get worse at marketing, wait 'til I tell you about this shit. The theme was 'game changing plays.' Not only does this further the already dull and pointless messaging that companies such as Ford and GM try to sell, they crossed the line with their antics this time around. GM, a DETROIT based company, used the Appalachian State/Michigan game as the example. They chose to show the last field goal attempt that was slow motion. PLEASE explain to me why a FAILING MICHIGAN COMPANY would choose to exploit it's home state as a method to sell shitty cars? As you can see, I am quite agitated by all this. Agitated doesn't begin to explain it actually. I could have walked outside and took a bat to every GM car in the lot. Luckily, I live in California and most people are smart enough to buy foreign cars. Get off me with the patriotism shit. If you are a patriotic American then you should further the idea of capitalism and buy the more affordable, gas efficient, and durable car. You should force them to step up their game and get with the program. I regret the fact I no longer have a Volkswagen.

Anyway, if you, your mother, or GM wants to bash Michigan football, please keep in mind I was the clean-up hitter in the batting line-up and I am anxious to get back into the 'swing' of things; the pun is most definitely intended. If you attempt to bash Lloyd Carr or threaten to burn his picture then I will save you the trouble (and carbon emissions in environment friendly California) and frame it. The last 2 times Michigan started the season 0-2, we went on to win the Big Ten Championship -- 1988 and 1998. May the trend continue and may GM dissolve into nothingness and melt in the Detroit River.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Flavors of Ice Cream

At one of the cafes at work, they serve homemade ice cream (a delightful treat, indeed). Anyway, in addition to the 3 customary flavors, everyday there is a special flavor. While this may seem to be an added bonus, I wish they would get rid of it. I stand over the counter perplexed for minutes at a time in attempting to decide which flavor to choose. Should I stick to the ordinary ice cream or go out on a limb with the specialty? Seems like an easy decision, doesn't it? Well, I would like to think that I pick up on the small things in life, and I have come to the conclusion that choosing the customary flavors guarantees that:
1) The portion size is larger (the cups they give you the ice cream in are so tiny)
2) The potential to add toppings to the ice cream increases. We have an assortment of of these to the left ranging from hot fudge to gummy bears to raisenets. Joy!


I was especially keen on today's specialty flavor! You can just imagine my inability to make a decision promptly. So, as I stood there, I went back in time and thought about the great lessons I have come across in regards to decision making. Last year, I spent a lot of time with a special group of fired up individuals and we had to make a lot of decisions. These are just some of the many great take-a-ways I have:

* To think too long about doing a thing often becomes its undoing (i.e. ice cream will melt).
* If you have waited for ALL the information before making a decision, then you've probably waited too long (Other Googlers have eaten up all the ice cream).
* Decisions can only be made when you have tangible options to choose from. Do not care compare hypothetical options because it's counter-productive and stressful (Limit your options to the ice cream in front of you -- not the choices which you may have tomorrow; tomorrow may never come).
* Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action arrives, stop thinking and go in strong (EAT THAT ICE CREAM WITH NO REGRETS).
* More is lost by indecision than by the wrong decision (2nd best ice cream is still better than none at all).

After recapping those central ideas, I went in strong and will leave you wondering what I chose. I will save you the broader social commentary, but I am sure some of you have already picked up on it. Nonetheless, I would like to think that these lessons in decision-making will stay with me forever -- whether I am choosing between two sugary snacks or contemplating the rest of my life, I believe in the these principles.

PS. Booozah = Ice Cream

LOL, Ohhh Dearborn....