I haven't posted on the US presidential campaign for a while, in part because a lot of other blogs are doing so and producing some excellent commentary, and because, to the extent possible, I have tried to avoid much of the establishment media's hideous coverage of it. (There is so much to say on this account that it would take several years' entries, as Bob Somerby's The Daily Howler makes clear.)
I did have to note, however, this radioactively hateful and ignorant Op-Ed piece in today's New York Times, by a former Reagan administration official and neocon theorist named Edward Luttwak, that is akin to the sort of discourse I laid out last year in my post on Obamaphobia. In it, Luttwak insinuates that Obama is a Muslim (they will not let it go, people, they can't and won't) who has "converted" to Christianity, so he's now an apostate. As a result, the alleged positive reaction his election would receive in the Muslim world must be challenged on the bizarre grounds that in fact, as a said "apostate," he would the target of assassins following the dictates of Islamic jurisprudence, which Luttwak misreads to suggest that all who "convert" must be killed, and the killers would, again according to Luttwak's reading of Islamic law, remain unpunished. Thus, the governments of predominantly Islamic countries couldn't and wouldn't protect him, and thus he'd be worse than this president whose disastrous, ideologically laden bumbling Luttwak has praised for achieving a new Middle East.
Okay, did you get that? Luttwak states all of this without irony, humor (because when I first read it I had to check its dateline to make sure it wasn't supposed to be a late April Fool's post), or the least recognition of how offensive and hateful it all is, but I read it as yet another neocon attempt to inscribe within our public discourse--via The New York Times, no less--this viral meme and narrative that Obama is, despite all his protestations, a Muslim, exotic and alien, an exotic, unassimilable and unelectable Other, whom we should resign ourselves to as a potential murder target. Only in this case, it won't be crazy American racists trying to harm Obama; why, it'll be that undifferentiated mass of Muslims out there, according to Luttwak, who will do so. In fact, he won't be able to travel to any Muslim country as a result, which I guess will mean that he won't be able to improve things in the Muslim world as well as George Herbert Hoover W Decider has! And this from the man who wrote a blueprint for what's happened to our government these last 8 years, Coup d'État: A Practical Guide, in 1968.
On top of this vile crapola, there are the responses. Could someone tell me why it takes 17 until someone clearly states that Obama was not and has never been a Muslim? (Cf. "liberal" Maureen Dowd's own recent contribution to this genre.) I recognize that some posters may think that stating the obvious is unnecessary, but I also have a lingering feeling that more than a few people, at the back of their minds, continue to harbor this particular illusion. Not that there is anything wrong with being a Muslim, but here, the notion is being circulated and deployed with an overtly anti-Islamic, xenophobic aim. Luttwak's rather clumsy rhetorical gesture is to imply that "Muslim heritage" (?) equals being a Muslim, which would mean, broadly extrapolated, that a huge number of people of Spanish, Portuguese, and French descent, as well as anyone living in areas once ruled by Muslims (i.e., the Greeks, people of South Asia, Sephardic Jews, etc.) would also be captured in his problematic net. Only I don't think he's reasoned it this way. Because Muslim heritage means Obama's birth father, who left the faith before Obama was born...but you get the picture. I said this sort of thing was going to reappear in more outrageous forms, not merely from the GOP and its neocon annex, like Luttwak, but from the Republican-enabling ESTABLISHMENT MEDIA, and it's clear that we all need to be ready for and to challenge it.
Speaking of the toxic role of ideology, when combined with a natural disaster (cf. Hurricane Katrina), the situation in Burma/Myanmar is beyond tragic. In the midst of this horrific disaster, the military dictatorship there did manage to push through a vote to legitimate its power! As for the unfolding tragedy in the wake of Cyclone Nargis, how can you help?
I also heard today about the grim situation in China, whose poor, western Sichuan Province suffered a 7.8 Richter scale earthquake. So far 8,500+ people are presumed dead or injured. Beijing also suffered a tremor.
And yesterday I drove back from St. Louis, which suffered through thunderstorms for part of the weekend, but nothing like the storms and tornados that swept through southwestern Missouri, parts of Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Georgia, killed more than a dozen people.
What terrified me a little yesterday were the high winds sweeping across Interstate 55, particularly on those long stretches between the hills just across the river from St. Louis and the denser landscape outside Chicago. With no natural obstacles--no mounds, few hills, no woods, etc.--and vast acres of farmland, the wind was free to heave and shove, and my little sedan felt like it might blow off the road more than once. I also noticed much larger SUVs were also weaving and bobbing. I am a huge advocate of compressed air cars and lighter vehicles, but if they're ever going to be practical certain parts of the country, windbreaks or some other device will be necessary to prevent what could be lots of easily ditched or crushed (by semis and larger trucks) cars otherwise.