Archive for July, 2013

For? Against? Don’t know?

“Don’t know” is a response that doesn’t exist outside polls. Everywhere else, everyone knows everything, has an opinion about everything and is busy sending it out for all to hear. What we don’t always realize is how obvious our buttons are, the ones that every social, economic, or political issue pushes. We are robots with features incorporated by our background and circumstances and rarely are we capable of moving beyond. Think? God forbid. We just jump in and engage in disquisition about this or that issue that’s already being beaten to death. The public gabfest wouldn’t be complete if it didn’t carry my voice, would it?Tsarnaev boat
Case in point, the Zimmerman verdict. This guy, a self-appointed vigilante who thought packing heat made him someone to be reckoned with (my regular readers know how I feel about guns) shot and killed a young black man. Neither the police investigation nor the trial that just ended with Zimmerman’s acquittal could establish the exact sequence of events, only that the armed guard was not racist. The jury did its best under murky circumstances and returned a not-guilty verdict. But the chorus of voices on all sides pitching in with arguments and opinions? The only one worth hearing was the President with a moving unscripted statement about what it means to be a black man in America today. Everything else, just so much wind.

Case in point. Rolling Stone magazine’s cover of surviving Boston Marathon bomber, Dzohkhar Tsarnaev, and the related story by Janet Reitman. Howls of outrage went up; calling it a glam shot glorifying the assassin, retailers refused to carry the issue; one Boston police photographer retaliated by producing photos of Tsarnaev bloodied and dazed flushed out of his hiding place. Personally, I’m not as worried about the cover as about the question foremost in my mind: how many Tsarnaevs, Adam Lanzas, Mohammad Attas are even now stirring in their primal muck in pods like those in the old horror film “The Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” getting ready to unleash mayhem? But does the magazine cover insult the victims of the bombing? I don’t know.

Case in point, Edward Snowden. Now stuck in Russian limbo, was this man–overnight celebrity for the next fifteen minutes–right when he denounced the NSA’s vast spying system of unsuspecting citizens? Here I do have an opinion. Yes, he was. But the rest of the discussion about his life, personality, motivation—out to make a quick buck, selfless whistleblower, cheat, hero? Who knows? I certainly don’t. And I’ll defer to Daniel Ellsberg, certainly more qualified than anyone to have an opinion on the matter, when he says that Snowden was right to make a run for it.

Case in point, Syria and American intervention. Is it okay for tens of thousands of Syrians to die while Bashar Assad emails congratulations to his wife for buying her latest Louboutin heels? Should Obama go in, is he half-hearted about it, has he moved the red line again, should he actually arm insurgents? I don’t think anyone, including the President, has the answer to that. The administration is playing it by ear. Two years ago, something could possibly have been done to overthrow the tyrant son of a tyrant and replace him with a more palatable government (though America would never have heard the end of it) but now? Obama promised light armament and logistics help to the insurgents but despite David Ignatius’ op-ed echoing others accusing the president of equivocating, the situation is not clear. Whom would we be arming? Sectarian fanatics? Democratically inclined future leaders, potential allies of the US? Brutal thugs who think nothing of ripping out their enemy’s heart and eating it, as we saw in one video? What should Obama do? Once again, I don’t know.

About many things, I have an opinion, some too strong for my own good. But about many others, such as in the above examples, sorry, the earth will have to continue turning without knowing what I think. All of you out there express more than enough to fill the void.


Why Egypt is not quite back to square one

The military are temporarily—at least, so they claim—back in power, having gotten rid of Morsi, an inept and clueless would-be autocrat. Muslim Brotherhood leaders once again find themselves behind bars while their rank and file vow martyrdom. So, what has changed?Muslim B HQ

a) Politically, Egyptians have come of age. Put to the test, they rallied. Shifting alliances? Of course. A mix of secular and well-educated youth, disenchanted officials, Coptic Christians, even Salafists, unhappy with the Brotherhood? Sure. But any population that can come out 17 million strong with demands has to be acknowledged. No one can pull a Bashar Assad and mow down such crowds. Morsi failed to capitalize on the goodwill of people finally rid of decades of military dictatorship and corruption; he had no idea of how to build democratic foundations and no intention to do so; he didn’t begin to tackle the immediate and huge economic problems of a population already poor before the Arab Spring and now plunged into immeasurable woes and difficulties. Read more…

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