Government, Islam, Muslim, obama, politics, syria, US Arab, USA, War

Syria: To Bomb Or Not To Bomb

Looking at the way the events of the past few days have transformed, it’s interesting to see the discourse of the Obama administration shift. There is no doubt that President Obama is one of the most isolationists of American leaders. In my opinion, this is not due to his thinking that America is weak and needs to “lead from behind”, but merely his attempt to toe the populist line. The American public is fatigued by wars. The past decade has largely been consumed by two unpopular wars that resulted in trillions of debt, thousands of Americans killed, hundreds of thousand marines suffering from PTSD, and a veteran’s affairs department clogged with bottlenecks. To top this, the country is still suffering from a global recession, or even as the most optimistic of all economists say “on the pathway to recovery”. So it’s safe to say that America has other things on its plate.

When the Arab spring started, the world for a brief minute held its breath in expectation as it seemed that the deluge of popular uprising would engulf the entire region and leave behind the lasting fertile grounds of peace and democracy. Unfortunately, this is a very simplistic view. The Arab uprising is not and will not be like the revolutions the western society has studied. Here are the reasons.

The Arabs hate each other: As much as we in America like to think of the Arabs as a monolith, they are perhaps the most fragmented and divided of all people. There are Sunnis, Shias, Bathis, Alawites, Mahdi’s, Salafis, Wahhabis, Moderates, Catholics, Coptic, and an endless subset of groups that somehow occupy the same communal space. These groups have historically hated each other and if anyone has any doubt about this, I recommend studying about the original caliphate and the subsequent rise and fall of it. There is a fundamental strain of un-secularism that stretches the entire region. Quick example, Saudi Arabia has been one of the quietest nations of all in this bloody uprising. And as much as we like to think of them as an ideal Arab nation (they are in fact a very close ally to the US), the nation itself is very fragmented. There are entire cities that do not allow anyone except Sunnis to enter. The highway leading into Mecca actually has an exit sign about twenty minutes away from the city center that tells you to refrain from entering if you are anyone except a traditional Muslim. Further checkpoints will ensure that all the adventurous travelers get the point. This is not your average city. Similar intolerance is shown for minority sects like Mehdi’s, ahmedis etc. Their subsequent mosques need to disguise themselves as traditional mosques and the followers need to meet in secret. Now for those who argue that Saudi Arabia is an extreme society, then Iran is perhaps the next example. The Iranian regime is an Islamic fundamentalist government. But little does the west know that they are primarily a “Shia” society. Sunni Muslims and other Muslim groups are not awarded the same rights as the majority. This uprising is really a struggle for independence between the majorities and the minorities. It is not a civil war in the truest sense where the fight is for land, resources etc. It is a civil war for identity, where the battle is for the survival of thought and their ideals.

Terrorists love war:No even the most casual observer, it’s pretty apparent that Al Qaeda has been decimated. They were at their peak during the reign of Mullah Omar and Osama Bin Laden and the US along with its allies was instrumental in defeating them. However, that did not kill extremism. Extremism can’t be eradicated by war. You would have to kill a whole lot of people if you want to do that. Extremism stems not from a religious point of view, but fundamentally a desire to gain political importance. Since Al Qaeda broke up, many smaller groups like Al Shabaad, Tahreeq e Islam, Islamic Mujahedeen etc. continue to operate in smaller groups in the Arab and African peninsula. They now are a disjointed, somewhat disconnected group that likes to bomb random places which many in the world don’t even hear about. These groups hope that one of these events will cause a tremor large enough to start a war. This would give their “fight” legitimacy and they would craft any subsequent war as a western battle on Islam and then use that as a rallying cry to recruit more terrorists.  A western war is perhaps the surest recruiting tool for an extremist holy war.

The US has its own problems: The era of the US dictating its terms to the world is over. It is done, and to those neo-cons who love the idea of the American might, they need to face reality. The US is in deep trouble. The fundamentals of the economy appear strong. Unemployment is at 7.5%, the Dow is at its all-time high and home prices are up… but these are all baked. This is a consequence of the Federal Govt. Quantitative Easing policy, where they continue to pump a seemingly endless supply of money into the markets thereby artificially inflating it with the hopes that this would lead to an actual improvement. It’s the same concept of “fake it till you make it”. This misguided policy has led to the rise of the 1% and exploded the gains of only those investment analysts who play the market. The majority of the country, the 78% of the US that continues to live paycheck to paycheck is struggling. Discretionary income is down and people are spending only if they have it. To throw a war onto the Americans, even if it’s a casual war, with a coalition of the sorority sisters (US, UK and France) will spend billions, Money that the country doesn’t have.

The World is so over the US: Most importantly… It is too late for the US and the west to insert itself into the Arab spring. The Arab spring is perhaps the stupidest term. Its perhaps meant to signify the “spring” of joy and democracy where decades of winter gives rise to the fruits of spring, one which take root deep inside and spread through the region. As explained earlier, this is far departed from the reality of the situation on the group. What’s happening in the Arab world is more like the Arab Winter (Or really Arab Summer more appropriately). Where the long misery of violence will continue and has continued for decades until it naturally comes to a fruition point in which there is either a unifying force, or further fragmentation and division. When John Kerry started talking about the morality of the chemical weapons, and the US leaders started to flaunt their chest for “doing the right thing”, these are all code words. The strategy is to NOT engage in a real war. The strategy is to bomb in a limited capacity, with the intention of reprimanding Assad and in a sense scaring him. It’s too late for that. The bombs will not change a thing. 100K people have died and will continue to die, some by the Govt. forces, and some by the opposition fighters. The US campaign will not hand over victory to any side, but will further stoke violence. White house press secretary said today, that “regime change is not on the agenda”. Well of course not. That would mean an actual war, with both sides being IN IT with actual repercussions. The US wants to play the hero, be the defender of innocents, when in reality; they have lost the right to do this, within the nation and beyond. To the American, the Govt. is guilty of spying on its own citizens, of usurping endless power and mishandling the finances of the nation. To the rest of the world, the US is guilty of always being late to their struggles. The Palestinian-Israeli conflict continues 50 years after it started, the war in Africa continues in Somalia, Mali and many others. The world has outgrown the US, has gotten over it like a high school sweetheart. And like every lost romance, there is no point in calling them back unless you want to commit for a lifetime.
america, crime, politics, race, racism, trayvon, trayvonmartin

Why Trayvon Martin Had To Die

It is not often that one story seemingly arouses the collective passions of most people. I must admit that I was quite skeptical of the wall to wall coverage of the trial on CNN, MSNBC and surprisingly, even FOX NEWS. To me, it reeked of the media turning a local issue into a larger one, infusing larger issues such as race and gun control into the narrative. The coverage reached its tipping point up to this weekend when the verdict was finally announced. Police and law enforcers across Florida and all over the nation was on high alert, because the media kept insisting that this was somehow a larger pan american issue, similar to Rodney King and reminiscent of a lot of other racial issues.

It’s interesting how the coverage of the killing changed. When this issue first happened close on February 26th, 2012, I remember the conversations revolved around gun control, somehow this issue got pushed to the back-burner and now, more than a year later, race is the predominant issue. Reading some of the reactions on Twitter and other social media, I perhaps underestimated the breadth of passions that this case arose. Which got me thinking, why did this happen and what lessons can we learn from it. I realized that perhaps Trayvon Martin’s death may have important lessons to teach us.

The Law is the Law: Those passionate on both sides of this debate seemingly are so for other reasons. The fact of the matter remains, the courts have deemed George Zimmerman not guilty. A jury of our peers, selected without any prejudices, evaluated all the witnesses, the evidence, the defense, the prosecutors statements and decided that it was a legal killing. That is the law, to deride the judgement is to stain the fundamental fabric of justice in america. You have to believe that we are an imperfect nation and an inherently unjust process to not accept the results. If things turn out either way, the law took its course. End of matter.

We are all Racist: Its laughable to me when I read certain groups claiming to be above Race. Race is a factor that is bred in us, right from the moment we are born, we enter into the “race” category on our birth certificate. We write it again and again on any job application, college application and any seemingly innocent form such as a gym membership. There is nothing wrong in this, its a product of our history and also of our future. We have some benefits for minorities, we want to make sure they are identified and therefore race is a factor. The fact of the matter is, Trayvon was black, the person who shot him was not, and therefore it became a racist matter. The fact that Zimmerman is latino (or half latino) is irrelevant. Its about circumstances, yes, Zimmerman had a history. He had seen a couple of black people robbing homes in that neighborhood, yes, this created a prejudice in his mind, the next time he say a black guy peering into homes in the middle of the night, he automatically assumed the worst. It has been noted that Zimmerman had called the dispatch in the past reporting similar issues, he had never stated someone’s race. On this night, he was asked…and he identified. He pursued what he thought was the suspect, an altercation ensued and a young life was lost. What we can learn from this, is to confront our own prejudices. Why do we always assume that the worst intentions are at play. I read countless tweets asking “what if Zimmerman was black and Trayvon was black”… I reject that line of questioning. Let me ask you this, “what is both Zimmerman and Trayvon were black/or white” and the outcome was the same, would race be a factor? Would we care if two black men shoot and kill each other. There are hundreds of young men dying in South Chicago, who go nameless and are only reported in the local media. Why do we not care about them, why are their names not known, that is because we do not care. We have prejudices that we must confront. The black community needs to confront the decline of unity and the rise of crime in their neighborhoods. Lets not blame seemingly monolith justice system, or a community, but think of ourselves as a collective people, these are fellow citizens that are dying on our streets. We need to change that.

Gun control is an issue: I don’t know when people decided to ignore this elephant in the room. This was a big issue and now is suddenly not. The only thing that could have prevented Trayvon from dying is not the color of his skin, is if Zimmerman didn’t have a gun. They would have fought, hurt each other, the cops would have come and arrested them both, the fact that a neighborhood watch, who wanted to kill a pit-bull on the loose could patrol in the middle of the night with a gun, shoot and kill anyone who he considers a threat IS the issue. And to the NRA wing-nuts, who want guns everywhere, well what if everyone had a gun there, we would have a good ol fashion shootout. We don’t live in the wild west. We live in a society of laws and an organized police. This incident was preventable and we need to ask the real question and separate passions and rhetoric from it.

Life is precious: Lets also take a step back and think about the reality of what happened. A young boy lost his life. Parents lost their child. An older man’s life is probably never going to be the same. Do you think Zimmerman can go back to living the life that he had before? Of course not. We need to put ourselves in the place of both Zimmerman and Trayvon. It could have been us. This was a misunderstanding, an altercation, a discussion that went south. It speaks to our collective nature about communities and taking them back. A man was trying to keep his neighborhood safe. A boy was just eating skittles and drink some juice. Let us not let the media and leaders divide us and realize that within us all, resides some good. Let us embrace that and use it to improve ourselves and our communities.

activism, causes, malala, pakistan, politics, terrorism, volunteer

The Immortalization Of A Cause

There is a trait in our society that tends to immortalize individuals rather than a cause. The man who stood up to the tank in Tiananmen Square was remembered more than the communist rule itself. Mother Teresa became the person known for philanthropy and service, rather than the missions that she founded. Here’s a different thought: greatness is not measured by individual success, it is measured by the impact that the person has on society and its behavior.

Over the past few weeks, there has been an attempt by many organizations and people to use the heroics of a young girl in Pakistan for their individual causes. Some would like to adorn her with peace prizes, and others would like to walk around claiming the title of “I am …” Although our intentions might be genuine, we should avoid making the sacrifices of a girl into a vicarious realization of our fleeting attention. Modern social network activism is very short term. People have short attention spans and whatever captures our interest for a passing moment, arrests us. The moment a more interesting story comes along, we drop our cause or the person and move on to the other. The more successful causes are those that move beyond the admiration of an individual and more towards spearheading a cause.

Education is the fundamental promise that every child, was given by the citizens of the world. Education is the fire that crafts people into pioneers, thinkers, visionaries and is the single most successful tool towards bringing people out of poverty. The investment needed for a sound education is not small, but it is also, not that difficult. Governments around the world have the necessary funds to create an infrastructure that can push education even into its most rural areas: whether or not these funds are allocated towards education or prioritized is the challenging question.

The tragedy that happened to the 15 year old girl in Pakistan was not as a result of culture or corruption or cruelty (even though a small element of it exists); It was due to lack of education. Without a good primary or secondary education, large swaths of gentry are easily swayed by the anti-social, extremist elements in every society. In developing nations, these elements are even more powerful. Organizations such as the Human Development Foundation exist to implement a nationwide call for action. Their Education Advocacy Campaign initiates reforms in society by informing people of their rights, and helping them achieve their rights. HDF launches reformative action at the grassroots level. A petition has even been started to implement universal primary & secondary education in Pakistan:

Education is supposedly a compulsory right of every child aged 5 to 16: when this right is denied, we have to recognize this as a global human rights’ issue. If we have to get to the “root cause” of the problem, then we should target the growth of education. We should hold Governments accountable and influence them towards enforcing education and take strict action against those who deny their children the opportunity to be part of the global population. This is a precarious time and real change can only happen if we support this cause, rather than getting caught up in the sensationalism of violence. After all, isn’t that what the Malala fought for, the right for education for all?

Government, politics, US

The Independent’s Manifesto

We are the invisible crowd.
We do not picket for any particular party;
we do not show up at conventions to bash other Americans.
We do not question other people’s patriotism.
We don’t throw around labels like “Communist” “Socialist” or “Racist”.
We believe that people have a right to their opinion.
We believe that just because you do not agree with someone that does not make them a bad person.
We believe in the right for people to be free and not be prisoners of the political system.
We believe that Individuals have the right to make their own decision,
including the right to religion, the right to love, the right to marriage and the woman’s right to choose,
And the right to protect the sanctity of life.
We believe that the right is not always “right” and the liberal is not always liberal.
We vote to choose leaders whose rhetoric matches their actions.
We chose leaders not because they are “just like us” but because they inspire us.
We believe in not becoming a number on a statistical chart on cable news screen.
We believe that the even though the media may present a certain view, we ultimately decide our actions.
We believe that people have a right to give different names to God.
We believe in accepting someone’s right to a different God than ours.
We believe that those who do not believe in God are also believers in themselves.
We believe that America is a land of immigrants, but also believe in protecting our borders.
We believe that the Government has an obligation to provide certain services and resources to its citizens but do not believe in free services.
We believe that the money we earn is ours and we have the right to share it with other, should we choose to.
We believe certain folks have had a harder time, and need a boost to get back on their feet. We believe in ourselves.
Amidst the partisan rancor and chaos, we are the line between Right and Left.
We are the invisible, the existent, the silent majority that defines elections and shapes the fabric of the American society.
We are the Independents.