How does creative non-violent resistance respond to calls for banning of all Muslims from entering the United States?
I am not sure, but the response needs to be swift and forceful. I was surprised mainstream political dialogue in this country went there. I shouldn’t have been. Demagogues make a living convincing oppressed people to blame other oppressed people for the oppression the demagogues themselves dole out.
Divide and conquer. The difference between you and me – the distance between us – is an imaginary line in our minds that justifies self and other. Us and them, me and you, and who knows which is which, and who is who? (Sang a rock band.)
My conscience is Whitman: I contain multitudes. I am Muslim. I am Hindu. I am Jewish. I am Rastafarian. I am Christian. I am Buddhist. I am atheist. I am a million different people from one day to the next, (sang another rock band).
I am connected to everyone. Everyone is connected to me. We are all one.
This suggestion of political solutions like internment camps, bans on people from entering the country plants seeds of division and foments an atmosphere of fear and distrust. This bubbling division puts us on a slippery slope. It is easy to imagine conversations in mosques right now: maybe if we turn over people we suspect of being ISIS supporters, we can be seen as real Americans, and protect ourselves (and our country).
Like Judas and Jesus, people have a bad habit of betrayal. The American tradition of selling our neighbor out to save our own skins started in Salem, and reared its ugly head again in the Communist black list in Hollywood.
Connecticut’s Arthur Miller encapsulated them both in the Crucible. Tituba, the slave from Barbados, lied to Reverend Hale: “The Devil got him numerous witches.”
And he coached her: “Tituba, look into my eyes. Look into me. You would be a good Christian woman, would you not, Tituba?”
Of course she would be. She fibbed, naming names to protect herself. This natural, yet so base, human instinct, we must resist. I stand here in disbelief at my fellow jurist Norm Pattis, a man I once hired to represent me when I was named a dangerous terrorist, and the world closed in on me.
This week, Pattis, an alleged defender of civil liberties, declared himself an Islamophobe. Pattis titled his column this week: “Allahu Akbar? No, Thanks.” He wrote:
“For decades, radical Islam has talked about wanting to kill folks just like me. We’re apostates, infidels, evil itself. For the most part, I ignore the chatter as dark noise. But the chatter never goes away. It cannot be erased by military or economic action. Like a cancer, it seems to grow.”
You want cancer, Norm? Google images for “depleted uranium birth defects.” Of course ISIS is evil. But how would you react if you were the father of the boy born with the red-purple pudding of a tumorous mass spilling out of his mouth because he happened to be in the womb near Fallujah?
Look at the pictures for more than a moment if you can bear to. I can’t. My stomach won’t take it. My heart breaks knowing my tax dollars paid for it. Who can blame God-fearing Muslims from embracing a cartoonish fanaticism like that of Slim Pickens? How else does a population enmeshed in a hopeless genetics, tortured for decades by American foreign policy, deal with such inhumanity?
John F. Kennedy helped bring Saddam Hussein to power. Then Reagan armed both sides of the Iran-Iraq war. Soon after, Bush I invaded Kuwait. Clinton maintained genocidal sanctions, and Bush II’s war crimes are legion. I cannot blame any able-bodied man of Islamic faith who wants to gouge an American eye after Uncle Sam took his brethren’s.
In Damascus in 2005, I saw books everywhere with cover images from Abu Ghraib. I don’t read Arabic, but I guarantee the authors weren’t forgiving the invading infidel. What do we expect from our belligerent militarism?
The mainstream rise in Islamophobia – as evidenced by thinkers like Pattis – reflects nothing more than ignorance, cowardice and a refusal to come to terms with the consequences of our own behavior.
It amazes me there have not been more attacks against us, and our knee-jerk is always to restrict liberty when confronted by the fruits of our poisonous seeds. We are afraid here, and cannot meet our own shortcomings, and cannot look our past selves in the eyes.
The recent wins of the far-right LePen clan in France demonstrate this instinct towards xenophobia when confronted by the other. Do the Americans who placed a French flag on their social media avatar recall France is not innocent of crimes against Islamic peoples?
Frantz Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth espoused violence as a cathartic liberation from subjugation under France’s brutal colonial regime in Algeria. ISIS, 50 years later, may just be the Fanon-style reaction to American terrorism.
American Islamophobia presents an intellectually lazy misunderstanding of our global role. The emergence of a political acceptance of hatred of the people who call for our deaths forgets the reason they thirst for red, white and blue blood.
Trump and Pattis echo a conqueror’s arrogance: how dare the Muslims respond to us in the same way we treated them? When they do come back with violence, because we have taken millions of their lives, calling to ban Muslims from entering the country shows our own careless stupidity and shallow consciousness.
Innate in such a position is not anticipating an equal reaction from those on the other end of the prohibition: paradoxically, such calls for a ban provides more fodder for loathing. The cycle of violence – in word and deed – will continue. America’s Islamophobia reveals a lack of empathy, and an absolution that only engenders more violence.
As I have asked many times before, how much intolerance do we tolerate? The test of a civil libertarian is will you protect speech you hate? Of course. But what happens when you know that speech has dangerous consequences?
When neo-nazi, white supremacist websites call Donald Trump their supreme leader, when lawyers like Pattis admit to callow racism and Muslims joke about the availability of wifi in Trump’s concentration camps, we have entered a dark new landscape in American politics.
We have a responsibility to combat this with love and unity, and find common ground, and ways to bring us all together. What that looks like in practice, I don’t know, but we start with dialogue.