Friday, May 13, 2016

Never in America?

The lessons of history are both harsh and fascinating. Wars seem to be caused by either desperation or hubris (or both), or as the Bible’s Proverbs 16:18 says: “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.” World War I started when the Austro-Hungarian Empire correctly surmised that its global stature has slipped to embarrassing levels. Hitler capitalized on the great unraveling after World War I – intolerable financial reparations pressed upon Germany-the-loser – found Jews to be the perfect scape goats and catered to the German sense of lost pride. The United States figured that helicopters could easily defeat the hit-and-run guerilla tactics of the Viet Cong (who had been escaping through their notorious tunnel system built over the centuries) in Vietnam. We believed we could easily impose our will through military might… and we haven’t won a major conflict since WWII as a result.
Today, as the United States fails to invest in its own future – education, infrastructure and basic scientific research have fallen under state and federal budget axes – unraveling with income inequality and downright rebellious populism planting seeds that will only grow toxic plants for future generations to deal with, Asia is enjoying her rise, and Europe is struggling to redefine its own future. The Continent’s migration of Muslim refugees has sown a bizarre crop of backlash laced with a new tolerance for diversity. The backlash likens the infusion of darker-skinned immigrants, today mostly Muslim, to a cultural usurpation, taking jobs from incumbents and representing nothing short of a de facto demographic takeover of Western civilization.
Climate change droughts in Syria and Iraq – which are only going to expand to the entire North African/Middle Eastern region in coming years – have rendered farms fallow, loosed well over a million people from their livelihoods and homes, and fed the tinderbox of radical jihadists ready to name the scape goats of Jews, Westerners and even though who, in their piercing eyes, are Muslims who have distorted their “proper” view of Islam. That this entire Islamic region is the product of Western geopolitical colonial cartographers who drew arbitrary lines as they carved up the spoils of the failed Ottoman state, slopped at the oil trough and burned fossil fuels to rise to the greatness of the Industrial Revolution – generating most of the climate change for a very long time – might escape our eyes but most certainly not theirs.
The polls tell us that voting Americans are most fearful of two threats to their existence: ISIS and cyberattacks. So if someone were to suggest that instead of the Trump-ban on Muslims traveling to the United States (note that there are more American Muslim than Jewish citizens), we should vote for a Muslim as the mayor of New York, Los Angeles or Chicago, you’d roll your eyes and laugh. But that’s exactly what has happened in London, the U.K.’s largest city.
Back on March 4th, I wrote my A Muslim Mayor of London? blog. I described a human rights lawyer, Sadiq Aman Khan, who was born in London in 1970, lived in a council flat (public housing) and made his way through school until graduating with a law degree from the University of North London. Khan was running for Mayor of London. Well folks, he won, and assumed his duties after a swearing-in ceremony on May 7th (pictured above).
Conservatives, embracing the feelings underlying Donald Trump’s position on Muslims, attacked Khan for the obvious. A poor Muslim raised in a neighborhood associated with local Muslim extremists. “As politicians from all sides lined up to condemn his party’s tactics in the mayoral race won by Sadiq Khan, the son of Pakistani immigrants and the first Muslim to hold the job, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon refused to apologise [for his party’s rather unveiled negativity based on religion and economic station].
“‘In the rough and tumble of elections, you get stuff said, questions asked,’ Fallon told the BBC when asked if he regretted describing Khan as a ‘Labour lackey’ who speaks alongside extremists… ‘I think it is right that candidates for some of the most important offices in Britain do get scrutinised about their past associations.’
“Conservatives including Prime Minister David Cameron and Fallon himself had sought to question whether London would be safe being run by the 45-year-old Kahn, a Labour Party lawmaker who grew up in public housing in the capital’s inner city… Khan, whose parents worked as a bus driver and a seamstress, defeated Conservative candidate Zac Goldsmith, the son of a billionaire financier, by a record margin to secure the biggest individual mandate in British political history. His victory in [May 4th’s] election made headlines around the world.
“Some commentators suggested the focus on Kahn’s religion had backfired in a city noted for its diversity and which is one of the world’s top financial centres. Britain remains largely free of the identity politics seen in the United States.
“A former human rights lawyer, Khan said he had fought extremism all his life and regretted sharing a stage with speakers who held ‘abhorrent’ views…
“Sayeeda Warsi, a former Conservative Party chairman, said the campaign had damaged the party’s reputation and credibility on issues of race and religion, while Labour politicians called on Fallon and Cameron to stop smearing their candidate.
“As the left-wing mayors of New York and Paris saluted Khan, the Financial Times newspaper described the win as a ‘remarkable triumph over the racial and religious tensions that have bedevilled other European capitals,’ saying it highlighted London’s tolerance.
“Among the first to congratulate Khan was Goldsmith’s sister Jemima, a journalist and campaigner who described London as a city for all cultures, backgrounds and religions. She said the victory was a great example to young Muslims.” Huffington Post World, May 7th.
Never in America? We don’t have the migration issue of Muslims here in the states. We have had a massive influx of immigrants from Latin America. Many here want a wall to control them after a mass deportation. England has its “colonials” move to its shores for decades. Yet although the United States is almost entirely a nation of immigrants or descended from immigrants, we have become one of the least tolerant nations on earth. So whose approach to immigration and diversity will be most effective to deal with the future? Is the Bible right, as Americans face a declining future are struggle find new relevance in a world that threatens to pass them by? Why do we have to be “great again”? Are we so insecure that we don’t think we are great now? Does pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall?
I’m Peter Dekom, and I often believe that our fear-driven reactions to change will actually create our own demise.

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