Tag Archives: USA

How to radicalise your population

I’ve read with… well not exactly dismay because it is part of the whole USA falling into a chasm… more resignation, the stories recently of the US Congress setting up a body to probe US Muslims, of US taxes going towards law enforcement bodies to “educate” them about Islam and instead failing to do so, and about Tennessee wanting to ban Sharia.

[ok I now have a fever and am sick, so if this post doesn’t make all the sense that I intend, apologies]

The stories above are just the Government actions taken against US Muslims.  They do not detail in any way the daily prejudice, discrimination and bigotry faced by Muslims in the US.  Islamaphobia is in full swing.

From where I’m sitting (sick and fuzzy headed), the Islamaphobia in the US (yes, I know it exists in Australia too, and is equally problematic) can lead to some very bad outcomes.  The estimated number of Muslims in the US is around 2.3% of the US population (Australia’s Muslim population is 1.71% of the overall population).  There just are not enough Muslims in the US (or Australia) to rise up and protest against the oppression they’re suffering (unlike the peoples in many Middle Eastern nations currently – which has nothing to do with Islam and all to do with oppression, lack of opportunities, etc).  The research on stereotype threat also suggests that Muslims may feel that they have to conform to the predominant sterotype held of them, which doesn’t do anyone any favours.

If we look back at history, we can see many many examples of groups that have been vilified and terrible results (clearly we are very bad at learning from history and are doomed to repeat it).  The news media played a large part in the Rwandan Genocide.

According to recent commentators, the news media played a crucial role in the genocide; local print and radio media fueled the killings while the international media either ignored or seriously misconstrued events on the ground.[14] The print media in Rwanda is believed to have started hate speech against Tutsis, which was later continued by radio stations. According to commentators, anti-Tutsi hate speech “…became so systemic as to seem the norm.”

From late October 1993, the RTLM repeatedly broadcast themes developed by the extremist written press, underlining the inherent differences between Hutu and Tutsi, the foreign origin of Tutsi, the disproportionate share of Tutsi wealth and power, and the horrors of past Tutsi rule. The RTLM also repeatedly stressed the need to be alert to Tutsi plots and possible attacks. It warned Hutu to prepare to “defend” themselves against the Tutsi. (Source: Wikipedia – link above)

Sound familiar?

We can also look at the internment of Japanese people (definitions on who was Japanese or not was interestingly broad) in the US during World War 2.

Many concerns over the loyalty of ethnic Japanese seemed to stem from racial prejudice rather than evidence of actual malfeasance. Major Karl Bendetsen and Lieutenant General John L. DeWitt, head of the Western Command, each questioned Japanese American loyalty. DeWitt, who administered the internment program, repeatedly told newspapers that “A Jap’s a Jap” and testified to Congress,

I don’t want any of them [persons of Japanese ancestry] here. They are a dangerous element. There is no way to determine their loyalty… It makes no difference whether he is an American citizen, he is still a Japanese. American citizenship does not necessarily determine loyalty… But we must worry about the Japanese all the time until he is wiped off the map.

Internment was popular among many white farmers who resented the Japanese-American farmers. “White American farmers admitted that their self-interest required removal of the Japanese.” These individuals saw internment as a convenient means of uprooting their Japanese American competitors. Austin E. Anson, managing secretary of the Salinas Vegetable Grower-Shipper Association, told the Saturday Evening Post in 1942:

“We’re charged with wanting to get rid of the Japs for selfish reasons. We do. It’s a question of whether the white man lives on the Pacific Coast or the brown men. They came into this valley to work, and they stayed to take over… If all the Japs were removed tomorrow, we’d never miss them in two weeks, because the white farmers can take over and produce everything the Jap grows. And we do not want them back when the war ends, either.”

The Roberts Commission Report, prepared at President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s request, has been cited as an example of the fear and prejudice informing the thinking behind the internment program. The Report sought to link Japanese Americans with espionage activity, and to associate them with the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Columnist Henry McLemore reflected growing public sentiment fueled by this report:

“I am for the immediate removal of every Japanese on the West Coast to a point deep in the interior. I don’t mean a nice part of the interior either. Herd ’em up, pack ’em off and give ’em the inside room in the badlands… Personally, I hate the Japanese. And that goes for all of them.”

Other California newspapers also embraced this view. According to a Los Angeles Times editorial,

“A viper is nonetheless a viper wherever the egg is hatched… So, a Japanese American born of Japanese parents, nurtured upon Japanese traditions, living in a transplanted Japanese atmosphere… notwithstanding his nominal brand of accidental citizenship almost inevitably and with the rarest exceptions grows up to be a Japanese, and not an American… Thus, while it might cause injustice to a few to treat them all as potential enemies, I cannot escape the conclusion… that such treatment… should be accorded to each and all of them while we are at war with their race.” (Source: Wikipedia article linked above)

Again, the same sort of language is used to vilify a group, which then results in investigation and restriction of that group’s ability to participate in society.  I worry that the Muslims in the West (particularly in the US and Australia) are going to be increasingly targeted and that is going to end up being really bad.  I don’t really have a solution, just fears that the situation is going to get worse, but I hope I can stand up against Islamaphobia whenever I encounter it.

Propagating this fear runs the risk of radicalising the general population against those who follow Islam, and that crimes against Muslims may not be reported or may not be fully investigated by the authorities.  Discrimination and prejudice will continue to rise, people may feel obliged to recant their faith in order to face less bigotry, to hide their culture and act white, to remove their sense of self to find some safety.  This sucks.

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Japan

When I came home on Friday night and found my husband (husband 2 for ease of reference) watching footage of the tsunami in Japan, I was horrified by the sheer devastation.  I had been out drinking decadent (and delicious) hot chocolate with my husband (husband 1), my girlfriend and a dear friend after work and gym, and generally having a fantastic evening.

I stood behind my husband (number 2) and watched the tsunami, listened to the news reports, and watched in dumb horror the destruction occurring to my brothers and sisters to the north (and in winter when everything is going to be so very very cold).

As it happens, my husband (number 1) and I had organised to travel to his brother’s 50th on Saturday, and so that morning piled into the car to drive to Albury for the party.  We stayed at a gorgeous B&B, went to the party (and my FIL didn’t upset me even once – a new record!), travelled home via a friend’s place (where we had tea, scones and deep and meaningful conversations) and eventually got home Sunday night (thank the FSM for Labour Day in Victoria).

On return I turned on my PC and started talking to my sister, while catching up with the news and finding out how much worse the devastation of Japan was.  She shared two links with me, the first a collection of quotes from arsehats suggesting that aid should not be sent to Japan because Japan had bombed Pearl Harbour – or that the earthquake was return karma for bombing Pearl Harbour.  Now for everyone who doesn’t have a grasp of World War 2 history (because clearly that isn’t important to some people), the Japanese did not start WW2, and the US retaliated for the bombing of Pearl Harbour with the ATOMIC bombing of two CIVILIAN cities (not military targets) – an actual war crime. So if Japan was to be paid back in any kind of karma for Pearl Harbour, that nuclear bombing certainly was it and then some.

The whole karma payback for Pearl Harbour thing is also incredibly US-centric.  It certainly doesn’t address anything other grievance that other nations may have with Japan, and given some of the atrocities that occurred during WW2, there are certainly the potential for a lot of that.

The second site my sister shared with me was Karma Japan, a site that started collecting racist and bigoted commentary from Twitter mostly regarding the earthquake in Japan.  Many people apparently suggested that Japan deserved an earthquake because they killed dolphins and whales.  Clearly every other nation that kills dolphins and whales doesn’t deserve earthquakes and tsunamis.  Karma Japan has also published positive commentary from those who are condemning bigotry and racism, and provides counter argument to the hate and ignorance.

My favourite article of all on the earthquake and tsunami that has hit Japan (yes I am serious) is this from The Age, “World Rushes Aid to Japan“.  I am happily stunned by the generosity of past enemies and poor nations (well provinces) towards Japan in her hour of need.  In summary:

  • China’s Red Cross pledged one million yuan ($A150,000) to its Japanese counterpart
  • The Afghan province of Kandahar announced $A50,000 in aid

I feel that I am unable to even grasp the magnitude of this event (and the aftershocks and the possible nuclear meltdown).  It’s going to take Japan a long time to recover and rebuild, just as it will take Christchurch a long time to recover and rebuild.  I wish there was more I could do other than donate money to the Red Cross.

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Democracy by the sword

It always struck me as incongruous that democracy (and not demoncracy which I usually typo) has been imposed on so many sovereign states through Western Imperialism (mostly the US).  The most recent examples are Iraq and Afghanistan, but there is a lovely trail of US led, Western imperialism, democracy imposition (the right type of democracy) in other nations, such as Vietnam and South America.

It’s always seemed really odd that you can invade another nation, tell them that they’re doing government wrong, and then hang around while they do it to your standards (and I’m not a fan of US democracy anyway).  How can you impose democracy?  Isn’t that an oxymoron?

What has struck me about the past month and a bit is the both the people’s uprisings in northern Africa and parts of the Middle East, and the uncertainty of the US and back-footed response of the UN.  Clearly the US had vested interests in the various regimes as they were.  Egypt’s Mubarak was a useful ally, so little attention to was given to human rights violations or the wishes of the Egyptian citizens.  Yemen is an ally in “the war on terror”, so the current regime has been propped up using rhetoric that Al-Qaeda is based in Yemen (it may or may not be, I don’t know).  Libya is different again, with a great friend in Italy, and defrosting relationships with much of Europe – though I don’t think anyone expected Gadaffi to go quite off the rails the way he has.

I’m in awe of the courage that the regular people in Libya, Tunisia, Bahrain, Egypt, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Algeria, and Morocco (list may not be exhaustive), are displaying as they take on their regimes, as they watch their fellow countrymen be beaten, killed or arrested, for standing up and demanding a better say, less corruption, and more rights than they currently have.  I’m honoured to be able to hear their stories and watch them fight for democracy.  I’m amazed at how technology is being used for good (and not just for spying on citizens).

I am living in an amazing time, and I hope that my brothers and sisters who are fighting for democracy get everything they want, that the civil war in Libya ends quickly and that further violence is minimised.

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What is wrong with this country?

I’m Australian, and consequently value real-estate quite a lot (housing is in short supply and consequently rather expensive).  I’m also, I guess, an intellectual, and value knowledge and books quite a lot too.  So when I see photos, like these of Detroit, I am unable to comprehend why there is so much derelict property lying around (not to mention books, and police files).  I do understand that Detroit is in the process of being abandoned and that there are many (apparently) insurmountable social issues, as well as being part of the rust belt’s decline, but I am staggered by the decay and abandonment of the property in these photos.  Every time I see photos of abandoned real-estate in the US (without good reason like it being riddled with asbestos or unsafe to live in), I wonder how a nation can have such a glut of what is/was perfectly serviceable property that could be turned into residences or something else useful.

A photo of a library in disrepair.  Books line shelves or are on the ground, light filters through a dirty window and the paint is peeling from the ceiling
A photo of a library in disrepair. Books line shelves or are on the ground, light filters through a dirty window and the paint is peeling from the ceiling
Photos from police dossiers litter the floor of a police office.  Filing cabinets have their draws left open and the paint on a secure room door peels
Photos from police dossiers litter the floor of a police office. Filing cabinets have their draws left open and the paint on a secure room door peels

This photo (above) disturbs me for the wanton privacy breach.  Because the people represented in the photos here clearly don’t deserve any privacy.

A ransacked desk is in the foreground, with draws pulled open and a box of what appears to be brightly coloured Children's Books spilled onto the floor.  The pain in the wide but brightly lit room is peeling and books remain on the shelves on the far walls
A ransacked desk is in the foreground with draws pulled open and a box of what appears to be brightly coloured Children's Books spilled onto the floor. The paint in the wide but brightly lit room is peeling and books remain on the shelves on the far walls

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All kinds of wrong

I read this article today “‘Octomum’ faces eviction or making pact with porn king” and thought it was ALL kinds of wrong.  I was going to blog on it, but Melissa at Shakesville has already done a fantastic job here.  I’d just like to add that the whole financials for the house seem really really weird.  From the very little mentioned in the article, it sounds like the mortgage was from a loan shark and not a bank or other “reputable” financial institution.  I don’t know, and I hope that Nadya Suleman and her family remain safe.

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I’m sorry what have YOU been smoking?

The US Navy has finally decided to ban smoking on their submarines because the risks of second hand smoke are “severe”.

The US Navy is banning its crews from smoking aboard submarines, after a study found the risks of second-hand smoke were severe.

Submarine Forces Commander Vice-Admiral John Donnelly ordered the ban aboard 73 US subs, citing health concerns.

”Recent testing has proven that, despite our atmosphere purification technology, there are unacceptable levels of secondhand smoke in the atmosphere of a submerged submarine,” he said. (The Age)

Seriously?  What year do they think it is?  The dangers of second-hand smoke have been known for quite a long time, and surely the Navy would be far more interested in having their soldiers at peak physical fitness instead of craving nicotine or suffering the effects of second hand smoke.

The US appears to be a much different beast when it comes to smoking than Australia, which started banning workplace smoking in the mid 1980s.  According to Wikipedia:

Although Congress has not attempted to enact a general nationwide federal smoking ban in workplaces, several federal regulations do concern indoor smoking. Effective April 1998, smoking is banned by the United States Department of Transportation on all commercial passenger flights in the United States, and/or by American air carriers.  On August 9, 1997, President Bill Clinton issued Executive Order 13058, banning smoking in all interior spaces owned, rented, or leased by the Executive Branch of the Federal Government, as well as in any outdoor areas under executive branch control near air intake ducts.

Which I thought would have included spaces used by the Navy, which is part of the Executive Branch of the US Federal Government.  Remind me not to take my smoke-free workplaces for granted or to travel in a submarine any time soon.  I value my lungs, throat and mouth… and love not stinking of cigarette smoke after a night out on the town these days.  I’m a happy non-smoker and user of smoke free places.

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Wikileaks

I’ve been collecting articles for this post for the past two days (I would have written this last night but our home internet was shaped), so it will be link and quote heavy, but I think this is an important issue to post about and is going to take me the whole evening, so I hope you enjoy it while I settle down to write what’s on my mind.  And it’s going to be LONG.

What is Wikileaks?

Just in case you’ve not had access to the news and don’t know what Wikileaks is, and why I’d be blogging about it, Wikileaks is an organisation (to put it simply) that releases leaked information (typically about governments) to the media and wider world (currently hosted here).  This year (2010), they’ve published documents mostly on the US Government, causing it quite a lot of embarrassment – releasing leaked documents on the Iraq and Afghan wars and most recently (and what has caused the current shitstorm) it has started releasing over 250,000 diplomatic cables sent between US embassies and the US State Department, drip feeding their release in conjunction with several major media organisations.

Continue reading Wikileaks

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