Thursday, April 8, 2010


I highly recommend an op-ed from the Wall Street Journal for your consumption.  Dorothy Rabinowitz has written an insightful piece on the victimization of muslims in this country.   The journey begins with Tom Hanks, and ends with a New York cabbie: 

It can't have come as a surprise that one of the now entrenched myths about America—namely, its ongoing victimization of Muslims—should have been voiced again by a leading citizen of our myth-producing capital, Hollywood. The citizen was Tom Hanks, and the occasion his March interview in Time Magazine in which he declared that our battle with Japan in World War II was one of "racism and terror." And that, he noted, should remind us of our current wars.

I have tried to remain mum on Hanks because I really like his work, but good gravy, what an asinine, deep-in-the-bubble, Hollywood lefty remark is that!?  It truly makes me wish he'd never said it, because it's just so ridiculously out-of-touch that I'm afraid I won't be able to see one of his movies without thinking of it.  What is really frightening is that he is becoming considered the "historian-in-chief" of the nation.  Considering many of these historical events are no longer taught  (or taught incorrectly) in our schools, that means the man who thinks race was the main driver for WWII is the most influential "expert" many sectors of our society, not to mention the rest of the world, will have contact with.  Frightening thought.

Mr. Hanks is representative of a narrative that is taking hold in this country, and Ms. Rabinowitz dissects the psychology of it beautifully.  She discusses the three page spread (6 on the internet) the Washington Post did on a muslim soldier who, according to the article, "battles on friendly ground".   Whomever is intimidating Spec. Zachari Klawonn is obviously in need of intervention, but considering the base this happened on, there is a degree of understanding as to why counselling might have been required anyway:

The latest reflection of this trend, grown steadily since the attacks of Sept. 11, came with a three-page spread in the Washington Post on March 24 about the tribulations of a Muslim soldier who reported being subjected to slurs, various other insults, and also a threatening note. His commander suggested he might do well to move to housing off base. The base in question was Fort Hood, where, last November, army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Hasan murdered 13 fellow American soldiers.

The question Ms. Rabinowitz poses is, just how common is this anti-muslim narrative, and how pervasive has it become?   She makes a compelling argument:

The pain of these confrontations was undoubtedly great, as such treatment always is. Ask the members of religious and racial minorities who served, say, in World War II, when it wasn't unusual to hear slurs like "kike" and such hurled at them. Ask black Americans who had the incomparably worse experience of serving in a racially segregated military, where they were relegated to the worst duties. Not to mention being made witness—in parts of the country—to the sight of German POWs held in the U.S. eating in restaurants barred to black Americans in uniform, and otherwise being accorded respect that those Americans could not hope to receive.
Still, there were no instances of those enduring this treatment undertaking mass murder of other American servicemen. There was rage, and there were some riots, but no cases of U.S. soldiers enlisting in the service of the enemy as Maj. Hasan had. (Hasan, it was explained after he had cut down those unarmed servicemen and women packed into that room in Ft. Hood, had suffered prejudice-related pressures as a Muslim in the armed services.)

She mentions the usual suspects that perpetuate the myth by only highlighting the rare instances of bad behavior, and the press, naturally, figures centrally.  This dovetails beautifully into a recent article from Lane Wallace of The Atlantic.   In her piece titled "The Bias of Veteran Reporters" she discussed the tendencies of veteran reporters to make assumptions and only ask questions angled to prove that assumption.  She also mentions their 33% accuracy rating.   Rabinowitz's article is like an expanded example that proves Ms. Wallace's hypothesis. 
But Rabinowitz doesn't just prove the point, she uplifts it.  Just when the ire starts to boil at the broad-brush accusations, she quenches it will a much needed reassurance.  It is a reminder that those stories, although unacceptable and upsetting, are the exception, not the norm.  Yes, there are those out there who push things too far, but Ms Rabinowitz reminds us of our national character; what it truly means to be an American and why so many seek our shores.
That is where we meet a nameless, faceless New York cabbie.   His simple words of empathy and gratitude are touching.  In speaking of 9/11 and the aftermath, the former resident of Pakistan recounts a meeting with his judeo-christian neighbors after the attacks that brought home to him just what kind of country he has chosen to raise his children in:
"...Do you know," he said, in a voice suddenly sharp, "what would have happened if Americans had done this kind of attack in my country? Every American—every Christian, every non-Muslim—would have been slaughtered, blood would have run in the streets. I know the kind of country this is. Thanks be to God I can give this to my children."
I urge you to read the whole article.  I left out a pertinent fact about the cabbie's story - something that would never make a three-page spread in the mainstream media.  It just doesn't follow their narrative.  Check it out.  In these rancorous times, it's nice to hear, for a change, that we are not necessarily as evil as we are portrayed.

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