Let’s Party?

It would be quite refreshing to have Tea Party candidates win in hordes and bring the change to Washington they have been talking about. The first casualty of such a win would be Mitch McConnell; the replacement, Jim DeMint, would be further polarizing, making DC even more fun to watch. The tone of the GOP will change from NO to NEVER.

Consider:

  • Christine O’Donnell introducing a bill that legally treats masturbation as adultery, with similar penalties. If that brings the government into our bathrooms, so be it.
  • Rand Paul introducing a bill that would exempt private businesses from the Civil Rights Bill. There will be separate sections for Blacks, Whites, Asians and Latinos at Denny’s.
  • Sharron Angle introducing 3 bills: for the US to pull out of the UN, declare the Department of Education unconstitutional, and a provision to provide massages to the incarcerated.
  • Carly Fiorina introducing a bill to bring back the jobs she outsourced while the CEO of H-P.

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Then there are Governor’s races:

  • Carl Paladino, if elected, would introduce a bill to make bestiality legal, as long as the animal and human are not of the same gender.
  • Meg Whitman, if elected, will try to make legal the hiring of undocumented workers, as long as they are doing menial tasks not cherished by Americans, and that these laborers are paid using PayPal.
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GOP should control The Hill?

I believe that Democrats should lose control of the House and Senate this election cycle; it will be good for them. Sometimes a forest has to burn down to reinvigorate itself. Hopefully, the two years in wilderness will force them to develop more spine and balls. Although it is hoping against hope; the Democratic Party is not one, but a conglomeration of  several political philosophies covering the entire spectrum from liberal to conservative. The GOP, on the other hand, is uniquely individual in its mindset: very conservative, the only variation being the ultra-conservative, far-right faction.

Talking of spine, the Obama Administration and the Democratic Congress has achieved more than any other presidential term in recent history. Yet, they are afraid to advertise the gains made and explain to the public how it will better their lives.

That a healthcare insurance company is mandated to not turn down individuals for pre-existing conditions, that mid to large businesses are forced to offer health insurance to its employees and persons who can afford it are provided assistance for purchase, and that there would be no life-time maximums for any illness so one doesn’t go bankrupt under treatment are all part of a much needed reform of the predatory practices of the healthcare insurance industry. It would have been hard for Republican candidates to argue why do they want to take these benefits from Americans.

The only thing that bothers me is that the Democrats diluted the whole Healthcare Reform bill to appease Republicans, and yet, none of them voted for it anyway. Since this bill had to pass with only Democratic votes, why didn’t they follow though with their original agenda that included the public option. They would not have been any more unpopular with the segment of the populace that is now threatening to unseat them from power, but in doing so they would have acted with conviction and would have changed the country for the better. But this take balls.

The same is with the Financial Reform that received little GOP support despite it being watered down. Despite it having many helpful features still, it would have been far more effective had the Democrats stood their ground. The credit card reform and the creation of a consumer protection agency alone are very useful provision of the bill, but I haven’t seen Democrats crowing about it.

Other achievements such as increasing the student loans and removing the middle-men (banks) from the picture and enhancing fundings for research institutions like the NIH are left unmentioned.

Why don’t the Democrats explain to us the necessity of the TARP in preventing a complete economic meltdown? After all, this program was started under a Republican administration, yet the brunt is being borne by the current Democratic setup for supporting it and following it through.

Poor Juan Williams?

Mr. Juan Williams was canned from NPR after making remarks about Muslims: “…when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.”

There has been a lot of protest from all shades of opiners, especially conservative. The right wingers are baying for blood; they want federal funding cut off for NPR. Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., a member of the Senate Commerce Committee that oversees the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, said he would introduce legislation to halt taxpayer contributions to public media, charging that, “With record debt and unemployment, there’s simply no reason to force taxpayers to subsidize liberal programming they disagree with.” (emphasis mine)

As an aside, this emotional outburst by Republicans is nothing new, but has not succeeded in the past; it does score good political points to the fervent right-wing base. (Even when the GOP controlled both chambers of Congress and the White House back in 2005, a move to defund them failed after 87 House Republicans broke ranks and voted to reinstate money that had been stripped in committee: Time blog)

Rick Ungar in the Forbes blog does make a reasonable point by comparing to this Williams’ affair to that of Ms. Sherrod: NPR acted too quickly.

Kelly Boggs of Baptist News says that “He was fired because he expressed his feelings…”

Well, Helen Thomas and Rick Sanchez were fired for similar reasons, recently; they were expressing their feelings. Where were these voices then? If Mr. Williams would have said that he feels uncomfortable at night when he’s alone and a black man is walking behind him, there would have been an uproar, demanding his resignation from journalism.

Perhaps the St. Petersburg Times TV/media critic Eric Deggans‘ contention that Williams’ dismissal appears to have been the end of a long process for NPR is on the mark: “NPR has been distancing itself from Williams for quite a while now, changing his title and reducing his role at NPR amid increasing discomfort over the views he has voiced as a pundit on Fox News Channel. Back in 2009, when Williams described first lady Michelle Obama of evoking the spirit of radical Black Panther Stokely Carmichael, NPR asked him not to use his identification with their organization on Fox News. They had already changed his title from correspondent — which implies an objective journalistic role — to news analyst, which allows opinionating.

To this media critic, Williams’ firing seemed the ultimate expression of that unease; his comments about Muslims were simply the final straw on a very overburdened camel.”

At least his firing from NPR has gained Mr.Williams a multi-million dollar contract from Fox!

But Why?

Dove World Outreach Center plans to burn the Koran for 9/11

Islamophobia or American Exceptionalism?

In an op-ed in the New York Daily News, Abdur-Rahman Muhammad* argues that “Whether or not Ground Zero mosque is built, U.S. Muslims have access to the American Dream”.

“Surveys have shown that Muslims in this country are above average in both education and living standards. They are living the American Dream. Nothing and no one can (or should) legally bar  them from what Abraham Lincoln called “the right to rise”.”

The influx of Muslims began in the mid-1960s, when the Civil Rights Legislation leveled the immigration quotas from all countries instead of  it being Euro-centric (as it was until then). This naturally included countries with large Muslim populations, as well. What is amazing is that these post-1964 immigrants, Muslims or not, have been able to achieve the American Dream within a generation or so; it had taken over two or three generations of previous émigrés to achieve the same feat.

“Muslims are everywhere in this country, doing practically everything. There are Muslim doctors, lawyers and businessmen – like Park51 developer Sharif El-Gamal, who went from waiting tables just a few years ago to being a multimillionaire. There are Muslim soldiers and CIA agents. Could this be possible if America were Islamophobic?”

Mr. Muhammad has asked a very pertinent question, which has only one answer. No. But why is there such a rancor and ado about the Cordoba project, apart from the fact that it is an election year?

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A large part of it is the distinctness Islām appears to have in the American psyche. Consider:

Until the mid-1960s, most of the immigration was from Europe. The modes of travel in those time were more treacherous and long; the new arrivals had no other choice to settle down in their new land, lose much of the touch with their old homeland, and assimilate. At the same time, these immigrants being white and Christian, it was also easier for them to do so. Nevertheless, all new migrants faced discrimination from the settled; ‘N.I.N.A.’ (No Irish Need Apply) signs dotted the store windows in the 19th century US. Today, the number of Irish-Americans is ten times the population of Ireland.

The world grew ever smaller after the 1960s, and in the past few decades it has become a ‘Global Village‘, thanks to the advances in transport and telecommunications. In the last 50 years, the world has changed much more than it changed in several centuries before. As a consequence, new immigrants in the latter half of the 20th century have been more connected to their countries of origin, both in travel and communication, and have a choice to retain many of their original customs, traditions and language longer than settlers before them had the luxury to do. This has impeded the need to blend-in with the local mores of the new country.

Moreover, these were people from all over the world, and not just Europe. In fact, European immigration to the US during this time actually declined. The result was a multi-ethinic, multi-religious stock entering America in huge numbers. This ‘Browning of America‘ created demographic shifts in the US and the increased number of different ‘minorities’. This further delayed their integration. In addition, it happened rather fast: the gradual change in the texture of the fabric of American culture that took place over a few centuries suddenly churned vigorously in just a few decades, threatening rip it apart.

There is no denying that xenophobes, bigots and nativists exist in the US, as they do in every country. However, something that appears alien is definitely more intimidating, even to an average, well-meaning person.

The onus therefore lies with the new immigrant, of any ethnicity or religion, to assimilate as soon as possible into the ‘melting pot‘ of these United States. Unfortunately, Muslims have been rather slow to do so, and not as fully, on average. Therein lies the crux of the issue with the Park51 mosque, even as there are “…approximately 2,000 mosques across America, of which many have adjoining schools.

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Regardless, no matter which side of the ‘Ground-Zero Mosque‘ debate one is on, it is comforting to know that “Barring difficulties in fund-raising, the Park51 project, the so-called “Ground Zero mosque” will be built. Despite the fact that roughly 70% of the American people oppose it, U.S. laws ensure that not even the project’s most bitter foes will be able to stop it.

This is American Exceptionalism.

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*Abdur-Rahman Muhammad is a Washington, D.C.-based writer. He is a Muslim who was once the Imam of a mosque. He now works to combat Islāmic extremism in the American Muslim community.