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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

If This Is Culture Then Count Me In

So, some things have happened lately that seem more important than they probably are.

Okay, so I know everyone else has covered this to death, but Anna Nicole Smith died. I don’t know, but this feels like some sort of alternate reality cultural watershed moment. I mean, it seems like it should be important, but really it’s not at all. But no matter how frequently you remind yourself of that it’s still there, hanging on despite our best efforts.
Now, for my money (and, okay, this is overly harsh I admit), it seems that ANS should have croaked herself right after the Supreme Court hearing. Think about it, no really. The TrimSpa ads would have had to use CGI technology to render her curvascious figure like some sort of busty, trashy John Wayne (and they would have). Her first son’s death would have been fall-out from her turbulent and heady life. Also, her second child would have been a great incubator baby. Plus, test-tube kid would have been a great protege for Francis Bean Cobain.
Also, and I may only believe this because I’m drunk right now, how post-modern is the nickname ANS? I mean, first of all, who else is known only by their full intials? Second of all, it’s so self-referential as to be immediately redundant and at the same time completely encapsulates exactly what Anna meant to us. Think about it like this, if you nick name a friend “Spanky” because you once caught him tied to a bed beaing beaten by a transexual stripper, then that name represents something fundamental about your friend, his personality and who he is. To just refer to someone as their initials however suggests that they are nothing more than themselves. They are divorced from any sort of context or environment and merely represent themselves. And being separated from any external factors, they themelves represent nothing, which makes them a pefect cipher for us. All in all, I think that’s a pretty good legacy for a gold-digger.

Second observation: My wife today stopped at a Walden’s bookstore and pre-ordered her copy of the seventh (and final) Harry Potter book. Apparently, when she reserved it, the clerk asked her if she wanted Snape to end up being a good guy or a bad guy. Being an optimist (snort of laughter here), my beautiful bride decided that she wanted Snape vindicated and clothed in white. After stating her preference she was given a bumper sticker that read “Snap is a Hero”. She then asked what she would have gotten if she wished Snape to be a villian. That bumper sticker apparently reads, “Snape is a Very Bad Man”. I think the period between now and the release of Harry Potter and the Closet of Shame (or whatever) is going to be this generation’s “Who shot J.R.” moment. More literary? Yes. More consequential? Not at all.

February 11, 2007 Posted by | Society | 2 Comments