I enjoyed Fareed Zakaria's essay in the June 11 issue of Newsweek, which surprised me with an article on Arab bloggers (specifically Ammar Abdulhamid and Sandmonkey) and Muslim Punk rockers. The latter provided me with one of my favorite quotes of recent days, from Michael Muhammad Knight (who is always a good read), "The Prophet Muhammad was all about smashing idols. And what's more punk rock than that?"
The main thing I liked about Zakaria's essay was that he writes about something I've been trying to engage people in discussion about for the last six years - fear as a cancer that is eating this country alive. Jon Stewart jokes about the "fear music" that accompanies news broadcasts, but he's right. We invaded Iraq because of it. The media caved because of it. Rudy Giuliani has been campaigning for President since September 12, 2001 based on it. An absurd, racist and useless 700 mile wall is being built on our southern border because of it. Bush is still President because of it. The administration has crafted and sold their policies based on it. The real problems facing this country remain unsolved in part due to it. And I shudder to think what lies in store if we don't start dealing with it.
I have been dismayed by some of my experiences with so-called progressive, liberal, and leftist politics in this country. I was told by a local leader of a well-known national environmental group that her group didn't want to partner, as I suggested, with a local neighborhood-based African-American environmental group because "some of our members don't like to go down to that part of town". I walked out and didn't look back. I have heard and corrected anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim and "polite" racist comments made by people who consider themselves quite the liberals. If that's what's coming from the "Left", and we know what's coming from the Right, where are the rest of us supposed to make a stand?
I totally understood Cindy Sheehan's anger, frustration and disappointment expressed in her "resignation letter" last week. People ask why I want to head back overseas, especially shocked that I'd like to return to the North Africa and the Middle East. I am not naive. I watched friends in Syria look around at empty hallways before suggesting we instead speak outdoors. There is no "last great place". I love the ideals of this country, I just wish we remembered to act on those ideals more often. I think that's what Ms. Sheehan meant when she wrote, "you are not the country that I love and I finally realized no matter how much I sacrifice, I can’t make you be that country unless you want it."