May 18, 2005

AM NY Letter re: Newsweek Brouhaha

Picked up AM NY and read in the opinion pages today about the ongoing controversy and fallout after Newsweek first printed, then apoligised for, and finally retracted a short statement about Guantanamo torture tactics which included flushing the Holy Quran down a toilet.

Thought it would be good to respond to some of the local crazies who continue to claim that folks are nuts for going nuts about it. Kathleen Parker, from the Orlando Sentinel, who seems like a run-of-the-mill "pro-American = anti-Arab World" rhetorician, wrote that "we need a little perspective" and that you could "flush a Bible down the toilet in front of Goober in Kabul, and it's unlikely that Mayberry suddenly would be awash in blood." Yeah okay, but the streets of Kabul sure as hell would.

The difference between fundamentalists in the U.S. and fundamentalists in most other parts of the world is that in the United States, they are well funded, integrated in both the ruling class and the mainstream American consciousness, and have their fingers on the proverbial buttons that launch Cruise missiles, oppressive military attacks, economic sanctions, and control the bandwidth on issues of "morality" in public discourse. Though they are of different ilks, from the Christian right or the patriotic center (which is so far right that it has become a sad parody of "true center"), they seem to come together in their defense of "freedom" (not liberty, mind you, for freedom is a safer, and much more narrowly constructed opiate, emblemized in the American imagination by elections, free trade, and the fine vestiges of Cocacolonization), and their condemnation of the "America-haters" who question the unilateral and deterministic foreign policy of the permanent government power structure of the United States.

A reader writes in a letter to the editor, "so what if it were true that soldiers were flushing the Koran down the toilet to interrogate prisoners.... I don't seem to recall the same cry of desecration when a painting of the Virgin Mary was being smeared with elephant dung." I had to respond to these two writers (on the same page), using more music references, as I did here:

Dear Editor,

I don't condone violence in any context. However,
claiming that the protests and uprisings in response
to the Newsweek article about alleged Guantanamo
tactics represents over-sensitivity and extremism that
is unique to adherents of Islam is preposterous.

Does anyone remember the burning of Beatles records
and pictures when Lennon made one statement in the
60s? How about the uproar after Madonna had images of
stigmata in her video for "Like a Prayer"? Reader
Michael Chinmenti seems to have forgotten the outcry
over the Sensations exhibit in Brooklyn - which
included a threat by Mayor Giuliani to withdraw City
funding from the Brooklyn Museum, and "vomit bag"
demonstrations by fundamentalist groups.

Ravi I. Abraham
Brooklyn, NY

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