Monday, November 23, 2015

Decoding "Radical Islam"


     The danger that black gangs pose in Chicago is sadly familiar, as the murderous violence these black gangs commit shocks the city, but only momentarily, as the deaths caused by black gangs are forgotten and we move on to matters unrelated to black gang violence.
     Anything pop out of the above paragraph? Anything wrong with it? It's entirely true, but something jars, or should: my use of the word "black." The media doesn't describe the gangs on the South and West Sides as "black gangs" even though they certainly are, for a variety of good reasons, but primarily because it's irrelevant. Yes, the violence is an offshoot of African-American urban society, but so is the NBA, and violence is no more intrinsic to blackness than murdering people in Paris is intrinsic to the Germans.
     Did you think I was going to say Muslims? Sure, it's their turn, now, but laying the latest spasm of terror at the feet of Islam is as disingenuous a ploy as laying violence to black people, collectively, or to Germans. It's just a another slur clutched at by haters, with the cowardly escape clause that bigots use to try to shuck responsibility.
     This flies by many Republicans, who draw a line in the sand at Democrats' laudable, almost courageous refusal to indulge in their anti-Islam fear-mongering. Last week the Sun-Times published an op-ed, "Democratic candidates clueless even after carnage in Paris," decrying comments made at the most recent Democratic presidential debate, chiding Hillary Clinton for refusing to bind terror to Islam, as well as Bernie Sanders for steadfastly insisting that climate change is a far more deadly threat, which it is, as the next tsunami to wash away 100,000 people will remind us, and Martin O'Malley insisting that we continue to accept Syrian refugees despite the desires of ISIS.
     "The words spoken at Saturday night's debate will reverberate through the presidential campaign," the op-ed predicted.
     Let's hope so. Because panic ebbs, eventually, while truth abides.
     I began my career in advertising. And I learned that the direct route is not always the best in delivering a message, particularly one of dubious morality.
     Take the alcohol industry's oft-repeated, "Drink Responsibly." That's genius, because they realized that "Drink, damn you!" would draw criticism, So "Responsibly" is tagged on at the end in an attempt to obscure the important part: "Drink."
     With "Radical Islam," the opening word is the smokescreen. "Radical" is wrong, when you think about it. Being "radical" means hectoring your parents about Marx at Thanksgiving. Calling those who storm theaters and murder people "radical" is pallid, like calling those who blow themselves up in coffee shops "militants."
     But like "Responsibly," the word conceals. It's "Islam" that's the true message, the real reason Republicans make such a stink about it. The right side of our political spectrum is devoted to marrying Islam to terror, Which makes them on the same team as ISIS, because that's precisely why they commit these acts. Western culture is a big, warm, inclusive blob that absorbs and alters everything. Joan of Arc rides in, clad in armor, her eyes aglitter with passion for the Lord, and 500 years later, Miley Cyrus swings out, straddling a wrecking ball in her underwear. ISIS wants to separate Islam from the West, so men like them can be in charge forever and women never get to drive or sing. Thus they strike at the West in nihilistic acts of terror, counting on the Bruce Rauners of our nation to leap up and shout, "Golly, do we really want all these Syrians here?"
     Yes, yes we do. Because the way to manufacture patriotic Americans is by letting their grandparents into the country after their homelands go to hell. My grandfather, Irwin Bramson, didn't end up in a trench in Poland because a relative, Ira Saks, plucked him at age 15 out of the jaws of doom. So my mother, June, got to be born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1936, and not in Bialystok, Poland, where she'd end up another 5-year-old butchered by her neighbors.
     So yeah, I love America. Even though last week the House of Representatives passed a bill trying to choke off the trickle of Syrian refugees. I never saw Congress act so fast. What's the Warren Zevon song? "You're a whole different person when you're scared." The United States is a whole different country when it's scared. I barely recognize it, and can't wait until we recover our true selves. Because this isn't us.

32 comments:

  1. Wow, it sure is a small world. My maternal grandfather Jacob Gershkowitz emigrated from Kolno, about 50 miles west of Białystok. Perhaps that's why we are in agreement on the issue of immigration.

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  2. Per ratio as pertains to their smaller population compared to whites, A-A's in urban areas commit more crimes. Is it the environment: broken familes and poverty. In part, but this wasn't so of poor southern, rural blacks. Do your own research.

    Again, Jews were not a threat here to the U.S. Taking in Syrians won't make up for past wrongs. Yes, some must be taken in, but not such a large number and no single,young males.

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    1. That mural above is a sad but true picture of decay in poor, urban areas.

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    2. You are a bad person, and you should feel bad about yourself. There's too much wrong and too much racism in your comment to address even obliquely, but I'll start: you mention the poor, rural south as though it weren't constructed on a foundation of crime, and as though it weren't still a public gallows manned by the same racist crew as always.
      You are what is wrong with this country.

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    3. No one here gave compliments to white southerners or jim crow, Preacher. Different story.

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    4. Having spent much time in poor (very poor) rural white areas, the police blotter pages in local newspapers detail the drug and violent crimes of white people.

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  3. Bramson sounds Scottish. The name must have been altered at Ellis Island.

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  4. I'm very much afraid that it is us, very likely most of us. Who else has refused to close down a prison where we keep people for years and years without charging them with a crime. Because we're very much afraid.

    john

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    1. Is that guy in the picture Sicilian???

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  5. How disrespectful of certain Turkish Muslims to boo the other teams anthems and refuse to be silent for the moment of silence for Paris, at the game.

    http://news.yahoo.com/turkey-asks-happened-us-over-fans-disrespect-113749500.html

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  6. Great column, Neil. I can't believe the Sun-Times published that ass Byron York.

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    1. I didn't want to mention his name.

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    2. York looks like a dweeb.

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    3. I read that article too. He didn't really state that he thought what the Democratic candidates said was wrong, but that they would be judged harshly by a large segment of the voting public. Not a whole lot different from what's been said here. If America chooses as President one of the fear mongering dolts hurtling themselves downward to appeal to its worst instincts, so be it. If any Democratic candidate panders to ignorant, hateful unAmericans by edging towards Republican xenophobia, he/she will be disgraced forever.

      john

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  7. Sadly, this is us and always has been us. We tell ourselves we are different and live by the ideals set forth 200 years ago, but that stereotypical ugly American is always waiting to rear its ugly head. We refused to admit Jewish refugees trying to escape Hitler, for one obvious example. And if you need another example, read the trolls that respond to President Obamas facebook page by the thousands.

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    1. At times Christians are under attack in the middle east, as are some Muslims and Jews.

      http://news.yahoo.com/russias-syria-intervention-holy-war-russian-orthodox-church-211341368.html

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  8. NS,

    Posting the photo of the guy at Caffe Baci next to the headline "This isn't us" is kinda sending a different message than intended, I'm afraid. Just sayin'...

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    1. I had that thought. I'll change the headline.

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  9. If it wasn't for that tattoo, he could pass for my Honduran neighbor.

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  10. This issue concerns me from both sides. I want our country to be able to protect as many as it can, but we also need to realistically look at who and what is coming into our country. I'm from Minnesota and although we have been the top state to take in Somali refugees, we are also now the top state for ISIS recruitment. One in four potential terrorists from a recent Homeland Security Committee report came from the land of 10,000 lakes. That is alarming.

    >> "With "Radical Islam," the opening word is the smokescreen. "Radical" is wrong, when you think about it. Being "radical" means hectoring your parents about Marx at Thanksgiving."

    To be honest I don't believe Islam is as fully de-clawed as Christianity either. American religious sentiment is still strong, but there were enough sensible people to see that two men or two women loving each other deserve respect that marriage equality started winning at state polls. Would that happen in a Muslim country? It hasn't yet. The best you can hope for is that sexual intercourse between those of the same gender is not illegal. My point being, Islamic beliefs are both more conservative and still opposed to Western ideals. I don't think we can treat Islam as a religion of equal standing to Christianity in a social sense. Culturally valuable? Definitely.

    Maybe they aren't radical in the sense of terrorist potential, but in the sense that their views about women, sex and rights are pretty damn radical by today's standards.

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    1. That guy in the pic above can pass as an Hispanic and if he learns a bit of the language can come in through the border at the Rio Grande.

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  11. Excellent comments, Paul.

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    1. So now Republicans don't want to pass a bill that would stop sales to terrorists? That's infringing on rights too? Funny they don't worry about other rights and what terr . is going to buy a gun legally or if he does, admit he's one. How can one do a background check on that?

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  12. If someone kept insisting that the Westboro God Hate Fags people were "radical Christians," I think the people who keep harping on "radical Islam" would be very annoyed.

    (Side note: If you can catch the New Yorker profile of Fred Phelps' 27-year-old daughter who got fed up and ended up leaving the church, do so. It's excellent and very sensitively written.

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    1. Here it is...
      http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/11/23/conversion-via-twitter-westboro-baptist-church-megan-phelps-roper

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  13. I'd be happy to call the nutjobs at Westboro or similar type congregations, radical(or reactionary might be a better word) and can go even further than that in some choice words for them.

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  14. Westboro type places are more of a cult than congregation. Families are cut off if you don't stay with them. Same with the Duggar nuts who followed some other cult. Most churches aren't like that. I read that his granddaughters had left. Then a spokesman said they rejected the Lord. Well only if their grandpa is Lord. Those places are for the weak that are easily brainwashed and illogical. They probably got disowned later. One could say some groups in Islam twist the religion as well and act like a cult and not the usual. They are certainly more dangerous than any flake at Westboro.

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    1. Anonymous and anon: You guys are missing the point IMO. If someone insisted that every mention of Westboro or the Duggars include the word "Christian," and that not doing so was somehow mendacious, mainstream Christians in this country would be annoyed, and rightfully so.

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    2. Add in Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) who caused such horror in northern Uganda. They call themselves Christians. Rush Limbaugh spent several minutes on his radio show once defending them out of blowhard willful ignorance.

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  15. Israel extends military exemption for ultra-Orthodox Jews

    (that isn't right-they should be helping fight for their nation)

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  16. Israel extends military exemption for ultra-Orthodox Jews


    not fair to the others there-they should fight for their nation

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