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.


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

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.

The Crusader’s Reaction

August 31, 2007

Senator Larry Craig, Representative Mark Foley, and the Reverend Ted Haggard share in their shame. All three are conservative leaders who have legislated and preached against homosexuality as unnatural, wrong, and undeserving of legal protection. All three have been disgraced when accused of practicing homosexuality.

I am neither a lawyer nor a psychologist. The goal of this article is not to comment on Senator Craig’s guilt or innocence, nor to take you inside of the minds of these apparent hypocrites. However, if I could humbly submit a hypothesis, I think these men may have spoken out against homosexuality as part of a reaction against their actions.

Psychologists have described a number of different ways that people tend to deal with guilt. Some rationalize their guilt, stretching their beliefs to meet their actions. Others force their guilt into their subconscious minds. Others undergo what is known as “reaction formation,” where a person seeks to crusade against something against their beliefs precisely because they are indulging in it. Rather than addressing the roots of guilt by changing their actions or reevaluating their beliefs, these people seek to hunt out the guilt in others. To put it more simply, they directly disobey Jesus’ command in Matthew 7: 5 to “…first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

Is it possible that the two legislators and the clergyman above made a crusade against homosexuality the most public expression of their faith precisely because they struggled with it personally? These men were raised in times and places where homosexuality was not acceptable. From their earliest days, it is likely that they were taught about how unnatural and wrong homosexuality is. Parents, clergy, and the culture of conservatism demonized homosexuality. When these men began to explore their own sexuality, perhaps they found it less orthodox than the prevailing culture expected and accepted. Rather than fighting to change attitudes about homosexuality, or addressing their own sexuality in order to change it, if that is even possible, these men embarked on a crusade against homosexual activity.

It is very dangerous when people seek to hunt their private guilt out in the public world. There are countless cases throughout history of guilt-ridden people becoming bloodthirsty rulers and tyrants. Guilt is a powerful force. If approached carefully, respectfully, and privately, it can make us all better people. If denied or ignored, it can make us beasts and oppressors.

The crises facing each of the three disgraced men right now is awful, and I am not suggesting that they did not wholeheartedly believe in what they preached. However, society needs to cast a compassionate eye on them and all people struggling with hypocrisy. Hypocrisy stems from the root of guilt that all of us interact with in our own lives. It is only in how we deal with our struggles with guilt that we can claim to be any different. Even at that, we are all hypocrites here. Everyone has some crusade that they carry out into the world, rather than addressing privately.

Rather than assaulting these men like ravenous wolves, we need to respect their privacy and offer a hand of forgiveness. Our first duty whenever we see hypocrisy, after all, is to take the planks out of our own eyes.