Myths and Ironies

Time magazine, as a recent commenter at its website recently put forth, is quickly becoming the National Enquirer (Or would it be the Star? Knowledgeable readers please advise.) of purportedly legitimate news organizationS. This week on Time we had the cheap, inflammatory cover, and cover story, “Why Israel Doesn’t Care About Peace.” Two weeks earlier it was “Is America Islamophobic?” What next? Is Obama American? Is John Boehner Human? Are There (Illegal) Aliens Among Us? That last would include a blurry night time image of a blob with antennae in the New Mexico desert flashing an expired visa.

About the Israel story I will say no more than I did in commentary at the Time site. As I recall, my comment began something like this: “Are you effing serious with that cover?” (I’m not always as decorous as I am here at the sad red earth.) But about such reporting, I have meant to call your kind attention to this post some time back from Elder of Ziyon, who detailed the long history of reported declarations of a “humanitarian crisis” in Gaza going all the way back to 1993, from a wide array of esteemed news, charitable, and human rights organizations. In recent weeks, as the evidence of no such crisis has become abundantly undeniable, these reports have ceased – with no call to account for nearly two decades biased misreporting.

Similarly, I pointed out here the argument Jonah Goldberg offered against hysterical accusations of American Islamophobia. I’ll repeat that I cite the author of the inane Liberal Fascism with a heavy heart, but as people sometimes stumble into the truth in deviance from the dictates of reason, so people sometimes make reasonable arguments without themselves being, entirely, reasonable people. Of course, given recent events there is an inflamed atmosphere, and as much as elements on the right have been intent on exploiting them to the desired paranoid, xenophobic effect, so elements on the left have jumped at the opportunity to create an injured minority in need of rescue from small minded America. In further support of Goldberg’s argument, however, the esteemed Elder offers tables. Here are two:

Switching back to Jews for a moment (don’t worry – I’ll be getting to Christians) the small, undemocratic thinking Charles Freeman keeps making, in the only venues that will have him, the rebarbative charge that one cannot criticize Israel because the “Jewish lobby” is so powerful.

There’s a deadening inhibition on discussion of many issues connected with the Israel-Palestine conundrum.

Given that critical complaint about U.S. policy toward Israel is by now, from some quarters, a constant, with, for instance two of the most widely read and cited bloggers – Andrew Sullivan and Glenn Greenwald – as issuers of regular and scathing critique, this charge is an argumentative inversion of Yogi Berra’s “Nobody goes there anymore; it’s too crowded.” Measure this against, say, the level of criticism of Egyptian or Saudi policy – from the one time Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Freeman, or others – and, of course, the charge is an absurdity. In effect, the complaint is that the policy is not what Freeman wants it to be. It’s like that.

Meanwhile, word came yesterday that the moron in Florida would not burn Korans. It’s always a wondrous marvel to observe religious absolutists condemn differing religious absolutists. And amid the cant pieties of secular obeisance to people and traditions “of faith” and the Kumbayah expressions of “interfaith dialogue,” one is expected to ignore that at the core of each faith is the unalterable error and false path of the others. Adapted to current times, if one completely rejects Christianity (not Christians) because one is Jewish or Hindu or Buddhist or a non-believer, that’s fine, part of the established discourse, unless one is the moron from Florida or his like. If one completely rejects Islam (not Muslims), one is likely tarred as Islamophobic.

Fortunately, now, the MiF will not wage incendiary battle against the hordes of Beelzebub. Unfortunately, supposedly serious news media gave attention to a boob with a bible and fifty sheep. I feel in need of international attention. What outlandish act can I threaten to commit that will get me an interview with Anderson Cooper? But there is another point to be made about all this – a point along the line that gets connected to Imam Rauf’s recent comments about the Islamic center controversy.

Overall, it seems clear Rauf knows he made a mistake, and he is looking for what he perceives as the best way out of it. It is also clear from observing and listening to him, in recent days and earlier, that while he may be practiced at discussing issues with the big time journalists and policy mavens, and at developing a vocabulary of bridging cultural divides within the Muslim community, he has an unrefined sense of certain essential American attitudes and a tin ear for the voices of non-Muslim Americans. He worried, in conversation with Soledad O’Brien, about possible dangerous responses from Muslims worldwide to any mishandled resolution of the controversy. I believe he was speaking practically, and probably feels a personal sense of moral responsibility at this point. But there were sensitive American listeners who took his warning of danger as a kind of threat. What Rauf does not get, it seems, is that many Americans do not want to hear – with any anticipated sympathy or understanding – that the expression of their beliefs and feelings could provoke violence against them. As a notion, that is about as contrary to the American idea as can be conceived.

So likewise, while the MiF is an MiF – and needed, once publicized, to be seriously addressed by the leading figures who sought to deter him – he is just an insignificant MiF, and the fact that Americans needed to be concerned that the actions of one insignificant MiF could cause an outbreak of violence among Muslims around the world is a problem that needs to be addressed not by Americans but by Muslims, more immediately by American Muslims. Famously, in 1978 and 79, when American Nazis wanted – purposefully, provocatively – to march through Skokie, Illinois, a town with a significant population of Holocaust survivors, their right to do so was defended by the American Civil Liberties Union, an organization with a substantial Jewish membership and leadership. A profound advance will have been made in the integration of Muslim faith into the American fabric when enough American Muslim leaders, such as Rauf, speak to that ideal as strongly as to any religious principle.

This is not to say, though, that Americans do not forget essential principles. All the reprehensible boobs who toted a holstered gun to a political rally over the past two years, and right wing candidate twits who have invoked the second amendment and rebellion as part of their run for office, because they don’t like the health care legislation, or still haven’t come to terms with Social Security or John Marshal’s establishment of a judicial right of review – every one of them has invoked not a proud American tradition, but the same barbaric inclination to intolerant violence as the Muslim elements by whom they may feel themselves provoked.

Meanwhile, amid all these debates about American ideals and American sensitivities, there has been no Time cover story on the languishing Cobell settlement. Since I last reported on the story, there has been a sixth extension of the deadline for congressional approval of the Obama administration’s settlement of the fourteen-year old suit to address the culmination of a centuries-old wrong against American Indians. This is from the most recent letter from lead plaintiff Elouise Cobell, highlighting many causes of the usual disregard, including the role of Wyoming Senator John Barrasso, acting in the fine American tradition of exploiting differences among Indians to do them wrong.

Throughout the session which ended Aug. 5, our attorneys and I continued to work with our allies in the Senate to get attached to a bill the Senate would pass. Before the Senate recessed, leadership brought our case to a vote through a procedure called unanimous consent. This simply means the Senate could pass the bill so long as no senator objects; if anyone objects, the bill does not pass. This measure did not pass as a result of Sen. Barrassos’, R-Wyo., ongoing objection to the settlement. As I reported in an earlier Ask Elouise letter, Sen. Barrasso hasn’t made a secret of his desire to kill the settlement, going against the will of the tribes in his own state and all but a handful of disgruntled critics.

It is becoming more likely that Congress will not pass settlement legislation. Indeed, it is unusual for any settlement or judgment to be conditioned on political acceptance by Congress. The Judgment Fund, a permanently appropriated fund, was created decades ago by Congress to pay for all settlements and judgments against the United States.

It has two purposes: First, to exclude final judgments and settlements against the United States from the uncertainties of the political process, and second, to restore the reputation of the United States, which had become a deadbeat nation. Simply put, politics routinely blocked payment of the government’s debt obligations.

Sadly, we seem to be heading that way again. Our settlement agreement was executed Dec. 7, 2009, more than eight months ago, and I know of no reason to believe that our prospects will improve as we get closer to the mid-term elections. In fact, they are likely to get worse.

Nevertheless, after endless hearings and debates in Congress about our case and its settlement, we have gathered a massive amount of support from members of Congress. I am informed that if we ever come to a vote in the Senate that we have sufficient votes to safely beat any filibuster.

For this reason, I have carefully considered our options, consulted with scores of beneficiaries, listened to their concerns, and talked to our attorneys before making a decision to extend the agreement for what is likely to be the last time. I’m especially mindful of the fact that the vast majority of beneficiaries want this settlement to work because it is a fair deal. For these reasons, I’ve decided to extend the settlement agreement through Oct. 15, 2010.

MiF, lots of attention. Native America, not so much.



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