An Inclusive Litany


From a review of Nobel Prize-winning novelist José Saramago's new book, The Cave, in the New York Times, November 28, 2002:
In José Saramago's nightmare vision, the Western world is a commercial anaconda devouring life and substituting itself in life's place. The slogan displayed on the giant billboards is neo-Orwellian: "We would sell you everything you need, but we would prefer you to need what we have to sell." This is capitalist instead of Stalinist mind control, enforced by its easy allure and reinforced by security guards and cameras.


Responding to concerns over sensitivity to Japanese-Americans, a movie theater in the San Pedro section of Los Angeles canceled a showing of "Tora! Tora! Tora!," a 1970 movie about the Pearl Harbor attack, that had been scheduled for December 7, Pearl Harbor Day.

[Ed.: Note that the World War II-era practice of rounding up Japanese-Americans and placing them in internment camps came about due to concerns over their sympathies.]


A group called the Evangelical Environmental Network initiated an advertising campaign asking the question, "What Would Jesus Drive?" The answer, of course, is not a sport utility vehicle. According to the Reverend Jim Ball, who leads the effort, "Jesus wants his followers to drive the least-polluting, most efficient vehicle that truly meets their needs—though first he might look at other ways to get around. He'd definitely be in favor of us taking public transportation."

[Ed.: Tom Walsh of the Detroit Free Press suggests that Jesus would have benefitted from a 15-passenger van, to help shuttle around his twelve apostles.

Note that fuel-efficient vehicles tend to be lighter, and less safe in crashes. A Harvard/Brookings study concludes that efforts to meet fuel-efficiency standards cause 4,000 needless deaths each year, something that might have concerned Jesus.

Reporting on the campaign on ABC News, anchorman Peter Jennings said: "We are going to take a closer look tonight at the latest pressure on car manufacturers to be more fuel efficient—from the Bush administration and from, yes, conservative Christians." But Brent Bozell of the genuinely conservative Media Research Center points out that the group is closely tied with the National Council of Churches, which has often praised Fidel Castro and fought hard to send Elian Gonzalez back to Cuba.

A subsequent ad campaign patterned after anti-drug ads likened SUV drivers to unwitting terrorist sponsors. And of course Ralph Nader referred to them as "weapons of mass destruction."]


A report by Human Rights Watch documents the "severe wave of backlash violence" directed against Muslims and those of Middle Eastern descent in the wake of the September 11 attacks. The Associated Press reported that "Incidents targeting Muslims, previously the least common involving religious bias, increased from just 28 in 2000 to 481 in 2001—a jump of 1,600 percent," or roughly half the reported number of hate crimes committed against Jews. However, the AP also notes that "the 2001 hate crimes report was drawn from 11,987 law enforcement agencies around the country, up from 1,160 agencies in 2000"—a similar jump of 933 percent.

Of these, the vast majority of incidents at issue were non-violent. The report instead focuses on seven murders, three of which represent authentic examples of hate crimes motivated by anti-Muslim animus, even though none of the victims happened to be Muslim. Three of the others involved no real evidence of ethnic motivation. And in one case, a Yemeni man was shot to death while in bed with the jealous gunman's ex-girlfriend.

[Ed.: The report did not include the case of Khaled Abou El Fadl, a professor of Islamic jurisprudence at UCLA who has regularly received telephone and e-mail threats ever since September 11, has had his car windows smashed, and has worried about mysterious vans parked on his street that race away before the police arrive. In fact, the threats came not from angry white males, but from fellow Muslims who perceived him as too critical of religious extremists.]


The actor George Clooney, responding to a question from a London Observer reporter about America's response to the September 11 attacks, reported on, November 19, 2002:
We live on an island. A giant big f***ing island. We don't understand that people actually get mad at us. We still think of ourselves in terms of World War II. It's not uncommon for us to say to France, "Hey, you'd still be speaking German if it wasn't for us." The problem is the world has changed, and our involvement in these tiny little places is different than it was in 1941. It was a lot clearer then. We were attacked.

Richard Goldstein in the prototypical Village Voice article, November 13-19, 2002:
Two events of lasting significance occurred last week: the breakdown of the Democratic party and the breakthrough of Eminem. His debut film, 8 Mile, became the highest-grossing film in America just days after Republicans won control of Congress. These two events may not seem related, but they reflect the mainstreaming of ideas that seemed extreme just two years ago. Bush's right-wing agenda and Eminem's violent misogyny were once considered over the line. Now they have crossed over and become the line. Not that Em is a Republican (though he might favor ending the estate tax). But he and George W. Bush do have certain things in common. Both draw their power from the compelling image of the strongman who can pose as the common man. Both played the populist card to win the nation's heart. And I would argue that both own their success to the sexual backlash....


The Boston Globe reports that a group of Boston psychologists and social workers is seeking official recognition among mental health professionals for "post-traumatic slavery disorder." They claim the condition is caused by intergenerational trauma resulting from slavery and characterized by crime, drug abuse, broken families, and low educational achievement.

Sekou Mims, among those who recently taught a symposium on the subject at the Simmons Graduate School of Social Work, says it helps explain why his own black 16-year-old son experienced a sudden psychotic breakdown characterized by racially paranoid delusions, even though the boy "didn't go through one-tenth of what I went through." (The boy has since recovered.)

The group's findings differ somewhat from those of Harvard University psychiatrist Alvin F. Poussaint, who wrote in 2000 of "post-traumatic slavery syndrome." Unlike a "syndrome," a "disorder" is expected to result in a consistent set of symptoms, while Poussaint argued "the trauma of slavery goes across all diagnoses and no diagnoses." Still, Mims said that "black people as a whole are suffering from PTSD."

[Ed.: Interestingly, Omar G. Reid, a psychologist who conducts support groups for troubled men of varying incomes and promotes the PTSD diagnosis, told the Globe "that black and Latino males were showing up 'in droves' with similar symptoms."]


American evangelical Christian leaders have been saying some very bad things about Islam. Jerry Falwell called the prophet Mohammed "a terrorist." Pat Robertson referred to Islam as a religion of violence seeking to "dominate and destroy." Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham, called Islam "a very evil and wicked religion." In response to all these false statements, Iranian government representative Ayatollah Mohsen Mujtahed Shabestari is calling for their deaths.

In a November 7 article on the American Prospect Online, Adam Christian recounts his experience as an election poll worker in Los Angeles County:
Around 10:30 a.m., two black women, Betty and her daughter Jacqueline, arrived as replacements for the delinquent election clerks. An interesting dynamic unfolded once they showed up: Whereas I had been running the entire operation by myself, the three of us set up an assembly-line system in which a voter would first sign the roster with me, then tell his or her address to Jacqueline, and finally return the ballot to Betty. Despite my proximity to the entrance of the polling place, many black voters would bypass me and address themselves directly to either Betty or Jacqueline. Betty leaned over to me at one point and joked, "They're afraid of you. They're thinking, 'Talk to the black people.' " After this experience, it is much easier for me to understand the racial politics of voter intimidation. I would not describe myself as physically imposing, but apparently the mere presence of a white person at the polling place was enough to make some voters feel uncomfortable.

The New York Times, November 8, 2002:
Iran's hard-line judiciary today sentenced an outspoken reform activist to death, 8 years in jail, 74 lashes and a 10-year ban from teaching, the Iranian Student News Agency reported today.


Letter to the Editor, the Boston Globe, November 3, 2002:
I found Ussama Makdisi's article "The End of the Affair" in last Sunday's Ideas section informative from a historical perspective. However, I believe he failed to discuss the true motivation for our support of Israel.

He states that American support for Israel is based on the idea that Israel represents Jewish national redemption. Although this statement is accurate, we can't dismiss the economic reason for our presence in Israel—that being big business and oil. He does mention how our role in the Middle East became of interest upon the finding of oil in Saudi Arabia in 1938. Support for Israel gives the United States an excuse for maintaining a presence in the Middle East. On the world stage, our position for and in Israel would be referred to as "a sphere of influence."

As a nation built on freedom and democracy, we care about the Israeli people's right to have a homeland. I question however, if our government would be as supportive if the homeland in question were based in Western Europe.

We pay a steep price for maintaining stability in the Middle East and use our support for an Israeli homeland as a front.

—Lawrence Agresto,