NATO and the NTC Need to Act Immediately to End the Racism in Libya

LIBYA: END THE COUNTER-REVOLUTIONARY RACIST ATROCITIES

I posted last night about the racist attacks by some Libyan rebels against dark skinned black Africans, and since then other news reports have come out about it, including a report of twenty migrant black African women claim to have been raped by Libyan rebels. Racism in Libya is nothing new; Gaddafi exploited black African migrant workers, and millions of them are now entrapped in Libya. Yet, some rebels have decided to take advantage of the chaos ensuing since the revolution by attacking, executing, and raping innocent black Africans. While it certainly is not all Libyan rebels, too many accounts of it have come out for it to not be addressed yet.

NATO must threaten to stop supporting the NTC unless the NTC acts immediately to put an end to these racist atrocities. The NTC must make it clear that racist atrocities against the black Africans are counter-revolutionary and human rights violations, and that any rebels found guilty of them will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, just as any of Gaddafi’s war criminals will be prosecuted. I realize that in this time of chaos it is difficult to police all of the rebels, but the lack of public criticism of these acts by NATO and the NTC is unacceptable. I stand by a revolution that overthrew a brutal tyrant, but I strongly oppose any revolution that simply replicates the atrocities of the prior regime. NATO acted responsibly by defending citizens from being slaughtered by Gaddafi’s forces, but now they must act responsibly by defending the black Africans from being slaughtered by some of the rebel forces. NATO and the NTC must immediately speak out and demand an end to these atrocities, otherwise Libya will be no better off than it was under Gaddafi.

It’s time for NATO and the NTC to act as leaders of this rebellion instead of witnesses to it, and lead by calling on an immediate end to these atrocities.

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Racism Haunts Libya’s Revolution

Since the rebellion against Gaddafi began in February, I followed the movement against him closely, I cheered the rebels on with each city they took, and when Gaddafi’s forces began to push back against the rebels and slaughtered civilians in his own country, I applauded NATO’s decision to intervene under the pretense of protecting civilians with a loose interpretation of  a no-fly zone. I still believe NATO made the right decision; it was clear Gaddafi was close to crushing the rebellion, and he would have merciless killed thousands in Benghazi, but the rebels still had enough anti-Gaddafi forces on the ground that, with help from NATO’s air force (but without any occupation), they could still easily defeat Gaddafi. It took longer than I expected for them to defeat Gaddafi, and granted they have not captured him yet as of writing this, but the days of his regime are clearly over. I still support the decision for NATO to support the revolution, and I still support the Libyan people’s courage in overthrowing Gaddafi, but the amounting stories of the Libyan rebels’ racist persecution toward dark skinned black Africans, in Tripoli and elsewhere, has diminished my hopes of a truly democratic Libya.

The majority of Libyans are Arabs and Berbers, but there’s a minority of black Africans in Libya who the majority of Libyans do not identify with. There does not seem to be any conflict yet between the Arabs and Berbers, but the black Africans have suffered at the hands of the rebels. Racism is not new in Libya: Gaddafi exploited black Africans as migrant workers, and many Libyans held prejudices toward the black Africans, but while the racism is not new, the actions of the rebels is still appalling.

When the rebellion began, rumors emerged that Gaddafi was using black African mercenaries in his military, which has not been verified and rejected by some researchers, but with Gaddafi’s mentality, it would not surprise me if he recruited any mercenaries that he could, including black Africans. However, I have no evidence that these rumors have any factual basis, but would it surprise anyone if Gaddafi did hire black Africans to serve as mercenaries in his efforts to defeat the revolution? Anyway, whether these rumors have any truth to them or not, certainly not all black Africans worked as mercenaries for Gaddafi, yet many rebels have treated all black Africans indiscriminately, and some rebels have executed already captured black Africans who they accused of being mercenaries, and calls for “ethnic cleansing” have already been discussed. Perhaps the most disturbing sign of the overt racism among some of the rebels is the graffiti that applauded the rebels as the “brigade for purging slaves, black skin.” Gaddafi’s forces have executed prisoners, prisoners of war, civilians, hospital patients, and anyone else they could take their vengeance out on since losing power, but the rebel forces need to prove they are the higher moral force than Gaddafi’s regime, and their indiscriminate racism has called that into question.

As I said earlier, I still rejoice over a revolution that overthrew Gaddafi’s 42 year long tyranny, but I am now much more skeptical over whether the Libyan revolution will live up to its democratic aspirations. The truth is the revolution had some flaws from the beginning: it was composed of diverse rebels who shared no ideological commonalities except for their opposition to Gaddafi. I have no doubt some revolutionary Libyans are disgusted by the acts of violence by some rebels against black Africans, who are now fearing for their lives. However, during a violent revolution that has been so disorganized, it is unfortunately difficult to enforce the ethics of war on all the revolutionaries. One Libyan submitted an op-ed piece denying the racism among the revolutionaries, but based on every other report, there seems no question that some rebels have committed racist atrocities that need to be stopped immediately. The rebels are composed of different factions: some proponents of human rights, some Islamic fundamentalists, some who simply resented or suffered during Gaddafi’s rule, some opportunists looking for power, and many other factions. There is no consensus among the rebels, and while I do believe the NTC (National Transitional Council) has good intentions for Libya and the people, uncertainty remains among who will fill the vacuum of power, whether they will live up to the democratic aspirations of the early rebellion, and what kind of human rights violations the rebels will commit. I am not surprised by the human rights violations; as I said, in a revolution, some rebels will take advantage of ensuing chaos. I am disappointed, however, in how widespread it seems, and how there has been a reluctance of the French, British, and U.S. officials in denouncing the acts of racism; the three powers supporting the rebels’ campaign immediately need to call on the rebels to act in a more humanitarian measure if they want to continue to receive military support or their financial aid, which is currently frozen.

Israel is Training Militias in the West Bank

As the the Palestinian Authorities apply for statehood in the UN this September, a measure which will certainly get vetoed by the U.S. and therefore denied, Israel plans to arm the Israeli settlers in the illegally occupied West Bank to repel the Palestinian protests that will inevitably follow. For a brief history: since the creation of Israel in 1948 on Palestinian land that was previously colonized by the British, the UN has promised the Palestinians their own nation, but due to constant war, they have been forced to live as refugees without a nation. Some Palestinians deserve part of the blame because their terrorist attacks on Israel have given Israel the excuse to refuse to make peace, return any of the land gained from the War of 1967, or recognize the Palestinian state. I also believe that the other Muslim governments in the Middle East have not done many favors for the Palestinian people by failing to grant the refugees in their countries citizenship or equal rights, while also inciting tension with Israel by using hate speech. For instance, Iran continually threatening to destroy the state of Israel gives Israel another excuse not to make peace with the Palestinians because they fear — or at least can claim to fear — an attack from a Palestinian nation with the support of neighboring Muslim nations. Nevertheless, the longer Israel holds out and deprives the Palestinians of a statehood, the more hatred towards Israel will rise, and the longer it will take and more difficult it will be for there to be peace in the Middle East.

Israel knows the UN will not recognize the Palestinian nation, even though Palestine will easily get the majority of votes, simply because the U.S. will veto, and as a member of the security council, the U.S. can prevent it. This is nothing new for Israel; the U.S. has vetoed many international bills condemning Israel. As a result, Palestinians will protest Israel’s refusal to recognize their nationhood, which is understandable, but instead of Israel simply policing the area and having soldiers on guard to prevent the Palestinians from hurting anyone, Israel has made it clear it will retaliate against protests with violence, even if it means training their own militia in the West Banks. This is truly a disturbing development. I understand Israelis may fear for their safety and worry about Palestinians entering the Israeli settlements, but — despite the fact the settlements are illegal anyway — placing weapons in the hands of people to use at their own discretion against the Palestinians could potentially have dire consequences. How exactly will this be enforced? As of yet, Israel has not created clear boundaries where the Palestinians cannot cross, and it has yet known how the lines will be made clear for the protesters, but the plan is to have two lines: one “warning” line, where Israeli settlers will use crowd dispersing weapons such as tear gas, and a second “red line” where, if Palestinians cross, the Israelis have permission to open fire at the legs of Palestinians. What happens if the armed Israelis open fire or use weapons against the Palestinians before they cross any boundaries? Many of the Israelis living in the West Bank are Jewish fundamentalists, leading one to believe they will be more willing to use force against the Palestinians. Will Israel punish settlers who use too much force? Based on Israel’s human rights record towards the Palestinians, one has to assume the Israeli settlers will be given immunity no matter how much force they use. There have been reports in the past that Israelis in the settlements receive special legal treatment as well.

The Palestinians have a right to protest peacefully to let their voices be heard, and Israeli settlers should not be given the power and arms to deny the Palestinians. Israel essentially creating militias to target Palestinian protesters could potentially create major problems that will lead to the death of many Palestinians and further angering Palestinians and neighboring Muslim nations if they do not use extreme caution and make it very clear where the protesters cannot go. The Israeli military is likely strong enough that it can protect its land from unarmed protesters anyway, and if it is not, then it should not set up illegal settlements on the land in the first place.

This is yet another predicament in the long struggle for justice between the Israeli and Palestinian people. Israel has a right to exist, and Muslim nations must accept it, but Israel needs to co-exist equally with the Palestinians. There are various solutions to the problem, none of which are easy, but they truly begin with Israel accepting that Palestinians have a right to nationhood, whether in a one-state or two-state solution, and the crisis will only continue to grow until Israel agrees to compromise.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial: Revisiting His True Message

A Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial was unveiled in Washington D.C. last week at the site he gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. The monument has become controversial not because King was a controversial figure in his time, which he was, but because of the amount of money spent on the monument, the fact it was created by a Chinese architect, and the belief that it misrepresents King.  There has been criticism that the monument is “communist” architecture, it has been criticized for representing a politically divisive king rather than one of an American Christian, and also that it portrays King as an “authoritarian figure” rather than someone who spoke of “racial equality for blacks.”  I think these criticisms are all overreactions, but I do not care to discuss the monument itself, but instead focus on King’s legacy. I reject the critics that say it misrepresents King because it does not focus exclusively on his “dream” of racial equality. If one wants to the monument to be meaningful, it is important for us to remember what Martin Luther King, Jr. really stood for instead of the image that many Americans have crafted of him. The “I Have a Dream” speech was an iconic and a significant moment in the Civil Rights Movement. The speech is best known for the stanzas where King discusses his dream, especially this one:

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Ideally we could live in a nation where people are judged by their character rather than the color of their skin, but this quote has unfairly come to define Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy without the larger context of it and has often been misused to declare that “race doesn’t matter.” A recent polls shows that the majority of Americans believe “King’s dream” has been achieved, essentially stating that race no longer matters. After the election of President Barack Obama, conservatives immediately declared that racism was officially over and we achieved King’s dream; while at the same time many conservatives questioned Obama’s birth certificate and whether he was truly an American worthy of holding the presidency, as if those questions had nothing to do with race. King dreamed of race no longer mattering and led protests that contributed to the passing of Civil Rights laws, and Americans voted for a black president, but neither of those mean that race no longer matters. Ask the family and friends of the innocent black man in Mississippi who was beaten, run over, and killed by white teenagers looking for a thrill, and then bragged about it afterwards, if race no longer matters. You don’t even need to ask the black man’s family — just ask the white kids responsible for the racist murder if race no longer matters. That’s one violent and gruesome incident, but statistics also point to blacks getting less pay for the same amount of education, companies preferring to hire whites over blacks, blacks receiving stricter punishments for crimes, racial profiling, the differences in education, and people subconsciously react different to different races. Race matters! That does not mean we are racist and hate another race, but it means we need to recognize how race plays a factor in everyone’s lives and how we are conditioned to think of other races. Only when people realize how race affects them on a daily basis will we be able to start overcoming the problems of race. The “color-blind” approach does not work because it overlooks and denies the existence of racial problems that exist in society. If we realize that race matters — to everyone — we can begin dismantling the social construction of race and overcoming it, but as long as we pretend that we do not care about race, we are simply preserving the existing racial structure.

As I mentioned, the above quotation has come to define Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy, but we need to look outside of that quote, and outside of that speech, to see what Martin Luther King, Jr. actually  stood for if we want to truly honor him instead of using him as a symbol to show the racism that once existed. King held more radical beliefs than most people now days are willing to recognize. Although Americans tend to focus on his desegregation message, King understood that desegregation was not the end of America’s problems and other things need to be addressed. One of the critics of the monument I linked to above argues that the monument should have portrayed King as an American Christian, and therefore left out some of the more radical and international quotes that are imprinted on it. Hence, I want to discuss King’s broader message; not that King’s racial desegregation message was not important, but it was not all that he stood for, and that is not what he should only be remembered for. We must pay attention to King’s larger message to truly appreciate and honor him. Let me point out just a few of King’s quotations that people who manipulate King’s image for their own purposes tend to ignore (thank you internet for helping me find these various quotes):

King on Vietnam:

Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam.
I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak
for the poor in America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home and death and corruption in Vietnam. I
speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as an American to the
leaders of my own nation. The great initiative in this war is ours. The initiative to stop it must be ours.

The bombs in Vietnam explode at home; they destroy the hopes and possibilities for a decent America.

King’s criticism of the U.S.’s growing involvement in Vietnam is generally known, but usually not considered to be part of his larger philosophy, which significantly limits King’s beliefs to a strictly American national approach instead of recognizing the struggle for rights as a transnational one. It is a transnational criticism of the war in Vietnam because King points out that poor Americans are paying for a war that has absolutely nothing to do with them, and the only thing that it is accomplishing is destroying the lives of people in Vietnam. The war in Vietnam harmed both the people in the United States and Vietnam, and therefore King understood the negative implications of the U.S.’s neo-colonialist Cold War foreign policy in a truly global approach. In addition, King — like Malcolm X — spoke out against the war in Vietnam before the large counterculture movement emerged and also reprimanded the war.

King on military spending:

A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching
spiritual death.

Like King’s criticism of the war in Vietnam, he realized that the U.S.’s excessive military spending (“the military industrial complex”) came at the expense of spending on social programs. While the U.S. continued to build up its military to threaten and dominate foreign markets, it increasingly reduced its funding of social programs that would have benefited the American people. The money spent on the military would benefit those who were heavily invested in the weapons industry as well as the wealthy capitalist class who could exploit the people and resources of foreign nations that had a neo-colonial regime forced upon them, meanwhile average Americans gained little to nothing from the military buildup, and often young Americans died for the benefit of the elite.

King on poverty:

The curse of poverty has no justification in our age. It is socially as cruel and blind as the practice of cannibalism at the dawn of
civilization, when men ate each other because they had not yet learned to take food from the soil or to consume the abundant
animal life around them. The time has come for us to civilize ourselves by the total, direct and immediate abolition of poverty.

King’s call to abolish poverty is significant because he clearly understood that desegregation is not the final solution to America’s domestic political problems. I believe this is as important as any of King’s ideas, yet many Americans limit him to his calls for desegregation and his “dream” for people not to recognize people by the color of their skin. King was well aware that the U.S.’s domestic problem extended beyond just racial segregation; something had to be done about the disparity of wealth and the amount of Americans who suffer due to the limited regulations of capitalism. In King’s day, his critics called him a “communist” for pointing out the ineffectiveness of capitalism to deal with poverty. Of course, King was not a communist, but he also understood that strict capitalism failed to benefit the majority of the world’s people, and therefore King wanted fairer wealth distribution. In the 1960s, King’s opponents — from the Ku Klux Klan to the FBI — criticized him for pointing out the injustices of capitalism, but now most Americans ignore his criticisms of capitalism and focus only on his criticisms of segregation, as if he believed segregation was the U.S.’s only problem. Ironically, King went from being labeled a “communist” in the 1960s to now having his monument called “communist architecture.”

King on the purpose of religion:

The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must
be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an
irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.

This is a particularly interesting quote when considering the current political scene of the U.S. King, of course, was a reverend and a very religious man, but he — like America’s “founding fathers” — knew religion’s place in society and knew where it did not belong. The church should not rule the state; it should not have any power over the state or the political process. Instead, the purpose of the church is to provide morality to the people, and he believed a moral people would make better citizens and therefore a better state. Meanwhile, the so-called Tea Party candidates intend to use the church as a tool and interpret laws based on their religion.

King on the purpose of life:

If a man hasn’t discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.

This quote reminds me of two other advocates of black freedom and political progress who died were also prepared to die for it:

“The price of freedom is death.” – Malcolm X

“If you can’t find something to live for, then you best find something to die for.” – 2Pac

King, Malcolm X, and 2Pac all dedicated their life and careers toward something they would die for: freedom and progress; and each anticipated their own death, but did not let it stop them from promoting their messages.

While many people try to place Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. at the opposite ends of the spectrum during the Civil Rights Movement, if one compares their messages in the last years of their lives, he or she will find they have much more in common than is often believed. Neither one was willing to accept the status quo; Martin Luther King, Jr. was not a conformist who would settle with just desegregation, nor was Malcolm X an anti-white racist who wanted total segregation. They both desired a world where the rich would not exploit the poor, where the powerful nations would not colonize the underdeveloped nations, where the oppressor would not hold down the oppressed, where the military would not receive preference over the people, etc.

If we are to remember Martin Luther King, Jr., let us remember him for who he truly was and what he truly believed, and not what for some Americans want to pretend he stood for. He did not believe in American exceptionalism, that desegregation was the solution to America’s problems, or that Christianity should rule the government.

The Uphill Battle for Syria

The Syria problem has me deeply troubled. Assad’s crackdown on protests has gone beyond what Gaddafi did before NATO got involved, but — as I stated in a previous post — the two situations are significantly different, and unfortunately I do not hold much hope that Syrians can topple Assad. NATO will not get involved, especially not until Syrians manage to form their own rebel military force that has a legitimate shot at taking down Assad, and even then I doubt they will. I keep reading articles about how Libya should be a lesson for Syrians, urging Syrians to continue the protests, but these articles seem to overlook the differences between the two rebellions. While Syria’s demonstrations show true courage, they have failed to make any progress in taking down Assad. Assad has promised reforms, but Syrians do not take his word for it, and I would not either. I want to see the Syrian people successful with their desire to overthrow Assad, but they will have to do it on their own, and they face an uphill battle to do so.

Truthfully, while the U.S. would not admit it and has called for Assad to step down, the U.S. probably fears a revolution in Syria, especially a violent one. Syria, in the heart of the Middle East, shares borders with two countries vital to American interests: Iraq and Israel. Israel is obviously the U.S.’s biggest ally in the region, perhaps to a fault even, while the U.S. is enjoying relative stability in occupied Iraq after years of trying to end a Civil War and a scramble for power, which the U.S. caused. Who would have thought five years ago that in 2011 the Iraqi government would seem to be one of the more stable governments in the Middle East? It is somewhat surprising that the “Arab Spring” has not impacted Iraq more. But a revolution in Syria could dramatically alter Iraq because the U.S. has no idea what would replace the Syrian government, and some Syrians — who, perhaps as much as anyone, are taught that the U.S. is evil — certainly resent the American occupation in its neighbor to the east. A violent revolution in Syria would cause a scramble for power and a free for all on weapons, and one has to assume that some of those weapons would make it into Iraq and used against the U.S. there and used against Israel to Syria’s southwest. There was little concern that a revolution in Libya would destabilize its neighbors since two of its neighbors, Egypt and Tunisia, are both going through their own revolutions. The U.S. has to hope that if a revolution in Syria occurs, it happens more like it did in Egypt than Libya — for Assad to step down, hand power over to the military, and have the government implement gradual reforms.

Indeed, the future of Syria lays in the hands of its military; it was the military in Egypt that refused to slaughter citizens and then turned on Mubarak, and much of the military in Libya defected and joined the rebel side, which led to the Civil War. Syria’s military has not seen large defections yet and they have cooperated with Assad. The Syrian military must realize that its role is to protect the Syrian people and not to act as the personal thugs to protect Assad from the Syrian people. Disturbing images, videos, and stories of Assad’s thugs committing atrocities against civilians continue to pour out of Syria, and the Syrian people continue to courageously protest, but the only way things will change is if the Syrian military finally decides it has had enough of murdering innocent people and turns on Assad. Even then, it may lead to more violence because Iran wants to protect Assad and may use military force to do so. There is no easy way to get rid of Assad.

Good luck, people of Syria. I applaud your courage, and the military cannot kill all of you. Eventually it has to turn on Assad, but you likely face a long, bloody, uphill battle before reaching your goal of toppling your murderous dictator.

Rick Perry and the Return to the Gilded Age

If the George W. Bush administration was neo-conservative, are the Tea Party “Gilded Age” retro-conservatives? That’s the way it seems. It was only a few years ago that the neo-conservatives of the Republican Party who, unlike traditional conservatives, made the government bigger and increased spending, while also pushing for an aggressive military strategy. With the election of Barack Obama, the neo-conservative movement seemed to be replaced by the Tea Party movement, which decided to attack Obama for everything possible, from questioning his birth certificate, his religion, his radicalism, and blamed him for the economic collapse that happened under Bush’s regime. The Tea Party decided anything the government does is bad, and while I oppose the government getting involved in every minute detail of our lives, the unfortunate reality is that the government is needed in a capitalist society to protect the people from the power of corporations. Traditionally, conservatives are reactionary: they want to protect the status quo; the neo-conservatives were unusual in that they wanted to change the status quo, but without progression; the Tea Party conservatives are simply bizarre in that they seem to want to return to the laissez-faire capitalism of the late nineteenth century (known as the “Gilded Age”).

We saw what unrestricted capitalism did during the Gilded Age: with the rise of industrial capitalism, the few who owned the means of production gained an extreme amount of wealth by exploiting laborers, forcing them to work excessive hours in unsanitary and dangerous working conditions, paying them below the necessary amount to survive, and refusing to recognize or negotiate with any labor union that tried to protect the workers; meanwhile, the capitalist elite then used their wealth to influence politics and essentially gain control of the government as the majority of Americans and the working class suffered at the hands of it. The latest poll that I saw among Republican presidential candidates has Rick Perry leading all candidates, and Perry is someone who criticized all the government reforms of the twentieth century that attempted to curb the power of the capitalist elite over the American majority.

The Republican Party in the late nineteenth century, like the Republican Party today, favored big business, and the Republicans won almost every presidency in the late nineteenth century. The Party practiced a laissez-faire attitude that allowed businesses to run rampant, leading to large amounts of corruption and bribery. In essence, the capitalist elite — including millionaires such as John D. Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan, and Andrew Carnegie — were left unchecked, and when laborers organized unions to protect themselves and earn better rights, the government continually took the side of the capitalists against the unions, which often led to violence as the government forcefully broke up strikes. It was not until the Progressive Era that the government decided to limit the powers of corrupt corporations. Republican president Theodore Roosevelt broke his party-line in the early twentieth century and was the first president to realize that unchecked capitalism provided: unsanitary conditions and unfair labor practices for workers; that food and drugs went un-inspected and had no standards to them — making them unhealthy and dangerous; that as corporations grew they became monopolies that swallowed up all competition; that corporations had no concern for the survival of the environment; and that the rich did not equally share in the burden of taxes. As a result, the government under Roosevelt began to break up monopolies (“trustbusters”), regulate large businesses, protect the environment, extend rights to workers and unions, create the Meat Inspection Acts and the Pure Food and Drug Acts, and Roosevelt first introduced the idea of federal income tax and inheritance tax, which both targeted the rich, although they did not pass until after his presidency. Roosevelt had plenty of faults during his presidency, especially in his foreign policy, but he was the first president to recognize the inherent problems that come from the excesses of capitalism and the need to regulate them. His cousin, Franklin Roosevelt, would go further regulating capitalism during the New Deal, but it was during the Progressive Era that Americans finally saw reforms in capitalism.

Now Rick Perry wants to overturn everything the Progressive Era and the New Deal accomplished, essentially letting corporations go unchecked and return to the practices of the late nineteenth century. According to Perry’s book, as detailed here, Perry believes “Ever since the dawn of the so-called Progressive movement over a century ago, liberals have used every tool at their disposal — including notably the Supreme Court — to wage a gradual war on the Constitution and the American way of life.” As a result, Perry calls into question the Constitutionality of: Social Security, Medicare, federal laws on food safety, ban on child labor, minimum wages, and environmental protection laws (again from the story linked above). Perry literally wants to return to the laws of the Gilded Age with a “hands off” government that does nothing but serve as a military. Oh, and I assume provide us morality too, since he’s a Christian fundamentalist; he claims gay marriage should be decided by the state and there should be a federal amendment banning it. Way to be consistent, Perry. Anyway, capitalism is too corrupt to not have a government regulate it; Perry wants to revoke over a century worth’s of reforms that have tried — and only with limited success, but better than before — to protect the American people from the power of corporations. If the government cannot enforce a minimum wage or safe working conditions, what is the motive for corporations to enact them on their own? They won’t because it costs them extra money. If the government cannot prevent corporations from dumping toxic wastes into the ocean, do you trust that corporations will properly dispose of it out of their own good will? Perhaps the scariest thing is that corporations continue to have a major influence on American elections, and someone like Perry will appear very attractive to corporations because of his hope to remove the government from the economy altogether. America, we tried that before, and it failed. Let us not go down that road again. It’s not in anyone’s best interest to vote for this guy; revisiting the Gilded Age would only benefit about 1% of Americans, and harm the other 99%.

I never thought I’d say this before, but Texas, I almost kind of liked your previous governor better. Did I really just say that? This is depressing — I need a drink.

Glenn Beck is “Restoring Courage” in Israel… Why?

The paranoid right-wing conspiracy theorist Glenn Beck has decided to take his propaganda machine to Israel. After Beck unsuccessfully “Restored Hope” in the United States last year, he decided that Israel needed him to “Restore Courage” there with his bizarre and emotional speeches. The image from above is true courage, unlike Glenn Beck’s attempt to restore it.  I just have so many questions about Glenn Beck’s attempt to “Restore Courage” in Israel, and it can only be summed up by: “Why?”

Why do Israelis care what Beck thinks or says? Do they even know who he is? Do they know that he was so loony that even Fox News kicked him off the network? Do they know that the Anti-Defamation League criticized Beck for some inflammatory comments that may be interpreted as anti-Semitic, including one that compared Reform Judaism to radicalized Islam? Do they know that he has managed to offend just about every constituency, except for perhaps the Christian fundamentalists? And why are Christian fundamentalists so attracted to Israel and the conservative Jewish movement? Out of no disrespect to any of the religions, but I struggle to see why Beck has any authority to give a religiously motivated political lecture in Israel. Of course, Beck claims his tour is strictly theological, but he is using a theological message to try to influence Israel not to make peace with Palestine or allow Palestine to have its own state. Clearly he is using religion as a tool to push forward his own political agenda, which does not affect him outside of some religious extremist belief. Fortunately some U.S. Jews have warned Israeli Jews not to trust Beck.

I am also a bit surprised that the Christian fundamentalists have embraced Beck, a Mormon, as one of their spokesmen. Mormons are theologically two prophets removed from Judaism, which is the same as Islam (and the Mormon’s final prophet came much later than Islam’s final prophet). I have heard the argument that Mormons are not “true Christians” because of this, including from a Theology professor about a decade ago. Though she was clearly biased by her own fundamentalist Christian beliefs, she taught the class that Christians do not accept Mormons as “true Christians.” I am not a student of theology, and I have no interest in deciding who is or who is not a “true Christian,” but my point is that it was only ten years ago that a fundamentalist Christian theologian taught me that Mormons are not true Christians; since then, a Mormon has emerged as a leader of the conservative Christian fundamentalist movement. Apparently the Christian right’s attitudes towards Mormons have shifted dramatically over the past decade.

The final set of questions I have are about the supposed lack of “courage” in Israel. It took courage for 250,000+Israeli citizens  to protest against their flawed government’s inability to provide them with adequate living standards. However, according to Beck these protesters were not courageous, they were “Communists.” So who needs courage then in Israel? Apparently the Israeli government needs to be courageous by refusing to accept any peace deal with the Palestinians, rejecting their right to statehood, and continuing to build on their land while defying UN orders. But then why is he “restoring” courage? That’s simply keeping the status quo. Beck and I clearly have different understandings of what “restore” and “courage” means. For Israel to “Restore Courage,” they need to have the courage to sit down with the Palestinian Authority as equals, reach a fair compromise with them that is loosely based off the 1967, and recognize their statehood. Of course, the Palestinian Authority also needs to recognize the nation of Israel as part of this peace negotiation, but it would only truly be restoring the courage of Israel if they put their religious fundamentalism aside and lived up to the peace process that former Prime Minister Yitzkah Rabin died for.

“But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.” Psalm 37:11