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Why Doesn’t America Have More Killer Muslims?

So, here’s something that’s been bothering me: why aren’t there more American Muslims committing murder in the name of Allah? For the record, I have no idea how many of this country’s murders are actually committed by Muslims for religious reasons, but I’m willing to bet the percentage is negligible.
Think about it like this, France can’t seem to go a lunar season without an Islamic riot and the Dutch can’t run an editorial cartoon without ducking for cover and yet can anyone think of a similar occurrence in the U.S.A.? I can’t, and I’ve spent most of my life living (relatively) close to the largest concentration of Muslims in the country. I mean, the only thing that comes to mind was a disturbance in the 1980’s when a white college radio DJ played the Cure’s first single, ‘Killing an Arab’ (a new wave adaptation of Camus’ The Stranger) and mentioned that he thought taking out some Middle Easterners sounded like a good idea. The Arab population was outraged and their anger took the form of some harshly worded letters to the editor.
Now, I’m not saying Dearborn’s a great place to picnic after dark, but it’s hardly the most dangerous place in the country, or the world for that matter (can I get a “What! What?” from all of my London peeps?). It seems to me that if the behavior of Arab immigrants in Europe were any true indication of Arab immigrant behavior worldwide, then Detroit should be a smoking crater (well, more so). In fact though, history has proven that when it comes to domestic bred terrorism I have more to worry about from fundamentalist Christians than I do from Muslims.
Now, I’m not the sort to pose a question without answering it with a poorly-reasoned and ill-informed opinion (for the purposes of this explanation, all of my facts come from Gregg Easterbrooks The Progress Paradox, a book I read three years ago and only sort of remember… I wouldn’t take any of this as Gospel). I think the reason that America suffers so little Arab-American violence has everything to do with the fact that we are America (for the record, I know that sentence reads clunky and sounds stupid, but I honestly can’t figure out a better way to write it). As much as our immigration policies and cultural attitudes toward immigrants could benefit from some retooling, when we say that America is a melting pot, it’s more than just lip service. Like every nation on Earth, through legal or cultural pressures, America encourages immigrants to adopt the practices of their adoptive country. However, what America does better than possibly anyone else is showing tolerance towards immigrants’ native cultural patterns and a willingness to make accommodations. I think it says something that France has generations of Arabs who have never crawled out of poverty whereas in America there is no average income difference between an American who can trace his/her ancestry back to the Mayflower and an American who’s parents were born in Syria. It’s not that America is taking in all of the hard-working, industrious Middle Easterners and that France (for the rest of this, France = Europe) get only the lazy immigrants. France isolates it’s Arab immigrants. It makes it almost impossible for impoverished immigrants to assimilate. There’s no breaking in period, no training. France requires it’s immigrants to speak French fluently if they’re to receive any help from the State, there are no French as a Second Language classes for their children and expressions of the immigrants Islamic heritage is actively discouraged if not actually outlawed (didn’t I read somewhere that France was at least thinking about banning the niqab?). There’s no better way to ensure that a people will cling to their traditions than making it illegal to do so.
At least in America there’s no official language, meaning you don’t have to speak English to bring a slum lord to court. If your children don’t pick up English from their American friends (which they will*) there are ESL classes in public schools to help them. As a liberal atheist I may find the burka and niqab sort of demeaning to women, but as an American I realize it’s not my place to make Muslim women wear denim and tank-tops. The end result of all this is that for all real intents and purposes, the children of Muslim immigrants grow up to think of themselves as Arab-Americans. As opposed to the children of Muslim immigrants in France, who think of themselves as Arabs living in France. And that makes all the difference.
*Want to know why America doesn’t need to declare English as the official language of the country? It’s because any such law or amendment would be redundant. Despite whatever you may hear, children do not learn their mother tongue from their parents but from their friends. Sure, if a child grows up in a household that speaks Arabic exclusively, then yes, that child will learn to speak Arabic. However, if that child grows up surrounded by English speaking children, then that child will also naturally learn to speak English fluently. And in most cases, it’s English, the language of their peers, that the children will think of as their first language. And other than a few words and phrases, the grandchildren of Arab immigrants will speak English exclusively.
I know what you’re thinking, “but what if the children are kept from American kids by their parents?” All I can say is, “consider the Pilgrims”. Before landing on American soil, the Pilgrims fled England and settled in the Netherlands. Now, keep in mind that it’s hard to think of a more isolationist group than the Pilgrims (what other group leaves en mass to get away from a dominate culture?). In time, the Pilgrims left the Netherlands for what would become America because the Pilgrim children were growing up culturally Dutch. They spoke Dutch (even at home) and observed non-Pilgrim holidays. In fact, they were so enmeshed in the Dutch culture that many of them were even willing to have fun instead of just working until they collapsed in pain and exhaustion and then quietly dying.

March 30, 2007 Posted by | Religion, Society | 1 Comment

Things That Are Dead

1) The music album
Mp3’s, iTunes, Napster, ringtones, etc., etc. Have you heard? Recently an R&B group called Candy Hill has been signed to a two song deal. That’s right, they get to cut an entire single (with a B-side no less). Theoretically, if the two songs do well, then the band will get to renegotiate their contract and put out a full album. Not for nothing, but I can’t wait until every musical act signs contracts that only call for individual songs. Let’s be honest, most acts can only write two or three good songs. They then pad out the C.D. with ten mediocre to crappy cuts. I say, let’s restrict all musical artists to releasing only singles until they prove that they can be trusted to write an EP’s worth of music. And then, assuming that artist’s or act’s first 5 EP’s are “good” (to be decided by a consortium of average fans, hip critics [see number 4] and other, similar musical acts), a chance to record an entire LP’s worth of material.

2) Blogging
When radio was a new phenomena, the first programs on the airwaves were literally nothing more than people who were passing by the station (I’m fairly certain this was in Philadelphia) and were pulled off the street by the owner and put in the recording booth. The idea was to simply to fill air time so that early adopters (who were apparently easily impressed) would rave to all their friends about how buying that talking box wasn’t a waste of a money because, hey! Look at all the content there is. Never mind that the content was, from an artistic, aesthetic and entertainment standpoint, worthless. The point was that the purchase of a radio was justified by the fact that there was anything to listen to at all. That’s sort of how I view blogs today. As soon as it becomes reasonable to do so, some entrepreneur will find a way to make money off managing other peoples’ blogs and boom, the days where just anyone would feel entitled to have a blog will be over. Soon we’ll all pay for the privilege of reading blogs and we’ll only pay for the highest quality content.

3) Free Television
Do you know why broadcast television exists? It exists to draw your eyes and attention to corporate advertisements. Television shows are nothing more than commercials for advertisements. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, except that it seriously undercuts the entertainment potential of television programming. Since shows are designed to attract a maximum number of eyeballs towards commercials, the model they operate under forces shows to sacrifice quality and depth for mass appeal. Which isn’t to say that appealing to the lowest common denominator necessarily reduces the entertainment value of television, but come on. Don’t you think we can do better than Survivor: Race War?
Besides, aren’t you tired of having other people dictate how and when you enjoy a television show? We don’t let others tell us when to pick up and put down a book (with the exception of my 7th grade geography teacher, who took great pleasure from ripping novels out of my hand… like I ever needed to know about the three traditional Siberian dances that she read about in a dog-eared copy of National Geographic). Why do we allow commercials, programming strategies and (increasingly irrelevant) ‘seasons’ interrupt our content intake? Just because it allows television shows to be given away? I don’t know about you, but I would gladly pay to do away with all of those compromises if it meant that television might finally fulfill it’s potential.

4) Hip
It used to be that only a select few ever knew about the latest Cursive/Silver Scooter split single or where to find some obscure, Mexican horror film featuring a masked wrestler. Well, the internet has made the few the many. Anyone with even a passing interest in any formerly cult entertainer or media content can, in under 5 minutes, learn more than anyone would ever realistically need to know. What’s the point if keeping ahead of the kids if any snot-nose with a dsl line can one-up you? In a way this is liberating, I mean, the pressures off. If anyone can find the never-filmed script of Revenge of the Old Queen then what’s the point of finding it? Hip is all about knowledge scarcity and assuming you know how to do a simple Google search, then the internet has made all knowledge hyper-saturated. Of course, on the down side, what are white, virgin college kids going to do with their free time?

5) The Christian Right
Okay, this one isn’t dead yet but it might as well be. I mean, aside from leading the Republicans down an Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole where fun is wrong and right is never right enough, there’s no where left to go. Let’s assume that Hell quite literally freezes over and, oh, I don’t know, Billy Graham’s angry son Frank becomes president, Ann Coulter become head justice of the Supreme Court and Pat Robertson assumes the position of Speaker of the House. So what? The worst that happens is that their collective bigotry and sex-phobia becomes law and national policy. Okay, life becomes far less fun (sorry gay people and other assorted heathens). But really, even if every person in this country (hell, let’s shoot the Moon and say in the world) were to become stark-raving fundamentalists, it wouldn’t solve our problems. Well, it might solve some of them but it would cause far more. Extremist positions never solve anything (I would say that Noam Chomsky is dead, but I would first need proof that he’s ever done anything that provided a sign of life first). And, honestly, anyone high enough in the fundy world to wield significant power knows this. They just use their extremism to jerk people around. For them, Jesus isn’t about solving problems, he’s about money and the consolidation of power in the hopes that, with money and power, these impotent (or not-so-secretly gay meth addict) men can remove from their neighborhoods all the things which make them, due to their unfortunately unhealthy minds, uncomfortable, like women and mosques.

March 28, 2007 Posted by | Society | 2 Comments

Is “Pathetisad” a Word?

So, it’s a Friday night. Let’s get wild.

So far I’ve created a new budget for myself. My update needed an update since A) I haven’t even tried to stick to it since early November and B) I just had my performance review at work and got a raise. Now, I’m not going to give an exact figure, but suffice to say that I would have received a larger one-year anniversary raise at McDonald’s (dear fluffy God, I wish that wasn’t a joke). To put it another way, I got a larger raise when I manned a register at a liquor store. And that was in a white-bred college town offering no threat of robbery, so it’s not even like the raise included hazard pay.
Also, I went to the mall for about 45 minutes… alone. My wife went to bed tonight around 6:30 tonight and left me to my own devises (in all fairness, she gets up at 4:00AM during the week for work). I’ve decided that I’m far too old to be going to the mall after dark nowadays. I don’t know. Maybe if I lived in a town that offered it’s wayward youthes something to do on a weekend it wouldn’t be so bad, but as it is going to the mall on a weekend night is like visiting the reptile house at the Zoo and realizing it’s been overrun by social outcasts from the primate exhibit. On the upside I did manage to buy two records for under 20 bucks. Unfortunately, it took me 30 minutes to decide what to buy, and not because I was overwhelmed by the choices but because my town is the proud home of the world’s smallest and lamest F.Y.E. Yes, there are degrees of lameness when it comes to chain record stores (all two that are left).
After the mall I came home and applied to grad school, again. If everything goes well, this will be the second grad school I’ll attend in one year. My first attempt was as a one-semester guest student at an out of state university. Let’s just say that things didn’t work out. Although I aced the course, the program of study wasn’t what I was looking for. Plus I just can’t afford paying 3K for a single course. Anyway, the new school I want to attend has a program that’s perfect. So perfect in fact that I applied back in October. After paying my 50 dollar application fee and sending off my resume, I received an email informing me that the program only accepts students during the Summer semester and that I’d have to apply all over again. So, back in February I called the admissions office to find out if I’d have to pay the fee again. I left a message. Since no one called me back in a week, I emailed them. The next day I received a phone call returning the message I had left. The woman who called told me that I wouldn’t have to apply again at all and that my previous application would be held and forwarded to the appropriate person when the application period opened. Yay. That same afternoon I received an email reply to the email query I sent the day before. The man who emailed me informed that not only would I have to pay the fee again, I would have to apply all over again from the beginning. Damn. So last weekend I began to fill out the application again. The application page on the school’s website informed me that early registration didn’t begin until the 15th of March, so I figured I was ahead of the curve. Yay, again. I surfed a bit more and drifted over to the webpage of the actual program I was applying to. That page said that they required applications no later than February 1st.  Damn, again. Pissed off, I began yet a third web search, looking for some clarity. All I found was a “Graduate Renewal Application” which was only two pages long, required no fee and said that the ‘recommended’ application date was March 1st. Eh?. Frustrated, I gave up. On Tuesday, I called the admissions office again, hoping for a straight answer. I left a message asking if I needed to start the application process over or if I could just do the renewal application. I also questioned if I would have to send new copies of my transcripts and personal statement. I also emailed the same question. This time, I received a phone call from a new woman who told me that all I needed to do was fill in and mail the renewal application.  Nothing was mentioned in regards to money or additional paperwork, so I’m taking the renewal application route. Of my three options (do nothing, re-apply from the beginning or renew) I figure this one has the same chance of being correct as the others and it seems to me as striking a nice balance between what I want to do (just do nothing and hope that the admissions office will take care of everything for me) and what I think I should do (re-apply from the beginning, pay the fee again and send multiple copies of my transcripts).
In related news, today I received a letter from my previous grad school telling me that I was not going to be accepted as student for the coming semester. That doesn’t matter much as I never actually applied, but I feel it’s still hurtful.
I also posted a note to a friend on Facebook (aka Myspace for grown-ups). I have mixed feelings about online social networks. On the one hand it seems to me like cyber-social circles are a great way to reconnect with everyone you previously disconnected with for damn good reasons. On the other hand, the people I have gotten back in touch with (those of whom I knew in high-school) have all been perfectly pleasant and, in at least one case, are making me reconsider my “fuck any relationship more than 5 years old” stance. So, all in all, that post may just be the highlight of my evening.
But don’t think that I’m letting this off-the-hook craziness stop just because I’m almost done with this entry. Oh, no. As soon as I’m done here I’m going to expand upon my One Beer Rule (1BR). See, I have this test that I subject to everyone I know. The actual person being tested has no idea that they’re being evaluated, instead, the 1BR is a question I ask myself. “Could I sit down at a bar with this person and make it through one round with them?” In all fairness, it’s a fairly easy test to pass. In fact, since I’ve instituted this test only three people have failed it. Because, let’s be honest, even on my least tolerant night I can smile and put up with someone for as long as it takes me to suck down a beer (although the test is harder to pass in Ohio, where you can no longer smoke in bars, but more about how much Ohio sucks later). I’m starting to think though that the test isn’t specific enough. I mean, sure, most people are one beer simpatico, but what about two beers? Can I sit through someone else’s meandering, self-indulgent, not-funny-but-they-think-they-are stories through one beer, the wait to get a second and then for however long it takes to get through that second beer? That, I feel, is a much better test of my friends’ and acquaintances’ value as people. Also, I may institute a Three Beer Rule (3BR), but I’m willing to bet everyone passes that one, mostly because I’m a lightweight and at three beers I tend to fall in love with anyone within hugging reach.
So, all in all, tonight is still better than my freshman year of college where I used to spend entire weekends reading through the memorable quotes sections of various IMDB entries.

March 9, 2007 Posted by | Personal | 3 Comments

Dear Ann, Please Eat a Sandwich

So, Ann “Convert Them to Christianity” Coulter has said something naughty
again. And once again, people have leapt at the opportunity to be offended by her. By now this sequence of events has pretty much turned into a choreographed dance. Ann says something so jaw droppingly stupid and offensive that there’s no single word in recognized English that concisely sums it up and then, like precision clockwork, the airwaves, blogosphere and print channels light up with people getting all self-righteous. Seriously, as much as Coulter’s career get’s a boost every time she says something stuffensive, I have to imagine that every other pundit/politician’s career gets a bigger boost out of reacting to Ann.
Somewhere, someone must have done studies showing exactly how many more hits/share/points and eyeballs a person or organization can gain just by getting huffy every time Ann says something horrible. It’s probably like a little industry at this point with graphs, spreadsheets and executives worried over the bottom line just praying that someone, anyone, will shove a microphone in Coulter’s face and let the magic happen. Which really sucks all the fun out of the whole thing.
Besides, all this anger over what the woman says only obscures the real reason she infuriates. What’s really crazy-making about Ann Coulter is that she’s seemingly removed herself from the realm of polite society. She just plain doesn’t care if she’s offensive, and what’s more, she doesn’t seem to care how you feel. Public performance and entertainment, Ann Coulter’s two trades, are dialogues between the actress and the audience. Coulter has turned her craft into a monologue. She’s so in love with her voice that she’s mentally and emotionally divorced herself from us, her audience and (theoretically) reason for being. The difference between her and Howard Stern is that Stern clearly gets off the on the controversy he (used to be able to) creates, Coulter just doesn’t care. Likewise, while Tim Hardaway didn’t seem to understand why what he said was offensive, Ann just doesn’t give a shit. She’s given herself the freedom that we (in the third-person, universal sense) generally reserve only for young children and the mentally ill, i.e., the freedom to not know any better. And that’s the transgression that irks, not the mean-spirited personal attacks or the bone-headed take on foreign cultures, but that Ann has granted unto herself allowances that the culture in general doesn’t feel she deserves.
Which doesn’t make her any less of a bitch.

March 5, 2007 Posted by | Current Events | 3 Comments