It’s three weeks since his arrest but Ismail Halou still has streaks of purple bruising on the soles of his feet. The 22 year-old was filling cars at his family’s petrol station in Gaza City at 5pm on April 4th when a black jeep pulled into the forecourt, plain-clothed police stepped out and ordered him into the car. He was blindfolded and driven to the nearest police station.
“I could hear the screams of people being beaten in the rooms next to me. Two men held my legs down and tied them together on a wooden board then they beat the soles of my feet with a plastic rod. They beat me for at least five minutes. I was crying and screaming with agony. It was the worst pain I’ve ever felt,” Mr Halou recalls.
It was only after the beating that police officers set to work trying to shave off the one-inch fin of gelled hair that was the cause of his arrest.
“At no point did they tell me why they had arrested me. I found out from neighbours when I got home that it was because of my hair,” Mr Halou explains, running a hand over the fuzzy regrowth on his head. He could not walk for three days after his release.
Police in Gaza, a Palestinian coastal enclave run by Islamist faction Hamas, have arrested at least 41 men on charges of immodesty this April.
Most of them were beaten, all of them had their heads forcibly shaven. Some were shaven because their haircuts that were deemed culturally inappropriate, others because their trousers were either too low-slung or too fitted. In at least two cases, police also cut-up jeans deemed too tight.
This an excellent opinion piece IMO, even though its brutal honesty made me wince. The author, James Varney, is confronting his darkest fears about the possible identity of the perpetrators of the Boston bombings head-on, not to mention questioning the morality of hoping for the outcome he would feel most comfortable with. That’s not something you see people do very often, at least not publicly.
What made me wince was not so much that he would prefer that the perpetrators be foreign jihadists, but that he seems to be viewing things in a binary “us vs them” fashion. I think more people than care to admit probably feel the same way he does.
How will he process things if it turns out to be one or more American Muslims, especially if they’re American born or raised? Would they be part of his “us” or are part of “them”? And what about all the peaceful, patriotic, law-abiding American Muslims? Would we be part of his “us”, or would we be lumped in with “them” as we were by so many after 9/11 (and still are by more than a few)?
The uncertainty compounds our fears too, Mr. Varney, just in a different way.
After 9/11 we had an enemy who, if not quickly cornered and killed, was at least quickly identified. There is a unity of purpose, a shared understanding of the threat in such situations that makes what happened not so much easier to bear as easier to confront. […]
Am I the only one hoping it’s jihadists? Is it even right to have such a hope in the face of something so awful? Is it morally suspect to take a deep breath, thank God fewer people were killed than Interstate 12 crashes claim on many weekends, and pray the low body count signals our mortal global enemies have lost some of the unholy talent they displayed in New York, Madrid and London? […]
In Oklahoma City in the days after the bombing there was a palpable disquiet. The city’s downtown was eerily silent but for the chakka-chakka-chakka of heavy-duty excavation equipment, and people wrestled with the news reports about Tim McVeigh and our homicidal parasites. No one knew what to make of what had occurred, but the fact the perpetrators were Americans was somehow unfathomable. […]
I wasn’t in New York City on 9/11 where the gloom was proportionately much larger. That’s a difference of scale, although, at root, it’s the same. There was also on that day, in Manhattan and everywhere else, a realization that a war was at hand; that such cataclysmic terrorism on home soil was the culmination of a chain that included African embassy bombings, Navy ship bombings and even an earlier, much less harrowing World Trade Center bombing.
In other words, there was a connection. There was a ripple that went through every American that someone else was attacking us. It was a Pearl Harbor-type moment. […]
The NRA operates much like climate science and evolution denialists: their job is to throw so much almost plausible but really false chaff into the wind that nobody can see the truth without extraordinary efforts.
Ever since the massacres in Aurora, Colorado, and Newtown, Connecticut, it’s been repeated like some surreal requiem: The reason mass gun violence keeps happening is because the United States is full of places that ban guns.
Second Amendment activists have long floated this theme, and now lawmakers across the nation are using it too. During a recent floor debate in the Colorado Legislature, Republican state Rep. Carole Murray put it this way: “Most of the mass killings that we talk about have been effected in gun-free zones. So when you have a gun-free zone, it’s like saying, ‘Come and get me.’”
The argument claims to explain both the motive behind mass shootings and how they play out. The killers deliberately choose sites where firearms are forbidden, gun-rights advocates say, and because there are no weapons, no “good guy with a gun” will be on hand to stop the crime.
With its overtones of fear and heroism, the argument makes for slick sound bites. But here’s the problem: Both its underlying assumptions are contradicted by data. Not only is there zero evidence to support them, our in-depth investigation of America’s mass shootings indicates they are just plain wrong.
The power of hate crimes to terrorize is relatively simple: They are criminal acts that send a message far beyond the initial victim.
And yet it is that aspect of the laws that people often question. A running dialogue has long asked the need for such statutes, with some arguing that an assault is an assault, a murder is a murder and the normal penalties should suffice upon conviction.
But that misses the rationale behind hate crimes — when a person’s race, religion, disability, ethnic origin or sexual orientation is a motivator for an attack. The crime can be like a warning to an entire category of people.
“It doesn’t just affect the victim,” said Heith Janke, supervisory special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. “It affects an entire community. Everyone lives in fear not knowing if they might be the next one attacked.”
I stumbled across this press release from Brown University about a study on emotional states and political stances. It turns out there’s a very strong correlation between a person’s tendency to be fearful and their political leanings.
It also shows that education has an equally strong effect. The more educated a person is, the less likely their stance will be influenced by fear.
Which explains why the GOP as currently constituted tends to oppose education so much. The last thing they want is for people to stop being afraid.
Now, as some background, out there in the stupider parts of the Internet, there are dudes who think of themselves as ‘alpha males.’ My experience with these fellows is that they tend to be ignorant, status-anxious and undersocialized; they tend to mask their various panic attacks about race, gender and sexuality by maintaining those panic attacks are in fact a sign of their superiority. They disdain those who are comfortable with a world in which diversity is respected and encouraged — especially those who are men — and call them ‘beta’ or ‘gamma’ males and/or describe them as ‘rabbits’ or some other species which they presume to be frightened or prey.
With that in mind, for those of us who are comfortable with diversity, who try not to be racist, or sexist, or homophobic, who don’t see the world as an apocalyptic zero-sum battle to the death between ourselves and whomever we try to hide our confused fear of by considering them as lesser beings, who aren’t in fact appallingly ignorant bigoted shitballs every single waking hour of the day, may I present to you an avatar — an icon, if you will, of who we are and how we choose to live our lives:
EDITED TO ADD: Yes, Gamma Rabbit, who likes people as they are, fears no one no matter how they live their lives, and who is comfortable with himself and his own personal values of kindness, tolerance and diversity. Sure, there are some who look down on him and his ways, but you know what? Gamma Rabbit knows that those people are kooky, silly, wacky racist sexist homophobic dipshits, and aside from looking forward to the day when they might pull their heads out and join the rest of the human race, lets them alone to do their own thing. Because Gamma Rabbit has other, better people and things to think about.
THE voters have spoken. So, what now? How will our still divided government deal with our mounting threats and challenges?
A Bedouin proverb says, “Me against my brother, my brothers and me against my cousins, then my cousins and me against strangers.” Human beings are pretty good at uniting to fight at whatever level is most important at a given moment. This is why every story about a team of warriors or superheroes features an internal rivalry, but all hatchets are buried just before the climactic final battle in which the team vanquishes the external enemy.
A national election focuses our attention on a single level of competition — political party versus political party. Let’s call that “me and my brother against our cousin.” But after that, it’s time for our national team to come together to fight the many threats and enemies that confront us. Let’s unite with our cousins to fight the stranger!
Except that we didn’t do it four years ago, when things looked even grimmer, and there’s no sign that we’re going to do it now. Since the 1990s we’ve been stuck at one level — party versus party. Partisanship is not a bad thing. We need multiple teams to develop competing visions for voters to choose among. But when so many of our leaders can’t even occasionally place national interest before party interest, we’ve crossed over into hyperpartisanship. And that’s a very bad thing, because it amplifies other problems like the debt crisis, the absence of a rational immigration policy and our aging infrastructure.
We the people bear some of the blame for what’s happened in Congress, for we, too, have become more angrily partisan. So what can we do to pull ourselves up to that higher level? How can we unite not just with our brothers and sisters, but with our cousins?
There’s a whole cottage industry out there bottling and selling fear and nihilism heavily laced with bile, and the sales people are not folks we would normally heed if we had not developed such an appetite for scenery-chewing fear and become accustomed to bilious spume displacing all of our hopes and all dreams. When did we become so tired and listless that we let that happen?
Salt Lake City’s Jack Gray, however, says his platform is about the local economy. “Economy is bad and we have a high U.S. debt,” Gray says. “I could do a better job.”
Gray says he did an Internet search and found high unemployment in his council district and says that was his motivation for challenging Garrott.
“Unemployment … Stock market is crashing… Elected officials are responsible for the economy, right?” Gray says “So a challenger is going to say the economy is bad right now so [voters] might want a different representative.”
Gray says he’s still researching how to create jobs but says he’s ready for the task. Despite a Website still listing Gray as the head of the Utah ANSWP, when pressed about his political affiliations, Gray says he doesn’t have any.
“Officially, I’m not affiliated with a political party, so I don’t really talk about a certain political party. I’m supposed to be impartial,” Gray says.
When asked about past affiliations, however, Gray quickly warned a reporter that his cell phone battery was dying and ended the interview. In a follow up message, Gray said he no longer is affiliated with the ANSWP.
Influence of Secularism tops the things to fear chart with Evangelicals
In a survey of evangelical Christian leaders from around the world, 71% of cited secularism as the biggest threat to the religion. The emphasis on consumerism (67%) and sex and violence in pop culture (59%) were also cited as major threats to evangelical Christianity. Atheists were the most unpopular religious group among the evangelical Christian leaders. Seven-in-ten had an unfavorable view of them, while just 30% had a favorable opinion. Solid majorities of evangelical leaders also expressed unfavorable views of Muslims (67%), Hindus (65%) and Buddhists (65%). However, Jews, Catholics, Pentecostal Christians and Orthodox Christians were regarded favorably. The leaders were evenly divided on whether it was necessary to believe in God in order to be a moral person
Peter Cohan looks at the money gathered by the doom industry. This article merely scrapes the surface, but it is time to recognize that there is profit going to people who are professional nihilists. Their business, whether they are religious zealots like Harold Camping or Glenn Beck, or secular Kookspiricists like Alex Jones and Howard Ruff, is to sell you fear.
So no matter how good things are, these people will tell you the worst angle, and if none exists they will make one up out of blue sky. They live to profit from false predictions of doom, and as Peter points out, once sold the buyers almost always return even after the prediction is falsified.
Let me assure you that I do not think I am anywhere near smart enough to explain why people are willing to sell all their possessions, spend all their money, and gather in public places carrying signs about the end of the world on the strength of Camping’s predictions.
But I do know — after teaching students about business strategy for the last six years — that people who are set in their beliefs are prone to denying data that conflicts with those beliefs. This phenomenon, dubbed confirmation bias about which I’ve written, affects CEOs just as much as people who believe in the Rapture or buy stock in unprofitable biotechnology companies.
That’s why I am confident that most of the people who bet their lives on the Rapture happening last Saturday are delighted that Camping has set a new date. Heaven forbid that any of them should doubt Camping on the strength of his most recent failed prediction.
In sizing up the RIC, let’s start with Camping. His enterprise, Family Radio International (FRI), spent millions of dollars— some of it from donations made by followers — on 5,000 billboards and 20 RVs proclaiming his Judgment Day message, according to AP.
FRI has been around since 1958 and now sports 65 stations across the U.S. It received $80 million in contributions between 2005 and 2009. In 2009, FRI reported in IRS filings that it received $18.3 million in donations, and had assets of over $104 million — including $34 million in stocks or other publicly traded securities.
Next stop on the RIC tour is Tim LaHaye, co-author of the best-selling “Left Behind” novels about the Rapture. He’s sold at least 40 million copies – at $15 a copy that would translate into $600 million in sales. LaHaye appears to view Camping as an upstart competitor — noting that his prediction is “not only bizarre but 100 percent wrong!”