Wednesday, November 29, 2006

George's Same Old Song And Dance

If politics was more like show business, George Bush's 15 minutes of fame would be long past and we would have already added him to the scrapheap of history that includes the likes of Kato Kaelin, Jennifer Wilbanks and the guys who gave us the Macarena. Sadly, it is not.

A mere three weeks after Republicans took a drubbing in mid-term elections, which most agree was a scathing repudiation of the President's Iraq policy, Mr. Bush is back on his old message. In spite of mounting evidence suggesting that Iraq is fragmenting into a religious civil war, the President was recently quoted as saying, "There's a lot of sectarian violence taking place, fomented in my opinion because of the attacks by al Qaeda, causing people to seek reprisal."

al Qaeda...Where have I heard that tune before?

Mr. Bush fails to understand that violence in Iraq is not the work of terrorists. Just like tensions between Christianity and Islam are over a thousand years old, so are the tensions between Shiites and the Sunnis. They go back to the death of the prophet Mohammed and largely have to do with who has authority on religious matters within the Islamic faith. Any student of history knows that when conflict arises around religion, the body count quickly mounts. But then Mr. Bush by his own admission is not exactly known for his scholarly ways. Perhaps he should read a little more. Suggested topics are the crusades, Northern Ireland and the formation of the modern state of Israel.

But Nero keeps fiddling while Rome burns.

The President went on to say that, "There's one thing I'm not going to do, I'm not going to pull our troops off the battlefield before the mission is complete." The Iraq war is currently the fourth longest war in US history and, after Vietnam, the one that is most likely to end up in failure. Violence is spinning out of control, we’re approaching 3,000 dead military personnel and the President is back to digging in his heels. It is imperative that the incoming Congress not allow him to do so.

Tomorrow, Mr. Bush prepares to meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, to discuss the situation and ways to curb the violence. Once again, he has come too late to the party. Key members of al-Maliki's coalition government have suspended their participation in parliament and could withdraw their support altogether. A US memo has reached the press that questions Mr. al-Maliki;s ability to manage the escalating violence, and 2,700 U.S. troops are poised to move into Baghdad in an attempt to secure it.

Can the collapse of the Iraqi government be far behind? And if so, what then?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Very Real Dangers Of Being Ignorant

In the months leading up to recent elections, President Bush peppered his speeches with the phrase, "Islamic fascists." I have taken Mr. Bush to task for these ill chosen words on many occasions, but the seed that he has planted has sadly taken root.

Point and case.

Yesterday, six Muslim Imans returning from a conference in Minneapolis were removed from a US Airways plane. The incident occurred when a passenger raised concerns about the men in a note to a flight attendant. Three of the Imans had been peacefully saying their evening prayers in the terminal just prior to the flight.

I'd like to be able to tell you that there is more to this story; that the men were removed because they were overheard making threatening statements or that they attempted to smuggle an unknown substances onto the plane. I cannot. There is nothing else to add to the story

The men were removed because of stereotyping and fear.

Situations such as this are the very real outcome of generalizations and careless language on the part of our leaders. When the President uses terms such as "Islamic fascists" he plays to our worst fears. He exacerbates already existing stereotypes and helps to galvanize opinions against a group, as well as people who appear to be part of that group.

I assure you, if this group had been comprised of six white Christian ministers, praying in English, no one would have batted an eye. There might even have been nods of respect and individuals who would have struck up conversations with the ministers. Christianity is the majority faith in the United States. It is familiar and safe.

If we are ever to break the culture of fear, we MUST move beyond what is comfortable.

A free and open society by its very nature is one that extends the same rights to those who hold the minority opinions and beliefs, as it does to those who hold the majority. The US Airways incident is a good indication of just how far the United States has strayed from this basic tenant of our existence.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

This Is It

That cherished day that comes only once a year. The day when we as Americans of all political ideologies and persuasions get to exercise that sacred right bestowed upon some of us by words written on parchment, and others through hardship, pain and even death.

The right to vote is not something to be taken lightly. It is the cornerstone of our democracy, the lifeblood that sustains our republic and allows the grand experiment to continue.

In recent years there have been many accusations and rumblings about whether our right to vote is being subverted. Some have even said that maybe there's no point in bothering.

I do not know if these allegations are true. Certainly they demand vigilance and investigation. They underscore the need for increased accountability, whether it be for the companies that make the voting machines, or the election boards that develop unreasonable obstacles to voting.

All of these demand our attention and scrutiny. But they do not negate our responsibility to vote.

If you have not voted today and you are registered to do so, do so. Ask every person that you encounter if they've voted. Apathy is the fuel of misdeeds. Until we create a culture where voting is viewed as essential to our existence as drawing breath, we silently give our consent to those who would take away our freedoms and rights.

Do your part today. Stand and be counted.