Posts Tagged ‘america’

How can you sit there calmly and defend torture?!

December 2, 2009

You, you sitting at home in your armchairs or at your kitchen table, you who sing in church on Sundays and keep asking God to “bless America”–you, with your cold, calculated formulas and your bullet points of exactly why it’s important that we as Americans should be allowed (should have the right!) to abuse, rape, murder human beings in the name of “information,” or for no reason at all! You, who cry bloody murder when the same thing happens in your own backyard.

This is why I’m anti-torture, anti-war. This is why I’m anti-military. This makes me sick.

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Something refreshing! “Murder has no religion”

November 9, 2009

[Murder has no religionby Arsalan Iftikhar, international human rights lawyer, founder of TheMuslimGuy.com, contributing editor for Islamica magazine in Washington]

Washington (CNN) — Most of the world’s 1.57 billion Muslims know that the Holy Quran states quite clearly that, “Anyone who kills a human being…it shall be as though he has killed all of mankind….If anyone saves a life, it shall be as though he has saved the lives of all mankind.”

Accordingly, it should come as little surprise to any reasonable observer that when Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan recently committed his shocking acts of mass murder at Fort Hood, Texas, America’s Muslim community of over 7 million felt an added sense of horror and sadness at this senseless attack against the brave men and women of the US armed forces.

True to form, many conservative media pundits wasted little time in pointing to reports that Hasan had said “Allahu Akbar” (Arabic for “God is great”) at the start of his murderous rampage. News coverage continuously showed the looping convenience store black-and-white videotape footage of Hasan wearing traditional white Islamic garb.

First of all, someone simply saying “Allahu Akbar” while committing an act of mass murder no more makes their criminal act “Islamic” than a Christian uttering the “Hail Mary” while murdering an abortion medical provider, or someone chanting “Onward, Christian Soldiers” while bombing a gay nightclub, would make their act “Christian” in nature.

Simply put; murder is murder and has no religion whatsoever.

Professor Juan Cole of the University of Michigan once wrote that, “One most certainly does insult Muslims by tying their religion to movements such as terrorism or fascism. Muslims perceive a double standard in this regard: Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols would never be called ‘Christian terrorists’ even though they were in close contact with the Christian Identity Movement. No one would speak of Christo-fascism or Judeo-fasicm as the Republican[s] … speak of Islamo-fascism….[Many people also] point out that [it was] persons of Christians of Christian heritage [who] invented fascism, not Muslims.”

According to Pentagon statistics, there were over 3,400 American Muslims serving in the active-duty military as of April 2008. The Wall Street Journal reported that many officials believe “the actual number of [American] Muslim soldiers may be at least 10,000 higher than the Pentagon statistics.”

Thus, with thousands of patriotic American Muslim women and men proudly serving in our United States Army in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, perhaps it would behoove our army leaders to consider sending a strong message of American unity by appointing an American Muslim to be a part of the prosecution team against Hasan.

This would help show that the mass murders allegedly committed by Hasan have nothing to do with the teachings of our religion.

The United States Army can send a resounding message to all Americans and the rest of the world that the social fabric of our country will never become unraveled by murderous (and irreligious) gun-wielding felons–whether it is a Muslim in Fort Hood, Texas, or a non-Muslim on a shooting rampage in an Orlando, Florida high-rise less than a day later.

By appointing a multicultural (and multireligious) legal prosecution team made up of military lawyers of all races and religions, we can set a good example to show the rest of the world that our American legal justice system is truly equal for all people, regardless of their race, religion or socioeconomic status.

The larger point is that Muslims in America completely disavow and wash our hands of any acts of murder (or terrorism) claimed to be performed in the name of our religion. Acts of mass murder, regardless of their time or place, are simply ungodly criminal acts that have no religion whatsoever.

Stats galore

October 5, 2009

“America is generally thought to be among the most religious nations in the Western world. We Americans are often portrayed as people who believe in God, pray often, and teach our children to do the same. All true, confirms PARADE’s new national poll on spirituality.

“But our faith is also far more complex than these stereotypes. PARADE’s survey reveals a nation looking heavenward–but with its feet firmly planted on the ground of modern life. Spiritually speaking, Americans are a very practical people, moderate and tolerant in ways that would have astonished our grandparents….”

(Swiped from “How Spiritual Are We?” by Christine Wicker, as seen in yesterday’s edition of PARADE. Read the rest here!)

“Government does do some things better” by Nicholas Kristof

September 13, 2009

Here’s a paradox.

Health care reform may be defeated this year in part because so many Americans believe the government can’t do anything right and fear that a doctor will come to resemble an IRS agent with a scalpel. Yet the part of America’s health care system that consumers like best is the government-run part.

Fifty-six to 60 percent of people in government-run Medicare rate it a 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale. In contrast, only 40 percent of those enrolled in private insurance rank their plans that high.

Multiple surveys back that up. For example, 68 percent of those in Medicare feel that their own interests are the priority, compared with only 48 percent of those enrolled in private insurance.

In truth, despite the deeply ingrained American conviction that government is bumbling when it is not evil, government intervention has been a step up in some areas from the private sector.

‘Socialized firefighting’ has become our preference
Until the mid-19th century, firefighting was left mostly to a mishmash of volunteer crews and private fire insurance companies. In New York City, according to accounts in The New York Times in the 1850s and 1860s, firefighting often descended into chaos, with drunkenness and looting.

So almost every country moved to what today’s health insurance lobbyists might label “socialized firefighting.” In effect, we have a single-payer system of public fire departments.

We have the same for policing. If the security guard business were as powerful as the health insurance industry, then it would be denouncing “government takeovers” and “socialized police work.”

Throughout the industrialized world, there are a handful of these areas where governments fill needs better than free markets: fire protection, police work, education, postal service, libraries, health care. The United States goes along with this international trend in every area but one: health care.

The truth is that government, for all its flaws, manages to do some things right, so that today few people doubt the wisdom of public police or firefighters. And the government has a particularly good record in medical care.

Take the hospital system run by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the largest integrated health system in the United States. It is fully government run, much more “socialized medicine” than is Canadian health care with its private doctors and hospitals. And the system for veterans is by all accounts one of the best-performing and most cost-effective elements in the American medical establishment.

A study by the Rand Corp. concluded that compared with a national sample, Americans treated in veterans hospitals “received consistently better care across the board, including screening, diagnosis, treatment and follow-up.” The difference was particularly in preventive medicine: Veterans were nearly 50 percent more likely to receive recommended care than Americans as a whole.

“If other health care providers followed the VA’s lead, it would be a major step toward improving the quality of care across the US health care system,” Rand reported.

As for the other big government-run health care system in the United States, Medicare spends perhaps one-sixth as much on administration as private health insurers, although the comparison is imperfect and controversial.

Weakness of private insurance is that it’s unfair
But the biggest weakness of private industry is not inefficiency but unfairness. The business model of private insurance has become, in part, to collect premiums from healthy people and reject those likely to get sick–or, if they start out healthy and then get sick, to find a way to cancel their coverage.

On my blog, foreigners regularly express bewilderment that America may reject reform and stick with a system that drives families into bankruptcy when they get sick. That’s what they expect from the Central African Republic, not the United States.

Let’s hope we don’t miss this chance. A public role in health care shouldn’t be any scarier or more repugnant than a public fire department.

[Nicholas Kristof writes for The New York Times. source]

Returned, but not “home.”

August 18, 2009

Because for the past three years, America has been becoming less and less my “home.” I keep learning and growing as a person and I’m more interested in the world as a whole than in America specifically anymore. I consider myself more of a citizen of the Earth than of the country I was born in. It’s an important thing I’ve gained from my trips to Nicaragua, one of which I’ve just returned from. Pictures and journals to follow…

Child of Empire [by Emily Mekash]

July 4, 2009

I’m a citizen of the most affluent country in the world. Both of my grandfathers were decorated war veterans. My ancestors owned slaves. I can recite the Pledge of Allegiance, the Gettysburg Address and the preamble to the Constitution without so much as batting an eye. I am an American.

Further still, I am a middle-class white kid who grew up in the Midwest. I was raised on a steady diet of patriotism and duty to God and country. In this setting, conscientious objectors were traitors and not voting meant shirking your civic duty.

I can vividly recall, when I was 8 years old, writing a poem about how great my nation was and reading it to a classroom of my peers. It was President’s Day, and we were encouraged to don red, white and blue clothing. Cory, one of my classmates, read a supernaturally long poem his mother had sent with him. I can still hear him shyly reciting something about Old Glory and the trenches in Europe. Looking back, that grade-school realm of empire seems surreal.

And whether you want to chalk it all up to ethnocentrism or naïveté, it honestly never occurred to me that there was anything wrong with how my country went about things. I never realized anyone else thought there was something wrong with the U.S., unless you count those “terrorists” in the far-flung regions of the “Middle East,” wherever that was.

My starred-and-striped worldview was called into question when, as a bright-eyed 18-year-old, I moved to Canada for college. Suddenly, I was surrounded by people who did not see eye-to-eye with me about the motherland. I was called “Yank” and “Yankee,” which, I suppose, was not nearly as bad as it could have been. And whenever my ignorance showed, some kind-hearted soul was there to inform others: “Don’t worry; she’s American.”

One day as I was having lunch in the campus cafeteria, the table talk turned to the Iraq war. I squirmed in my plastic seat. I was the only American at the table, and so I felt it my sacred duty to say something in defense of the pre-emptive strike. But before I had the change to utter a single “God bless America,” a guy at the table, in complete seriousness, called me a warmonger. Flabbergasted at the accusation, I excused myself from the table. American, Yankee, warmonger–being American was no longer a badge of honor and pride; it was an ugly epithet.

In the four years that have past since I began college, I have grown increasingly uncomfortable with my country and the decisions it makes. I don’t support the war in Iraq. I don’t support government-sanctioned torture (or any other torture for that matter). Our economic system has made the rich even richer, and the poor even poorer. And yet, my mailing address is still Roseau, Minnesota. My passport has an eagle embossed on the front. Every April, my tax dollars go into Washington’s coffers. America has become my awkward cousin; I feel strong familial loyalty to her, but I don’t want to claim her.

Barack Obama has given me some hope for my country–hope that maybe the poor won’t be ignored, that this six-year-long war won’t go on forever, that my country won’t be forever run by rich white males (though we still need to work on the rich and male part), and that maybe the rest of humanity won’t think we are trying to turn the world into our own homogenized empire. I have hope that things can change, yet I know America is still America. Big. Rich. Powerful. Selfish. Blind.

In less than a month, I will be marrying a Canadian. Our plans in life don’t include a return to the red, white and blue. “Why do you want to leave the U.S.?” my polite American friends ask me. “You want to live in Canada!?” the impolite ones say, as if I had just told them I was planning to live in a pup tent in the Mojave Desert. Some days I feel as though I am caught in an international tug of war between the nation I was raised in and the nation I came of age in.

So for now, I live in that uncomfortable space of being a reluctant American. Of feeling bound to a country that I no longer agree with. It’s the awkwardness of being American.

[Emily Mekash is an intern with Geez magazine. She grew up in Moseau, Minnesota and now lives in Otterburne, Manitoba. This article is from Geez magazine No. 14, Summer 2009.]

So, this is me. Part of this is my story too, although I’ve not yet had the opportunity to live in another country. But when you’re taught that to be American is to be Christian, to be Christian is to be American, things get twisted and they can turn ugly fast. I don’t feel that, because I don’t support many of my country’s endeavors, I’m “unpatriotic.” I live here. But if the willingness to blindly accept my country and defend it right or wrong, the ethnocentrism that arrogantly claims “This is the greatest country in the whole wide world,” is what it takes to be a patriot, I’ll gladly reject that label. I’m a Jesus-lover first, before I’m either Christian or American.

I like her.

May 29, 2009

And I’m not referring to The One With the Lipstick™.