Weekly Letter to President Obama
Copyright © 2010
ofthisandthat.org. All rights
INAUGURATION, January 20, 2009
Drunk in its stale air
For two hundred years.
Fettered in mind and body,
The soul, the safe escape
To let me breathe the cries
Of my heart singing
Tears of mel-an-choly.
The tears flow free today
Washing the stains of blood
And sweat in brotherhood.
Raise the curtain then an'
Let the world look in
On this promised land --
We breathe free today.... almost.
--- Arshad M. Khan
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.
--- Native American proverb
January 9, 2015
Mr. President: This week has seen bitter cold with temperatures hovering in the
single digits Fahrenheit plus or minus. Schools have been closed because of the
dangers of frostbite. But heated houses and cars make life quite bearable for adults.
The middle east has also experienced unusually cold weather and Jerusalem has had
snow the last couple of years. For refugees from Iraq and Syria escaping the shelling
and bombing, life is little short of hell.
The December 15, 2014 issue of Science News reports on the effects of disasters on
children. Thus 55 percent of children suffered post traumatic stress three months
after Hurricane Andrew, 18 percent after ten months and 60 percent of these still
displayed symptoms four years later.
But these issues matter little to the great who seek to right the world and fashion it to
their liking. So Madeleine Albright dismissed the dead and dying children of
sanctioned Iraq as a price to be paid, and Henry Kissinger's famous "anything on
everything that moves" injunction in bombing Cambodia led to a flattened landscape
and a population so numbed and angered, they joined Pol Pot's murderous
campaign. Is there a parallel with ISIS?
Yet the deaths of millions is impersonal; the death of a dozen journalists appalls. So
the news the last few days centered on Paris and the attack on the offices of the
satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo -- a magazine few had heard of and which lived off
provocation. It apparently ran a cartoon series on prophet Mohammed insulting to
Muslims and clearly intended to provoke. While expression of opinion is part of
democracy, the French government, on the one hand, ignored this conscious bigotry,
on the other it shut up a popular French comedian, Dieudonne, for what were
described as anti-Semitic jokes.
Jyllands-Posten, the Danish newspaper, published 12 cartoons in 2005 depicting
Mohammed in a manner Muslims found insulting. It caused violent demonstrations
from "Jerusalem to Jakarta" and a boycott of Danish products in many countries. The
editor Flemming Rose's intent cannot be known except that the paper was offered a
satirical depiction of Jesus and the resurrection, but the editors declined saying it
would cause a public outcry. Similarly, Judaism is excluded from their anti-religious
Apparently, the editors bravado is limited to directing their venom at the least
powerful, segregated, marginalized, often ghettoized community not absorbed into the
mainstream, and lacking upward mobility. Printing offensive cartoons only alienates it
further making it feel isolated and the object of ridicule. And a persistent racism
fattened by this diet continues to obtrude the thinking of a substantial segment of
Europe's citizenry; to that one could easily add Canada and Australia.
So Australian Rupert Murdoch unsurprisingly blames Islam for the tragedy, his
reductive reasoning failing to consider Ahmed Merabet or Lassam Bathily. If most
people have not heard of them it is not their fault because being contra-narrative
these facts have not been reported widely: Ahmed Merabet was a Muslim French
police officer who was shot, wounded, and then killed execution style at close range
by the attackers. Lassam Bathily is a Malian Muslim who worked at the kosher
grocery store where Amidy Coulibaly killed four individuals taking several hostage.
Mr. Bathily helped save several people by hiding them in a walk-in freezer. Among
the panoply of resources available to Mr. Murdoch doubtless there is someone who
can apprise him of the Islam of these two heroes of the Paris siege. He only has to
A good rule for writers and speakers these days in their comments about Muslims and
Islam is to substitute Jew and Judaism in their sentences and hear what it sounds like
-- because blanket aspersions against a religion or group is the very definition of
bigotry and racism. It is also not in the interest of peace on our little blue marble
when the group comprises 23 percent of its population and is a majority in 49