What strange days these are.
The terrible hawks of war are soaring higher and higher, leaving in their wake unimaginable death, suffering and destruction, while the chickens keep returning home to roost. And these chickens are increasingly macabre, defying our every expectation and upping the pervasive paranoia that is the psychological background to life in our war-and-police state.
When one speaks of those chickens roosting, most Americans will think of the Paris and San Bernadino terrorist attacks, situations where Westerners are targeted by rightwing Islamic extremists. But what about our own local Pittsburgh chicken, aka Anthony Mohamed, who allegedly shot a Muslim immigrant taxi driver in Hazelwood on Thanksgiving after questioning the cabbie’s nationality and making anti-ISIS statements.
Mohamed, of course, is a Muslim surname and Anthony Mohamed is African American! These are strange days, indeed — days pregnant with menace and foreboding.
Sticks and Stones
Our nation’s “War on Terror” is exceeded in length only by the undeclared Cold War on communism and the centuries-long assault on Native-born Americans. Just like during the Cold War, today there is no respect for democratic ideals or tolerance of differences of opinion in important matters.
The leading GOP candidates for president exercise their “right” to freedom of speech by employing the most dangerous, demagogic rhetoric against Muslims and immigrants:
Donald Trump would require all Muslims in the US to register in a national database, bring back waterboarding and spying on mosques, and would close them if he thought they were “radicalizing” people ; Marco Rubio declares that we’re in a “clash of civilizations” and there “is no middle ground;” Ben Carson announces that he could never support a Muslim for president unless the candidate denounced sharia, the ethical legal and moral code of traditional Islam. (How about all Christian candidates denouncing Deuteronomy?)
Meanwhile Jeb Bush, channeling Bill Clinton, says that all of the above nonsense is “just wrong.” But when asked about admitting some of those desperate Syrian refugees (made homeless by US war policy and regime change) to the United States, Jeb expressed a preference for Christian Syrians.
This rhetoric of ignorance and hate by our political leaders supports similar speech — and actions — by more ordinary citizens. Business owners across the country are declaring “Muslim Free Zones,” perhaps the most whacky subset being a slew of gun shop-shooting ranges across the South and Southwest. One idiot shot himself while guarding such an establishment from nonexistent besiegers.
The most interesting and frightening to me, however, is the Florida gun merchant who displays his “Muslim Free Zone” message to the backdrop of a giant Confederate flag. Here the “rights” to discriminate against Muslims and African Americans come together in an airtight expression of white, Christian “pride.”
Winter in America?
The flying of the Confederate flag is a first amendment thing to some, tied to the wounded pride and heritage of supporters of a long-lost cause. These people are saying in no uncertain times that I, my relatives and racial kinspeople should be working for them from sunup to sundown, forever and ever. The penalty for slacking is whipping; the wages of running away are mutilation or death.
I doubt if, in their mind, there’s an Anthony Mohamed exception. One imagines our Confederate gun-nut congratulating him on his eager deed before sending him back into the fields to toil — at gunpoint.
However deranged Anthony Mohamed may be — whether one is speaking clinically or colloquially — his actions take place in a larger context. He was influenced by loud Islamophobia, just as the murderer at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston was influenced by pervasive Confederate nostalgia.
And the shooters in Paris and San Bernadino are influenced by a context of international events that don’t cast the United States very favorably in the eyes of hundreds of millions, if not billions, of people. When we callously sow death and destruction overseas, can we expect to reap peace and tranquility at home?
It’s a mean season right now, it’s “winter in America” if you ask me. More and more, the oppressed and working people are adopting the hateful values and attitudes of the oppressor. And in that type of environment, who can distinguish friend from foe, lion from lamb, and peace from justice?
And make no mistake about it: before there can be peace, there must be justice — both at home and abroad — or at the least the hope that there will be some day. In these times, they — our rulers — are tossing us very few bones in that direction.
It is up to us, instead, to speak up, stand up and oppose this madness of war, police-state justice, imperialism, Islamophobia and racism. We have to create a new atmosphere of hope — hope for a brighter day when war will not be the answer to everything. Anti-American extremists will not only continue to exist but will flourish as long as our foreign policy of crude imperial domination continues.
— Jim Collins