Thursday, September 25, 2008

American Presidential Elections and the Clash of Civilizations

Right wing pamphleteers and propagandists are in full swing to try to defeat Obama's bid for the presidency. Attacking his race is not politically correct in the U.S., at least not publicly or directly. So the propagandists have found the perfect alternative target with the confluence of their push for a perpetual war on terror (defined narrowly to apply only to Arabs and Muslims who don't tow the American line) with Obama's connection with Islam and his Arabic middle name. You see, smearing Arabs and Muslims doesn't ruffle anyone's feathers here, except, of course, if you happen to be Arab or Muslim.

The latest and what appears to be the most concerted effort to influence the election is the distribution of DVDs of the a documentary called Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West. The documentary, produced by an Israeli-Canadian, features such luminaries as Daniel Pipes, Steve Emerson and Alan Dershowitz, all self-proclaimed experts on Islam and terrorism, and well known for their inflammatory Islamophobic views. Millions of these DVD were distributed free of charge as an advertising supplement in numerous newspapers. The distributors targeted newspapers in swing states that can go either democratic or republican in any given campaign.

Whether hate and fear mongering win the day remains to be seen. The events shaping the elections are rapidly changing. With the American economic juggernaut looking like the Titanic, the average voter may be more terrified by the real prospect of loosing their job than the distant hyperinflated fear of terrorism.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Obama's Unspoken Problem: Part 2

After I wrote my last post, two articles seem to substantiate my impression about the American electorate. The firs one is an Op Ed by Nicholas Kristoff in the NYT which essentially confirms my suspicions that many Americans will not vote for Obama because of his "connections" to Islam. The other is new poll showing that a substantial percentage of Americans, because of their perceptions of African-Americans, will likely not vote for Obama on that basis.

Not even the recent economic meltdown seems to have made a dent in the polls in Obama's favor. Could it be that after eight years of the worst presidency in the United States history, the American electorate is stupid enough to reelect a president of the same party and with largely the same policies as G.W. Bush?

I am afraid the answer on November 3rd will be: yes they are!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Obama's Unspoken Problem

I have no illusions about what an Obama presidency will be like when it comes to the U.S. foreign policy,especially its policies in the Middle East. But what I am certain of is that a McCain presidency will be far worse.

At a party for my son's soccer team the conversation among the adults turned to electoral politics. Some parents were discussing the merits, or rather the lack of merits, of McCain's choice for vice president, Sarah Palin. A woman, the wife of the host sat by me and upon hearing the topic of the discussion opined that she loved Palin and the views she represented. "I know what's coming next", I told myself, and sure enough she obliged almost immediately. "And anyway, I don't trust this Barack guy; he is a Moslem, you know". I bristled, glanced at my wife who walked away in disgust, and said "who says that he is Moslem?". "Well he was registered as a Moslem when he went to school in Indonesia ". "So what if he was?" I said, getting more irritated. Most Americans are averse to contentious public political argument; so another woman suggested that we change the topic. I knew that getting into a heated exchange was futile; I walked away.

That such opinion exists is the United States is no big surprise given the unrelenting anti-Muslim paranoia of the last seven years. That a woman in an affluent, Northeastern, cosmopolitan city feels unrestrained to make such a statement in public is a little surprising. Moreover, this woman surely knows that we were from "over there somewhere"; my son is the only one on this otherwise lily-white team with dark hair and a perpetual tan. It is likely that she was too ignorant or too thick-headed to have connected the dots. At least she was honest in what she said. In polite company, Americans tend to be politically correct and will not spout such charged remarks. So the question is, how many American readily share her opinion that Obama is "tainted" by his connection to Islam? And how many others, who may not publicly support such a claim, actually agree with it.

How many Americans, standing in a voting booth with the curtain closed are willing to vote for a black man whose names in Barack Hussein Obama? It is more than I think and more than most Americans are willing to admit. Therein lies Obama's problem.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The Trumpet of Ibrahim Maalouf:

Ibrahim Maalouf is a youn and, talented trumpet player. He is the scion of an exceptionally talented musical and literary Lebanese family. His paternal uncle invented a trumpet with a fourth valve in the 1960s to allow him to play the quarter tones needed in Arabic music. He is also the nephew of the illustrious Lebanese writer Amin Maalouf.