There’s more than one way to compete

The women’s movement of the sixties and seventies guaranteed women the right to choose for themselves the lifestyle they wanted to lead.  It also asserted that women were able to speak for themselves, and that when they spoke their words had meaning which we were to take at face value.  So it is that in the 21st century women are expressing themselves when it comes to athletic competition. This news story gives more detail about who is talking and what it is they’re saying.  I note with a certain amount of tongue in cheek that one of the women wearing a scarf is from the American liberated country of Afghanistan, where we were told a sign of the subjugation of women was the headscarf.

Muslim patriotism in the US military

I’ve heard a lot from people especially on the right about problems associated with having Muslims involved in anything American, as if the presence of Muslims is a threat to the process or would somehow leave it tainted. I remember vividly during the first Gulf war when America was concerned about its image, a lot was said about Muslims in the US military and especially those who converted to Islam because of their exposure to the Gulf. Now, however, those same people some of whom are still in the military and those who joined later are “tainted” goods, worthy of suspicion and distrust. America is cannabalistic in that sense when it comes to anyone other than blond hair and blue eyed soldiers fighting its wars. From the Civil War upto the Vietnam war people of color have always been looked down upon as unworthy of service in the US military. Today is no different, except now we have bloggers who point out to those who care to know stories of patriotism in the US military that work for the country. Check out this story of a young man who volunteered to join the military in response to Bush’s war on terror.

State sponsored terrorism

Will Grigg has an excellent blog that talks about the abuses of the federal government against its own citizens in the war on terror.  It’s a compelling blog with plenty of examples of government’s terrorism directed towards its own.  The state wasted no time solidifying its hold on Americans after 911.  Homeland security swelled the ranks of people on no fly lists and interrogates randomly people who enter airports, either checking for terrorists or making them.  What follows is another story of many that is a first hand account of what happens to everyday citizens in airports across this country.  I have had friends who’ve recounted experiences similar to the one written about by Feder, making these kinds of encounters more the rule than the exception.  We are told this is necessary to protect the “homeland” and while  you are digesting that remember no amount of protection is worth the erosion of even one of the rights we have guaranteed us under the Constitution.

I arrived at JFK Airport two weeks ago after a short vacation to Syria and presented my American passport for re-entry to the United States. After 28 hours of traveling, I had settled into a hazy awareness that this was the last, most familiar leg of a long journey. I exchanged friendly words with the Homeland Security official who was recording my name in his computer. He scrolled through my passport, and when his thumb rested on my Syrian visa, he paused. Jerking toward the door of his glass-enclosed booth, he slid my passport into a dingy green plastic folder and walked down the hallway, motioning for me to follow with a flick of his wrist. Where was he taking me, I asked him. “You’ll find out,” he said.

We got to an enclosed holding area in the arrivals section of the airport. He shoved the folder into my hand and gestured toward four sets of Homeland Security guards sitting at large desks. Attached to each desk were metal poles capped with red, white and blue siren lights. I approached two guards carrying weapons and wearing uniforms similar to New York City police officers, but they shook their heads, laughed and said, “Over there,” pointing in the direction of four overflowing holding pens. I approached different desks until I found an official who nodded and shoved my green folder in a crowded metal file holder. When I asked him why I was there, he glared at me, took a sip from his water bottle, bit into a sandwich, and began to dig between his molars with his forefinger. I found a seat next to a man who looked about my age — in his late 20s — and waited.

Omar (not his real name) finished his fifth year in biomedical engineering at City College in June. He had just arrived from Beirut, where he visited his family and was waiting to go home to the apartment he shared with his brother in Harlem. Despite his near-perfect English and designer jeans, Omar looked scared. He rubbed his hands and rocked softly in his seat. He had been waiting for hours already, and, as he pointed out, a number of people — some sick, elderly, pregnant or holding sobbing babies — had too. There were approximately 70 people detained in our cordoned-off section: All were Arab (with the exception of me and the friend I traveled with), and almost all had arrived from Dubai, Amman or Damascus. Many were U.S. citizens.

We were in the front row, sitting a few feet from two guards’ desks. They sneered at each bewildered arrival, told jokes in whispers, swiveled in their office chairs and greeted passing guards who stopped to talk — guards who had a habit of looping their fingers into their holsters. One asked his friend how many nationalities were represented in the room. “About 20. Some of everything today.”

No one who had been detained knew precisely why they were there. A few people were led into private rooms; others were questioned out in the open at desks a few feet from the crowd and then allowed to pass through customs. Some were sent to another section of the holding area with large computer screens and cameras, and then brought back. The uninformed consensus among the detainees was that some people would be fingerprinted, have their irises scanned and be sent back to the countries from which they had disembarked, regardless of citizenship status; others would be fingerprinted and allowed to stay; and the unlucky ones would be detained indefinitely and moved to a more permanent facility.

There was one British tourist in the group. Paul (also not his real name) was traveling with three friends who had passed through customs soon after their plane landed and were waiting for him on the other side of the metal barrier; he suspected he had been detained because of his dark skin. When he asked if he could go to the bathroom, one of the guards said, “I wouldn’t.” “What if someone has to?” I asked. “They will just have to hold it,” the guard responded with a smile. Paul began to cry. I watched as he, over the course of four hours, went from feeling exuberant about his trip to New York to despising the entire country. “I speak the Queen’s English,” he said to me. “I’m third-generation British. I came to America because I’ve always wanted to come here, and now they’ve got me so scared that all I want to do is go home. We’re paying for your stupid war anyway.”

To be powerless and mocked at the same time makes one feel ashamed, which leads quickly to rage. Within a few hours of my arrival, I saw at least 10 people denied the right to use the bathroom or buy food and water. I watched my traveling companion duck under a barrier, run to the bathroom and slip back into the holding section — which, of course, someone of another ethnicity in a state of panic would be very reluctant to do. The United States is good at naming enemies, but apparently we are even better at making them, especially of individuals. I don’t know if it’s worse for national security — and more embarrassing for Americans — that this is the first experience tourists have of our country, or that some U.S. citizens get treated this way upon entering their own country.

The American people still have some fight left in them

The neocons have tried everything they could to frighten America into going along fully with the program meant to reduce the rights and freedom given to us by the Constitution and to keep people from complaining by calling into question their patriotism. Along the way neocons have enlisted the help and support of the main stream media as well as politicians. Unfortunately help was rendered by people on both sides of the ideological divide, liberals as well as conservatives, Democrats as well as Republicans, each chipping in to the effort of state sponsored control, each waiting for their turn to exert that control in ways they see fit, not necessarily for the benefit of the people.

Realistically speaking the political process is the only way for people to regain control of this great Republic; by removing recalcitrant politicians, irrespective of their political persuasion, there is hope that people can turn the country around to the point it respects the rights of its citizens as well as the rule of law, nationally as well as internationally. One cannot be deceived by party loyalty; politicians are to easy to purchase. Witness this bipartisan list of people who’ve had their loyalty purchased by the neocons whose goal it is to insure perpetual chaos internationally, swell the coffers of the war machine and curb the rights of citizens of the United States while increasing government control over their lives. Of particular note are the Democrats on the list and especially Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House and the third most important person in the US government’s hierarchy. She has steadfastly refused to consider impeachment of Bush or a speedy withdrawal of US troops from Iraq despite pledges to the contrary when hers was a minority party in politics. However, anything goes in love and war, and by identifying with the mood of the country which was against war and presidential policies she was able to install her party to power and enrich her personal wealth in ways she had not been able to do previously.

However, politics can be redemptive, enter Cindy Sheehan, who has successfully petitioned to have her name included on the ballot to challenge Ms. Pelosi. Judging from the looks of what some people are saying in her district Pelosi may be in for a fight and that’s a good thing. Comfortable and unresponsive politicians should always have to feel the ire of the people when they are ignored or neglected.