Thursday, August 19, 2010

It's not about the mosque -- it's America's war on "the Other"

via Will Brunch at

A few months ago, I spent a Sunday morning in the parking lot of the Wal-Mart on Thomas Road in East Phoenix, just on the cusp of the immigration flare-up over racial profiling and Arizona's repressive law called SB 1070. It was quieter then -- a weathered 39-year-old Mexican in a wool cap with a New York Mets logo named Roberto Valdez who told me of his trek across the desert to seek work in Phoenix as a day laborer. Weeks earlier, Mexican day laborers like Valdez had been harassed on the weekends by angry white nativists, but in March of 2010 the nativists had moved on. Many had joined the Tea Party, and some were campaigning for GOP anti-immigration zealot J.D. Hayworth for U.S. Senate. Why waste time on "the Other" Roberto Valdez, when America now had "the Other" daring to occupy the Oval Office in the person of Barack Obama.

Five months later, the American political debate -- in a time of crushing 9.5-percent unemployment, record foreclosures and bankruptcies, and climate change linked to catastrophes from Moscow to Pakistan to Iowa -- has been hijacked over the arcane question of whether to allow an Islamic cultural center in lower Manhattan. The controversy is stunning -- but it should not be. The national brouhaha over the $100 million Muslim Park51/Cordoba House proposal is not an anomaly but rather the culmimation of an alarming downturn in America's mood, its discourse, and even our former ambitions as a beacon of religious and political tolerance. In 2010, a large swath of the American public -- led by ratings-mad media mavens and immoral politicians like Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin -- had declared out all-out war on "the Other" in America in all its alleged forms, from immigrants to Muslims to non-white aides working in the West Wing of the White House and of course the president himself.

And it is threatening to rip America apart in a way that we have not seen in 145 years.

Over the last year, I traveled across the country seeking the sources of right-wing outrage and anger in the Obama era as I researched my new book that will be published at the end of the month. What I discovered was fear -- some of it innate and much of it whipped up by high-def hucksters on TV and in talk radio and even in the corridors of political power in America. Much of that fear centered on one simple fact: That America is increasingly becoming a non-white-dominated country. While many Americans take no issue with that, the prospect of an America with an increasingly non-Caucasian face is a deeply disturbing one to millions of people -- people for whom a unified and traditional culture is a source of solidarity and comfort, even -- according to some sociologists -- a bulkhead of immortality.

In the mid-2000s, an anti-immigration frenzy took root across right-wing talk radio. It seemed largely a matter of entertainment and most likely changing the subject, since the George W. Bush presidency was at low ebb because of Iraq and Katrina. The increasingly paranoid conversation about the threat from brown-skinned, Spanish-speaking people grew in a way that was completely disconnected from realities, that immigrants were growing the economy in places like Arizona and Nevada, that crime rates among immigrants were quite low, and that these arrivals were paying more in taxes than they received in services.

But the bottom line was that for many, reports that whites will be a minority of Americans by the year 2050 carried the shill ring of an alarm bell. But this concern about the submersion of a dominant white culture in America spiked prematurely in 2008 with the political rise of Obama. In researching the book, I spoke with many conservative voters who talked of their "discomfort" the first time they watched Obama speak on television, who said that in particular they were alarmed at the future president's use of the specific word "transformation." These voters were egged on by political "leaders" like vice presidential candidate Palin, who didn't just voice traditional policies differences with the Democrat but accused him of "palling around with terrorists."

It is no surprise that by mid-2009 I was hearing from the leader of the anti-Obama group the Delaware 9-12 Patriots that the 44th president of the United States "is absolutely not American" while his neighbors were screaming at town hall meetings: "I don't want this flag to change. I want my country back!" These rank-and-file citizens were often echoing what they heard in a 24/7 right-wing media bubble of ratings-driven irresponsibility -- outlandish neo-McCarthyite allegations that Obama had Commies and Maoists working in the West Wing, Glenn Beck's notorious claim that the president has "a deep-seated hatred of white people" and, perhaps more tellingly, of "white culture," and most recently radio's Rush Limbaugh's bizarre charge that Obama is probably the "best anti-American president the country's ever had."

In this paranoid environment, the president looked as much "the Other" as the day laborer Roberto Valdez in the Wal-Mart parking lot. High-employment and the destruction of the working class in America is increasingly demanding a scapegoat, and the right-wing media and an increasingly erratic GOP establishment is more than happy to direct people's palapable anger down the economic ladder. The result is something like the most un-American piece of garbage legislation that most of us have seen in our lifetime -- Arizona's racial profiling law SB 1070, whose sponsors admit they were seeking to drive Mexican immigrants out of the Grand Canyon State in droves, which is exactly what is happening.

But the modern-day American Diaspora is only the beginning. Once the Pandora's box of emotion and rage against "the Other" has been opened so wide, it is almost impossible to close. Now the backers of Arizona's hideous law want to rip apart the 14th Amendment -- the one that ended slavery, once a high point of American history, especially for the extinct brand of Republican that drafted it -- in order to prevent children of Mexican immigrants from becoming American citizens. The xenophobia has reached the point where a U.S. congressman took to the House floor -- with zero supporting evidence -- to charge that terrorists had a scheme to breed future U.S.-citizen bombers in maternity wards here.

Which brings us to the present crisis: Mosques in America. It should tell you something that the backlash against Muslims practicing their faith in America is far greater in 2010 than it was in the months immediately following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. That's because the political firestorm with its epicenter in lower Manhattan really has nothing to do with 9/11 or its aftermath, and everything to do with "the Other" the awful forces and fears that have been unleashed in the last couple of years -- fears that craven politicians like Gingrich, Palin and the formerly rational Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota are eager to surf into the White House in 2013. If the Manhattan mosque controversy were really about our 9/11 sensibilities, how does one explain the opposition to other Islamic houses of worship from Tennessee to California to Staten Island?

America, we are in for the bumpy political ride of a lifetime. It will take enormous courage for defenders of two centuries of religious freedom and tolerance toward both religious and economic refugees to stand firm in the face of the kind of raw public anger and emotion that have caused backbone-impaired politicians like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid or supposed progressive stalwart Howard Dean to wither in mere days. Our determined minority may be barely clinging to our cherished traditions -- as best expressed by President George Washington in 1790 when he wrote "the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection, should demean themselves as good citizens" -- in the face of this onslaught for the next few years.

Let's face it: This country has long had its Know-Nothings and its Birchers and its McCarthyites, but it never had gizmos like Fox News or Sarah Palin's Twitter feed to fuel toxic ideas so far so fast. It's time we admit these seemingly disconnected battles over "anchor babies, mosques, and a black man in the Oval Office are all part of the same war against "the Other," and that we are in the fight of a lifetime.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Gelato in Kansas City

I just had a fabulous experience with an Italian dessert gellato. For some reason I was craving not just ice cream but Italy's substitute and did a google search for 'gelato, kansas city' and was pleased to find a location right on the plaza that serves not only gelato but gourmet coffees. I sported down to the plaza location on my trusty scooter and saw the sizes that the cafe offers, noticed the largest size 'pint' and ordered 1/2 espresso and 1/2 chocolate. The subsequent experience was marvelous.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Surrender Adventure

This is an email I just got from my glorious friend Bukeka. She is a goddess and a celebrity!

The Surrender Adventure

I would like to introduce you to my friend Chaz Wesley. Chaz is the Director of Community Relations for Tulsa's Hospice of Green County. In his private practice of spiritual coaching and grief counseling work Chaz uses some of the work by Byron Katie, author of the book "Loving What Is".

On July 15th 2010 I began a journey that has totally transformed my way of thinking. That is the day Chaz and I set out for our SURRENDER ADVENTURE. I had come prepared with a list of the things I wanted to surrender. Other than that I had no idea what I was in for. I knew I wanted to surrender any blocks within me around money so we began our journey at the Federal Reserve Bank. Chaz then took me through a process of examining my thoughts about money, sufficiency, and "enoughness".

We lit a candle and I then surrendered to and unto the Universe all thinking about insufficiency and not-enoughness. When I blew the candle out we watched which direction the wind blew the smoke. It went East towards St. Louis and our journey began.

Two hours later we were in Booneville, Missouri and it was Chaz's turn to surrender. Once again we lit the candle and upon blowing it out we watched the direction of the wind wondering what direction we would be heading next.

After 4 days and nearly every 2 hours (with the exception of sleep) we surrendered and drove in the the direction of the wind. We traveled though 6 states and put 2000 miles on the car. It was incredible and I am not the same Bukeka I was before this date.

Chaz and I are discussing how we can share this experience with others by planning a SURRENDER ADVENTURE retreat. Please keep a look out if you are on Facebook and I will also make an announcement soon to my email list of the details, but here is a hint: "Happy New Year!"

You can find Bukeka at and Chaz Wesley @

Monday, August 9, 2010

JetBlue Flight Attendant Steven Slater Arrested After Flight to JFK - ABC News

JetBlue Flight Attendant Steven Slater Arrested After Flight to JFK - ABC News

My favorite part of this story:

At that point, the flight attendant got on the loud speaker, told those aboard to "go f*** themselves," grabbed a beer from the galley, deployed the chute and ran into the terminal. His car was parked at an employee lot and he drove home.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Here are a few responses they’ve had to today’s news striking down California’s Prop 8.

Welcome to the “real America?” Well, Sarah Palin’s America.

@Heritage (The Heritage Foundation) “Extreme judicial activism on #marriage. That sums up today’s #Prop8 ruling. #tcot″

@SaveOurLiberty “So next they’ll say inter-species marriage or incest are OK all in the name of so called equality? Where’s the line? #tcot”

@Afterseven “Of course the Judge being Gay played no part in his activist decision Can You Say “Recusal” #tcot”

@exposeliberals “Judge who ruled against CA”s Prop 8 openly gay. Conflict of interest? #tcot #Tlot #sgp #hhrs #Ocra”

@BlueCollarTodd “Prop 8 Fight Goes On;Christians Be Warned.. #tcot #hhrs #christian #tlot #sgp #bible #lgtb #prop8″

@pvoce “We must be talking about two different Constitutions #tcot #prop8 #tradionalmarriage”

Mayor Bloomberg Delivers Teary-Eyed Defense Of Ground Zero Islamic Center

Mayor Bloomberg Delivers Teary-Eyed Defense Of Ground Zero Islamic Center

Monday, August 2, 2010

Rep. Maxine Waters and Robert


Speaking of Maxine Waters here's a great pic of her with my best friend Robert in Washington D.C. He and I attended an anti-war rally in 2007, got behind the stage and talked with many legislators that day. My favorite was Maxine Waters. Too bad she's in ethical trouble these days!
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Kansas City Weather Podcast � Monday August 2, 2010 – Kansas City Weather Forecast

Kansas City Weather Podcast � Monday August 2, 2010 – Kansas City Weather Forecast

Monday - Mostly sunny, breezy, hot and humid. A very small chance for AM t-storms. High: 96 (heat index 105-110)
Monday night – Mostly clear. Low: 80
Tuesday - Mostly sunny. hot and humid. High: 97
Wednesday - Partly cloudy. High: 93
Thursday - Partly cloudy with a slight chance for showers and thunderstorms. High: 92
Friday - Partly cloudy. High: 90

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Church plans Quran-burning event -

Church plans Quran-burning event -

h/t to Americablog

(CNN) -- In protest of what it calls a religion "of the devil," a nondenominational church in Gainesville, Florida, plans to host an "International Burn a Quran Day" on the ninth anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks.
The Dove World Outreach Center says it is hosting the event to remember 9/11 victims and take a stand against Islam. With promotions on its website and Facebook page, it invites Christians to burn the Muslim holy book at the church from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
"We believe that Islam is of the devil, that it's causing billions of people to go to hell, it is a deceptive religion, it is a violent religion and that is proven many, many times," Pastor Terry Jones told CNN's Rick Sanchez earlier this week.
Jones wrote a book titled "Islam is of the Devil," and the church sells coffee mugs and shirts featuring the phrase.
Muslims and many other Christians -- including some evangelicals -- are fighting the initiative.
The church launched a YouTube channel to disseminate its messages.
"I mean ask yourself, have you ever really seen a really happy Muslim? As they're on the way to Mecca? As they gather together in the mosque on the floor? Does it look like a real religion of joy?" Jones asks in one of his YouTube posts.
"No, to me it looks like a religion of the devil."
The Islamic advocacy group Council on American-Islamic Relations called on Muslims and others to host "Share the Quran" dinners to educate the public during the monthlong fast of Ramadan beginning in August. In a news release, the group announced a campaign to give out 100,000 copies of the Quran to local, state and national leaders.
"American Muslims and other people of conscience should support positive educational efforts to prevent the spread of Islamophobia," said CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper in the release.
The National Association of Evangelicals, the nation's largest umbrella evangelical group, issued a statement urging the church to cancel the event, warning it could cause worldwide tension between the two religions.
"The NAE calls on its members to cultivate relationships of trust and respect with our neighbors of other faiths. God created human beings in his image, and therefore all should be treated with dignity and respect," it said in the statement.
Dove's Facebook page, set up for the September event, has more than 1,600 fans.
"Eternal fire is the only destination the Quran can lead people to, so we want to put the Quran in it's [sic] place -- the fire!" the page says.
But another Facebook group with more than 3,100 fans says it stands "against the disrespect and intolerance that these people have for the Muslim people" and encourages people to report Dove's page to Facebook.
Targeting another group it calls "godless," the Dove center is also hosting a protest against Gainesville Mayor Craig Lowe, who is openly gay, on Monday at Gainesville's City Hall. The group previously fought -- unsuccessfully -- to derail Lowe's election campaign.
"We protest sexual perversion because the Bible protests it. ... What is acceptable to today's leadership becomes acceptable to tomorrow's society," the church says in its blog entry about the event.
Lowe and other government figures and media outlets received e-mails from the church about the event, The Gainesville Sun reported. Lowe isn't concerned with Monday's event.
"I've got other things to do," he said, The Sun reports.
On the outreach center's front lawn, alongside a sign reading "Aug. 2 Protest, No Homo Mayor, City Hall," stands not just one, but three signs bearing the slogan "Islam is of the Devil."
One of the signs -- one reading "Islam" on one side, "Devil" on the other -- was vandalized. On its blog last week, the church said the sign will be replaced.
"This is private property and vandalism is a crime here in America," the blog says. "In Islam, many actions that we consider to be crimes are encouraged, condoned or sheltered under Islamic teaching and practice, though. Another reason to burn a Quran."