Sunday, September 11, 2005

As if we need more, here’s another example of why the war in Iraq is a failure and will be viewed as one of the worst debacles in American history.
I do not believe we will have Iraqis immigrating to the United States and integrating into our society. Of course, the knee-jerk reaction in this climate of xenophobia couched in the euphemistic term immigration reform is so what. The fact remains, and is only denied by those blinded by ideology (and unfortunately not struck mute by it, too) this is a country built by immigrants, strengthened by immigrants, made unique in the world, and made ready for growth, change and adaptation by immigrants. Irish Catholics, Eastern European Jews, Africans, Asians, Russians, Italians, it’s a never-ending list, a long list because it contains nearly every nation on earth.
Think now how Iraqis might integrate and add to this interwoven tapestry, a beautiful and enduring mirror of the world. What will be their place, their contribution, what addition will they be allowed to make? The myopic hatred and fear of all things Muslim in the wake of 9/11 has poisoned this nation. We’ve made them a cancer that doesn’t exist, or is so miniscule that this treatment is more detrimental than the perceived disease.
We’re applying a form of chemotherapy to our nation that is eating away at us from the inside. It’s robbing us of our very essence, of what it means to be an American. And, the “treatment” is not just applied at home. We’ve gone into Iraq in some ill-conceived, poorly-executed attempt to inoculate or destroy those who might be contagious, who might stand a chance of coming to the US and inflicting their disease on us again. I won’t spend more time arguing this as countless others have shown how wrong this war is. From the falsehoods that led to it’s initiation, to the bumbling and prevarication that describes its sad continuation, it can be seen as nothing other than a national tragedy, a global tragedy.
I must forget for the moment, as hard as that is for me, the current situation and think about, ponder, what this holds for our future. How will we recover from this? What will this American “patient” look like 10, 20, 30 years from now.
Unable to predict the future, we have two choices – examine the past for clues, or project what we’d like to see. My past holds some telling information, some examples of how America has absorbed immigrant populations and benefitted from their addition to our cultural mix. So, I’ll write what I know.
In my grammar school alone I learned alongside: the daughter of a holocaust survivor whose mother, while chaperoning the class, would show us the number tattooed on her arm. The daughter of a Vietnam vet and his Vietnamese wife. The son of an émigré from South Africa. The grandson of a survivor of America’s occupation of the Philippines, also the son of a survivor of American’s liberation of the Philippines from the Japanese. A mixed Mexican-American. Many Hispanics – this was LA. Mixed Anglo-Panamanian. And the array of the Northern European blend – Irish, Scottish, 2nd and 3rd generations. We had an Indian teacher in the fifth grade, complete with the flowing saris and the dot on her forehead (a bindi). I’m sure I’m forgetting someone. And this was a Catholic grammar school. High school was even more diverse – Armenians (the largest Armenian population outside Armenia is in LA), Japanese, Egyptian, Korean, Zimbabwain, I’d wager every country in Central America. My Spanish teacher my sophomore year was from Nicaragua, my Junior and senior years, Cuba. The priests hailed from Ireland, China, France…
In short, my experience growing up was filled with encounters and exposure to a wide array of people with varied backgrounds, outlooks and philosophies. In retrospect, there was not a lot of Islam there. We knew one Iranian/Persian family, although I think those were émigrés who aligned themselves with the Shah, or to be more precise did not align themselves with the Islamic Revolution. They were not what you would consider “Iranian” in the way the name is popularly considered today.
What then is the point? In compiling this I could conclude that in the most melted of melting pots, LA, I still did not have any exposure of note with Middle Easterners, well Muslims. Then again, I spent 12 years in Catholic schools. At Berkeley, the sight of my first “Your Black Muslim Bakery” was an eye-opener. No, I think the point is, the world is a complicated place populated by a beautiful and varied bunch of people. In the US we have more of an opportunity to see that than elsewhere. And, were we to close our eyes, hearts and country to clusters of those bunches of people, we would do so to our detriment. So, stop talking about “immigration reform”, stop blaming and punishing Iraq for something a few misguided Muslims did. Is there hatred, is there a larger movement of anti-Western radicals hell-bent on bringing down America/Israel/Christian/Western Civilization? Sure. But then I hate the Yankees and I hate the designated hitter rule, that doesn’t mean I’m going to bomb Yankee Stadium or kidnap Bud Selig. Remember in fighting something you can validate it, make it stronger and worse than if you let it run its course.
We’re not stopping the thing we say we are hell-bent on stopping. Rumsfeld so much as admitted that. We’re not only not succeeding there, we are breeding more of what we don’t want – there and elsewhere. More people hate us. We don’t know what we’re doing. And, of course, not only do we not know what we are doing we have NO idea what we’re doing will mean for our future as a nation, for our future military spending (although we have a pretty good idea there), AND, and, more importantly for the future of our children and our children’s children. What will their world look like? From my perspective I’d like it to look more like the world I grew up in where I was exposed to different cultures, different people, and perspectives. I don’t want them to live in a world where they hate and are hated, where they are made to be afraid, and where the idea of the foreign – of Middle Easterners, Iraqis, or Muslims – evokes reflexive negativity. I want to stop my tax dollars from subsidizing the killing of innocent people. And, I want my children to live in an America that values human welfare over militarism. But, then what the fuck do I know.

“Door locked please leave teeth.” At least that’s what it looked like scrawled on the five dollar bill I just used to pay for 10/11ths of my beer. Hot. Full. Tired. I started a poem on a separate piece of paper – lots of poems on separate pieces of paper. I think it started like this: So fucking beautiful – or It’s all so fucking beautiful
It’s all so goddamn ugly
Sky water mountain
People people people
Problems flaws grotesqueries
Hating them hating me
Hating all humanity
But the sky
The water
The mountain
It’s fucking sublime
And her ass
That beauty and my ugliness
Combined there
Oil and water
Or un
It really really really really really
Really is pretty
The day
And her ass
But mostly the day
What is it then?
You can love nature when you have blue skies and calm seas and mountain views; and you can love humanity (or hu-womanity – ha! Oh…) when there are tits or glutes or dimples representing beauty. Yet, when it’s gray or cold or fat and ugly then all bets are off. This is brilliant shit, you beer-soaked buffoon. It ain’t all pretty – get over it.
Better off left on little scraps of paper.

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