September 1, 2010

Brave Enough

I could easily have watched Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honor" Rally - Interviews With Participants added my smug, flippant, elitist comment and passed it along on Facebook or Twitter. I would have bandied about words like ignorant, uniformed, red state, bible belt, and so on, but after watching this video three times, yes I am sick I know, I was left with a pile of pity so heavy in my lap that I had to write about it, so as to be able to sleep tonight.

Before I really get into it, let me say I understand that it is not fair to use videos like this to paint an accurate picture of an entire country or even a small group of people, even if those people are suspected Tea Party members. We cannot look at interviews with the same six people and claim they represent the ideas of even right wing fanatics, conservatives, or Republicans, whatever we are calling them these days. It is easy to edit the worst of people, stand back and laugh at the results. I get that. But there has to be some truth of the views being represented in this video.

There is something sad buried in here not too far below the surface. There is something scary in there as well. There is something that screams of fear and failure. We have failed, all of us as Americans if we allow this level of ignorance to continue. This misinformation seeped in panic and fear of the unknown brings out the worst in us. I see such terrified, insulated, uneducated people. I don’t mean stupid or even uniformed when I say uneducated, I mean people who are simply not thinking. They have never been taught that the world is made of many shades of grey.

Ideas, religions, even reality can be good and bad at the same time. We must question ideas and weigh the options. Look for reasons, motives behind our thoughts as well as the thoughts and ideas of others. I will not blame the lack of critical thinking on the American public school system, because after all I am a product of this system, and because teachers are getting a lot of bad press these days, I will simply ask- how can we as a nation work to help our citizens think more critically? How can we open their minds to the world outside America? This insulation is destroying our country.

Rather than ridicule or belittle the victims of this video, I want to see if we can think of a way we can reach out and share our knowledge of the world with Americans who perhaps see little more of the world than the talking points Fox News forces into their exhausted minds. Are you a teacher in a small rural town? Are your students afraid that Mexican hordes are coming to the US to drop anchor babies? Have you done a unit on Mexican history? Did your students learn all they need to know about Islam on 9/11? Can they find Iran, Malaysia, Qatar, or Indonesia on a map? I have lived in all four places and can Skype into your class and clear a few things up quickly. I am no fan of religion in general, but I will do my part to prove that Islam is not the enemy here.

The things these people say may border on the absurd, but careful examination shows that they are the main talking points of the punditry at Fox. If we deride and make fun of the most exploited amongst us, we are allowing Fox News the right to call us elitists and vilify us as they wish. If we do not help educate our citizenry, Fox will be more than happy to do it. We will never be able to compete with the Koch’s of the world, but maybe we can help open minds. We can move forward small classroom by classroom and help young people understand that America is not the last bastion. She is just a nation who struggles with other nations. She is made of people who struggle like all people.

I am not sure what percentage of people actually think that Al Sharpton has the ability to mobilize battalions of Black Panthers, but I would venture it is more than we think. Comments like the one about the Panthers illustrate how little people really understand the way our nation was built. I bet if asked to offer one aspect of the Panther philosophy, the subject of Black Power would quickly be changed or ignored.

There is something wrong with a nation if in the google age we cannot grasp the basic idea of what the Panther Party was about: We want land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice and peace. Do we teach students about the Panthers, Chicago in 1968, Malcom X, Tupac Shakur, of course not, so why do we belittle people for being terrified of African Americans, when a Mormon puppet master tells them 100 times a day that their president is a Muslim monster. Once we understand our history both black and white, we will realize that Al Sharpton has about the same chance of mobilizing these kinds of numbers of African Americas as Glenn Beck does.

But that’s just it. Glenn Beck does mobilize his base. How? By repeatedly appealing to their pride, faith, and fear. American is the only worthy nation on Earth blessed by God himself. It says so right on our money, how could that be wrong? We are the Last Bastion of freedom, not even Canada has a chance. If we don’t watch out we will all be living as slaves to black Muslim communists. We won’t be allowed to pray at the monuments. How will we know all of this, “ we will be told by the news.”

I don’t teach in the US, so I will do my part by teaching my Muslim students to be open minded and have them kind enough and ready to interact with Americans if they you ever brave enough to come out into the world and join the rest of us on this beautiful planet. You can watch the video, but after writing all that, I don’t recommend it.


  1. Anonymous12:50 AM

    I've long believed, and I stick to this idea, that the best thing for the world would be if everybody spent a year in a country as far from their own as possible.

    This is not, I realize, a particularly practical idea. But if nations could somehow integrate exchange programs - even just for two or three months - into their national curricula, something really important might happen.

  2. One of the most valuable things I ever did in my formal education was to read Malcolm X's autobiography in 11th grade. I chose to read this book at the time because I was confused--how could someone who had experienced so much discrimination himself be willing to advocate for black supremacy and separatism? Reading his autobiography allowed me to step into his shoes and understand a life and perspective so different from my own. It helped me see that everyone has his or her own reasons for their beliefs and actions.

    How do we help people feel safe enough to step outside their own comfort zone and become curious enough to explore beliefs different from their own?

  3. I'll consider you seriously when you examine leftist propaganda such as any of Michael Moore's documentaries and conclude they can be equally narrow minded and incendiary.

    Liberals will usually fail to harshly examine and judge members of specially protected groups they need to perpetuate their legislative power. That's the truth. Refute that point if you can. It's also what impedes any meaningful wholesale redress of the entire urban minority culture that avoids personal accountability and responsibility. I know that liberals don't like to read this, but the Christian church is about the only glue the urban minority can rely on to unite its people. I'm saying that as an agnostic.

  4. I'd like to add this question:

    Do you think dissent is only legitimate when it comes from the left? How about when it comes from the right, like the Tea Party?

    I'm working with this issue right now. I am a teacher dissenting against many aspect of Web 2.0 for school kids. As a result of this dissent, I have been threatened by those those whose egos I have bruised with my confrontational verbal style of writing. I think teachers who surrender their kids to Web 2.0 represent the worst example and remind me of every bad overindulgent and spoiling parent I see in society today. The folks lodging the loudest complaints are permissive liberal types, so I remind them that their heroes from the 60s used to throw rocks at cops and destroy public property to express their dissent. It seems that form of expression was acceptable to the children of the 60s Left. There's a contradiction of values here in my view.

  5. @marksrightbrain I cannot speak for all left wing propaganda, because I am not sure who you are referring to, but I will admit that Michale Moore in particular does have an agenda and he can be narrow minded and incendiary.Now that you are taking me seriously let's move on.

    You speak in such vague and nebulous thoughts it is hard for me to keep up. What do you mean by members of specially protected groups. Most liberals I know, myself included have very little faith in the legislative power of change. The democrats are not close to be progressive enough for us. I even ditch the Michael Moore band wagon when he steered center during the Kerry election.

    As for ideas being "The Truth" I will take you seriously when you stop calming to have any kind of monopoly on truth. I am lost in your arguments, when and why did we start talking about the urban minority culture and are you referring to African Americans? I am not sure I agree with you that the Christian Church is the only glue that holds, now who are we talking about again.

    I do not feel that dissent is only legitimate when it comes from the left, but I do not feel that the Tea Party movement is a genuine grassroots movement. Please see...

    I know you must feel the New Yorker is a propaganda tool of the left, as I feel that way about fox, but check the sources and do the research on the story. The Tea Party movement, as I have seen represented in the media, does not appear to have any roots in legitimate political dissent. They are upset by a series of nebulous ploys by Obama to ruin the country, but what are their goals, where is the history?

    I am not sure how the comments about web 2.0 are relevant to this conversation, and honestly I haven;t the energy to take them up now. I am still deciding how much web to is enough and how much is too much.In the meantime, I work with my students to find out what works best for their learning. I hope to create a technological sound and balanced community that uses tech when it needs it and uses face to face bonding when it is appropriate.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  6. Yes, let's also be fair and mention the money that arrives from the left to discredit right wing activism

    To counter your other comment, I don't consider the leftist black liberation theology a legitimate protest movement, for example, as long as you aren't familiar with any radical LEFT wing groups.

  7. Fair enough. Yes there is big money on the left as well, I will give you that, but a true progressive vision for change starts at the grassroots level and should include empowering the very people in the video above. That is my point. Liberals don't want to destroy America, we want to empower her poor, both white and black to take back their country from corporate hands.

    Not sure what you are trying to say with you comment about "leftist black liberation theology."

    Statement doesn't make sense to me.

  8. "leftist black liberation theology" is a buzz term for a radical political activist movement stridently condemnatory of Israel, Jews, and traditional American culture.

    Google "Rev. Jeremiah Wright" and you'll find out.

    The Tea Party's members are united to take back America from those wishing to turn it into an extension of the Third World.

  9. Ok listen Mark, I appreciate your comments here and hope that you come back regularly and help extend the conversation, but I feel the comments on this thread have move far away from the original post and subsequent comments.

    I have skimmed your blog and although I don’t agree with much of your stance on Web 2.0 I do agree with some and I respect your virile, ornery voice. There is passion there and as someone who wears his emotions on his sleeve I respect what you are trying to say.

    So can I ask that for the sake of conversations here on my blog we try and stay away from “buzz terms.”

    Statements like "leftist black liberation theology" and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright" are the lightening rod talking points of the Fox News Punditry and I find them shallow and impeding any serious conversations about politics.

    I am a bit perplexed by this comment though, “The Tea Party's members are united to take back America from those wishing to turn it into an extension of the Third World.”

    Have you ever been to the “third world?” If so where? Have you ever lived in a nation struggling to keep its head above water in the face of IMF and World Bank policies that have crippled its very infrastructure? I have some stories to share with you about the reality of such places, and I an assure you there are very few people on earth who ar tryin to turn the United States of America to such a place. If you honestly believe this is the case, perhaps are worldviews are too different to continue any kind of conversation.

    I hope this is not the case, as I appreciate and like to have sane, civil conversations with people who have opposing views to mine, but let’s keep it critical and calm.

  10. You say you wish to avoid "buzz terms" yet you resort to classifying any comment right of center as originating from a particular news network, a network, by the way, I don't even watch.

    "are the lightening rod talking points of the Fox News Punditry"

    "Have you ever lived in a nation struggling to keep its head above water in the face of IMF and World Bank policies that have crippled its very infrastructure?"

    That's the stock answer from the left, blaming external power structures led by First World nations, instead of blaming the leaders of the Third World nations for their own problems. I know that the Third World owes billions to the western powers over the years and have never repaid any of their debt back.

    How does not repaying your debts inspire respect?

    "and I an assure you there are very few people on earth who ar tryin to turn the United States of America to such a place."

    You don't know the Democrat party in the US very well, do you? They love unrestricted immigration, even illegal immigration. Like I've said before, liberal Democrats require needy underclasses to perpetuate their power base

    " I appreciate and like to have sane, civil conversations"

    Does that mean a conversation where the leftist view isn't held in a favorable light?

  11. @marksrightbrain I consider myself a constitutionalist, some have referred to me as a libertarian but that isn't quite right. I just happen to believe that a government (any government of any type) should follow the rules it established to begin with. I am not an elitist or populist, liberal or conservative. I thought I would get that out of the way so you can save your name calling.

    The IMF and the World Bank have targeted third world countries with loans that could not be payed back. Check out the book Confessions of an Economic Hitman for the specifics. Yes I believe in conspiracies as you obviously do as well.

    I see no difference between FOX news and CNN myself since FOX is owned by the liberal Rupert Murdoch. They both seek attention by taking an extreme stand on complicated issues. Isn't it interesting that they never agree on anything?

    While I might agree with you that liberal Democrats require a needy underclass you might agree with me that the elitist rich in general purposely create obstacles to the poor and middle class so they are less competitive in the American free market. The public education system would be a prime example of this unless you actually believe President Obama sends his kids to a private school for security... Obviously this extends beyond political lines (as does most things.) In fact we don't really have two political parties, just one with two faces.

    Don't even get me started on the "religiosity" that groups use to push their political agendas. If you believe that people that love God (regardless of the name them give him) hate others you don't understand God or love, just like them.

    In conclusion, maybe you should stop listening to others and think things through yourself. BTW, I am a big goober and I wear it proudly.

  12. This back and forth could go on forever, but what would be the point? How would we be advancing any compromise or understanding?

    You seem very angry Mark. And appear to have a need to always be right and have the last word. I was )am) like that too, but let me take this opportunity to say okay. You win. I am not exactly clear what your point is. I am amusing that you wanted to point out that the left is as biased and flawed of a system as the right.

    Sure I will give you that. That is the nature of politics. I guess my goal is to move beyond politics and find out what we need to do to connect and understand each other as human beings.

    Was I wrong to bait these Tea Party members, perhaps, but if you had actually read my post I was hoping to open up conversations about misunderstanding and educations.

    Take third world debt, we obviously have read different text books. We see the issue as black and white, so now what?

    I hope that you do not respond in another virile I said you said..if you do, I think it may be best to move on to the next post and try again. Surprise me....

  13. Jabiz, thanks for inviting me to join the conversation, but I'm not sure how much I can contribute. I don't watch Fox or CNN, don't listen to talk radio, and I only read a few political bloggers, none of them rip-roarers. Perhaps I'm better informed about the issues?

    There is a great deal of ignorance, anger, bigotry, and fear on both extremes, left and right. I see it in my inbox. Just recently, I got a lurid email with an attached video. The email warned that the video was a "graphic depiction of a Muslim girl being stoned to death for refusing her parents' arranged marriage", and going on to rant about "these sick animals" and so on and so forth. I did not watch the video.

    I typed "snopes video muslim girl stoned" and saw several links referring to "video of 17 year old Kurdish girl being stoned." One was a discussion board, so I clicked it. The commentary made it clear that the video was of the mob-beating death of a non-Muslim Kurdish girl who had run away from home to marry a Muslim boy she'd fallen in love with.

    Almost exactly the opposite of what the text described.

    Now, then, Muslim "honor killings" are no urban legend, nor is stoning. And I am certainly no fan of shari'a or theocracies.

    But I prefer to have my facts straight.

    Jabiz and I don't see eye to eye on many things. He's an avowed atheist and self-professed communist who admires Zinn and Chomsky. I'm an Evangelical Christian who tends to vote Republican (sometimes holding my nose). But neither of us thinks the other is particularly dangerous.

    Just tragically misinformed. :-)

  14. I won't have any further use for some Gen X/Y twerp romanticizing an ideology that murdered a combined number of around 100 million citizens between 1925 and 1975. I remember Stalin, Mao, Castro, and Pol Pot quite well. It's as sickening as young kids wearing che guevara shirts. They just have no clue.

  15. Two quick things:

    1. @skydaddy, Thanks for the attempt, and for the record I am not a self-professed Communist. I am an anti-capitalist looking for a new system.

    2. I am done with this post @Mark. I don't like being insulted on my own blog and inciting rage and anger seem to be your thing. I will breathe, calm down and just say good day sir.



  16. @marksrightbrain "Twerp" My, you are so continental.

  17. "I don't like being insulted on my own blog and inciting rage and anger seem to be your thing."

    Hmm, perhaps then you should tell your fellow Muslims to stop terrorizing Jews, just to be fair.

  18. Thanks for playing mark:;jsessionid=MLIE4V4KMOLN1QE1GHRSKH4ATMY32JVN?articleID=199600005

    Good bye.

  19. Jabiz, somewhere online you did in fact refer to yourself as communist, little-c. I assume you meant that in the spirit off Marx's original naive and idealistic notion (which sounds good but assumes that human beings act out of ANY motivation other than self-interest).

    I don't consider "communist" to be a badge of honor, ergo I don't pin it on anyone who hasn't already donned it.


    I was taught early on that in the field of rhetoric (argumentation), there are two definitions of an "ad hominem" attack.

    The first is the classical and literal: "ad hominem" meaning, "to the man"; being an attack upon the character of one's opponent. If you're running against a convicted felon, this might have merit.

    The second is too often seen these days (though oddly reminiscent of Yellow Journalism): We disagree, therefore you are a monster.

  20. I don't align with definitions invented by the post modern geeks about what constitutes "proper" communication. I know that the last few generations are too invested with "going along to get along," being good little egalitarians afraid to harshly judge or be harshly judged for their value system, beliefs, etc.

    There's too much death and destruction in this world caused by cowardly and non-committal people who think if you hold your hand out to a snarling dog in friendship it won't bite off that hand. I don't think I have to define who the snarling dogs are in this and who are those who are unwilling to do anything about it. I only need to cite the commemorations in NYC today as a reference point.