Why I Wore Green

October 25, 2007

Islamic crescent moon and star Yesterday, I wore a green shirt. Wearing green, the color of Islam, seemed a fitting way for me, a Christian, to make a small statement against the Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week currently being sponsored by The Terrorism Awareness Project (TAP). Ultra-conservative activist and TAP leader David Horowitz is calling on college students nationwide to speak out against Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism. He claims to be a defender of the West and democratic values, and a strong voice against extremism. One look at the TAP website, www.terrorismawareness.org, however, reveals who the real extremists are:

      “Just read what Muslims say about Jews. Not that they’re much kinder to Christians Do you know about the centuries-old Muslim attacks on Christian communities in the Middle East?” (Letter to a Friend: On Islamic Fundamentalism”)

“Daughter, sister, and wife-beating, which is the Koranically-sanctioned abuse of women: Koran 4:34 says of disobedient women, ‘Beat them’… Female sexual and domestic slavery, which is the Koranically-sanctioned objectification of women as sexual and domestic objects, based on the Koran’s contention that women are possessions of men… (cf. Koran 2:223)” (Statement Calling on Feminists to End Their Silence on the Oppression of Women)

“ “Jihad is not, as some Western apologists claim, simply a striving for individual perfection. Rather, jihad is an expansionist totalitarian ideology that seeks to establish a global Islamic state ruled by Islamic law, or sharia.” (What You Should Know About Jihad)

.. …crimes against women, such as wife-beating, are ordained by the Qur’an itself; others, such as female genital mutilation and honor killing, are praised by Islamic clerics and hallowed by Islamic culture.” (The Violent Oppression of Women in Islam)

“Why isn’t the left appalled by the jihad – the holy war that has been declared against the West, and by the sanctifying of murderers as holy “martyrs” when Muslim terrorists kill innocent Americans, Christians and Jews? Perhaps it is because the left is engaged in its own jihad or holy war – and against the same targets: the Great Satan, America, and the little one in the Middle East.” (Vocabulary of War)

“Technically, no form of Islam preaches racial superiority or proposes a master race. But in practice, Islamic fanatics operate a fascistic concept of the “pure” and the “exclusive” over the unclean and the kufar or profane.” (Defending Islamofascism)

“ “Why is Jimmy Carter attacking the victims in the Middle East and making the tasks of the aggressors easier?” (Jimmy Carter’s War Against the Jews”)

According to the TAP, Muslims hate Christians, glorify sexual abuse, and believe in the racial supremacy of the Arab people. Meanwhile, the American left, with Jimmy Carter at the helm, is actively working to destroy America and kill the Jews, alongside their Arab allies.

I would wear the green shirt of Islam before the brown shirt of Horowitz’s fascism any day.


Want to Reach Your Potential? Live!

October 18, 2007

 

Apparently, my taste in films is having quite an impact on the content of this blog. I saw Gattaca for the first time yesterday, as part of a seminar class on medicine, ethics, and culture. For those of you who have never seen the film, it explores a society that has become entirely obsessed with genetic perfection. Parents engineer their children to be tall, attractive, healthy, and resistant to diseases. The movie chronicles the life of a man named Vincent, conceived naturally, who purchases the DNA and identity of Jerome, a genetically-engineered man like most of the population, in order to avoid discrimination.

All of this is quite fascinating, and I highly recommend the film. One relatively minor event at the end of the film, however, quite thoroughly disturbed me. The reason that Jerome is willing to sell his identity and genetic material is that he broke his back and must use a wheelchair, which clearly excludes him from participating in a body-obsessed society. I had my hopes that, just as Vincent is able to break free of society’s expectations and reach his potential, Jerome, could live freely and break away from society’s expectations. As they part for the final time towards the end of the movie, Jerome tells Vincent that he is about to follow his dreams and “do some traveling.” Jerome is supposed to complement Vincent’s success in finally being able to go to the stars as an astronaut. The dream of a person conceived naturally is to go to space. According to Gattaca, the dream of a person in a wheelchair is to toss himself into an incinerator.

In a film based on the premise that each human has a great potential when free of prejudice, Gattaca’s directors evidently felt that people with serious disabilities need not try. It is shocking that the ending is supposed to be a happy one, with the “normal” character fulfilling his potential and the “degenerate” character accepting his fate. Since when is committing a disillusioned suicide an expression of human potential?

It is disturbing and wrong to imply that the greatest aspiration of people with disabilities should be to “come to terms with” our inabilities and end our worthless lives. Sorry, but this blogger in a wheelchair is not lighting himself up any time soon. There are far too many dreams and travels that I need to be alive for.


To the Woman Five Rows Behind Me at the Boston Palestine Film Festival This Evening

October 4, 2007

Dear Madam,

Good evening. Tonight, I had the opportunity to be lambasted by you. From the moment that I opened my mouth to question the choice of tactics used in the short film “The Iron Wall,” stating that the violent images and judgmental language used to refer to the Palestinian occupation could alienate moderate sympathizers of the Palestinian independence movement, I knew there would be someone like you to call me out. And so you did. Holding me with a look of righteous outrage and conviction, which my eyes met for the entirety of your monologue, you told me that if I doubted the brutal reality of the Palestinian occupation, I could go to Palestine and see it for myself. You told me that you had seen violence and tyranny first-hand. Your stare convicted me of ignorance and complacency towards the oppression of Palestine, as another uninformed American fooled into believing Israel’s conspiratorial lies. For your efforts at pointing out my guilt and apathy, you were rewarded with thunderous applause from the activists throughout the room.

In your righteousness, however, you missed one crucial fact. My question was never meant to undermine the cause of Palestine. It was meant to undermine the tactics that continue to poison our debate over Palestine. Until people hear the truth, and not propaganda, Palestine will never receive sympathy from the West.

You and I have the same vision, dear woman. We both envision an independent and democratic Palestine existing alongside Israel. Where we diverge is in how to rally the world to this cause. You adore a film decrying the situation in Palestine as “apartheid,” declaring that Israel controls foreign media and governments, and featuring a Palestinian man in his basement ranting about how Israel wants to eliminate the Arab population in Palestine. I prefer the truth: that Israel is trying to secure itself, albeit in a misguided way, and that Palestine is fighting for a state of independence.

The more violent and disturbing your rhetoric against Israeli policy is, the more harshly Americans will judge the Palestinian cause. After our exchange, several people asked when “The Iron Wall” will appear on broadcast television in America and Israel, where the public will see it and sympathize with Palestine. The truth is that it never will. Why? Contrary to your beliefs, it is not because Israeli Jews control the media. It is not because a world Zionist conspiracy has “corrupted” the views of most Americans and denied us the ability to think freely. The film will never be seen by most people because it is blatant propaganda. When you show English graffiti in an Arab ghetto in Israel ordering Arabs “to the gas chambers,” rational people know that the true view of most Israelis is not represented. When you feature sound bites by Israeli activists stating calmly and clearly that Israel is attempting to expel all Arabs from Palestine, rational people know that the true view of most Israelis is not represented.

I believe that Palestinians have suffered tragic abuse at the hands of Israel. I believe that the remedy for this is Palestinian statehood. I do not believe in using propaganda and misrepresentation in order to further this or any cause. As you become more and more militant, you give ammunition to your enemies. The more you talk about massive international conspiracies, Israeli domination over world affairs, and the godlike nonviolence of every Palestinian, the more people will be disgusted at what you say.

I agree with you in that what I saw in the film tonight was wrong and disturbing. Israel’s house demolition, settlement, and wall-building policies are tragic abuses of human rights, and I am heartened when people are made aware of the true situation. All too often, however, films like “The Iron Wall” tear people away from our cause. You mistake the cheers of activists in a single room in Boston with a sign that you are finally telling the noble truth that the people will believe.

My argument is in favor of telling the truth and letting people see issues clearly, then allowing them to embrace the view they find most morally appealing. Your rhetoric against me was, at best, misguided, and at worst, the kind of speech that makes people turn their hearts against the Palestinian cause.

I dissent from your view. I embrace your cause. Do not let your rhetoric make enemies of the very people you need as your allies. Do not build a wall in your heart to dwarf the one on the ground.

Agreeing with you more than you will ever know,

Matt Cavedon


Revolutions of the Heart of a Nation

September 28, 2007

Today, men of peace have met war. After a week of peaceful democratic protests by 50,000 Buddhist monks and civilians, the Burmese military has opened fire and killed eight demonstrators and a Japanese journalist. Burmese monks, revered in their society as holy men, have been resisting military dictatorship in the Southeast Asian nation. Despite their nonviolence and deep beliefs in pacifism, the government now believes that the monks are threatening enough to be put down with bloodshed.

If there is a lesson that we can learn from the events unfolding in Asia, it is that peaceful and conscientious defiance of injustice can be wildly powerful. Asia has seen armed rebellions in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and throughout the Middle East over the past year, and none of these would-be revolutions have won the support of the masses. For all of their flamed rhetoric and militant strikes against symbols of authority, paramilitary and terrorist organizations are hated by most of the people they claim to fight for. For this reason alone, they are too weak to accomplish their goals. The monks, however, have energized Burma’s population. Without raising even a single finger in violence against the government, these holy men have been joined in their marches by tens of thousands of ordinary Burmese people. In a country with an extensive secret police force and a large army, marches of this size are unheard of. Why is it that Burma is now in the throes of a revolution that could well restore democracy?

The truest revolutions in this world are not revolutions of death and violence. The French, Russian, Nazi, Chinese, and Cuban revolutions were all marked with heavy bloodshed and deep human suffering, carried out in the name of “the greater good.” Within only a few years, however, each new regime had decayed. The best became corrupt and ineffective. The worst became butchers of humanity. Rather than freeing the people from the old bonds of tyranny and corruption, new bonds were forged to perpetuate the slavery of society.

The truest revolutions in this world are revolutions of life and peace. The Indian, Civil Rights, and South African revolutions were not won at the tip of the sword. Rather, people of conscience stood together and fought for the inherent dignity of every human. By appealing to the moral senses of the masses and urging a future based on peace and coexistence, these revolutions were radically democratic, liberating, and successful. No society that has experienced a truly moral revolution in the last century has come to regret it.

Burma’s monks are now standing, marching, chanting, and praying for a new revolution of faith. They live in peace and, like most peaceful people, are meeting violence from the oppressors truly afraid of them. The fear of the junta is clear in every hand it lays on a monk. It is clear in every jail cell slammed to lock in a peaceful protestor. It is clear in every gunshot fired at a man kneeling in the street to pray for an end to human suffering. The military rulers of Burma are right to be afraid of the righteous: the moral force of a nation on fire with peace and love will shatter the ice of tyranny thoroughly and completely. The criminal regime has no weapon that can pierce the soul of a person with convictions, and no force that can subdue nonviolence.

A peaceful and democratic revolution is taking place in Asia today. The saffron robes of the monks are red like the fire of compassion consuming their souls. By God’s grace, people of peace may bring a true revolution to Burma in the coming weeks. As the people see the crimes committed by the government against the holiest of people, their hearts will be moved to conviction in a revolution. By laying their lives on the line for the Burmese people, the monks are laying the foundation for a new peace unlike anything Burma has seen before.

Please keep the monks in your thoughts and prayers. Show them that the world stands with them in their struggle for justice and humanity.


Still Here

September 19, 2007

Dear readers,

Despite the dearth of activity here, I am still actively checking the site and will start making posts again soon, once school is settled out more. If you are interested in contributing, please feel free to post here under the comments section – I’ll get your e-mail from Blogger.

Happy school year,

Matt


Blogging Against the Telethon

September 4, 2007


In my eagerness to do a piece about labor on Labor Day, another tradition of the Holiday Weekend skipped my mind: the Jerry Lewis Telethon. Fortunately, I did not spend yesterday sobbing on a street corner and telling people how much life in a wheelchair sucks. Neither did the disability bloggers at www.karasheridan.com, with their “Blog Against the Telethon.”

For many people with disabilities, myself included, the Telethon is an inexcusable pity play. Yes, it raises money, but kids sitting on stage crying about how disabilities are awful is totally disgusting. I have a disability. It is a part of my identity. My wheelchair is a part of my identity in the same way that my ethnicity and birthplace are. I do not obsess about it, but it can be a source of meaning in my life. I would not trade it for the world.

Instead of digging out your wallets to support the Telethon, spend this week opening your mind. Disability is a natural part of life. We are not people in need of cures. We are people in need of acceptance for who we are. If you can look beyond the connotations of disability and realize that we have the same dreams and aspirations as you do, you will have made a far more generous contribution to our community than Jerry Lewis ever could.


Reward Hard Work By Spreading the Wealth

September 3, 2007

In a fitting Labor Day headline, the International Labour Organization (ILO) reported today that workers in the United States are the most productive in the world yet again, creating $63,885 of wealth each last year. Education, access to technology, and longer working hours per person than most other industrialized countries propelled the U.S. to the top in 2006.

Are our workers receiving adequate compensation for their hard work? Americans have less vacation time, more expensive medical care, far less paid maternity leave, and less union representation than workers in nearly any other industrialized nation. While America’s economy is hailed as the most successful in the world, an overwhelming amount of wealth rests in the hands of the very rich: 33% of all wealth belongs to the wealthiest 1% of Americans, and 71% of all wealth belongs to the wealthiest 10%.

It is American workers who are willing to work long hours at an intense pace who make it possible for a handful of Americans to enjoy a lifestyle unimaginable in most of the world. For all of the complaints levied against American tax rates, our average personal income tax rates are the 8th lowest in the industrialized world, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). In arguments about tax rates, many proponents of lower taxes argue that tax cuts help the economy by spurring investment.

Investment occurs when money is spent. When investment occurs, the economy is grown with new businesses, new products, and new jobs. Are lower income tax rates for people with vast personal fortunes really the best way to spend money? After all, if a billionaire receives a 20% tax cut, is she more likely to invest it in an up-start business, or to put it in the bank to collect interest? Common sense and fiscal responsibility do not justify taking risks with tax rebates, which could be going right back to the government come next year. If taxes are cut, a person with a great amount of wealth is likely to keep the money in a low-risk bank account or mutual fund, waiting for a rainy day to come along. The ultra-wealthy are more likely to be savers than spenders, given generous tax cuts.

The government, however, is an ambitious institution. Given hundreds of millions of dollars in new tax revenue, members of either party will find ways to spend it. For Republicans, this might mean a military hardware overhaul, tens of thousands of new police officers, or paying down the national debt. For Democrats, this might mean universal health care, new student loan programs, or an environmental clean-up fund. In either case, tax money received by the government is likely to be spent, and fast.

History shows us that when the government spends big, the economy grows. In the 1940’s and 1950’s, the government spent record amounts of money in the defense industry. As a result, the military-industrial complex gave rise to American manufacturing, providing jobs that paid people enough to buy new goods like televisions and automobiles. Over the past decade, we have spent a record amount of money on homeland security and intelligence. In the next few years, our economy will skyrocket, as long as the money spent is properly spread throughout the population.

Rather than harming the economy and stifling growth, a progressive taxation system ensures that money is rapidly spent. Tax cuts often lead to economic stagnation, as money sits in private bank accounts earning minimal interest. Restructuring our tax system to make it more progressive, freeing up funds in private bank accounts to be spent on everything from energy to defense to transportation, is the real way to stimulate the economy.

American workers are contributing more to the global economy than anyone else. Our laborers should be enjoying a luxurious day off today. If we want to continue to honor their hard work and contributions all year, we need to make sure that $63,885 per American worker is being spent on improving lives and creating jobs, not just collecting pennies in executive accounts.