Syria and the limits of my knowledge

SIRIA_-_TURCHIA_-_RUSSIA_-_pace_paese.jpgI’ve kinda had my head in the ground for the last couple of days; I’m sort of still there, as it’s taken me a good five or six minutes just to write this sentence.  It’s been a shitty few days to be an American, or at least to be a sane one.

(It’s been a worse few days to be a Syrian; I hope that I didn’t need to clarify that, but I’m going to anyway.)

I’ve been very clear here on multiple occasions about how I feel about how this country should treat Syrian refugees.  What I’ve been less clear on– in fact, I don’t know that I’ve really addressed it at all– is how we should treat Syria.  There’s a good reason for that; I know when I’m in over my fucking head, and this is absolutely one of those times.  Even before we get into “Should America take a side in the Syrian civil war?” there is the very important “Can America do anything about the Syrian civil war?”  There is also the minor fact that the Russians are involved and anything we do with Syria runs the risk of provoking Russia, which is something I suspect all of us would like to avoid.

I don’t know what to do about this, except for the part that is both relatively uncomplicated and morally clear: we should accept every refugee from this conflict that we possibly can.  Period.  I don’t have the tiniest idea what the hell to do about the rest of it.  I don’t feel bad about that.  I’m a fucking furniture salesman from Indiana.  There are people for whom figuring this shit out is their jobs.

Which, speaking of that: another thing I am absolutely certain of is that none of the gang of scam artists, poltroons and quarterwits currently occupying the White House have the vaguest fucking clue what to do, and I don’t trust them even the tiniest little bit to get any aspect of this shit right.  Barack Obama went to Congress to authorize military action and they turned him down; the shitgibbon fires fifty Tomahawk missiles at an airport, warning the Syrians and the Russians first but not bothering to notify Congress, and somehow fails to even disable the airport.

That is a failure of such epic proportions that it simply had to be intentional.  The point was to make a bunch of noise and waste a bunch of money but not to actually do anything worthwhile.  I suspect when Obama asked for Congress to authorize military action this was not what he had in mind.  Was what he wanted the right thing to do?  I have no idea.  I know that I trust Obama’s judgment infinitely more than I do the shitgibbon’s.  But that doesn’t mean he was right either.  For all I know there may very well be no way to cut this particular Gordian knot.


Fuck ’em for the stolen Supreme Court seat, too.  Which doesn’t really fit in this post but I’m including it anyway because it’s my blog.

On refugees and Christianity, again

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On the right, Rouwaida Hanoun, a Syrian five-year-old who is, as far as I know, still alive.  On the left, Anne Frank, who is not.

There are– it is horrifying to think, but it is true– people who believe that the orange fascist currently occupying the White House is a Christian.  Many of these people are the same people who believed Barack Obama to not be a Christian, so it’s immediately and apparently clear that when they say “Christianity,” what they mean is “White supremacy,” and they have little to no idea of what Jesus actually preached, what he might have believed, or– rather importantly– what he looked like.

I noticed this morning that the post I wrote about refugees last year is spiking in page views again, which is not surprising.  The monster in the White House has chosen to ban desperately frightened and endangered people– the “least among us” who Jesus spoke of– from our country, has deliberately decided to let children die rather than incur even the slightest risk to people who look like him.  He has, of course, excluded his business partners from these calculations; if  you are wealthy enough for him to have business dealings with, you are a Person, of course; Rouwaida Hanoun is not.  When I wrote the post last year we had a President who, while he made bad decisions in any number of ways, I believed fundamentally cared about people.

Unfortunately, that is no longer remotely true, and the man who was trying to keep Syrian refugees out of my state at the time is now Vice President.  Most of the time, I have trouble believing our current President is actually human.  It takes every bit of moral strength I have to recognize that the demented narcissist in the White House deserves as much compassion and dignity as anyone else by simple virtue of having been born a person.  Somebody or something fucked this man up; I don’t believe he was born this awful.

But that’s beside the point.  When I wrote that post last year, I was trying to be nice and trying to be the voice of reason.  You may recognize the tone; I use it around here from time to time when I’m writing something I want to be taken more seriously than usual.  At this point, I’m going to take a different tack: if you don’t think these people should be allowed into the country, if you think refugees (and people with green cards!  People who have been here, and are now separated from their families simply by virtue of having been somewhere else when the ban went into effect!) should be banned from the United States simply because of their religion, you’re a fucking monster.  You’re not a Christian.  Christ himself would rebuke you– he already has, in fact, in clear terms in the Bible you claim to believe is divinely inspired and true in its every word.

You are a bad person if you agree with this ban.  You are a racist and a monster and a coward and every bit as much of a piece of shit as the people trying to keep the Jews out of the country in the 1940s were. You are the exact same people saying the exact same things for the exact same reasons, only with “Jew” crossed out and “Muslim” written in.  And while I don’t want this to be true and I try to be a better person, I really wish there was a Hell so I could see the look on your face when you end up there. Because Jesus has been clear on your responsibilities in this matter.  If you’re not a Christian, you don’t have to follow Jesus.  I certainly don’t.  But he was perfectly clear on this, and you are the bad guys.  


As I was writing this, word came through Twitter that the ACLU has won a stay against this executive order, which is good, as it was wildly illegal from the start.  I set up recurring monthly donations to the ACLU and Planned Parenthood today.  You should too.

Ugh

As we were drifting off toward sleep last night, I remarked to my wife that it had been something very close to a perfect day.  We’d gotten a major project done in the house, had pizza for dinner (there are times when pizza is the best food; last night was one of them), gotten some landscaping done outside, had some cuddle time on the couch with the boy, and spent a pleasant half-hour or so sitting outside and enjoying a summer breeze in the shade on our back porch.

The moment lasted for, well, a moment, before I remembered that the day had started with her telling me not to look at the news until I was more awake, and that fifty people had been gunned down in Orlando, the second time in less than a week that the phrase “murdered in Orlando” had made national news.

This shit happens every week by now, right?  It’s like a ritual; I always hear about these things on Twitter first, and it’s always something slightly opaque, so there’s that few moments of oh I wonder where and how many this time before I find out.  It’s almost always a white guy doing the shooting.  Sometimes it’s not.

I’m at the point where I want the Second Amendment repealed.  Period.  It’s been made obsolete by technology in a way that no other part of the Bill of Rights has, and it needs to go.  But I really don’t want to write a gun post, and I’m even less interested in policing comments about a gun post.  But I do want to make one specific, and probably unnecessary, point about this specific atrocity.

Here’s Omar Mateen:

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The majority of the pictures of him I’ve seen are selfies.  In a lot of ways this guy seems to have been as American as they come (he was born here, after all) and I suspect that the NYPD gear is going to end up being overlooked more than perhaps it should be.  Reports are contradictory on how much of a role Islam played in his life; his father claims religion had nothing to do with it, and his ex-wife, who had to be “rescued” from him by her family, also says that he wasn’t radicalized at all at the time of their divorce in 2011.  But that was five years ago; five years is a long time.

Donald Trump is yip-yapping about “radical Islamic terrorism,” and there’s more fooferall about whether Obama should have used that phrase, or whether Hillary did, and what it means that Hillary Said It but Obama Didn’t, and a whole bunch of nonsense.

I’d like to submit here that it doesn’t really matter all that goddamn much whether this dude was a radical Muslim or not, because the way things stand right now in the US there is no goddamn daylight at all between “radical Muslims” and conservative Christians on the issue of the gay community.(*)  When a leading Republican candidate for President is introduced to a cheering crowd by a pastor minutes after that same pastor calls for the execution of gay people, I don’t want to hear shit about Islamic terrorism.  Republican legislatures across the country have spent most of the last couple of months wetting their pants about whether trans people should be able to pee in public restrooms or not.  Out gay people are in danger in this country every time they leave their homes.  I don’t wanna hear shit about Islamic terrorism when we have an entire political party gleefully making the lives of gay people as miserable as they possibly can every chance they get right here in the United States.  It’s just not relevant.  I don’t care what this guy’s religion was.  He was a homophobe.  That’s the relevant variant of asshole we’re dealing with here, and it’s the only one that matters.

(Two side tangents: 1) I also don’t give a damn about his little 911 call before he drove off to kill people.  I can call 911 and proclaim myself a member of the Harlem Globetrotters right before I go shoot some folks; that doesn’t mean Big Easy and Flight Time are gonna know who the hell I am.  2) Yes, I know about this guy.  I’m not going to talk about him because the case appears to be getting murkier by the minute, and I’m already speculating enough right now.)

Actually, one more thing: it’s interesting to see signs of Mateen starting to get the “mentally ill” edit, which is normally reserved for white people and certainly not for Muslims.  Mental illness is a dodge of the real issue, as usual; a mentally ill and homophobic Omar Mateen who does not have access to a weapon that can shoot a hundred people in a matter of minutes is substantially less dangerous than a healthy and homophobic Mateen who does.

(*) There are so many acronyms.  I feel like “queer” is better as a single umbrella term but “queer” still feels like at least half a slur to me sometimes so I don’t like using it; I’m hoping we can agree that I’m trying to write in good faith here and leave it alone?  I really do hope that at one of the Gay Agenda meetings at some point they sit down and decide on one acronym.  I like QUILTBAG because it’s fun to say, but as a straight cis dude I don’t really get a vote.

In which I guess I’m on a watch list now

IMG_2872So that was interesting.

Any of you who have read Searching for Malumba closely have no doubt noted the dedications page.  If you haven’t, feel free to click on that link right there and check out the “Look Inside” feature and you can go see it for yourself right now.

Then buy the book.

Ahem.  Anyway. SfM is dedicated generally to all the teachers I have known and/or worked with in my life, and specifically to about a dozen or so who have been my teachers, ranging from my second grade teacher to graduate school.

One of those professors is Bill Ayers.  Yes, that Bill Ayers.  Y’know, the guy who gave DeRay McKesson the idea to wear a vest everywhere he goes.

This week, I got in touch with Bill and another former professor and asked them both if they would be interested in me sending them copies of Malumba, seeing as how they’re mentioned in it and all.  Both were incredibly gracious about it and managed to actually seem excited about me sending them some of my nonsense through the mail.  Now, Bill still lives in Chicago.  The other professor is on sabbatical in Rome right now, but actually works at the Catholic Theological Union, so both packages were going to the same ZIP code.

I have mailed dozens of books from my local post office, and my PO box is there, too.  This means that the employees recognize me and that, furthermore, I’m always mailing the same thing— a book or two in the same damn kind of padded envelope I used last time, book rate, and yes I want a tracking number because I send people the tracking numbers.

I have never been hugely fond of the woman who took care of me today.  She always seems to be in a bad mood and has the type of pinched. harried look about her that brings to mind the old adage about having the face you’ve earned once you turn fifty.

I hand her my (identical) packages.  “Book rate,” I say.  The one on top is Bill’s.

She takes a long look at Bill’s, frowns rather conspicuously, and says something that no post office employee has ever said to me when trying to mail a book.  And, again, I’ve been in there dozens of times in the last couple of years.

“You understand that any postal employee may open and inspect any book rate package at any time and for any reason, yes?”  She stamps the package with something, then looks at the other one, hesitates for several seconds, and stamps it anyway, which seems to indicate that she didn’t have to stamp it.

I keep my face neutral, neither laughing at her nonsense nor arguing with her.  Just said yes.  You just better package that shit up correctly when you’re done with it.

She takes care of business, carefully putting the book off to the side (note that this isn’t suspicious; she put it where they always put my books when I mail them) and then suddenly remembers that the second package is there too.  Stares at that one for a second.

“Are you sure that this address doesn’t need an apartment number?”

What the fuck, lady.  Just mail my shit, okay?

“It’s the Catholic Theological Union,” I say.  “No.”

I leave out that the professor I’m mailing it to is the CTU’s professor of Islamic Studies.  Because I think I’ve had enough shade thrown at me today.

The end.

REBLOG: Why I Am Not Charlie

I am trying to avoid having something to say about this, because I really don’t much want to. In lieu of my own thoughts, though, this ain’t bad at all.

a paper bird

imagesThere is no “but” about what happened at Charlie Hebdo yesterday. Some people published some cartoons, and some other people killed them for it.  Words and pictures can be beautiful or vile, pleasing or enraging, inspiring or offensive; but they exist on a different plane from physical violence, whether you want to call that plane spirit or imagination or culture, and to meet them with violence is an offense against the spirit and imagination and culture that distinguish humans. Nothing mitigates this monstrosity. There will be time to analyze why the killers did it, time to parse their backgrounds, their ideologies, their beliefs, time for sociologists and psychologists to add to understanding. There will be explanations, and the explanations will be important, but explanations aren’t the same as excuses. Words don’t kill, they must not be met by killing, and they will not make the killers’ culpability go away.

To abhor what was done to the victims, though, is not…

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