Category Archives: Religion

50 Jewish Organizations. Barely a Peep. Cowards.

It’s a long running tradition: in the wake of any terrorist attack by Islamist extremists,  talking heads will ask why American Muslim organizations aren’t loudly condemning the attack. Never mind that they are. There’s never a bad time – particularly not with an election coming – to demonize Islam in America.  And there’s a practical problem for the American Muslim community: it’s highly decentralized and diverse, with no recognized voice to speak for the millions of American Muslims.

Though I don’t give a whit about God or Israel , I consider myself part of the American Jewish community. And we’re lucky — we do have a centralized voice, the abundantly named Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the “proven and effective voice of organized American Jewry for more than half a century.” The Conference represents 50 different Jewish organizations, from the AJC and the AJC (really, there are two different organizations) to the World Zionist Organization and the Zionist Organization of America (not to be confused with the American Zionist Movement, B’nai Zion, or Religious Zionists of America).

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My grandmother came to this country as a German refugee in the 1930s. Most American Jews are descended from refugees – whether from Eastern Europe, Russia, or the Middle East. So yesterday, when the governors of 27 states said they were going to try and illegally close their borders to refugees from Syria, where were the official voices of American Judaism?

Absolutely nowhere. There isn’t a single word anywhere on the Conference site or anything I could find in the news condemning the racist, xenophobic pandering of these governors. So I visited the sites of each of the 50 organizations the Conference represents and checked the news for a full throated stance in support of refugees. Just two organizations had statements: the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Society. Two of the fifty.

If you spent 30 minutes combing the sites of 50 Jewish organizations, you would find two things: some God-awful web design, and in place of any moral outrage or courage, full throated support of Israel. Israel, which has a per capita GDP higher than Japan, South Korea or Italy. Israel, which is run by a race-baiting, anti-peace extremist, who shows nothing but contempt for the US administration.

An administration which – by the way – is still likely to grant Israel $4.5 billion in military aid, wholly supported by the organizations in the Conference. By the other way, that works out to $3 million for every Syrian refugee admitted to the US so far. That’s a lot of money per refugee — because the US has only admitted 1500 refugees since 2011. No really. America’s governors are threatening to turn back the population of Teutopolis, Illinois.

American Jewish organizations can’t be asked to do more for these refugees, because they aren’t doing anything. Not before the Paris attacks, and not as near as I can tell, on behalf of all the rest of the world’s refugees or migrants either.

It’s not as if Jews’ history as refugees and migrants is part of a lost and unknown past — the Holocaust is America’s #1 favorite point of historical comparison. Just ask Ben Carson. America’s reluctance to take in refugees in the 1930s and 40s is rightly seen as one of the 20th century’s biggest mistakes.

Why didn’t America want to take in a bunch of Jewish refugees? Jews were suspected of being enemy Communists and Anarchists. Also, they weren’t Christian. They might have taken jobs away from Americans during difficult economic times.  Wow, it’s like we’ve been here before.  I thought that the lesson of the Holocaust was “never again.” Not just never again to mass extermination, but never again to the indifference. You can make too much of a comparison between then and now – but you could also be a bit expansive with that lesson, so that it’s not properly read as”never again to us.”

Rather than vocally pointing out how wrong America was then and how wrong the governors and others are now, what are the Conference and its partners doing? Nothing.  Are they afraid that if they remind everyone how close we are to a period of massive anti-Semitism, it will coming washing back? Better to sit back and focus on Israel – something younger Jews don’t care about much, but that is a convenient common cause with the Religious Right – people who used to want to keep us out of their country clubs, boardrooms, and universities.

Years ago, I brought my non-Jewish wife along to a talk I was giving to a group of mostly elderly Jews. Finding me after the talk, a woman from the audience asked if my wife was Jewish. Upon learning the answer, the woman said “Where did we go wrong?”

Back then, I’m pretty sure I said something about the horrors of Hebrew School, but I’ll say this now:  American Jews are organized and well off. They’re in positions of power.  I can’t figure out how organizations that claim to represent the Jewish community see a humanitarian crisis and creeping  xenophobia, racism, and fear mongering and decide that their best course of action is cheerleading for Israel and holding gala dinners.

American Jews insult their co-religionists with the epithet  “self-loathing“. I’ve been called self-loathing on more than one occasion, but I know it’s not myself I find loathsome.

 

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How I Went Through the 5 Stages of Grief on Facebook

Drew
I woke up last week to the news of the shooting in Paris, and was just horrified. I felt like I couldn’t look away, and ended up switching between Twitter and EW.com to keep up with what was going on. Finally, I was like “Drew, you’ve got to get yourself together,” so I went to Facebook. It’s like a week later and I realize that I totally went through the five stages of grief right there on my wall. I’m sharing them with you guys as part of my healing process.

1. Denial. I will deny myself posting this cool video of a dancing cockatiel so I can share WKQX’s awesome image showing our solidarity with  the victims. I do this because I don’t want anyone thinking for even one minute that I am on the side of the terrorists. I know there are some people out there who think the terrorists were justified or that sometimes terrorism is ok or whatever, but I think that it’s terrible. Have they forgotten 9/11 or Sandy Hook or Hurricane Katrina? Just awful. (But seriously guys? That cockatiel is really, really, rocking out).

2. Anger. I always find myself getting super angry about one small detail of a tragedy. With the Charlie Hebdo attack, I am crazy angry about the murder of Ahmed Merabet, the Muslim policeman. The terrorists were Muslim and they killed a Muslim? What is up with that? How can you say that you’re fighting the enemies of Islam and then kill an actual Muslim? I want all my friends to know that I stand with Mr. Merabet’s family. Plus, it’s important for all of us to remind the haters that many Muslims don’t even like terrorists. They’re just like normal people!

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3. Bargaining. Oh God! There is a Groupon available for 2 for 1 admission to Key Lime Cove, the Chicago area’s greatest indoor water park! I have to let everyone know about this bargain! Also, I promise to God that I will pray more often and be a more loyal servant to Him. I am so grateful to be part of a faith that doesn’t have any taboos and no history of violence. If I could just remind more people of our beautiful history, there would be less terrorism in the world.

4. Depression. There is so much evil in the world, and I feel so powerless to do anything about it. Those attacks in Paris were just like the attacks in Austria or wherever a few months ago, or maybe it was last year. You know, the one where all those people were killed and I think they took those poor school girls. God, that was terrible. And now it’s all happening again. Even worse, while we were all talking about the attack in Paris, I saw that there was an attack in Africa – I think it was Uruguay – where all those people died. It’s just awful. I can’t stop thinking about it.

5. Acceptance. It’s like Vice President Cheney once said: we’re all going to be victims of terrorism some day. I think we just have to deal with that. So for now, I’m just going to be happy to live in the greatest country on earth and enjoy all of our freedom. You know what? I feel bad for the terrorists. They come from such a violent culture, where everyone has a gun and people are killed by their neighbors or the police for totally stupid reasons.

Guys, I feel totally better after sharing this, and want to leave with a famous quote: “Can’t we all get along?” Dr. Rodney King said that, and I think it’s ironic that these attacks happened right before the world celebrates his birthday.  I think if more of us tried to follow his words and his example, the world would be a better place.

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Should You Be Outraged? A Guide to Religious Conflict

Early this year, the Pew Research Religion and Public Life Project published a study claiming that religious hostilities worldwide reached a six year high. Fully a third of the countries in the world had a significant amount of religious hostility during the reporting period, whether it was on the part of the government or the citizenry.

You could believe that inter-religious violence and hostility is only something that happens “over there.” You could believe that, but only if you don’t spend any time on the Internet. Members of faith communities not only want you to know about the appalling and disgraceful attacks on their co-religionists abroad, but also about anti-religious activity right here at home. Why are they sharing all these terrible things with you? Is it because stories of persecution accomplish the three major goals of organized religion in America (fostering community through shared victimhood, justifying antagonism towards other groups, and fundraising)?

No, it’s because they want you to share in their indignation and outrage. Unfortunately, each of us has only have so much outrage to spare. We can’t go blow our entire outrage wad on religious violence and persecution. We have to save some to direct at Roger Goodell, President Obama, and Kim Kardashian. Also, maybe grand juries. Yet we want to support our friends in the various faith communities. To help you find direction for your indignation, I’ve carefully researched this handy guide that outlines the struggles of five of the world’s major religions. Included is who they are fighting with internationally as well as their challenges closer to home. There is also a handy infographic at the end, outlining just who is fighting with whom.

Religion: Christianity
Percent of World’s Population: 31.5%
Victimized Internationally By: Muslims. Hindus. Buddhists. JewsOther Christians. Also, Communists.
Victimized in America By: 
Homosexuals. Secularists. Atheists. Alsoby a society that gives into hypersensitivity and insists that Christmas displays be taken down. This apparently fuels the hatred and intolerance that lead to persecution, according to Dr. Ben Carson.
Should You Be Outraged?: Yes! Fanatical enemies of Christendom are everywhere, whether they go by the name of Boko Haram in Nigeria or cower under whatever “Political Correctness” is in America.

Six reasons for anti-Semitism

Religion: Judaism
Percent of World Population: .2%
Victimized Internationally By:
Muslims. Other JewsChristians. Worse, per the ADL, over a billion people worldwide harbor anti-Semitic attitudes. This is staggering! Slightly less staggering is a survey that purports to represent world opinion by asking eleven binary questions of people who live in countries where they’ve never met or heard of a Jew, but still!
Victimized in America By: Mean jerks who say nasty things about Israel, preventing the Jewish state from ever taking military action or constructing settlements. Also, a major American television network has aired two seasons of a “sitcom” perpetuating the worst possible stereotypes of Jews.
Should You Be Outraged?: Yes! Because of Schindler’s List.

Religion: Islam
Percent of World Population: 23.2%
Victimized Internationally By: Christians. Jews. Hindus. Buddhists. Also, an alarming number of Muslims are killed by other Muslims.  And who could possibly do anything to stop it when something as confusing as that happens?
Victimized in America By: The FBI. NSA. Congress. The State of Oklahoma, which acted decisively to thwart a nascent Islamic state in their backyard by banning Shar’ia law. The ban was overturned by the secular and politically correct courts last year. See anti-Christian victimization, above.
Should You Be Outraged?: Yes! But you already posted that picture of Mala Yousafzai to your Facebook wall, so you’ve done enough.

Religion: Hinduism
Percent of World Population: 15%
Victimized Internationally By: Muslims. Buddhists. Other Hindus. Also, American academics who write dangerous books about Hinduism and sexy, sexy, sex.
Victimized in America By: We are all complicit in the theft of yoga from the Hindus. Also, prominent Hindus on TV only pursue non-Hindu men and others talk in affected accents and lack machismo.
Should You Be Outraged?: Yes! The flashbacks in Slumdog Millionaire are very upsetting.

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The Embarrassing Face of American Buddhism

Religion: Buddhism
Percent of World Population: 7%
Victimized Internationally By:  Muslims. Communists. Other Buddhists. Also, evangelical Christians believe that the biggest problem facing Tibet is that they aren’t Christian enough.
Victimized in America By: It’s bad enough that every liberal arts student becomes a Buddhist for four months after finishing their comparative religion class.  It’s quite another to for Buddhism to be appropriated by countless celebrities, so that the face of American Buddhism is the fat, stupid face of Steven Seagal.
Should You Be Outraged! Yes! Do you want a washed up B-movie action star representing your religious community?

Boy! That is a a lot of violence, persecution, and oppression. It’s almost as if some members of religious groups will always find a reason to fight other religious groups and if that gets boring, they turn on members of their own faith in a neverending cycle of attacks and retaliation. Actually, that pretty much sums it up. Here’s a handy summary chart that you can clip out and carry with you for a handy reference for the next time a person of faith tells you that theirs is a religion of peace.

religious violence

It’s probably too easy to get depressed by all the violence and strife in the world caused by intra- and inter-religious conflict. Look at it one way, and it’s like the NFL – pointless barbarity for the sake of score settling based on manufactured rivalries where young men face all the risk, recruited by wealthier folk who somehow never get their hands bloody.  Look at it another way, religious groups are like the NFL – if they didn’t have their rivalries, what would they do with their time?  Look at it a third way, and it’s like the NFL – to people who don’t follow it, the stakes seem incredibly low. All that struggle for a lousy ten yards or that stupid patch of dirt where a guy supposedly saw something he couldn’t explain.  That might be the biggest outrage of all.

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This One Story Will Explain the Whole Israel/Gaza War

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Yoni and Bibi, 1971

Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu moved to the United States in 1963, when he was 13. By all accounts, the young Netanyahu had a difficult time adjusting to life in the United States. His life was made all the more difficult by his father, Benzion, a prominent historian and right-wing Zionist. Benzion  constantly compared Bibi unfavorably to his older and more masculine brother, Yonatan, known as Yoni.

Bibi was a quiet, delicate teenager, disappearing for long hours in his bedroom to work on sketches of women’s evening wear, in the hopes of becoming a haute coutre master. Ignoring his son’s dainty nature,  Benzion insisted that Bibi join the Israeli army when he came of age, just like his brother. Bibi obliged, though he found the uniforms ugly, dated, and poorly stitched. Indeed, he was formally reprimanded for breaking down in tears about “the simple awfulness of epaulets” during the Six Day War. Nevertheless, Bibi remained in the army. He joined a special forces unit, the Sayeret Matkal, Hebrew for “Fruit Bats,” because of their nighttime operations and perceived delicate personalities.

In December 1968, the Fruit Bats were sent to Beirut undercover to lay the groundwork for Operation Gift. Bibi was able to pass as American civilian, and under the guise of performing reconnaissance, spent his evenings in Beirut’s vibrant club scene. Briefly free from the constraints of the military and far away from the expectations of his father, the young Netanyahu could be himself. It was an experience that would change his life, for it was in Beirut that Bibi met Khaled Meshaal. Though born only a few miles and a few years apart, the two men came from different worlds. Like Bibi, Khaled was an expressive and emotional young man, trying to escape the scorn and disapproval from his father; in his case a radical imam living in Kuwait. In the cool Beirut winter, they found warmth in each other, leaving the window cracked in Bibi’s flat to let the salted Mediterranean breeze blow over their warm bare bodies. Their passion burned all the more intensely as they savored the few days they had together, ignoring as best they could the fact that theirs was a forbidden love – Arab and Jew, Zionist and Islamist, man and man.

In spite of the odds and the risks, both men continued to rendezvous in Beirut in the early 70s. They talked of their hopes  for the future, holding each other closely and daring to dream of a world where they could live openly together. But it was not to be. Though Bibi thought he was free of his family’s reach in Lebanon, his brother had become suspicious of his frequent trips. In 1973, Yoni Netanyahu participated in Operation Spring of Youth, a secret retaliatory attack in Beirut against Palestinian terrorists responsible for the previous year’s massacre at the Munich Olympics. After the operation’s success, Yoni detached from his unit and went to find his brother – worried that Bibi would be discovered as Israeli and thus subject to retribution. There was confusion as Yoni – still dressed in his disguise as a woman – burst into the hotel room that Bibi and Khaled shared, only to find them in flagrante in the shower. A violent fight between the brothers ensued, with Yoni eventually subduing his brother and compelling him to return to Israel.

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Bibi (on the floor) rips it up with Khaled. Tunis, 1978

Though Yoni and Bibi fought together in the Yom Kippur War in 1973, the brothers never found occasion to reconcile before Yoni was killed during the Entebbe raid in 1976. Bibi would never be the same. It wasn’t until 1978 that he found time to be with Khaled again, this time in Tunis as civil war was now raging through Beirut. Khaled found his lover a changed man; angrier, sadder, and more militant in his Zionism. Though their physical passion remained as intense as ever, Khaled could feel the emotional tension between them.

The ensuing decade put nearly unbearable strain on their relationship. Though Bibi’s career as a diplomat offered them plenty of opportunities to liaison during the 1980s, his higher profile increased the risk they would be discovered. Meanwhile, Khaled had joined the Muslim Brotherhood while at university in Kuwait, an Islamist organization that offered beards both literal and figurative to young gay men in the Arab World.

When the first Intifada ignited the West Bank in 1987, Bibi was a junior minister in Israel’s parliament and Khaled was in Kuwait, leading the newly formed militant group Hamas. Swept up in the passions of their respective peoples, the two lovers wouldn’t see each other again until a chance meeting at the Madrid Peace Conference in 1991. According to an NSA transcript released by Wikileaks, the muffled sounds of intimate contact were soon interrupted by a furious argument. Khaled demanded that they see each other more often, while Bibi was preoccupied with what would happen if their families, friends, or enemies discovered them. “Tell you what, Bibi,” Khaled says in the recording, “You count the damn few times we have been together in nearly twenty years and you measure the short leash you keep me on – and then you ask me about Kuwait and tell me you’ll kill me for needing somethin’ I don’t hardly never get. You are too much for me Bibi, you sonofabitch! I wish I knew how to quit you.”

It was no coincidence that Bibi married his second wife, Sarah, a short time later. Rumors swirled in the Israeli press about his illicit secret life. For his part, Khaled took advantage of the Israeli-Jordanian peace accords in 1994 to move to Amman, establish a Hamas office, and put himself closer to his lover. But Bibi never visited. Instead, he became an ever more vigorous opponent of the Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, signed in 1993. To Khaled, it seemed as if all Palestinians were paying the price for the love he felt for Bibi, who now seemed more determined than ever to keep them apart.

Netanyahu’s disastrous first term as Prime Minister ended abruptly in 1999. Though many cite his controversial appointment for attorney general as the scandal that was his undoing, it was actually growing suspicion among his political allies that Bibi had particular affection for a senior Hamas leader. Netanyahu was forced to resign as head of his party, Likud, following his electoral defeat. He was replaced by Ariel Sharon – ironically, a man well-known for his fondness of Tel Aviv’s underground bathhouse culture. When Benzion was quoted in the press criticizing Bibi’s term, it was Khaled who called to console him. Many believe it was the last time they spoke.

Ariel Sharon and a boy toy, 1984

Ariel Sharon and one of his many young companions, 1984

In 2001, Bibi returned to government when Ariel Sharon became Prime Minister. Experts suspect that it was he who ensured Khaled was expelled from Jordan, lest the temptation lead him astray. In 2004, Israel assassinated  Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmad Yassin and Bibi now found his secret love was heading the organization that was his country’s greatest enemy. Worse, in 2005, Sharon withdrew Israeli troops and settlers from Gaza. Following Palestinian elections, Hamas – and therefore Khaled Meshaal – controlled the territory. Bibi was beside himself with a mixture of guilt, shame, and anguish for the safety of Khaled. He resigned from Sharon’s government.

Again, rumors were everywhere about Bibi – but his resignation divided his party. Sharon, who had taken to calling Bibi “the angry little faygele,”  left Likud to form a new party. Bibi once again became leader. Following Sharon’s debilitating stroke in 2006, his successor, Ehud Olmert, was quickly engulfed by scandal.

Bibi returned as Prime Minister in 2009, and took to lashing out angrily against the very idea of a Palestinian state, peace, or negotiating with Hamas. The delicate, supple young man was now an embittered pseudo-warrior pummeling Gaza in 2012 and again this summer – daring anyone to question his resolve, his toughness, or – indeed – his masculinity. Khaled, unable to deal with Bibi’s rejection, has resorted to ever more vicious means of retaliation. The soft, fleeting, and private whispers the two men once shared have been replaced by the hostile, vitrolic, and lethal vernacular of bombs and guns. Theirs is now the language of the modern Middle East.

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There Never Was “Peace” in the Peace Process – Here’s Why

Hello Dear Readers,

The following is a major re-edit of a post I wrote back in February. You can read the original here. In light of the kickoff another of Israel and Hamas’ fairly regular wars in Gaza (2004, 2008, and 2012 – but who’s counting?) this month, I went back and revisited my original pessimism to add *even more* pessimism. Unlike those other internet commentaries you’re reading on this absurd tragedy, I at least acknowledge my shameless rehashing of old ideas.

Here’s what you need to know about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: no one in a position of power to do anything about it really wants peace.

Neither the Israel government, the Obama Administration, nor the Palestinian Authority stand to benefit from peace. Peace doesn’t pay. All I am saying: peace has no chance. Put that on a t-shirt.

I love the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu. With his terrible combover, stench of corruption, and condescending way of speaking to the press, he reminds me of an American senator. And if you come across any interview with him, he will be sure to note that Hamas rejects the existence of Israel and a two-state solution. What he usually forgets to mention is that he rejects the existence of a sovereign Palestinian state and a two-state solution. It must have slipped his mind, as did similar rejections by his defense minister and his economic minister. His foreign minister is a soft touch, though — he only wants to cleanse all of the Arabs out of Israel.

Luckily, civilians aren’t interested in peace either, at least as it’s currently defined. One survey showed 60% of Israelis supported reclaiming all of Palestine from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean. They only supported a two-state solution until you explained it to them. But that’s ok, because 63% of Palestinians indicated that they too have no faith in a two-state solution.

Israel Palestinians Nonstop Rockets-5Sure, Israeli civilians would be better off if there were peace. Palestinian civilians would be better off. But if the 21st century has taught us nothing else so far, it’s that nobody really cares about civilians in the Middle East.  Worse, the Palestinians are Arab civilians. And people really don’t care about them – the West Bank and Gaza are like the west and south sides of Chicago where we can be depressed about goes on there and also remain blissfully detached.  Otherwise reasonable people I know  are hitting me up to give money to an emergency fund for Israel. Leaving aside the asymmetrical body count in that conflict, we’re in a year where more than *5,000* Iraqi civilians have been killed and there are 170,000 dead Syrians we could be thinking about. I figure we could at least provide Syrian civilians with a super high tech anti-missile system like we gave the Israelis. Israel has the 37th largest GDP per capita in the world, and could probably have bought one themselves. On the other hand, what do you get for the country that has everything?

The fact that none of the three parties will benefit from peace isn’t the same as saying that they can’t benefit from peace negotiations. The leadership of the Palestinian Authority will be yanked out of office by their ears if they negotiate peace and find themselves with a state. The lefties will want them out of office because they’re ineffective and comically corrupt, like Arab Blagojeviches. The hardliners will attack them with accusations that they were duped by Israel and the US. A Palestinian state means no more PA. If you were leading the PA, your best strategy would be to enter negotiations just to keep that sweet, sweet embezzleable aid money from the US and Israel coming. Meanwhile, you would look on the side for other other options, like pursuing Israel in international courts, getting your friend the UN involved, or trying to get foreign companies to turn the screws on Israel.

Which brings us to Israel. Imagine that you are the PA and you ordered a half pepperoni/half sausage pizza with Israel (in the Middle East, everyone secretly loves pork). It arrives, and you have to decide how to split it up. Pie cut or square cut? 50/50 or some other way? You can’t agree. John Kerry comes in to discuss with both of you. While you’re making your case, you notice something: Israel is already eating the pizza. Now imagine that instead of pizza, we’re talking about a wedge of desert with Mumbo-Jumbo Bible sauce and a topping of swarthy people. Israel’s eating that pie about as fast as it can.

Why wouldn’t they? No one said they couldn’t eat the pizza while figuring out what to do with the rest of it. If they just handed a bunch of pieces over to the Palestinians, they’d be attacked by their right wing for giving away their very special pizza with Mumbo Jumbo Bible sauce. The best strategy is clearly to talk as long as possible while enjoying the holy Jesus out of that pizza. Anything else would result in a net loss of pizza. Plus, as long as you’re talking with the Mumbo-Jumbo Bible sauce trickling down your chin, America will give you diplomatic cover, high tech anti-missile systems, and boatloads of money so you can keep eating the pizza.

It would be a real problem if the United States actually brought about a solution to all of this. Peace means Israel would have to give up some of the pizza it loves so much. Lots of people in the US really, really, want Israel to keep on enjoying that pizza. Especially people who are fans of Mumbo Jumbo Bible sauce, like most Republicans and many Democrats in Congress. But not just them. There are people who think Israel is an important ally, find it an enjoyable vacation spot, or would simply rather side with Israel than with the dread Arabs. There are also people who think that Israel earned a free pizza with a coupon they found at the bottom of a box of Genocide. Whichever it is, If the Obama Administration looked like it was about to take take the pizza away from Israel, make it give some back, or close the box, Congress and the press would go nuts.

Clearly, a really good strategy for everyone is to negotiate as long as possible with no intention of a resolution. How long can this go on? Forever. Here’s the secret: you don’t come to a negotiation about how the pizza is shared prepared to talk about pizza. First, you have to create a framework agreement to negotiate how you’ll negotiate over the pizza.

Confused? We have a disagreement about sharing pizza. The US says “we’re going to talk about pizza, ok? But just about the toppings and the crust. We’ll talk about the cheese, condiments and napkins later.” The Palestinians say “No. We want to talk about the pizza entirely. Right now.” The Israelis say, “Fine. We’ll talk about pizza. But first, we must agree we will never give up the delicious corner pieces, and you can’t have napkins.” The US responds with “Ok. Let’s come back to corner pieces and napkins later. Palestinians, you must agree you won’t throw a fit and spit on it or something. Israel, for CHRIST’S SAKE HOW CAN YOU FIT THAT MUCH PIZZA IN YOUR MOUTH?” And so on.

Peace talks were and for the foreseeable future will be a stalling tactic. And when they don’t work, we have a little war. You might be one of those people who think that wars are terrible. They are — unless you’re an Israeli or Palestinian hardliner. If you’re Hamas, and you want to ensure continued support in Gaza, it’s best if the population experiences prolonged period of Israeli attacks. And the good news for hard-line Israeli politicians is that a Hamas barrage launched into Israel may increase their electoral support for by up to seven points.

Alright. Who wants to go out and get a pizza?

 

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Thoughts on Peace, Pizza, Unicorns, and Mumbo-Jumbo Bible Sauce

After I got a graduate degree in Middle East history, I taught and lectured for awhile. Eventually, I decided my skin was thick enough that I could speak publicly about the Israeli Palestinian conflict. If you do this, self-appointed experts and watchdogs will ask you about your “bias.” I learned that laughing off the question or rolling your eyes indicates bias. It’s a question you can’t answer, which is always followed by the next question, “what do you think will happen with the peace talks?” That’s a question I could answer, but didn’t.

Here’s my answer: nothing will happen. No one really wants peace.

Neither the Israel government, the Obama Administration, nor the Palestinian Authority stand to benefit from peace. Peace doesn’t pay. Put that on a t-shirt. Yes, you were in an inter-religious dialogue group/knit hat appreciation society in college and it seemed like if everyone focused on the Arab and Jewish fondness for falafel, things would be fine. You were duped. All I am saying: peace has no chance.

Sure, Israeli civilians would be better off if there were peace. Palestinian civilians would be better off. But if the 21st century has taught us nothing else so far, it’s that nobody really cares about civilians in the Middle East. Worse, the Palestinians are Arab civilians. Yes, we like to talk about what would be best for them, write big think pieces about their suffering, and show graphic images of their victimhood on the news. But when push comes to shove, we want to ignore the history of how they got into the situation they’re in and be glad they’re not near us. Arab civilians: they are to the world what young black men are to America.

The fact that none of the three parties will benefit from peace isn’t the same as saying that they won’t benefit from peace negotiations. Take the case of the Palestinian Authority (PA), an organization invented in previous negotiations so Israel could negotiate with something. The leadership of the PA will be yanked out of office by their ears if they negotiate peace and find themselves with a state. The lefties will want them out of office because they’re ineffective and comically corrupt, like Arab Blagojeviches. The hardliners will attack them with accusations that they were duped by Israel and the US. A Palestinian state means no more PA. If you were leading the PA, your best strategy would be to enter negotiations just to keep that sweet, sweet embezzleable aid money from the US and Israel coming. Meanwhile, you would look on the side for other other options, like pursuing Israel in international courts, getting your friend the UN involved, or playing off that whole black teenager thing to get foreign companies to turn the screws on Israel.

Which brings us to Israel. Imagine that you are the PA and you ordered a half pepperoni/half sausage pizza with Israel (in the Middle East, everyone secretly loves pork). It arrives, and you have to decide how to split it up. Pie cut or square cut? 50/50 or some other way? You can’t agree. John Kerry comes in to discuss with both of you. While you’re making your case, you notice something: Israel is already eating the pizza. Now imagine that instead of pizza, we’re talking about a wedge of desert with Mumbo-Jumbo Bible sauce and a topping of swarthy people. Israel’s eating that pie about as fast as it can.

Why wouldn’t they? No one said they couldn’t eat the pizza while figuring out what to do with the rest of it. If they just handed a bunch of pieces over to the Palestinians, they’d be attacked by their right wing for giving away their very special pizza with Mumbo Jumbo Bible sauce. The best strategy is clearly to talk as long as possible while enjoying the holy Jesus out of that pizza. Anything else would result in a net loss of pizza. Plus, as long as you’re talking with the Mumbo-Jumbo Bible sauce trickling down your chin, America will give you diplomatic cover and lots of money so you can keep eating the pizza.

This might sound as if the US is a chump. A boring, pedantic, overly-chinned chump named John Kerry. But it’s not. We have to do this. We’re America, and we have to convince the world that we’re committed to peace. Then we can convince the world that unicorns are real, and finally create a market for our huge surplus of dwarf horses and toilet paper tubes. As long as there are photo-ops of giant Americans bringing the two sides together, the US can keep our other friends happy and enter pointless negotiations to end the war in Syria (see Arab civilians, lack of concern for, above).

The only problem would be if the US actually had to bring about a stable long-lasting peace. Back to the pizza. Peace means Israel would have to give up some of the pizza it loves so much. Lots of people in the US really, really, want Israel to keep on enjoying that pizza. Especially people who are fans of Mumbo Jumbo Bible sauce, like most Republicans and many Democrats in Congress. But not just them. There are people who think Israel is an important ally, find it an enjoyable vacation spot, or would simply rather side with Israel than with the young black men of the world. There are also people who think that Israel earned a free pizza with a coupon they found at the bottom of a box of Genocide. Whichever it is, If the Obama Administration looked like it was about to take take the pizza away from Israel, make it give some back, or close the box, Congress and the press would go nuts.

Clearly, the best strategy for everyone is to negotiate as long as possible with no intention of a resolution. How long can this go on? Forever. Here’s the secret: you don’t come to a negotiation about how the pizza is shared prepared to talk about pizza. First, you have to create a framework agreement to negotiate how you’ll negotiate over the pizza.

Confused? We have a disagreement about sharing pizza. The US says “we’re going to talk about pizza, ok? But just about the toppings and the crust. We’ll talk about the cheese, condiments and napkins later.” The Palestinians say “No. We want to talk about the pizza entirely. Right now.” The Israelis say, “Fine. We’ll talk about pizza. But first, we must agree we will never give up the delicious corner pieces, and you can’t have napkins.” The US responds with “Ok. Let’s come back to corner pieces and napkins later. Palestinians, you must agree you won’t throw a fit and spit on it or something. Israel, for CHRIST’S SAKE HOW CAN YOU FIT THAT MUCH PIZZA IN YOUR MOUTH?” And so on.

This sounds may sound insane.  It’s not. Consider: the current negotiations over framework talks are an attempt to move forward from the direct talks in Washington and Sharm al Sheikh in 2010. They’re a second attempt to relaunch talks held in Annapolis in 2007, which were a do-over of the Sharm al Sheikh conference in 2005. Those were based on the Road Map to Peace in 2003, which was an attempt to resuscitate talks in Taba in January, 2001, held to try and salvage the Camp David summit in 2000. Those followed negotiations at the Wye River Plantation in 1998, the Oslo II Agreement in 1995, and Oslo I in 1993, in which everyone agreed to a framework agreement in which this would all be worked out by May, 1999. Of course, Oslo was begun in secret after the failed Madrid talks in 1991 which were originally supposed to be part of the Camp David Accords in 1979. Those were a result of the separation of forces agreements negotiated after the October 1973 War, which was largely a result of failed negotiations following the June 1967 War.

Got that? Peace talks are a stalling tactic. The Palestinians hope that international pressure will come through. I don’t know what the Israelis are hoping for, but probably a combination of the Palestinians screwing up, and a new US administration to come and ignore them for a few years. Both things happen with alarming regularity. And the Obama administration just wants to get to January, 2017 looking like it tried.

As for real, lasting peace, we’ll be taping paper tubes to little horses’ heads and sending them out to deliver pizzas before anything that looks like peace happens.

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“Judeo-Christian” is a Phrase Used By Dummies

Every year around this time I prepare to go to Oklahoma to visit my wife’s family for Christmas. I’ve known my wife for twenty years, and you would think that after a couple of decades, I would run out of jokes. But, like the very best things your loved ones can give you, Oklahoma is the gift that keeps on giving. Once upon a time, the fact that the state has one senator who believes climate change is a hoax perpetrated for profit by the Weather Channel, another senator who thinks Schindler’s List is just too sexy to show on TV, and a state legislature that banned imaginary jihadists from implementing imaginary sharia law would have meant that Oklahoma was on the far right fringe of American society.

It’s not anymore. Opinions that were once funny when spoken in the half-speed Oklahoman dialect are now in mainstream of the right. Sure, they’re still funny at the speed of normal human speech. Until you actually think about them. Because there’s so just so much bullshit.  In keeping with the proud Native American traditions of Oklahoma, they use every part of the bullshit.

Take for example a recent proposal to build a chapel in the statehouse. In supporting his idea, Speaker of the House T.W. Shannon adds a candy coating of reasonableness to his nutty center by claiming that the chapel would honor the state’s “Judeo-Christian” heritage. Let us pause for a moment. I was raised Jewish. I have been to Oklahoma. Do you know how you know if you’re in a place that has no Jewish heritage? When people can recite the names of all the Jews they’ve ever met. And they ask if you know them. This happens ALL THE TIME in Oklahoma. If you’ve never been, Oklahoma is the kind of place where people say Christ’s name reverently, and never use his middle initial or hyphenated last name.

Thus, I have no idea what Judeo-Christian heritage Shannon is talking about. But it’s not just him. Conservative folks talk about Judeo-Christian heritage and “traditional Judeo-Christian” values all the time. Rick Santorum does it, which right there should tell you it’s a stupid thing to say. I should note that it’s not stupid because Jewish values and Christian values are different. They might be. I have no idea, because I went to Hebrew School for five years and didn’t learn a thing, save for “Holocaust! Boooo! Israel! Yayyyyy!”

It’s stupid because the right wingers are trying to look inclusive by welcoming the smallest possible group they could find. According to the 2010 census, Jews are 1.8% of the population. Here’s a fun fact: the number of adult Jews in the United States is almost the same as the number of people still using AOL dial up. Judging by my family, that might be the same 2.5 million people. Why do conservative Christians in 2013 want to throw their arms around people connecting to God at 56kbps? There’s a whole big internet of fast, Java-enabled God out there. I suppose It might be to give them street cred. Jews could be like the Black friend that racists always insist they have after they say something ignorant.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s nice to be invited to the club. I remember my brother once insisting that he wasn’t white. I thought this was nuts: given the opportunity, I most definitely want to be part of the winning team. Does anyone get called up to the Yankees and turn them down out of loyalty to the Akron RubberDucks?

Which brings us to the other part that’s so stupid about all of this. You can’t simultaneously say “traditional” and “Judeo-Christian” when talking about American values. You’ve only been willing to let us on the team in the very recent past. Before that, your grandfathers and great-grandfathers were limiting Jewish access to higher education, cracking down on immigration, and accusing Jews of being a fifth column aligned with an international finance conspiracy. You hated us. This is why I never miss an opportunity to high five Irish people. We went from dirty immigrant outsiders to members of the ruling class! All right! Let’s get some corned beef and laugh at Latinos and Muslims!

If we’re being honest, when it comes to white Christian values in the US, the only thing that’s traditional is excluding as many people as you can. The problem is that they don’t make white people like they used to. By which I mean that white Christian people simply aren’t making white Christian babies at the rate they used to. So, if you can’t make white Christians in the traditional way – some zinfandel, Carole King’s Tapestry, and missionary for 35-45 seconds – you have to change the way you count. Fudge the numbers. With some slight of hand, and you can hyphenate in the Jews. Presto! “Judeo-Christian” is born, and lest anyone raise an eyebrow, you can throw a “traditional” in there to act like we were there this whole time. Just like your Black friend.

Again, I’m happy to be on the team. But I feel like I’m being used. The only time I hear “Judeo-Christian”, it’s to justify installing the Ten Commandments in a public place, or to keep gays from getting married, or as Paul Ryan did, to oppose the Affordable Care Act. Those things all sound suspiciously like traditional right-wing evangelical Christian values. What about traditional Jewish values, like, um, guilt trips, terrible wine, and deli trays?

The last time I heard “Judeo-Christian” in the news, it was  Bill O’Reilly making the claim that not acknowledging Christmas is an affront to the Judeo-Christian tradition. Again, Jews aren’t so concerned with Christmas, Bill. You know we love sales, and this year Chanukah was long over before we could find really good deals on a new TV.

All these guys sound awfully defensive, like the Christian right knows they’re going to lose. Which brings me to another fun fact: in 2010, the second biggest religious identity in the US after Christians was unaffiliated, agnostics, and atheists. Crap. We finally got to the big leagues, and realized it’s the XFL.

Merry Christmas!

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The Post About Rambo, Jesus, Burma, and Rand Paul You’ve Been Waiting For

Last Monday was Veteran’s Day, and like most Americans, I love two things about our country: our veterans and our wars.  Our veterans are so nice we celebrate them twice. If they lived, they get Veteran’s Day and if they fell, they get Memorial Day.Everything else in America gets celebrated only once. Except Jesus. We celebrate his life on the day with the presents and his death on the one with the chocolate. If aliens wanted to know what things Americans really care about, they could look at which things we celebrate twice and conclude that we love soldiers and Jesus. And we especially love soldiers for Jesus. I’ll get to that in a minute.

We also like wars. Especially World War II. No war is as good as World War II – fought by the elderly to free the world from tyranny and earn them a lifetime pass to call black people “shvartzes” and nag about why you didn’t go to law school (I only know elderly Jewish people). But we’re generally warming up to all wars old people fought in – the anger over Vietnam has subsided as its veterans get older and we realize the rich cultural legacy the war left in the form of John Rambo, James Braddock, and Country Joe and the Fish.

We love wars so much, we make things wars even when they aren’t military. President Johnson declared war on poverty, Reagan on drugs, and Bush on terrorism.

Ok, so we went 0 for 3 on those. But you don’t even have to President to declare war. Atheists declared a War on Christmas (lost) and fetuses declared a War on Women (draw). Sometimes, wars pop up when you’re just standing around being a shmuck. Senator Rand Paul discovered a War on Christianity. All this time, there’s been a war on the world’s most practiced religion, and it took Rand Paul to call our attention to it. According to Paul, Christians are under greater threat now than they were in the Middle Ages, when they were threatened with exhaustion from all the Crusading, stake-burning, and Inquisitioning.

Rand Paul is right. Or, whoever he plagiarized the speech from is right. He’s also right in that it’s better to crib the plot from Gattaca on Wikipedia than to actually watch it. But what the person whose ideas he stole may not know is that Christians are finally going on the offensive. We have soldiers for Jesus and they’ve picked their battlefield. It’s called the 10/40 Window. 10/40 is like WD40, only instead of stopping the squeaks of door hinges, it stops the squeaky prayers of brown people to figures other than Christ. No, really. 10/40 refers to a band of Africa and Asia from ten degrees north of the equator to forty degrees north. Apparently, evangelicals have been aware of this long neglected area – where 60-odd percent of the world lives – since the term was coined in the early 90s. There are literally billions of “spiritually impoverished” Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus engaging in a War on Christianity by using a cunning strategy of not giving a damn about it.

Every American war needs a man who lives by his own code. A man outside the system who fights for justice. A man who lives by the motto “No Rules, Just Right.” A man who doesn’t care that this is the slogan for Outback Steakhouse, because nothing is more American than a crappy slab of meat served in a family casual restaurant chain in the parking lot of a mall.

And that brings me to the Father of the White Tiger, the nom de guerre (but not in a French way) of the leader of the Free Burma Rangers, a real life A-Team in The War on Christianity. Father of the White Tiger is the son of former American missionaries, a former Army Ranger, and a guy who compares himself to the Hobbits. His name refers to his young daughter, who accompanies him on his missions, because soldiers in the War on Christianity don’t care about being charged with reckless child endangerment.

If you’re like me, you probably can’t stop following the news about Burma. One hundred thirty five ethnic groups, a military junta that may be opening up after decades of repression, and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi – a woman so powerful and charming she even got Hillary Clinton to dress like her.

Unfortunately, Burma and Congress still have two things in common: they both fetishize the military and they both like screwing minorities. I once dated a girl who took a single comparative religion class in college and concluded that Buddhism was a universally peaceful religion with lots of cool ideas about reincarnation. That girl was an idiot. The Buddhist ethnic Burmans who run the country are beating the snot out of the Muslim and Christian minority groups.

Thank God for Father of the White Tiger and the Free Burma Rangers. They work with Christian guerilla fighters in the jungles of Burma  to document human rights abuses by the Burmese army, provide medical assistance, and assist the hundreds of thousands of displaced people. Also, they bring the Lord, in the form of counselors from the Good Life Club. Because why wouldn’t you? There’s none of the of squishiness of traditional missionary work, as the leader says: “We stand with the villagers; we’re not above them. If they don’t run from the government troops, we don’t either.”

This kind of thing gets my American blood pumping. I love inspirational stories about proud American warriors persevering against incredible odds. Remember Jessica Lynch, emptying her rifle before becoming a hostage to barbarous Iraqis and then being rescued by US Special Forces? And Pat Tillman, leaving the NFL to fight in Afghanistan only to be killed by enemy soldiers? Remember how both those stories weren’t, strictly speaking, true? Doesn’t matter. Kicking ass matters, whether it’s real or fictional. A small team of Christian soldiers righteously fighting evil in the jungles of Burma is powerful stuff, and it almost sounds like the plot of a Rambo movie.

And here’s where the fiction of Hollywood and Senator Paul and reality come together. It IS the plot of a Rambo movie. The one you didn’t see that came out in 2008. It opens with documentary footage shot by the Free Burma Rangers. The film is officially banned in Burma, but a huge hit with the various rebel groups who especially like Rambo’s slogan, “Live for Nothing, Die for Something.” It doesn’t matter that it makes no sense – the slogan was actually one of three things they loved. The other two were his giant pectoral muscles and the complete denial of the fact he’s 61 and looks every year of it. What could be more American than that?

Well, one could make a terrible sequel in a 30 year old movie franchise and then retroactively claim that your goal was to draw attention to one of the world’s most repressive regimes. That’s the kind of cashing in we love in America. Like when Rand Paul, a US Senator, can plagiarize a speech and then claim himself as a victim of a shadowy organization known as the Footnote Police. Interesting that the Footnote Police made themselves known so soon after Paul revealed the War on Christianity.

I guess we know which side attribution, accuracy, and the truth are on.

 

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God, What a Jerk

Both of my sons are too young to have The Talk with. They know that babies come from a mommy and a daddy, but it hasn’t yet occurred to them to ask about the mechanism by which this happens. Unfortunately, they are around and alert enough to know when a tragedy has struck a member of our family or that of a friend’s. Given that they are still scarred by the pre-credits scene in “Finding Nemo,” it’s not easy to find something to say that will give them comfort or make any positive impact in their understanding of the universe.

I can’t say that I have or will ever figure out what to say to the kids when confronted with tragedy. But I know what I’m not going to say. I will absolutely never, ever, say “God has a plan for all of us.” This is a TERRIFYING thing to say. There’s some omnipotent all-knowing entity in the universe that has plans for me and I have no way of knowing what they are? I’m sure my sons will sleep much better at night if I tell them that God might have a plan to have my wife and me sucked through the roof in a tornado that night. Who can know his plans? Anyway, go to bed. Have good dreams!  Now I’m going to stay up all night wondering if God’s plan is to have me sit at a sports bar watching amateur improv in between innings of a never ending MLB game? Screw that God.

Why is God making plans for me anyway? I don’t make plans for Him. I don’t say, “Hey God, you’re going to go watch an evening of experimental gamelan/bluegrass music and there’s nothing you can do about it because I am an all powerful plans maker! ” I bet God would’ve appreciated it if I told Him of my plan. Or maybe God would’ve prefered I keep my nose out of His business and let Him make His own plans. Hey, God, ever hear of do unto others as you’d have done onto you? I read that in a massage parlor once. Why on earth would I pray to a God who can’t follow the golden rule? Screw that God.

“God has a plan” is of a piece with the other terrible thing people say, “the Lord Works in Mysterious Ways.” So I’m supposed to spend hours every weekend praying my head off to an eccentric and erratic deity? Would you be friends with someone who gave you a beautiful house and a beautiful wife, but also was really into genocide, massacres, famine, disease and Fleetwood Mac? You wouldn’t, because friends don’t let friends listen to Fleetwood Mac. More importantly, you’d probably realize you could have had the beautiful house and the beautiful wife on your own. And you wouldn’t have to wonder what kind of friend would give you stuff while so clearly getting off on human suffering. Screw that friend, and definitely screw that God.

When God closes a door, he opens a window. God could be playing with nebulae, quasars, mountain ranges, and He’s messing with the entry points to my house? Why? Why not leave the door and the window open? I’m not aware of anyone ever being made to feel better by telling them that God wants them to climb out of a window. I just lost my job and I’ve got a mortgage and a family, but all I’ve got to do is find which damned window God opened. Thanks., Maybe the Almighty could’ve brought down the vacuous and small minded sycophant that shut the door to my employment in the first place. You ever think of that, God? So now I’ve got to figure out if you opened a window to a different job? Screw you, God.

If I ever become God, I’m going to be a whole lot nicer. As a higher being, I’m not going to dole out favorable treatment only to the lower beings that suck up to me. I try to be kind to animals, not because they wear symbols of my earthly demise around their necks (though a squirrel with a little CTA bus charm would be cute), but because I recognize that I have the power to make decisions and an ethical background that rejects cruelty. Are we to believe that somewhere in the universe there’s a God that can’t be kind because he never got the basic behavioral rules for kindergarten? We’re praying to an emotional five year old? This is a God, after all, who after creating the world, decided he didn’t like it and flooded the whole thing. My sons do the same thing with sand castles and Lego forts. Ahh! I messed up! I’m just going to destroy it! My sons will grow up, but God doesn’t? Screw that God.

For the last couple of millennia, people of Abrahamic faiths have been praying, pleading, and hoping that God would speak to them. And who does he speak to? George W. Bush. Herman Cain, Rick Santorum, and Michelle Bachmann. Michael Vick. With all of the terminally ill people in the world, the starving, the refugees, the people at Fleetwood Mac concerts, God talks to these bozos. And he didn’t even give them good guidance. He talked to Rick Santorum, but didn’t tell him that sweater vests and meddling in people’s sex lives are both passe. He didn’t tell Herman Cain not to molest women. And he didn’t give Michelle Bachmann a functional frontal lobe. God told George W. Bush to run for president and told him to invade Iraq, but never mentioned in any of their chats that Iraq had no WMDs and Dick Cheney was actually the devil? Seems like that would have been good information to have before all the dying and destruction. Screw you, God.

I know that some people during trying times in their lives have felt like someone is watching over them. I think that’s less reassuring than it is very, very, creepy. What if the feeling that a higher power was always watching you wasn’t God, but the NSA? What if the warm feeling you get inside after praying isn’t His love, but the gas you didn’t want to release during the quiet parts? I’d say that the NSA and gas are certainly the more likely answers, what with Obama’s national security state and the popularity of Jamie Lee Curtis’ colon-blowing yogurt.

Then there’s dream you had, where during the most difficult times of your life you only saw one set of footprints in the sand? Was that God carrying you, or some creep who just slipped you a roofie and is carrying your limp body off?

I don’t find any of this comforting at all.

 

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Are You Ready for Some Bombing?

We’re going to bomb Syria! This is great! Not because it might stem the violence that has already killed 100,000 people and sent many, many more to live in squalid refugee camps. Because it won’t. And certainly not because we need to demonstrate that the US won’t tolerate the use of chemical weapons, because we’ve been totally cool on the use of chemical weapons in the Middle East when it suited us. Worse, we’ve made it clear that you can kill 100,000 people by conventional means, and we’ll look the other way – as long as the other way is towards Miley Cyrus, and not at a crisis elsewhere in the Middle East. Say, in a place that enjoys kushary and just had a non-coup.

From an economic point of view, I figure we might as well bomb Syria. Wouldn’t it be a waste if we spent 20% of the federal budget on defense and didn’t bomb the crap out of somewhere every so often? The only thing we spend more on is healthcare, and I’m personally committed to getting fatter and less active so that I get my taxes’ worth (I’m writing this on my phone, sitting on my Rascal in the drive through line at Taco Bell).

The only thing I love more than the US bombing the crap out of stuff is news coverage of the US bombing the crap out of stuff. So many cool videos, graphics, and analysis. But for lack of a theme song, it’s like a less gay Monday Night Football. Sports and war are great for American television – there’s winners and losers, good guys and bad guys, underdogs,and heaps of human interest. All you really need is a side to cheer for.

Usually, I root for the United States. Because it’s where I live, and it’s the country where the faithful have most closely realized Jesus’ vision of preserving wealth for the wealthy. If the US isn’t fighting, then I cheer for whatever English-speaking country has skin in the game, because English is the language of the Bible. Sometimes I honor the debt of gratitude incurred by the Greatest Generation and root for our former allies in World War II. But not the French, Russians, or Chinese. Because the French are from France, Putin is a jerk, and they never taught us about the Pacific theater in high school.

Every so often, though, I like to root for the smaller teams. Like when no one I care about is playing, or when there’s nothing on and I just want to see some destruction. Among the great things about the War on Terror – and there are many – are the number of teams. It’s like the World Cup! And that’s what got me into thinking about my favorite terrorist groups.

Oh sure, you’ve got your fan favorites, the big franchises like al Qaeda or underdog champions like Hezbollah, who beat league powerhouse Israel in the Lebanon Games in 2000 and again in 2006. I’ve also get Hezbollah in my office pool for the upcoming Syria Finals. Go Green!

Sometimes, you just love a team for it’s name, like the way I loved the Pittsburgh Pirates when I was a kid because their uniforms were so cool.  This is why I always follow the MILF. Sure, I’m not particularly interested in Islamist militants fighting for independence in the southern Philippines, but they’re called MILF! I imagine them running through the jungle in form fitting tank tops and capri pants taut over their shapely legs, their long hair no less lustrous for having just a hint of gray.

What if a group that has killed 2,000 people since 1999 in Nigeria was also responsible for one of the great anthems of the Summer of Love in 1967? It wasn’t, but Boko Haram is so close to Procol Harum it makes me turn a whiter shade of pale. Boko Haram actually means “Western Education is Sinful” in Hausa but that doesn’t mean  that they can’t skip a light fandango and turn cartwheels across the floor. Though they should probably take the Ak-47s off their shoulders first.

But if you’re really into the Global War on Terror, there’s no better team than the Mujahedeen e Khalq. The MEK is the true fan’s terrorist group. If you’re new to this, you might think they have to choose between nationalist, Islamist, Marxists, or messianic personality cults. What if you could have all four? That’s right, a quadruple threat – they’re like the Bo Jackson times two of terrorists, if Bo Jackson had attacked American servicemen, sided with Khomeini, turned against Khomeini, been part of the case for war against Iraq, and then become an ally of the US in the fight to thwart Iran’s nuclear program? Bo Jackson looks like kind of uninteresting now, doesn’t he? The guy could catch and throw an oblong piece of pigskin or a round piece of cowhide. Big whoop. You get your own Nike commercial for that?

As I’m sure you’ll remember, President Bush made a well-reasoned and air-tight case for war in Iraq. Among the many charges against Saddam was that he supported terrorist groups. One of the two groups the White House cited was the MEK. The MEK killed six Americans in Iran in the early 1970s. Once the Shah was gone the MEK spent 30 years targeting Iranians. You read that right, sports fans. We invaded Iraq because Saddam supported a group that was attacking Iran. Iran, our enemy that actually had nuclear weapons. Unlike Saddam, who turned out to be only stockpiling facial hair.

When was the last time you said “are you f$%king kidding me?” You feel like saying it now? Good. Because the terrorist group that was a motivation for the US invasion of Iraq then tipped off the US that Iran had restarted uranium enrichment in Natanz in 2002. We were so happy to find this out that we brought militants from the group to Nevada in 2005 for training. Actual training in combat, weapons and tactics. And the sauce on this bullshit barbecue sandwich? They were still on the State Department terrorist watch list at the time. Sure, they were a nationalist Islamist Marxist cult of personality that killed thousands of people. But then they started working with the Mossad to kill Iranian nuclear scientists. After all, you’re an Islamist terrorist group, it’s only natural that you would work with ISRAEL. This is a nationalist Islamist Marxist cult of personality that knows how to play big time ball! They leave it all on the field and other sports cliches, too!

The MEK got themselves off the terrorist watch list last year. Unlike your AAA league terrorist groups, the MEK could maim and kill AND hire high powered DC insiders to lobby on their behalf. They paid the former governor of Pennsylvania, Ed Rendell, $150,000 to speak on their behalf. And then they got Newt Gingrich on their side. The man who looks like an angry baby’s face was stuck on the front of a giant horndog marshmallow was caught on video bowing to the leader of the group. The MEK had lots of other help getting off the terrorism list, but Newt is the only one who is also a tireless advocate for space sex.

I wonder if he knows about the MILF. He’d be totally into them as long as they didn’t get cancer.

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