Tag Archives: Democracy

Can Trumpism Lead to a Better American Story?


By Deepak Chopra, MD

We are living at a time when the story of America is changing, with nothing but more change on the horizon. Therefore, we face a critical decision. Should the new American story be born out of fear or hope? The stark contrasts in the 2016 election make this choice inevitable. One indelible human trait is the craving to turn our experiences into stories. These stories gather tags (now often called memes) that keep the story straight and allow people to agree about them. “The greatest generation” is such a tag, supporting the story of the Allied victory in World War II, which is referred to as a “good war,” another tag. Politics is many things, but one of the most important is a war between competing stories, and if your side comes up with the winning story, your victory can last far beyond one election cycle.

Donald Trump has been wildly erratic when it comes to actual ideas, policies, and positions, but he rode the crest of an immensely successful Republican story. So-called conservative “principles” are largely a collection of mythical storylines, and the tags that define them go back to the Nixon era. We are all familiar with law and order, the silent majority, morning in America, “Government isn’t the solution–it’s the problem,” “Tear down this wall, Mr. Gorbachev,” clash of civilizations, “Guns don’t kill people–people do,” and many other conservative memes.

So fervent is the craving for stories that the right wing clings to storylines that are totally false if your standard of truth is historical fact, accurate data, and pluralism. But rigidly clinging to our story is something we all do. By the same token, we become nervous and disturbed when our story starts to fray. The right plays upon fear very successfully at times of national anxiety, from Nixon’s “pitiful helpless giant” to Bush’s “We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud” to Trump’s “make America great again,” which plays upon the anxiety of national decline. Fear is a powerful motivator in the short term, even when it proves to be disastrously bad as a guide to action, as witness the Vietnam war and the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan.

It seems likely that Donald Trump has finally reached the end of his string and will self-destruct thanks to his total inability to control himself. But the crisis surrounding the American story won’t go away. The benign revolt led by Bernie Sanders isn’t comparable to the toxic revolt led by Trump. Yet they share a refusal to go along with the American story we’ve been living with, and the fact that such a huge proportion of Americans think the country is moving in the wrong direction indicates how deep our confusion, frustration, and discontent have progressed. Continue reading

VOD: Congress Suspended Democracy So Only One Person Could Re-Open the Government

If you haven’t been following the news regularly about the government shutdown this is one story to which you should pay attention. Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-Md) stood on the House Floor and attempted a motion to re-open the government. What followed was the revelation that on Oct. 1 House Republicans quietly passed a resolution that changed the standing House Rules so that only Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor can make a motion to re-open the government.

You read that correctly. Eric Cantor (or his designee) is the only person that can start the process of re-opening the government. That means that even if the every other Republican and Democratic representative is in favor of re-opening the government but Eric Cantor does not make the motion, the government stays shut down. Even the most powerful Republican in Congress – Speaker of the House John Boehner – can’t make the motion to re-open the government without Eric Cantor’s permission. The power to turn on the services paid for by our tax dollars and return hundreds of thousands of government workers back to their jobs is in the hands of one person.

Does that have your attention now?

Watch the video of Chris Van Hollen’s parliamentary inquiries to see for yourself.

What are your feelings on the video? How does this gel with your definition of democracy? Tell us in the comments below. 

3 Videos That Explain the Government Shutdown

Yesterday, after Congress failed to pass a new budget (or a continuing resolution to give them more time to work out a budget), the federal government was shutdown. But what does that mean? It means that government services deemed “non-eseential” were closed until Congress passes a bill to allow them to re-open and some 800,000 government employees are currently not working.

VlogBrother Hank Green (the other VlogBrother is NYT Bestelling author John Green) posted a video yesterday that more clearly explains what it means when your government shuts down, what services are effected, and the deeper root of this problem:

But why is the government shutting done? 

To answer that question we turn to Senator Elizabeth Warren (D)  from Massachusetts. On Monday, September 30, Senator Warren gave a speech on the Senate floor about her disbelief of the current situation. “[The shutdown] is a last gasp of hope for those that can’t deal with the reality of this democracy,” is a quote from Warren’s speech that you have probably seen plastered all over your Facebook pages. Senator Warren drops even more knowledge about the Tea Party contingent of the House of Representatives forcing this shut down as a way to gut the Affordable Care Act (better known as Obamacare) in the full version of the speech below:

Wait, this is about Obamacare? Didn’t the Supreme Court already say it was constitutional? 

They did. The Affordable Care Act has been through all the proper steps to become a law – passed by the House and Congress, singed by the President and declared constitutional by the Supreme Court. It has checked off all the verses in that infamous School of Rock video we all had to watch in Civics class. And Obamacare is exempt from the government shutdown so it still went into effect yesterday, October 1, making the entire situation even more infuriatingly pointless.

Sometimes the best thing to do is to make a joke when explaining the reality is too baffling. Jon Stewart may have made the best metaphor possible on Monday night’s “The Daily Show” with a new segment “Rockin’ Shutdown Eve.”

In essence, politicians are playing chicken with the paychecks of almost 1 million government workers at stake. They have suspended vital services to underprivileged children and the elderly to bargain for their ideological ideals rather than by their desire to do what is best for this country, and that is unacceptable.

Whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, supporter of the Affordable Care Act or not, we can all agree that politicians need to stop holding America hostage for their own agendas – and that goes for both sides. We the people elected Congress to represent and work for us, and they need to do better. That’s really what you need to know about the government shutdown.

What do you think of the shutdown? Share your thoughts in the comments below! 

What Can Snowden Learn from the 3 NSA Whistle-Blowers Who Came Before Him?

Whistle, SuitsIf you’ve been following the recent National Security Agency leak and its aftermath, it might seem like the walls of order and secrecy are all crumbling down. It’s been a big last few years, in general, with the Wikileaks scandals, Bradley Manning’s shocking revelations, and protests springing up all over the world against authoritarian government policies. Is the world as we know it falling apart?

The caveat in Edward Snowden’s case is that this isn’t necessarily revolutionary. In fact, there are three former NSA agents  – Thomas Drake, William Binney and J. Kirk Wiebe – who likewise spent years trying to expose the unconstitutional practices of the agency, to little avail. All three spent decades working for the NSA, even managing the data-collection programs they found so problematic. When they finally decided to speak out – first to superiors, then federal investigators, and finally to news outlets – they were forced out of their jobs and investigated as criminals.

The link in their stories and Snowden’s is that, in addition to speaking out against what they perceived as the unconstitutional, anti-American practices of the NSA, all of them also sacrificed their own comfort and reputations in doing so. The press and coverage gained by coming forward are no substitutes for jobs, homes, friends, and peace of mind – which suggests that these whistle-blowers really did have the American people’s best interest in mind. It’s a complex issue, though, and one that is by no means free of wrinkles.

In this candid and enlightening discussion, Drake, Binney, and Wiebe examine Snowden’s actions in comparison to their own, the places he may have misstepped, and why this general movement toward greater transparency excites them:

What do you think? Are you inspired or troubled by this growing trend of whistle-blowing?

Teen Fangirl Becomes #FreeJahar Activist After Boston Marathon Bombing

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In a surprising display of solidarity with the accused Boston Marathon bomber, a 14-year-old One Direction fangirl recently changed her Tumblr URL to “Free-Jahar” and began advocating for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s release (“Jahar” is the nickname Tsarnaev’s friends call him.) At first glance this may seem unfathomable. So much media attention, the gripping chase, the incriminating photos and other convincing bits of evidence – where’s the doubt in that?

Turns out the Internet has spawned an entire campaign, primarily on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr, of thousands of people proclaiming Tsarnaev’s innocence. The rhetoric of the movement argues that there are too many holes and inconsistencies in the evidence to ascertain 19-year-old’s guilt, let alone give him the death penalty. #FreeJahar Tumblrs  use images, sarcasm, and claims of conspiracy to make their case. This isn’t the first time Internet fans have rallied behind accused mass killers. The Columbine and Aurora shootings inspired similar contingents of advocates, illustrating the kind of intense, bizarre, and deluded fandom that can spread rapidly through social media.

One twist in the #FreeJahar cause is that the fiercest advocates are largely young and female, and many point to Tsarnaev’s attractiveness as the inspiration for the movement. Combine a fascination for conspiracy theories, a passion of contrary online social movements, and a weakness for good looks, and you have a much misguided cyber community on your hands.

Some questions that this story raises for us:

  • Are fangirls the new social activists and grassroots organizers?
  • Does physical attractiveness lead to greater sympathy and more “get out of jail free” passes?
  • Are we entering an era of the truest free, egalitarian, open-forum democracy we’ve ever known with the growing power of social networks? And if so, is this a change for the better?


Photo credit: Gawker

Deepak Chopra: It’s Time to Change Kleptocracy to Democracy

Since it is based on the Greek word for stealing, the term “kleptocracy” sounds inflammatory. But as income gaps open up wider and wider, there is evidence of a serious rift in American democracy, and in that rift one finds untold greed, corruption, and cronyism. Since the Reagan era middle-class families have seen their income rise a paltry 20% while the richest have increased their wealth tenfold.  In the current downturn, the economy has officially recovered.  As of this fall, the gross national product is higher than before the downturn, as is consumer spending.

This means that the widespread malaise isn’t evenly distributed – in fact, the distribution is grossly unjust.  Consider that Wall Street continues to hand out staggering bonuses to hedge fund managers, who cram the ranks of the top one-tenth of 1% of income earners. At the other extreme, unemployment among women and minorities soars, and only 7% of those who gain a new job after losing their old one receive pay that equals or exceeds what they earned before. 

We consider ourselves a democracy, but several long-standing trends indicate that American democracy has been bought and sold. Financial elites have a virtual monopoly on influence and power.

— A right-wing Supreme Court has heard numerous cases involving individuals suing corporations, and in the vast majority of cases it has founded on behalf of the corporation.

– The Roberts court has also permitted anonymous and unlimited contributions made by corporations to political campaigns.

— Using the filibuster as a constant veto weapon, the Senate Republicans block the President’s appointments to staff departments that they disapprove of ideologically, the most blatant example being the refusal to approve a department head for the Consumer Financial Protection Agency.

– Republican legislatures are pushing through voter registration restrictions aimed at intimidating minority and immigrant voters.

– A handful of congressmen in charge of military appropriations are virtual colleagues of the military-industrial contractors who receive billions on the basis of cronyism and influence.

– The traditional censure of influence-peddling in general has vanished, leading to a hand-in-glove arrangement that leads directly from public office to becoming a fat-cat lobbyist on K Street.  This corrupt symbiosis allows corporations to essentially write the very legislation meant to regulate them while a figure like Newt Gingrich can brazenly deny the obvious fact that he has grown wealthy as an influence peddler.

These trends go beyond the “normal” shadiness that has always been part of the lobbying system and the tendency for rich elites to combine their interests in the halls of power. There is a direct assault on democracy, as seen in the debate over national health insurance.  Lobbying efforts emasculated the bill and achieved almost everything that big pharma, the medical establishment, and the insurance companies wanted. The interests of the public were obvious, as they remain today. Health care should be a citizen’s right, with cost-cutting managed by eliminating fraud and cutting back drastically on optional and marginal procedures. Everyone can see this quite clearly, but our ability to translate public interest into law has been crippled.

The solution? It’s easy enough to take each toxic trend and dictate that it be reversed. But these trends are solidly entrenched. There is literally no elected official at the national level except the president with the power and ability to speak for the public as a whole. Inside the daily workings of Congress, the system of cozy corruption and influence-peddling has become amoral – it’s business as usual conducted without a blush. I retain my faith in President Obama as a leader who sees the situation without blinders and who would reform it overnight if he could. And informed citizens can seek out the candidates who stand for progressive reform.

Yet ultimately, there must be a shift in collective consciousness. Reform isn’t revolution. It arises through acts of conscience that turn wrongs into rights. It depends upon an informed electorate that arouses itself from passivity and cynical indifference. We aren’t there yet. But the air is filled with discontent and anger, which is a start. The Occupy movement has stung our conscience. The various types of social injustice and income inequality have been publicized over and over.  Set against this, however, one must confront thirty years of right-wing indoctrination, public apathy, and the discouragement of the current economic downturn.  The contest has been engaged. Now it’s your turn, and mine, to speak the truth and act on behalf of justice. There is no other way to create the shift in consciousness that we need.



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Take Back the Airwaves!

Although many recognize that individuals can be conscious of themselves, we seldom consider whether a whole society can be conscious of itself. Certainly at moments of great tragedy or great triumph there seems to be a capacity for millions of autonomous individuals to awaken to a collective consciousness. For example, when John F. Kennedy was assassinated, an entire nation went into mourning and for several days, collectively acknowledged the passing of their leader. Another moment of shared consciousness occurred with the first lunar landing. For a few hours, much of the world paused to collectively watch the first humans walk on the moon. In recent times, the terrorist strike on the World Trade Towers in New York City shocked the world’s consciousness into a time of collective attention.

The power of each of these events was not only in the sense of tragedy or triumph experienced by each person, but also in the awareness that this personal experience was being shared simultaneously by millions, even billions, of other persons. In the example of the moon landing, nearly the entire species was aware that it was passing through a historic moment in its evolution. Clearly, a society can be conscious of itself. The tools of mass communication make possible the awakening of our collective consciousness at scales ranging from person to planet. These tools can provide vitally important, realistic communication during our time of great turning and transformation.

The human community now confronts a whole-systems crisis as powerful trends converge and reinforce one another: Climate disruption, the depletion of cheap oil, a growing chasm between the rich and poor, unsustainable population growth coupled with the extinction of other species, global food shortages, and many more. Within this decade, citizens of the Earth will be pressed to awaken to the actual condition of the Earth and begin to make profound changes in our manner of living, consuming and working in support of a sustainable future.

To realize a fundamental shift toward a life-affirming future in a voluntary manner, hundreds of millions of persons will be called to act in conscious cooperation with one another. Can we accomplish this leap to a new level of functioning in our collective consciousness as a local to global community? In my estimation: Absolutely yes! Our core evolutionary potential as a species lies largely unnoticed in the scientific name that we have given to ourselves as a species. Technically, our name is not homo sapiens or "wise humans;" instead, we are homo sapiens sapiens or "doubly wise humans." In other words, where many animals have the capacity "to know," humans have a distinct capacity "to know that we know."

Personal reflection refers to seeing ourselves in the mirror of consciousness and using this mirror to observe the unfolding of our lives. By analogy, social reflection refers to seeing ourselves in the mirror of collective consciousness by using tools such as television and the Internet. It is important to recall that it was television that enabled people to share in the large-scale, collective experiences described above. We were all looking through the window of television at the assassination of JFK, the landing on the moon, and the collapse of the World Trade Towers.

The bottom line is this: If we are to take practical steps to awaken collectively, then we must create a more reflective and responsive media environment. Although many people have turned away from television in disgust with its excessive commercialism and adolescent programming, the reality is that in the U.S. and around the planet, the overwhelming majority of people get most of their news about the world from this source. At this pivotal time in human history, we cannot afford to turn away from the primary technology that supports our collective communication and consciousness. To illustrate, here are adult alternatives to the adolescent programming that now dominates television:

  • Authentic reality shows that dramatize a future of climate disruption and species extinction;
  • Situation comedies that explore the humorous side of life in an "eco-village" of fifty or more people learning to live together, presenting both the challenges and the joys;
  • "Electronic Town Meetings" where we discover ourselves as a community, nation, and world, and learn to collaborate together for a creative and promising future;
  • Genuine survivor shows that take us inside of lives of the world’s poorest citizens where we discover their humanity and their struggles.

Our challenging times call for we humans to step up and create a mainstream social movement concerned with media accountability for a new social consciousness: As citizens, we would give ourselves, and future generations, an enormous gift by consciously taking back the public airwaves. We are massively under-utilizing our powerful communication technologies and as a result, we are losing the race between awakening and catastrophe. The core challenge of this generation is to mobilize our extraordinary tools of local-to-global connection and consciously communicate our way into a sustainable, meaningful, and thriving future. As the media goes, so goes our mass conversation and consciousness and, in turn, so goes our future. Let’s take back the airwaves and our future.

PHOTO (cc): Flickr / dailyinvention




Is Egypt a Tipping Point or a “Now what?”

When history decides to shift, people are always looking in the wrong direction. That’s what makes so-called tipping points so unsettling — the experts miss them so often. In the case of Egypt, nobody expected peaceful popular uprisings to topple Mubarak. The Arab world was focused on the dangers of Iran or the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaeda or Israel. It was taken for granted that the repressive regimes of the Arab world were here to stay, backed by the military, secret police, and powerful friends on the side like the United States.

History apparently had different ideas, and so we stand at a moment like the fall of the Berlin Wall, where a society collectively says, "Enough is enough." The way in which collective consciousness makes such decisions is mysterious. The day before change occurs, there’s every reason to think it won’t. Hosni Mubarak had been in place for thirty years, Soviet Communism for seventy. What we will see now is a great deal of backing and filling as the experts tell us all the factors that made this a predictable upheaval, and the pro-Mubarak West eats a little crow for not supporting the protest movement quickly or strongly enough. One of the protesters had appealed to an American reporter, "Why can’t you see that we are just like you?" A good question.

The day after a tipping point is always full of danger. Post-Soviet Russia lost an empire, witnessed the rise of mobsters and oligarchs, spun into widespread corruption, and eventually defaulted on the ruble. Freedom came at the price of unleashing forces that an authoritarian system had kept under control, or at least under wraps. Egypt has reached its "Now what?" moment, and if the experts are right, the real issue isn’t the departure of a dictator who outstayed his welcome but of democracy being stifled by the military powers that hold sway almost totally. Much the same structure is in place throughout the Muslim world, with its blend of royal families, oil oligarchs, anti-Israel demagogues, inflammatory clerics, and a booming birth rate.

In other words, "Now what?" doesn’t seem to have any good answers. Egypt, like the rest of the Arab world, waited too long to educate its poor, illiterate population, stripped its wealth to favor the privileged few, obstructed the rise of the next generation, and fell far behind the curve in technology and modern industry. Those factors remain a huge stumbling block. And yet this moment had to come, and we can look upon India, which had exactly the same problems twenty years ago but managed to turn the corner in spectacular fashion. The secret is to reverse course and change hidebound policies.

Clearly such a reversal isn’t in the interests of the military or the ruling elites in the Middle East, because their greatest fear is the rise of the populations they suppress in order to remain in power. The status quo benefits the few, but it’s the few who hold the reins of every institution except the mosque. India prided itself, as it still does, on being the world’s largest (and messiest) democracy. So it would seem that before history can truly move ahead in the Arab world, the rise of the dispossessed must be allowed to occur, and that cannot happen without democracy. Despite their huge problems, Arab countries need to exist for the people. "Now what?" doesn’t have a simple answer, but the immediate need couldn’t be more clear.


PHOTO (cc): Flickr / Al Jazeera English


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Huffington Post – Ahmed Rehab: Swiss Radicalization: A Sign of Things to Come?



Nestle. The United Nations. Rolex. Secure Banking. Toblerone. Yodeling. William Tell. Cowbells. Neutrality. Rousseau. Alpine Skiing. Heidi.

T2009-12-02-swiss_minaret.jpghese are a few of the things — mostly pretty — that come to mind when you say “Switzerland.”

But now thanks to a recent popular vote on a controversial referendum, things like “intolerance,” “paranoia,” and “limitations on freedom of religion” have joined the merry list.

In case you have not heard already, 57% of Swiss voters approved a proposal Sunday to ban mosque minarets in a nationwide referendum sponsored by theSwiss People’s Party (SVP), a right-wing group long known for its anti-immigration campaigns. A complacent Swiss government subsequently stated that it will “respect the decision” of the people and will affect the ban on all new minarets in the country.

The SVP flooded the tiny landlocked Alpine state with posters in which minarets appeared as missiles rising from the Swiss flag. They told voters that “the minaret is a sign of political power and demand, comparable with whole-body covering by the burqa, tolerance of forced marriage and genital mutilation of girls.” This is not true of course.

Most Muslims accept the minaret as an architectural conduit for the call to prayer, but most do not seek political power, subscribe to the burqa, tolerate forced marriages, or accept genital mutilation of girls. Forced marriages and female circumcision happen mostly in poor, uneducated parts of the world and have no foundation in Islam. The burqa is worn by less than 1% of Muslim women. How these three things are “comparable” with a minaret must be Switzerland’s dirty little secret because I cannot figure it out.

Yet by casting the minaret, a mainstream symbol of normative Islam, as some kind of Trojan horse bearing the Achilles heel that will vanquish Swiss political and cultural hegemony, the SVP seems to have petrified people into a knee-jerk acceptance of a draconian ban that amounts to throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

While the ban has dismayed Muslims, it should also embarrass Switzerland whose polished image will likely take a major beating. The Swiss logic here is as arbitrary and nonsensical as if Dubai were to ban skyscrapers because they “represent American corporate greed which is partially to blame for the misguided war in Iraq.” Imagine the scornful reaction around the world then.

Personally, I have vacationed in Switzerland many times. I have taken the famed glacier express from St. Moritz in the West to Zermatt in the East, climbed the Matterhorn in the Alps, enjoyed promenades in the Boulevards of Geneva, and walked among the rooftops of Zurich and Neuchatel. I found the Swiss to be generally pleasant (though somewhat aloof). It is beyond me why such a beautiful country would choose to take a turn for the ugly. Swiss MuslimProfessor Tariq Ramadan says it is fear. Perhaps, but it is more than that. It is also cluelessness. Fear is not always such a bad thing; the Swiss had every right to fear the Nazis. But to ban an architectural form that scares you is a thing of prehistoric naiveté. Worse still, to be ignorant of what a minaret truly symbolizes — to the tune of some 57% of voters — signals that the wrong people are talking and a clueless majority are listening and following.

The minaret has been around, appropriated in the unique architectural traditions of every culture, for 14 centuries. Sure there are minarets that surround the Taliban, but minarets also surrounded the scholars, philosophers and scientists of Baghdad, Damascus, Tashkent, Seville, Toledo, and Cordoba whose body of work helped jumpstart Europe out of its dark age and into its renaissance. They surrounded and still surround the students of the oldest surviving university in the world, Al-Azhar of Cairo. They dot the skylines of cities from Casablanca to Brunei, and Istanbul to the Zanzibar, calling their peaceful residents only to God-consciousness. They adorn the four corners of what is widely considered to be the most beautiful man-made structure on earth, the Taj Mahal of India.

The shortsightedness of the anti-minaret campaign is fueled by more than fear. It is fueled by hate.

For as long as most people living today have been around, Europe has enjoyed a stint as a tolerant, liberal hub of multiculturalism, personal freedoms, and all-around prosperity. But suffer from historical amnesia at your own risk, for history has a ruthless tendency to repeat itself. Before we get too comfortable and fully let our guard down, we may do well to remember that it was not so long ago that the tame territory of delectable delights, chocolate, wine, and cheese was engulfed by fascist ideologies that were anything but. Indeed, it was only as recent as two generations ago that those nations, who today fancy themselves as the defenders of freedoms around the world, were the purveyors of extreme brands of racism, uber-nationalism, and imperialism that launched the world into two destructive global wars and history’s most egregious genocide.

Given the burden of Europe’s recent past, it is astonishing to note how readily Switzerland, itself a long-time haven of neutrality even during World War II (not exactly a great thing when you consider that human beings were being huddled into gas chambers North, West, and East), could teeter at the precipice of an eerily familiar abyss wherein citizens of a hapless religious minority are demonized and their rights freely limited.

Sadly Switzerland’s minaret vote is not the only troubling omen facing Europeans today.
While the winds of fascism are not exactly sweeping over Europe as I write, a few unwelcome breezes seem to be intensifying and cannot be ignored. The other Semites, Muslims, are in the eye of the storm this time around — Jews having borne the brunt of the last tempest. For Europe, “Never Again” seems to be a slogan for one religious minority at a time.

Let me be clear, the situation of Muslims in Europe today cannot be analogized to that of Jews 70 years ago. But those familiar with European history know that the zenith of 20th Century anti-Semitism was not born overnight. It evolved over time eventually reaching grotesque proportions. At first, a vanguard of voices claiming unique insight and expertise on Jewish affairs sought to “wake society up” to “know” and “confront” the nature of the threat festering in their midst. This involved columnists, preachers, politicians, and yes cartoonists. Jews were caste as the other, foreign implants who can never be fully European regardless of whether or not they were citizens working and living side by side with everyone else. Their religion was judged as too exotic, too sinister, an anti-European ideology that could not be trusted. Their history was recast into a carefully crafted narrative of perpetual anti-Christian mischief. At first, their religious rights were curbed, and then they were rendered second class citizens. Things quickly dwindled thereafter.

Today, I cannot help but wonder: had it not been for Germany’s tolerance of the demonization of Jews in the early decades when it then seemed mundane and uneventful, would a crime as outlandish as the “final solution” ever have found the mass acceptance that it did further down the line?

Worth mentioning is that despite the lessons learned from the Holocaust, Europe’s only indigenous Muslim minority could not itself escape genocide a few decades later — the first and only genocide to occur on European soil since World War II.

So what about today’s breezes of intolerance whisking through the continent?

In the United Kingdom, the far-right British Nationalist Party (BNP), a splinter group of the Whites-only British National Front (BNF) is experiencing a new surge. The far-right Dutch Party for Freedom, whose leader Geert Wilders advocates banning the Quran and curbing Muslim religious freedom, placed second in a recent election in the Netherlands. In France and Austria, far-right political groups spouting anti-Muslim rhetoric are also gaining ground. The SVP, the group behind the minaret ban and a poster campaign depicting white sheep kicking black sheep out of Switzerland, is now Switzerland’s biggest political party. Reports show that racism is on the rise in Switzerlandand elsewhere in Europe. Astroturf groups that openly call for the demonization for Muslims such as ACT! for AmericaSANESIOA, andSIOE are becoming a dime a dozen. Vandalism of Muslim cemeteriesand mosques and hate crimes are happening more frequently. In Germany, a Hijab-wearing woman was stabbed to death in front of her three-year-old child while seeking justice in a German court against the perpetrator who had hurled racist slurs at her in a public playground a few days earlier. Stephan Kramer, General Secretary of the Central Council of Jews in Germany subsequently deplored the “largely unchecked hate propaganda against Muslims.” Throughout Europe, anti-Muslim rhetoric expressed in editorials, columns, campaign ads, hate blogs, and political cartoons is on the rise.

European leaders and intellectuals are rightly concerned about Muslim extremism and radicalization, but what are they doing to fight anti-Muslim extremism and radicalization? Is it even duly acknowledged?

Cynics often deflect attention by pointing out human rights abuses in the Middle East or Asia. The West is right to call out abuses of freedoms in the Muslim-majority world, but it is wrong to pursue a campaign of reciprocity that betrays its own principles as a response. Western Intellectuals are wrong to turn a blind eye to such a farce when it occurs.

The Swiss referendum raises an important question about the great conundrum of democracy: if a majority of voters opt for dictatorship, is the result a democracy or a dictatorship?

The answer lies in a simple concept: the constitution. The constitutions of democratic nations enshrine the principles of freedom and democracy and act as the final say on what future action can and cannot be done. A vote that betrays those principles is a vote that ought not to take place. In other words, a referendum that seeks to curb religious freedoms presumably protected by Swiss high law is itself unconstitutional and should not have been allowed in the first place.

Should the West choose to remain reactionary in how it deals with Muslim extremism — real or perceived — then it unwisely relinquishes its fate to the hands of terrorists who know that it would only then take a few more attacks to sink Western societies into self-defeating frenzy. Make no mistake about it, merely inflicting explosions that tear down towers of steel and glass is not terrorism’s ultimate goal or greatest threat, being a catalyst for Western self-implosion is. While the West needs to remain vigilant against physical threats, it needs to know that its greatest weapon against ultimate defeat is holding steadfastly unto its principles of democracy, freedoms and equal citizenship.


The Revolution Will Not Be Televised?!

Today, I celebrate Revolution! Democracy now sports a Green face prompting a permanent place for social media in delivering unbiased, uncensored news.

When I think back to the U.S. Presidential election of 2000, I can not help but to feel that I have some unresolved issues with the land of the Free and the home of the Brave. In 2000, I was just eighteen years old with a naive glimmer of belief in the greatest country in the world. As I proudly stood in line waiting to cast my vote at my assigned polling location, I remember looking at the faces of my fellow voters with wondrous excitement hoping that they all appreciated the many sacrifices made in the interest of giving each and everyone of us a voice in the political process.

Unfortunately, our voices failed to resonate beyond a hidden agenda that is deeply rooted in America’s secret relationships, partnerships and dictatorship fantasies. Watching the media coverage of a possible recount in Florida was more than insult to my intelligence; it was a dagger pierced through our Souls. In this moment, I couldn’t feel Free because I was too stunned to be Brave. Mainstream media stagnates our Will  to fight and plays off of our fear to confront our greatest enemy: Ourselves!

Far too often, we have thoughts, emotions and plans that we convince ourselves are not worth pursuing. Why are we not inclined to take to the streets for our freedom as the Iranians have? Fighting for Freedom doesn’t necessarily mean planning a revolt against your government or literally rioting in the streets wearing Green ribbons and face paint. Not to be misunderstood, I admire the tenacity, bravery and courage of the Iranians; nevertheless, every pursuit of Freedom and every opportunity to exude Bravery will not always be televised.

We fail to conceptualize that the greatest Revolutions start from within. In our deepest, darkest hours we find a way out of the darkness into the light. As the social media enthusiasts have welcomed their chance to bring the world Truth amongst a sea of biased, corporate driven savages known as mainstream media and the Iranians inadvertently provide us with a stellar example of what it means to be called the land of the Free and the home of the Brave.

Here’s to the rebirth of Democracy and Mainstream Media……

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