One Final Perilous Journey For Gertrude Bell

by James M. Wall

The film, Queen of the Desert, begins with a distant image of a small group of travelers moving across a vast desert. Two sentences flash across the screen, setting the stage for what is to follow:

The onset of the First World War hastened the demise of the Ottoman Empire, which had ruled the Middle East for five centuries. The colonial powers set their eyes on dividing the spoils. 

The film then moves to a small room in which British army officers gather around a table with a minister from the War office, the future British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill.

The officers and Churchill  are looking at a map of the colonial “spoils”. Churchill asks: “How do we delineate the borders?.  . . Who knows best about the tribes? . . .Who knows best about the Bedouin tribes?”

The officers reluctantly agree among themselves, “That woman”.

“That woman” is Gertrude Bell (left), a British archaeologist, writer, traveler, and a diplomat, who worked in a time of intense Western colonialism.

After a delay of two years, the public finally has a limited DVD access to a motion picture that rescues Bell from the history books and should introduce her to a wider public.

The film is Queen of the Desert, based on the real-life story of Gertrude Bell  (1868-1926)(Nicole Kidman), a humanitarian among those human colonialist scorpions who were roaming the deserts in search of prey and profits. 

To the indigenous people of the region, Bell is better known, and far more appreciated, than T. E. Lawrence, portrayed by Peter O’Toole in David Lean’s 1962 film, Lawrence of Arabia. 

The difference between the two? Bell was a woman and a natural diplomat, while Lawrence was a male warrior, glamorized through David Lean’s film.

Lean’s film rescued Lawrence from oblivion, which Queen of the Desert should have done for Gertrude Bell. It has failed to do so, not because of its lack of merit, but because the film industry determines what it thinks will sell.

Our popular understanding of history is shaped through popular culture, where films, television and now, social media, play definitive roles.

Military exploits have a greater popular appeal than diplomacy, while a film depicting Arab history as it really was, colonial exploitation of indigenous populations, goes against the popular narrative.

Gertrude Bell was an exception to the norm.  She actually cared about the people of the Levant. Her books, and books about her, underscore this. 

What was it that kept the film Queen of the Desert from the public for two years and then only grudgingly granted it very limited distribution? No one is saying. The fact remains, however, that Hollywood knew the story of Gertrude Bell violated a narrative written and protected by Zionism.

Levant history before 1947 was of little consequence, a period best left unexamined. 

Queen of the Desert was initially screened in 2015 at the prestigious Berlin Film Festival. It was nominated for the festival’s highest award, the Golden Bear. Directed by noted German director Werner Herzog and beautifully photographed on locations in Jordan and Morocco, the film was a natural for American “art house” screenings.

With Nicole Kidman (above) as the film’s star, and a script by Herzog, which examined the role Gertrude Bell played in modern history, film companies should have battled for U.S. distribution.

They did not. Films that violate the conventional historical narrative do not sell, or so it is assumed by the historically ignorant decision-makers of Hollywood.

The film focuses on a Middle East before Israel entered the historical stage. Could that reality play a role in Hollywood’s reluctance to embrace Queen of the Desert?

I am reminded of a West Wing episode in which President Bartlett was given an authentic map of the Levant from 1709, the region which Gertrude Bell came to love centuries later.

President Bartlett’s staff members all had the same reaction to Bartlett’s plan to frame and post the map in the White House:

“You can’t do that, some people will be offended because Israel is not on the map”. Puzzled, Bartlett said Israel did not exist when the map was made. “Doesn’t matter, some people will be offended”, was the insistent response. (click below to see a short clip).

The Desert Queen covers history in the World War I era. Israel did not exist then. Israel did not exist until the United Nations yielded to Zionist pressure and declared Israel a state in 1947.

That could explain why after its 2015 festival showing, Queen of the Desert dropped from sight. A Nicole Kidman film was shelved for two years.

When Queen of the Desert had its limited run earlier this year, it finally surfaced. There was still money to be made so the film now has DVD exposure. On October 3, Netflix and sites like Amazon, began renting or selling copies.

Gertrude Bell was there when the modern Middle East was formed. Because of her personal and caring knowledge of tribes and their leaders, she was used by the victorious nations after World War I to draw borders and choose leaders who became kings.

A sensitive film which examines the life of one of the most significant women of the 20th century, is ending its journey deep into the archives of film history, a journey noticed by only a few.

The picture above of Gertrude Bell between Winston Churchill (left) and T.E. Lawrence, was taken in Cairo, Egypt, in the early 1920s.

It is an unfortunate fact of history that this photograph is viewed as one of a future  British Prime Minister, the real “Lawrence of Arabia”, and “that woman”.

The film industry missed its chance to give Queen of the Desert, the story of Gertrude Bell, the same prominence it gave Lawrence. Is there yet another perilous journey to be made that would jar Western culture and its leaders into the reality of the Levant?

The answer is yes, but not until Zionism loses its grip on its version of the region’s narrative. And not until humanitarians in the spirit of Gertrude Bell, reshape our understanding of history back to what really happened.

Posted in -Movies and politics, Middle East, Movies, Uncategorized | 8 Comments

October Arrives With Martin Luther at 500

By James M. Wall

October Sky begins on the night of October 5, 1957. Residents of the town of Coalwood, West Virginia, peer into the October sky, some with binoculars, searching for a brief glimpse of Sputnik, the first Russian-launched satellite.

The film is based on Rocket Boys, a memoir written by Homer H. Hickam Jr. The memoir tells the true story of four boys in a coal-mining town in Appalachia, each determined to build a rocket that will soar into the sky. It is a serious project. The boys want to help get America back into the “space race.”

At the film’s conclusion, we discover what their experiences as “Rocket Boys” prepared them to do as adults.

The celebration of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union is the first of two anniversaries in October, 2017.

The second will arrive October 31, preceded by other events, all pointing to the day 500 years ago when Martin Luther, according to one account, nailed his Ninety-five Theses to the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg on October 31, 1517.

These celebrations look back at one contest between nations, and a second struggle between a church hierarchy and a growing demand for theological openness.

The “thesis” is a list Luther offered to debate with church authorities.

Luther proposed an academic discussion of the practice and efficacy of indulgences in his Ninety-five Theses of 1517. (For more, click here.) 

It is notable that these two events were of a peaceful nature, though, as sinful nations and institutions are wont to do, subsequent events in those contests turned violent.

In the space race, from commanders like John Glenn to the African-American women who under the burden of racial segregation provided crucial technical assistance, a large number of individuals acted positively to give the U.S. an edge.  

The African-American contribution to the space race is creatively portrayed in the recent film, Hidden Figures.  

Key to both, however, is that at turning points, key individuals emerged to provide practical and inspirational leadership for movements long in gestation. 

For the Reformation, which Luther’s defiant 95 thesis moment indicates, a single man provided a key movement, and drove it forward.

Daniel Graves, webmaster for the Christian History Institute, discusses Luther at a critical moment in the reforming process:

Most famous of all Luther’s quotable words are those from the Diet (Assembly) of Worms (1521). Commanded to repudiate his writings, he stood alone with his conscience against an array of powerful clergy and statesmen.

The official transcript quotes him as saying, “Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason (I do not accept the authority of popes and councils because they have contradicted each other), my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. So help me God. Amen.”

Luther’s collected works, issued later under his supervision, give the closing words as, “Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God. Amen.” It is that version of his speech that has come down so memorably to posterity.

The Concordia Publishing House blog, The Word Endures, shares the painting below of Luther Before the Diet of Worms by Anton von Werner (1843–1915).

In the space race, the two nations in contention for space superiority, have spent decades threatening and preparing for conflict, but on the night of October 5, 1957, it was a non-violent, competitive struggle. 

The U.S. Secretary of State, Rex W. Tillerson, is currently engaging a bellicose North Korea in negotiations to reduce the tensions between the two nations. His boss appears to be playing a good cop-bad cop game with him. 

In the space race, which has led to joint space projects for the U.S. and Russia, talk produced positive results. From the 95 thesis moment, the Christian Church emerged stronger than it was as an autocratic institution. 

Anniversary celebrations are in order for negotiations over violent conflict. 

Posted in Movies | 4 Comments

Two Speeches at Fulton, 71 Years Apart

by James M. Wall

Bernie Sanders went to Westminster College, in Fulton, Missouri, Thursday, and delivered a policy speech in the same academic setting that brought former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, to Fulton, 71 years ago, March 5, 1946.

Churchill’s historic “Iron Curtain” speech. is seen as the opening salvo in the Cold War. This week, Bernie Sanders had a different focus.

The 2016 Democratic primary candidate who opposed Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination, came to Fulton to lay out a U.S. foreign policy not for war but for peace and equality. 

The Nation magazine editors commented:

[Sanders] reminds us that hundreds of millions live in poverty, dying of preventable diseases, while arms makers rake in trillions from weapons of war. He reminds us that America’s history of interventions—from Iran to Chile to right now in Yemen—have a habit of having devastating results.  ​​

It was a different time when Churchill spoke in 1946. The U.S., Great Britain and its allies had just emerged victorious from World War II.  The Soviet Union, the U.S. and Great Britain were pawing the ground like two bull moose eager to fight.

The Churchill speech March 5, 1946, is remembered by historians as “one of the most famous orations of the Cold War period”.  In his famous oratorical style, the former Prime Minister etched these words into history:

 “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the continent.”

It was a call to a war-oriented future.

In his speech at Westminster College, Senator Sanders, an Independent from Vermont, drew  “a direct link between the United States’ foreign policy and his own longstanding message of economic equality”.

He stressed that “the planet will not be secure or peaceful when so few have so much and so many have so little.”

Foreign policy must take into account the outrageous income and wealth inequality that exists globally and in our own country. There is no moral or economic justification for the six wealthiest people in the world having as much wealth as the bottom half of the world’s population, 3.7 billion people.

Churchill was bellicose; Sanders pleaded for equality. One pointed to future wars; the other called for peace.  

Jason Hancock wrote in the Kansas City Star:

The goal of Sanders’ speech was to lay out a progressive vision for foreign policy that focuses on international collaboration, humanitarian concerns and the promotion of democracy. The key must be building partnerships, he concluded, not just between governments, but between people.

“Our safety and welfare is bound up in the safety and welfare of people throughout the world,” he said. “Every person on this planet shares a common humanity. … Our job is to build on that common humanity and do everything we can to oppose the forces who try to divide us up and set us against each other.”

Far too often, the use of American military power has resulted in incalculable harm, Sanders said, pointing specifically at the war in Iraq. America must not recede from the world stage, Sanders said, but it must rethink its priorities.

“The goal is not for the United States to dominate the world. Nor is our goal to withdraw from the international community and shirk our responsibilities under the banner of ‘America first.’ Our goal should be global engagement based on partnership rather than dominance,” he said.

Aware that he was speaking from the site of Churchill’s Iron Curtain speech, Sanders said:

The United States’ actions during the Cold War in supporting “murderous regimes” around the world continue to make the nation less safe. Fast forward to the Iraq War, which Sanders said was a huge mistake, and he said it’s clear that U.S. aggression helped create Islamic State and other threats that are still bedeviling the nation.

Even today, Sanders said, America’s support of “Saudi Arabia’s intervention in Yemen” dramatically undermines “America’s ability to advance a human rights agenda around the world.”

That also means the United States cannot only preach its values, he said. It must live its values.

“If we’re going to expound the virtues of freedom and democracy abroad, we need to practice those values here at home,” Sanders said. “That means continuing the struggle to end racism, sexism, xenophobia and homophobia in the United States.”

How good was the speech? Fox did not like it. Not surprising.

John Nichols, in The Nation, called it one of Sanders’ finest speeches. Nichols wrote: “Borrowing from the wisdom of great American legislators such as Wisconsin’s Robert M. La Follette, Nebraska’s George Norris, and California’s Barbara Lee, Sanders spoke for the view that America leads best when it leads as an advocate for peace and justice rather than as a bully”:

It was 71 years after Winston Churchill’s speech that Sanders said:

The goal is not for the United States to dominate the world. Nor, on the other hand, is our goal to withdraw from the international community and shirk our responsibilities under the banner of “America First.”

Our goal should be global engagement based on partnership, rather than dominance. This is better for our security, better for global stability, and better for facilitating the international cooperation necessary to meet shared challenges.

Do I hear an amen on that?

The picture above is a screen shot from Westminster College

Posted in Uncategorized | 13 Comments

Israel Lobbies Shaping Illinois Governor’s Race

by James M. Wall

A foreign nation is having an impact on the Illinois Democratic 2018 primary campaign for governor.

Israel’s lobbies, led by AIPAC, are demanding absolute loyalty to Israel from all leading candidates.

Few Illinois voters know the difference between Ramallah and Ramla.

Israel’s lobbies do not care what voters know.

What they do care about, is that the Illinois Democratic nominee for governor, must be loyal to Israel.

The leading Democratic candidate in the March 20, 2018, primary, is J.B. Pritkzer, one of the nation’s richest men. The winner will face incumbent Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner in the 2018 general election.

Running further down in the Democratic primary pack had been the team pictured above on the campaign trail, State Senator Daniel Biss (left), candidate for governor and Chicago Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, candidate for lt. governor.

Now the two have split over BDS, a litmus test AIPAC uses to measure loyalty.

Biss and Ramirez-Rosa had been favored by the state’s Progressive voting bloc, until the split.

As Robert Mueller and congressional committees dig into Russia’s role in the 2016 election, the Biss and Ramirez-Rosa progressive candidacy was smashed by Israel’s intervention in Illinois politics.

What’s the difference between Russian and Israeli intervention?

One nation has a U.S. base in the form of lobbies. The other does not have a base, unless it is eventually proven that the Trump campaign served as a Russian lobby-agent for Russia. 

Ali Abunimah describes in his Electronic Intifada how the BDS issue has shaped the Democratic race.  

Pressure from the Israel lobby has forced a promising progressive politician out of the 2018 Illinois governor’s race.

Only a week ago there was much grassroots excitement when Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, a member of Chicago’s city council, was named as the running mate of Democratic gubernatorial hopeful, State Senator Daniel Biss.

Ramirez-Rosa, who was a Bernie Sanders delegate during last year’s Democratic Party convention, is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA).

His selection was also a nod to the growing political role of Illinois’ Latino population; Ramirez-Rosa represents a diverse, majority Latino ward on Chicago’s northwest side. He has previously spoken about how experiencing discrimination as a gay person and a Latino has shaped his progressive politics.

DSA has seen a huge surge in membership since last year’s election, and just last month the socialist grassroots organization overwhelmingly endorsed the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign for Palestinian rights.

But that support for Palestinian rights has come up against the hard reality of the Israel lobby’s continued grip on elite sections of the Democratic Party.

Biss initially had made a smart move for his candidacy, when he reached into a Chicago Latino ward and made Ramirez-Rosa his running mate. But after some well-reviewed campaigning, a difference on BDS surfaced.

Ramirez-Rosa revealed that his opposition to BDS was on the national level, not the state. AIPAC warned State Senator Biss, no wavering on BDS.

For that “sin” of his running mate, Daniel Biss was forced to capitulate to Tel Aviv. Ramirez-Rosa withdrew his candidacy on a Facebook post which announced his departure from the Biss campaign.

“While I was honored to be chosen as Senator Daniel Biss’ gubernatorial running mate, it became clear over the past few days that while we share a total commitment to peace, security, and statehood for the Israeli and Palestinian people, and both oppose pursuing BDS at the state level, the difference of opinion we have on the role the BDS movement plays at the federal level would make it impossible to continue moving forward as a ticket.: 

Ramirez-Rosa had to go. Biss knew what he had to do. He dumped his running mate.

How exactly did Ramirez-Rosa go wrong ?

Abunimah explained: “Ramirez-Rosa appears to be indicating that he does not contest the first-in-the-nation anti-BDS bill passed by Illinois in 2015, but does oppose pending federal legislation, the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, that has been widely criticized as violating First Amendment free speech rights.”

Where will Illinois progressive go now? There are no leading candidates left who are willing to oppose the Lobby.

On Friday, still hoping to keep his Progressive base, Biss tapped an African American woman, state representative Litesa Wallace, from Rockford, to replace Ramirez-Rosa. In Illinois, candidates for governor and lieutenant governor must run as a team.

Currently leading in the race for governor, is Democrat J.B., Pritkzer, or J.B. as he calls himself in his already extensive TV ad campaign six months before the primary.

J.B. did not have to be recruited or threatened into loyalty to Israel. He is well-established in the Pro-Israel camp.

Abunimah describes Pritzker as “the billionaire scion of a prominent pro-Israel family, who has supported such anti-Palestinian causes as Friends of the IDF, an organization that raises tens of millions of dollars a year to support soldiers in the Israeli army.”

Pritzker’s philanthropic work is well known. It includes the Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Skokie. He led the capital campaign to build the center.

The Pritzker family is one of the wealthiest in America. The family annually ranks near the top of Forbes magazine’s “America’s Richest Families” list. The family is well known for owning the Hyatt hotel chain. 

Pritzer’s sister, Penny, was a strong supporter of Barack Obama. She served in the President’s cabinet as Secretary of Commerce.

The other major candidate in the Democratic primary is Chris Kennedy, the nephew of President John F. Kennedy. He played a key role in the 2014 firing of Steven Salaita by the University of Illinois over tweets critical of Israel’s attack on Gaza.

Said Jilani reported for The Intercept, that the all out lobby pressure against the Ramirez-Rosa ticket began when

. . . .Illinois congressman Brad Schneider wrote a Facebook post on Sunday attacking Ramirez-Rosa for his “affiliation with a group that is an outspoken supporter of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel.”

Jilani notes that Ramirez-Rosa’s own statements on the question of Palestine “have been critical of the status quo but hardly extreme.” He has, for instance, pointed out that the US has “subsidized the oppression of the Palestinian people” and stated that “people stand with Israel, but they also want to make sure that Palestinian people have [justice].”

Schneider, by contrast, has been an extreme supporter of Israel. According to Jilani, the congressman “has long been affiliated with the right-wing pro-Israel lobby, which tolerates little dissent on the issue.”

Pro-Israel money was a major source of funding for his 2016 election campaign – a whopping $318,000 dollars.

Illinois is just one state. Nor did Biss pose much of a threat to Pritzer or Kennedy, both with backpacks crammed full with Israeli bona fides.

Nevertheless, the Israeli lobbies takes no chances. No campaign is too small, nor too local, to assure that Israel’s control over American politics remains absolute. 

The picture at top is from Facebook. 

Posted in Middle East, Middle East Politics, Politics and Elections | 4 Comments

MLK Jr. Wrote From Jail: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”

by James M. Wall

Another day, another Donald Trump tweet. This one came Thursday, August 17, a few hours after a van plowed into a crowd on the Barcelona pedestrian mall of Las Ramblas, Spain.

The Islamic state claimed credit for the attack. President Trump tweeted, via iPhone:

Study what General Pershing of the United States did to terrorists when caught. There was no more Radical Islamic Terror for 35 years!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 17, 2017

The Atlantic debunked the story:

It seemed to be a reference to a story Trump told at campaign rallies during the 2016 primaries, which in turn was a garbled version of an Islamophobic meme that has made its way around the internet for years.

In the fable, the legendary U.S. General John J. Pershing once ended a wave of Muslim terrorism in the Philippines by executing prisoners with bullets dipped in pigs’ blood. Other superstitious fighters were so terrified by the prospect of being killed while touching part of a forbidden animal, the story goes, that fighting immediately stopped, for some period of time.

(For 25 years, Trump said at a North Charleston, South Carolina, rally in February 2016; a few weeks later, in Costa Mesa, California, it had jumped up to 42.)

This story of General Pershing and Pig Blood, is not only false; it also reveals Trump’s ability to continually lie to evoke applause and cheers for himself.

The Pershing false story is also an ugly demonstration of Trump’s repeated use of Islamophobia as a political tool. It is a statement of injustice.

Polling indicates the base which provides the applause and cheers he craves, has dropped into the lower 30 percent approval rating.

Trump did not cause this moral collapse. He found it sitting there, waiting for someone with his bravado and narcissism to turn the public’s innate fear of others into a narrow political upset.

The metaphor which I find best addresses the phenomenon of Donald Trump, is the school yard bully who gains power through force and intimidation.

In my faith tradition, Joshua 24:15, gives the declaration of how best to confront and reject the school yard bully, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord”.

Others, who follow a different faith, or no organized faith, find their moral center in different ways, choosing between  good and evil from a center that will not yield to easy exploitation of their weaknesses.

How Trump responded to Charlottesville, with his “both sides” comment, was the lowest point in a series of his political low points, beginning with the racist “birther” nonsense at the start of his presidential campaign.

CNN reported on Charlottesville:

A group of white supremacists — screaming racial, ethnic and misogynistic epithets — rallied in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday, August 19. One person was killed and 19 others were injured when a car sped into a group of counter-protesters.

This is what the President of the United States said about it:

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides. On many sides. It’s been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. This has been going on for a long, long time.”

. . . It’s hard to imagine a less presidential statement in a time in which the country looks to its elected leader to stand up against intolerance and hatred. . . .

Both sides don’t scream racist and anti-Semitic things at people with whom they disagree. They don’t base a belief system on the superiority of one race over others. They don’t get into fistfights with people who don’t see things their way. They don’t create chaos and leave a trail of injured behind them.

We have reached a point in our national distress where we need a moral leader like Martin Luther King, Jr., ready to lead others into a revolt against the absence of a moral center in the nation.

The churches of King’s era, the 1960s, engaged with great strength in battles against the Vietnam War and for women’s equality. Racial inequality, in contrast, was treated gingerly. Church leaders were slow to confront the racial status quo.

On August 27, 2009, I wrote a Wall Writings posting which looked back to a time when  Martin Luther King, Jr., sat in a Birmingham, Alabama, jail cell, writing a letter on April, 16, 1963, to Protestant, Catholic and Jewish leaders in Birmingham.

In June 1963, the Christian Century was the first large-circulation magazine to publish the full text of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”

King addressed them as “My Dear Fellow Clergymen” since they were all duly recognized as clergy leaders (five of them were bishops) and they were all male.

In his letter,  he wrote:

“I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid. . . .

I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. . .

You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations.”

“Go slow; our people are not ready”. The church mantra of the 1960s was immoral then; it is immoral in 2017.

What can we do about Trump? We can start where we have leverage. With strong moral leaders we must begin to build a movement as passionate and active as Donald Trump’s base.

We need a collection of new Martin Luther Kings, Jr., leaders who believe “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice”, and are willing to go to jail in defense of that conviction.

♦ ♦♦♦

Finally, a personal note:

On August 13, my wife, Mary Eleanor Wall, fell on her side and suffered serious bruises. Fortunately, she has no broken bones. The bruises have landed her in a walker and wheel chair, which I push.

My role as care-giver will require that Wall Writings appear infrequently during her recovery period. 

The picture above of Martin Luther King, Jr., in jail, is from USINFO Photo Gallery.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Phoenix Mayor to Trump: Cancel Your Rally

by James M. Wall

Updated 5:45 MST Tuesday, August 22:

Defying Mayor Greg Stanton’s request that he cancel his Tuesday night rally in Phoenix, the New York Times reported that the Trump rally and the protests would go forward.   

Large protests are expected near the president’s rally in downtown Phoenix on Tuesday night, his first such event since he drew wide condemnation for his comments on the violence in Charlottesville, Va., this month.

The rally, scheduled for 7 p.m. local time at the Phoenix Convention Center, is Mr. Trump’s first visit as president to Arizona, where he made fiery remarks on a signature issue — immigration — during his election campaign last year. . . .

Earlier:

To hold, or not to hold, a Trump rally in Phoenix next Tuesday: that is the question Donald Trump should be asking himself right now.

The Mayor of Phoenix, Arizona, Greg Stanton, (left) has asked President Trump to postpone his campaign-style rally scheduled for the Phoenix Convention Center, on Tuesday, August 22, because “our nation is still healing from the tragic events at Charlottesville.”

Trump has said he wants to pardon former Phoenix Sheriff Joe Arpaio. If that is Trump’s intention for the Phoenix rally, the Mayor said, “then it will be clear that his true intent is to enflame tensions and further divide our nation.”

To hold or not to hold, is the Hamlet-like question Trump must ask himself.

On Wednesday, “A senior Trump campaign adviser told ABC News, “Barring any unforeseen events between now and then, there is no chance we will delay the rally.”

There is good reason to assume Trump chose Phoenix for next Tuesday’s rally for the sole purpose of enflaming his shrinking base with his pardon announcement.

Trump signaled that intent when he told Fox News in an interview this week that

. . . he may pardon former metro Phoenix Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who recently was convicted in federal court for disobeying a judge’s order to stop his traffic patrols that targeted immigrants.

A federal judge ruled in 2013 that Arpaio’s officers had racially profiled Latinos.

Arpaio, 85, is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 5, and faces up to six months in jail. Attorneys who have followed the case doubt someone his age would be incarcerated, however.

Mayor Stanton, noting that the site of the rally was “a public facility and open for anyone to rent—and that includes the Trump campaign,” wants the rally canceled.

The Mayor added that if it is held, he is “focused on making sure the event was safe for everyone”.

The Trump campaign’s announcement that the rally will not be postponed, came a day after Trump drew near-universal outcry after saying “both sides” were to blame for a deadly weekend of protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, where white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups clashed with counter protesters.

In Hamlet’s soliloquy, he was contemplating his own suicide. It begins:

To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them?

Trump has shown no signs that he is capable of even considering his own “to hold or not to hold” question, a decision which could lead, or not lead, to his ultimate political suicide.

His daily tweets, and his unscripted public statements, have demonstrated that he does not contemplate what he decides to do or say. He acts on impulse, not on understanding.

Gore Vidal’s script for the 1964 film, The Best Man, includes this exchange between two candidates for the presidential nomination, Joe Cantwell (Cliff Robertson). and William Russell (Henry Fonda).

Cantwell: I don’t understand you.

Russell: I know you don’t. Because you have no sense of responsibility toward anybody or anything. And that is a tragedy in a man, and it is a disaster in a president.

No sense of responsibility for others has been a Trump character flaw since he began his campaign with his Obama Birther Lie. It should have been clear that he had no sense of responsibility for others, nor was he remotely qualified for the position he sought.

Six months into his term, U.S. Senators from his own party have begun to come out from the shadows and say what they had to have known before Chalottesville.

The Boston Globe counted those early-rising Republican senators who were aroused from their Trump stupor by Charlottesville. As of Friday, the list was short:

Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, questioned the president’s “stability,” and Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, the only black Republican in the Senate, declared Trump’s ‘‘moral authority is compromised.’’

Another GOP Senator, Dan Sullivan of Alaska, tweeted, ‘‘Anything less than complete & unambiguous condemnation of white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and the KKK by the @POTUS is unacceptable. Period.’’

Corker, a sober voice on foreign policy and a frequent ally of the Trump administration, bluntly questioned the president’s ability to perform the duties of his office.

“The president has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability, nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful,” Corker told reporters. He said Trump had not “appropriately spoken to the nation” about Charlottesville, Va.

Scott insisted that he would not “defend the indefensible” when it came to the president’s comments about “both sides” in Charlottesville being responsible for the violence last Saturday.

The decision Trump makes about Phoenix awaits. Trump could create another violent clash in Phoenix next Tuesday or he could escape a devastating political silver bullet.

Will Trump hold his rally or cancel it? Will other stupefied members of Congress wake up and see the light?

We will soon know.

The picture above of Mayor Stanton is a screen shot from the Rachel Maddow television program.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Slavery Did Not Die; It Still Peddles Its Evil

by James M. Wall

The Professor asks”: “What could be worse than the soul-shredding evil of racism during the era of human bondage?”

This question is posed by a professor of African and Middle East History at the University of North Texas. Her name is Constance Hilliard. 

Fortunately for the rest of us, she also writes a​ blog,​​ Soul Wisdom.

Again: “What could be worse than the soul-shredding evil of racism during the era of human bondage?” 

In her recent blog posting, Dr. Hilliard offers her answer to her question.

My answer would be creating a world of make-believe so fortified by lies that those who lived within it could believe that slaves didn’t mind it in the least when their children were sold from their trembling arms or when their wives were sexually assaulted by the plantation owner.”

Current parallel examples abound that link this nation’s period of slavery and continued segregation to our current period with Donald Trump as our president.

Donald J. Trump’s immigration policy is based on what he feels is the white Christian American’s superior faith and race. Mexicans will face a wall if Trump is allowed his say. A select number of Muslim citizens from countries tagged by Trump as dangerous will be denied a brighter future than the one we gave them with our totally unjustified wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Everyone else will be judged qualified to enter our nation built by immigrants, entirely on their English proficiency and job skills.

While looking for some way to address this continued misconduct by our current President, I found Professor Hilliard on Daily Kos, a progressive writer on a progressive site.

Professor Hilliard is a regular contributor to Daily Kos. Read her opening lines above again, slowly. Click on the highlighted title and read the entire posting.

She links two mindsets, one that, in a major way, delivered Donald Trump to us, and another in 19th-century America where economic developments made it easy to inveigle a God-fearing, Bible-believing public in cotton-growing states, to accept slavery as God-given.

Professor Hilliard explains how slavery spreads its evil into our lives today:

While the institution of forced labor was dismantled after the Civil War, the peculiar mindset that defined reality as whatever the patriarch said it was, regardless of the evidence of one’s own senses, escaped the confines of the South and spread to other areas of white working class America.

It was a worldview built on an invented moral authority. Southern evangelicals had fought the abolitionism of their northern evangelical counterparts by creating a new hermeneutics — Biblical literalism.

It proclaimed that anything theologians found in the world of 2,000 years ago as having made its way into the Bible could be declared sacrosanct and God-inspired.

Critical thinking skills, even personal observation, were disdained for the proclamations of the patriarchal leader. In that context, lies were whatever liberals said, and the truth was the patriarch’s mumblings.

In the time of slavery and the segregated racial divide that followed, generations of “patriarchal” religious leaders and their institutions believed, taught and enforced, what Hilliard described quite accurately as “an invented moral authority”.

Last time I looked, major American Protestant ruling bodies were still  “debating” what they feel about the evil of Israel’s occupation of Palestine. Debates have long been one of evil’s favorite tools of deception.

The modern mindset which Trump embodies and exploits, is part of a discontent which allowed our current president to ride into a job he lacks normal skills to handle.

As Jimmy Carter pointed out in his 1979 address, “Crisis of Confidence”, economic disparity, as gross as the economic disparity that created slavery, still has the power to build a fake reality, a reality that only a Trump can handle.

In her recent posting, Hilliard focuses our attention on the reality of  darkness in our culture, one that surfaced in a major way in the evils of slavery and now, 200 years later, is surfacing to impose new iterations of evil on present and future modern generations.

That darkness comes in various shapes and shows itself constantly through human action, just as it has done since those days when Adam and Eve resided harmoniously together in the Garden. 

Until, that is, they did not. They created a new existence when they came up with their own “invented moral authority”.

Since then, that darkness has continued to surface in a particularly ugly form in those moments of human history when forgotten, ignored, or unlearned, normal restraints disappear in a power-grabbing cloud of dust.

We are in a moment when grand juries will come and go, and presidents may come and go. But evil will persist and remain attractive to those vulnerable to easy answers crafted by earlier generations of land-grabbing, human exploiters.

As Hilliard writes, that exploitation surfaced in one of this nation’s darkest moments and made slavery morally acceptable as an essential tool in our nation’s economy.

In our current moment, the general population still feels the effect of slavery as we desert “the least of these”, and deny the reality that all people are equal.

Whatever name we give to our transcendent power, we must consider the possibility that this power is groaning in agony as nations continue to choose and then embrace politics powered by a satanic “invented moral authority”.

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Jimmy Carter Warned of Trumpism in 1979

by James M. Wall

Last week brought more ill-informed, mean-spirited acts from our current President.  Before reviewing some of those acts, pause with me for a moment to give thanks for Jimmy Carter.

Here is just the latest reason to be thankful for our 39th President.

President Carter delivered a speech from his White House Oval Office, July 15, 1979, which John Farmer, Jr. describes as “a prophetic 1979 warning of Trumpism”. 

Farmer, former attorney general of New Jersey, and now a professor at Rutgers School of Law at the Eagleton Institute of Politics, wrote a guest column for the Newark, NJ, Star-Ledger, on January 16, which examines Carter’s speech:

Farmer begins by quoting from the speech:

“We’ve always believed in something called progress. We’ve always had a faith that the days of our children would be better than our own. Our people are losing that faith … “

Farmer writes that President Carter’s speech “offers an uncannily prescient perspective on the urgent question: how did we get here”?

Carter “warned of a spiritual crisis that he identified as toxic to American ideals. In describing that crisis, moreover, he might well have had the lifestyle and values of his 21st century successor in mind”.

Farmer quotes Carter further:

“[T]oo many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns. But we’ve discovered that owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning. We’ve learned that piling up material goods cannot fill the emptiness of lives which have no confidence or purpose.”

A full audio copy of Carter’s speech may be accessed by clicking here

In a Hollywood 2016 movie, 20th Century Women, starring Annette Bening, two minutes of Carter’s speech,”Crisis of Confidence”, was heard by Bening. Images in the film clip below illustrate what she hears. 

Click here to view.

In our current crisis, our newly-elected President Donald Trump began this past week exploiting and disrespecting The Boy Scouts’ Oath and Law before a crowd of more than 35,000 Boy Scouts, their parents and leaders.

Trump appeared oblivious to the reality that he was addressing leading figures, scouts and leaders, in an organization that now has 2.4 million youth participants and nearly one million adult volunteers.

Trump cited the Scout law, but got no further than the word “loyalty”, before he went off on a tirade about the lack of loyalty he encounters these days. He then told a story about a wealthy American tycoon which he hinted might have some naughty bits. 

As a former member of Boy Scout Troop 505, Monroe, Georgia, I was disgusted with the President’s speech at this year’s Boy Scout Jamboree.

Steven Bosak, a Cub Scout leader and a parent, took to the pages of the Washington Post to weigh in on the President’s speech. He lamented:

My youngest Cub Scout could have watched that speech and realized that no Scout should think of Trump as a role model. Trump boasted, he preened, he whined, he threatened — and he spoke about the importance of winning. Win, win, win, he chanted, as if he were channeling the Great Santini character in the well-known book.

Loyalty is included in the Boy Scout oath and law, but to Trump, “loyalty”, was not applied to the lives of the boys, parents and leaders to whom he spoke. Like everything else in his narrow world, the word loyalty applies only to himself.  


A Boy Scout pledges to follow that
 Scout Law, words which have been memorized and embraced since Scouting began in 1908.  A Scout is expected to always be “trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent”. 

I find not one word in that list for which President Trump has demonstrated even the slightest affinity. This man is so focused on himself that he sees no shame in his performance. 

Officials of the Boy Scouts, apologized for the speech:

A leader of the Boy Scouts of America apologized Thursday for a speech that President Trump gave to thousands of teenage Scouts earlier this week — in which Trump broke with the Scouts’ earnest traditions by criticizing his political opponents, recounting his election victory and talking about parties on yachts.

“I want to extend my sincere apologies to those in our Scouting family who were offended by the political rhetoric that was inserted into the jamboree. That was never our intent,” Michael Surbaugh, whose title is chief Scout executive, wrote in a message posted online.

Two days later, Trump committed his second atrocious act of the week, tweeting an unexpected ignorant, insensitive, declaration, that he will instruct “his generals” to rescind an Obama-era action that allows transgender Americans to serve openly in the military.

Such an action is not only ill-informed and unjustified, it demonstrates a total lack of understanding of the successful integration and valued service of transgender military personnel into our nation’s armed forces.

One of “his generals”, who are the nation’s generals, not his, quickly responded with the obvious reminder that a “tweet” is not a presidential order. If such an order of implementation were directed to “his generals”, such implementation might just take a bit longer than Trump expects.

At the end of last week, Trump continued his “tough guy” self, delivering advice to police officers.  The advice, The Daily Beast reports, was vintage Trump:

During an address on Long Island on Friday, President Trump called gang members “animals” and praised law enforcement for being “rough,” even suggesting that they not “be too nice” to people they arrest. 

The Atlantic detected an echo of Richard Nixon in Trump’s law and order posturing.

Trump’s idea of toughness often comes at odds with the law. Disturbingly, his speech on Friday, with law-enforcement agents behind, was a long paean to systemic police brutality and lament for the ways the law restrains officers. He praised officers from Immigrations and Customs Enforcement for their toughness. For example, he recounted meeting a man, apparently a would-be vigilante, with whom he discussed the high crime rate in Chicago:

“He said the problem could be straightened out. I said, “How long would it take you to straighten out this problem?” He said, “If you give me the authority, a couple days. I really mean it.” I said, “You really think so?” He said, “We know all the bad guys. The officers know all the bad ones in the area. We know them all. A couple of days.” I said, “You’ve got to be kidding.” I said, “Give me your card.” He gave me his card and I sent it to the mayor. I said, “You want to try using this guy.” 

“You want to try using this guy”. So far, no response from the Mayor.  

Below is another brief clip from Carter’s television address 38 years ago. He closed the speech with a warning which John Farmer, Jr., described above, as a “prophetic warning of Trumpism”.

To view that clip, click here https://youtu.be/A-c4WSd2d9M

Posted in Donald Trump, Politics and Elections, Religious Faith | 4 Comments

Two Palestinian Schoolmates Seek Unity in Cairo

by James M. Wall

A power-sharing Gaza leadership agreement involving two Palestinian childhood friends, Yahya Sinwar (left) and Mohammed Dahlan (right, below) may be “slowly taking shape”.

What led to the reunion of Sinwar and Dahlan is an intriguing story that involves two Palestinian leaders who have known one another since childhood.

Ynetnews reports on that history:

Dahlan, now 55, and Sinwar, now 54, grew up in the same neighborhood of southern Gaza’s Khan Younis refugee camp. They later attended the same UN school and were students together at Islamic University.

Dahlan and Sinwar took different political journeys. They joined rival political factions, Fatah and Hamas.

Those two political factions clashed in the 2006 Palestinian general election. In that election, monitored by former President Jimmy Carter, and others, Hamas won a decisive legislative majority over Fatah.

Both Israel and the U.S. misread the political mood within an occupied population. I was present for that election. Like most observers, it quickly became obvious to me that Hamas would win the election.

Why? Gaza voters resented, or more accurately, hated, control by outside political powers.

In addition, Hamas was a disciplined political party. Fatah was not. Hamas ran slates. Fatah did not. In many districts, Fatah candidates far exceeded available legislative seats.  Hamas understood Politics 101; Fatah did not.

If a party wants to win, it limits its candidates to the available openings. And, oh yes, it must give voters something better than what they already have.

Israel–with U.S. support–refused to accept the results of that 2006 democratic election. Israel blocked Palestinian parliamentary meetings and jailed many Hamas legislators.

A year later, Israel with U.S support, led Fatah in a military assault against Hamas. The leader of that Fatah assault was Mohammed Dahlan (right).

Fatah, the U.S., Israel–and Dahlan–lost. 

Dahlan has been living in exile since he split with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in 2010. Now, seven years later, Dahlan is back,  ready to advance his Palestinian leadership ambitions against Fatah through Hamas.

Ynetnews described this week’s Gaza City rally for Dahlan as the latest indication of a power shift in Gaza which “could lead to big changes in the Hamas-ruled territory, including an easing of a decade-long border blockade”.

Since Ynetnews is an Israeli outlet, those “big changes” are most likely Israel’s preferred outcome.

But, alert warning, based on those 2006 general election results, Israel’s political acumen can be faulty.

In the labyrinth of West Asian politics, the latest corner to turn in Gaza involves a political shift.

Mohammed Dahlan has returned, not to the Fatah-controlled West Bank, but to Gaza. With the endorsement of the Hamas-run government there, Dahlan’s political office in Gaza is disbursing $2 million to Gaza’s poor procured by Dahlan from the United Arab Emirates.

A second labyrinth corner turn takes us to the earlier election of Yahya Sinwar as the new Gaza Hamas chief.  What has Sinwar been up to while Dahlan was making rich friends in the UAE?

Ynetnews writes:

Sinwar helped establish the Hamas military wing in the late 1980s, while Dahlan rose through the ranks of Fatah, becoming chief of a feared Gaza security service that used to shave heads of Hamas prisoners to humiliate them. . . 

By early June of 2017, Sinwar and Dahlan had reached a point of common interest. The two childhood friends had followers, and they must have assumed those followers would work together in Gaza.

By early June, delegations led by Dahlan and Sinwar were negotiating in Egypt.  Participants said the two men established an easy rapport. 

Egypt, which has enforced control for Israel on Gaza’s southern border, “began sending fuel to Gaza’s only power-plant, helping ease a debilitating electricity shortage”.

For its part, Hamas “has been clearing brush to create a security buffer zone on the Gaza side of the border [with Egypt], and pledged not to give refuge to anti-Egypt insurgents from the Sinai”.

Egypt is refurbishing its now largely closed Rafah crossing with Gaza. Egypt plans to reopen it by the fall for passengers and goods, according to a Hamas spokesman.

Of course, this is West Asia, where, “The extent of future Rafah operations remains unclear.”

A month back,  June 22, 2017, Mouin Rabbani wrote an essay for the London Review of Books, Hamas Goes to Cairo”, which provides essential information on what has led to the current flurry of political activity in Gaza, an activity which won Hamas leadership for Yahya Sinwar, and the return of Mohammed Dahlan.

Rabbani, who is co-editor of Jadaliyya, served as head of political affairs in the Office of the UN special envoy for Syria from October 2014 to January 2015. Out of that background, he wrote about the Cairo unity meeting:

The Hamas delegation was led by Yahya Sinwar. A leader of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, who served more than twenty years in Israeli jails until released in a prisoner exchange in 2011, Sinwar was elected four months ago to lead the [Hamas] movement in the occupied Gaza Strip, its main power base.

In May, an election to choose a successor to the politburo chief Khalid Mashal was won by the former Palestinian Authority prime minister Ismail Haniya, a comparatively weak figure. Sinwar is the movement’s de facto overall leader.

He’s known within Hamas as a hardliner, and also for a conviction that the movement should improve relations with Iran to balance its dependence on Qatar and Turkey. Like most of his peers he is also anxious to normalise relations with Egypt, which since Sisi’s coup in 2013 has run an unprecedented vilification campaign against Hamas and sealed Gaza’s only border with an Arab state.

Sinwar’s election and his political views “did not sit well with Qatar”. From Doha’s perspective, Sinwar “threw a spanner [wrench] in the works of the unveiling of Hamas’s new political document at the Doha [Qutar] Sheraton Hotel on 1 May”.

In that document, blessed by Qatar, Hamas formally embraced “a two-state settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and defined itself as an organic component of the Palestinian national liberation movement rather than of the Muslim Brotherhood which spawned it”.

Mouin Rabbani suggests that Qatar “may have given the PA president, Mahmoud Abbas, a wink and a nod to expand punitive measures against the Gaza Strip”, Qatar’s way of  “reminding the newly-elected Sinwar that Hamas’ relations with Iran “are no substitute for Qatar’s patronage, and that Doha expects him to embrace the new policies and avoid confrontation with Israel”.

Thus the labyrinth continues. Qatar, with its bottomless supply of money, winks at Abbas, and the lights go out in Hamas-run Gaza. 

President Abbas risked world-wide condemnation when he followed Qatar’s not-so-subtle reminder that the Palestinian Authority is on a short Israeli leash. Tel Aviv does not like it when the PA gives too much freedom to Gaza.

To tug on the financial leash the PA has on Gaza, Abbas took a first step: He reduced salaries paid to PA civil servants in Gaza. 

Since Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007, “the Fatah-led PA has mostly been paying its employees not to go to work, but there are very many of them and their aggregate income makes a substantial contribution to Gaza’s increasingly desperate economy”.

Since Israel controls the flow of electrical power into Gaza, Abbas suggested to Israel, Palestine’s occupiers, that they reduce Gaza’s electrical supply, an act of cruelty that was morally wrong and politically stupid. 

A dark Gaza is not a recipe for winning the “hearts and minds” of an imprisoned civilian population.

Which brings us back to the political labyrinth of West Asia, which, by the way,  is preferable to the European colonizing term, the “Middle East”.

If Hamas, Dahlan and Egypt can devise a way to turn the lights on again in Gaza, that Cairo meeting may be the start of a new and improved, though no-less confusing, and perilous, journey for an occupied population.

If PA President Abbas has a better idea than his own political advantage, to turn the lights back on in Gaza, this would be a good time to make that idea known.  

At top, Yahya Sinwar, the new leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip is attending the opening of a new mosque in the southern Gaza city of Rafah on February 24, 2017. (The image is by Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90). 

Posted in Gaza, Israel, Palestinians | 2 Comments

The Long Fight Against TV and Movie “Bad Arabs”

by James M. Wall

Jack G. Shaheen, retired professor of communications at Southern Illinois University, died Sunday, July 9, after a short battle with cancer. He was 81.

His death brought to a sudden end, his five-decade fight against the stereotyping of “Bad Arabs” in movies and television. 

I have maintained regular contact with Jack since our first encounter in 1978. My most recent email from him arrived in March of this year, informing me that he had once again sent this blog’s link to his list.

Our first encounter came in August, 1978, when I was the editor of The Christian Century magazine in Chicago. Jack sent me a manuscript “over the transom”, media jargon for “unsolicited”.

We immediately accepted it, using Jack’s title, “The TV Arab”. 

In October, 1978, the Wall Street Journal published an expanded version of The Christian Century essay. In 1984, Jack expanded that article into a book with the same title.

Dr. Shaheen’s writing career and numerous public lectures brought him to the attention of Hollywood, where film producers sought his counsel on how to overcome their “bad Arabs” material.

Jack told me how long it had taken him to bring public attention to his “Bad Arab” essay: 

In the Fall of 1975, I completed the essay you published in August 1978. I had just returned to Southern Illinois University from Beirut where I had been teaching as a Fulbright scholar.

I tried for three years to have someone publish “The TV Arab”. Somewhere in my hidden files I have all the rejection letters I received from 50-plus magazines/newspapers.

The most memorable rejection came from the editor [of a prominent publication]. She refused to publish it, using an excuse that it was too well-written. She told me other ‘minority’ writers would want her to publish similar essays, but their essays would not be as ‘good’ as mine. Honest!

After three years of waiting and 50 rejections, “the TV Arab” appeared–for the first time–in The Christian Century in August, 1978.

The Washington Post announced his death: 

Jack G. Shaheen, an Arab American scholar, author and activist who devoted his career to challenging venomous stereotypes of Arabs in film and television — usually depicted, he once said, as ‘billionaires, bombers and belly dancers’ — died July 9 at a hospital in Charleston, S.C.

Dr. Shaheen, [the son of Lebanese Christian immigrants], spent decades teaching mass communications at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. He was at the forefront of efforts to expose and question ethnic stereotypes in popular culture.

He was best known for his books, “Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People” (2001), which later became a documentary film; “Arab and Muslim Stereotyping in American Popular Culture” (1997); “Guilty: Hollywood’s Verdict on Arabs after 9/11” (2008); and “The TV Arab” (1984), an eight-year study that examined hundreds of shows.

Dr. Shaheen wrote in The TV Arab:

Television tends to perpetuate four basic myths about Arabs. They are all fabulously wealthy; they are barbaric and uncultured; they are sex maniacs with a penchant for white slavery; and they revel in acts of terrorism. . . . These notions are as false as the assertions that blacks are lazy, Hispanics are dirty, Jews are greedy and Italians are criminals.

Albert Mokhiber, a past president of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) who frequently worked with Dr. Shaheen on specific projects, said of him that he  “brought intellectual and academic credibility to the issues that we raised.”

In one of those projects, Dr. Shaheen helped persuade Walt Disney Studios to change song lyrics in the 1992 musical film “Aladdin” that had called an Arab homeland “barbaric.”

In an opinion piece he wrote for the Los Angeles Times, he was critical of the way the media depicted Arabs as thieves, unscrupulous vendors, “dastardly villains and harem maidens.”

That message from Jack Shaheen is especially timely at a moment when Islamophobia is returning to segments of the American culture with its perspective of fear and anger directed at Arabs born in the U.S., or residing here through immigration. 

It is an ominous sign when President Trump uses the term “barbaric” to describe “others” in countries whose populations are predominantly Arab and Muslim.  

The President’s speech in Warsaw, Poland, which he delivered the day before the recent G-20 in Hamburg, Germany, revived the racist call for a Clash of Civilizations.

That Clash, from President Trump’s perspective, is currently being fought between the white, Christian “West” and those “others” in the world who are neither white nor Christian.

Children are being raised by parents who have a limited, or non-existent, grasp of the democratic values of tolerance and diversity. In such an environment, the Clash of Civilizations has shown itself to be an easy sell.

To combat this, we urgently need more passionate activists like Jack Shaheen, who, for five decades, identified racism in popular culture, and through extensive research exposed it as Islamophobia.  

Jack Shaheen left us a mighty legacy to employ in the fight against that insidious, destructive evil. 

Posted in Cancer, Donald Trump, Movies | 2 Comments