Dear Dirty America

DDA

How America Lost the War On Terror

June 14
02:14 2012
CONOR MATTHEWS

Los Angeles
Before I begin, I want to start off with a story. I was at a house party last week. Sort of a celebration for finishing my college degree. I walked through the house and came across a room filled with people, some I knew, some (by the magic of alcohol) I grew to know. This room was filled with liberal, kind hearted, easy going, open minded people. People who you can take for granted were part of the multicultural, post-feminist, LGBT friendly, philosophically and spiritually enlightened world we now live in. The subject of conversation turned to off-color humor. Soon, people starting putting out racist, sexist, homophobic and toilet humor jokes. I chuckled at a few. Some were bad. Some were actually quite clever. I was standing by the window, talking to a newly made friend, a liberal arts student from Dublin. He was quiet and very reserved. A few polite words were exchanged, while the jokes continued. He seemed uncomfortable. Someone asked him was he ok. Breaking away from our conversation, he broke out into a full rant about these jokes being “crude, stupid, simple, flat, uneducated, unintelligent, unoriginal, and lazy”. The mood dropped a little. “Context” is the word I believe is no longer taken into… context. 

The context of the scenario above was that this was a room of people laughing at the tone of the jokes, not the belief in it. People weren’t laughing at any sort of sincere belief that these jokes were based on reality but rather they were laughing at the stupidity and absurdity of the subjects. There is a difference between the context of belief in something and the context of satire, parody, and mockery. 

The context of this article is simple; have the motive and aims of Anti-American Islamic terrorists been brought to full fruition? The context is nothing other than that. This is not an attack on Muslims, nor on people with critical viewpoints of America’s geopolitical actions. This is simply an argument to awaken America (and possibly the rest of the Western world (if not the entire world)) to a simple matter; Terrorism is winning. Why? Because Americans have allowed it to. 

The Oxford Dictionary defines “Terrorism” as “the unofficial or unauthorized use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims”. A mutual tone is elaborated on (surprisingly) by George W. Bush in his statement “We invite terrorism by ignoring them”. But my favorite definition is from the novel “Angels and Demons”, by Dan Brown, which reads “Terrorism is not an expression of rage. Terrorism is a political weapon. Remove a government’s facade of infallibility, and you remove its people’s faith”. Doubt, fear, and panic. These are the new weapons of the 21st Century. These are the bullets that penetrate souls, the bombs that break mentalities, and POW camps where people’s rationales are kept. The aim of Terrorism is to cause Terror. And it’s working. 

I watched the documentary “102 minutes that changed America” (2008) during one of the previous anniversaries of the 9/11 attacks. It was comprised entirely of raw citizen footage captured on video cameras. One particular shot was taken from a distance, seemingly from a harbor, a few miles away from the Twin Towers. The disturbing thing was the fact that among the gasps and cries of the people nearby, a voice off screen can be clearly heard, “we should go to war with whoever did this.” Another voice simply said, “Yeah, totally.” For all of the anti-war and anti-Bush/Blair protests that would ensue in the following years, America has forgotten that for a brief moment in time they had a knee-jerk reaction. And it was for blood. It was a sense of panic, shooting through New York and the country. We can’t deny that we gave a response. And it was savage. It was primal. It was something deep inside us. The sleeping giant of the American public’s thirst for blood had been awoken from its hangover of the late 90’s caffeine induced yuppie coma. 

Following the years of Goldstein’s bleating face in the form of a bearded Afghan soldier fighting against the Soviet Union’s possible advancement into the Middle East during the 80s by the name of Osama Bin Laden, a revelation had emerged. There was a bizarre group of people that have been melted down into American society so fast that only members of this group were the sole bearers of its creed; Muslim Americans. They were Americans on the 11th of September 2001, as they watched in shock as their fellow human beings were massacred in the horrendous incident. They were American when they went to soothe the cries of their neighbors, friends, and family. But as the months went on, with the news rolling before our eyes, with scary men in shrouds with guns and rockets, these Americans began to fade away, more and more, revealing victims of violent, hysterical attacks.
Words like “Jihad”, “Al Qaeda”, “Taliban”, and “Sharia law” were smeared on them like the blood of the departed. I wish these attacks, as awful as they were, were the least hurtful impact to be bestowed upon innocent Muslims, but unfortunately it’s not. The full strength of these attacks were saved for those who felt alienated, distanced, and betrayed by their own country; a country they were once proud to call their own. These lost generations slowly found their way to sympathizing with the terrorists. Pushed away further from a heightened guard of religious conservatism in the wake of 9/11, they responded in kind by developing a greater sense of their own religious conservatism, feeling a sense of solitude and protection. Nearly every terrorist account has shown the individual to have been from a moderate background, brought into the militant lifestyle through negative forces. This is the second mistake of the post 9/11 world, which unfortunately is also a precursor to the third mistake. 

A trend had emerged sometime in the early 2000s, not necessarily in response to 9/11 but definitely in correlation with it. By the beginning of the current century the civil rights movement seemed so distant and perhaps even alien to some, like an old photograph of yourself you don’t recognize. Obviously there still were (and still are) a few issues that needed to be straighten out, but for the most part there was an aura of naturalism to the post-civil rights movement world. Racism was not a public philosophy anymore, skewed down to being a taboo reserved for the dim witted and the desperate shock comedians. Sexism seemed incredibly bizarre and uncivilized. Even feelings towards homosexuality were at least in good spirits partially due to a rise in open discussion about it during the 90’s where the plot device “the gay friend/crush” was common in shows like Friends, Frasier, Ellen, The Simpsons, Fresh Prince of Bel Air, and Student Body (will anyone get that obscure Canadian sitcom reference?). Again, there is sadly still racism, sexism, and homophobia, but the 21st century was possibly the first century in humanity that opened with an air of understanding and justice.
With this rise emerged a trend of socially aware people, people of fourth of fifth generation post-WWII Americans. People who would have grown up with parents who didn’t know of segregation or misogyny in schools or office places. People who would have never had to think critically about race relations, gender identity, or anything really, because they accepted the positivity without question. Now in no way shape or form am I saying that NOT being a dick is a bad thing, but being a dick simply because you were told not to be instead of having a philosophical rationale behind it based on years of experiences and personal reflections is a bad thing. Imagine passing a test by simply filling in the blanks. You would still pass but you wouldn’t understand the thinking behind the answers. In that same way, this was a generation of people who took it for granted that discrimination was bad without knowing why. This situation led to a belief that this equilibrium needed to tip to their favor instead of being maintained. This vacillated the most disgusting concept that, under the guise of equality, is actually creating detrimental havoc below the surface; Political Correctness. 

Political Correctness is defined by Oxford as “the avoidance of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against”. I would define it as “being a pussy”. As you can imagine The Bank of English (Google It) won’t return my phone calls for suggested definitions for “fulcrum”, “Ether”, or “ALOT” (why can’t it just be one word! Why!). I have no problem with Political Correctness, but somewhere along the line it became the slogan of the boy crying wolf. Everyone is easily offended these days. And as mentioned above it’s largely due to the fact people don’t understand what makes something offensive or not. The greatly ironic thing is that it allows people of different maturity levels to rally under the banner of a one man crusade. A perfect example would be the Russell Brand radio scandal in Britain, where the British comedian phoned the grandfather of his ex-girlfriend and claimed to have had sex with her. During the initial broadcast, there were no complaints from any of the listeners. During the rerun of the broadcast a few days later there were complaints, despite the fact it was mostly by people who don’t listen to the show. After the reporting of the complaints, even more people complained, despite not even hearing the incident.
Where political correctness goes wrong in the case of America is that in the wake of the Iraq war, along with the revelations of the Iraqi Torture Prison scandal, where Iraqi prisoners were sadistically tortured naked by American soldiers, as well as growing apathy with the Bush Administration, sympathy for Muslim victims of the war grew, which is a wonderful thing. Unfortunately, stupid people began to forget the innocent Muslim victims and began to sympathize with terrorists. This came greatly as a “well intended” response to racism against Muslims. The main argument was that it was hypocritical and biased to criticize a different culture and civilization. And this is true, but it morphed into a mindset where the criticism of the actual terrorists themselves were viewed as an attack on Muslims on a whole, which is ironic due to the much desired aspect that most Muslims wish to distance themselves from these terrorists. As the war grew on, and Anti-American sentiment began to evolve world-wide, America was quickly dismissed as colonial and corporatist in its stance against these terrorists. This atmosphere then returns back to the isolated American Muslims mentioned before, only reaffirming what they may already feel, all the while other American Muslims are trapped between a hard place and a rock; a sense of discrimination due to what a small minority of their religion have done that they do not condone and a sense of patronizing pity and lecturing from a selection of the population who are just as confused and unaware of the situation as everyone else. It is the refusal of critical analysis that disturbs me the most. These people refuse to see Islam and the Terrorists as separate, whether through lack of understanding on the passages in the Koran that forbids violence or simply through general ignorance.
Earlier I compared Osama Bin Laden to Goldstein from the novel “Nineteen Eighty Four”. Every day the citizens of the novel must scream and shout hysterically at an image of the country’s enemy. The same has happened with the Terrorists in American news to a near identical proportion. Weeks if not months after 9/11 came, stream after stream of CCTV stills, photographs, passports, visas, and home videos of the men who carried out the attacks. When London was struck by the 7/7 bombings the news shot straight over the Atlantic in a heartbeat. And even Christmas isn’t safe anymore thanks to “The Underwear Bomber”. Even foiled attempts were being broadcasted. Reports and memo’s from the FBI, CIA, MI5, MI6, Secret Service, White House Administration, Border Patrol, ATF, Air Force, Army, Marines, and Navy scrolled across our screens like shadows into a child’s room. Terrorism has become so dangerous, words couldn’t contain it; it needed to be expressed through a color code. The greatest propaganda tool the terrorists have is Contemporary American News. By its very design it’s meant to keep you watching for as long as possible. People (naturally) want to live. So (naturally) if you scream “you are going to die,” people will want to listen to you. And admit it; you stop and you watch, and you’re left that little bit more scared than before. You sit there and you let the words leech in through your ears, like poison. Instead of turning it off and doing some research, you listen to every word, not realizing half way across the world someone is hearing an Imam speak about Americans, Jews, women, and homosexuals in the same fear mongering tone. And it’s working on both sides of the globe. 

The two great examples of this mass media induction of fear can be seen in the South Park episodes “200” and “201”, and the incident in 2010 where a Muslim Community Centre in New York city was planned to be built several blocks away from the ground zero site. South Park, the animated adult humor cartoon show, was celebrating its 200th episode by revisiting memorable moments of satire through the years by accumulating it all into a two part hour long special. The brief of the episode was that everyone South Park has ever made fun of were demanding to have the power of Muhammad, the Muslim prophet, in regards to being censored and unable to be depicted in any sense. The whole town of South Park was torn between the prospect of being blown up (by gingers) if they don’t reveal Muhammad (who is hidden in a bear mascot costume) and the immediate demise by terrorists if they do. This runs through the whole episode. It was also touched upon in another two part special episode, “Cartoon Wars”, where Family Guy is mocked for proposing to show Muhammad as well.
Both depictions of Muhammad were highly censored and edited by Comedy Central who (according to Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the creators of South Park) openly admitted to being intimidated by terrorist backlash, due to the fact a few months previous a Danish cartoonist was killed due to a satirical cartoon depicting a Muslim man with a bomb for a Turban. There are two great ironies to this. The first is the fact that there is actually an earlier episode of South Park openly depicting Muhammad along with Jesus, Moses, Joseph Smith, Buddha, and Sea-Man (mockingly pronounced as Semen). This depiction was before the September 11th attacks, but the belief in the immorality of depicting Muhammad was still held at that time by active extremists. The second irony is the fact that Jesus Christ, Moses, Joseph Smith, God, Satan, Buddha, Pope John Paul II and Pope Bennidict XVI, Jews, priests, Mormons, and many more important religious figures have been mocked and satirized. There’s even one episode where Jesus was shown slitting his own throat and bleeding intensely, slowly dying in agony. Yet these images were shown and have been praised as the height of Secular Humor (I personally like the Joseph Smith episode). The episode in question at the beginning was discussed again and again on major networks, news interviews, talk shows, and late night forums. Yet no one mentioned the previous episodes with the noted idols. 

The “Ground Zero Mosque” incident is truly the best example of the two for purely the fact it squeezed out any possibility of being called anything else. The fact no one could talk about it without referring to it as “Ground Zero Mosque” stands as a testament to the overwhelming power media has over a nation. In the Summer of 2010 plans for a community center in New York City, known as Park 51, about 0.1 miles (2 blocks) from the Ground Zero site were announced. It would have been on the same street as an Amish Market (Google Maps). It would have been a community center open to the public (regardless of creed), with facilities helping locals, including adult night classes, recreational activities for the disadvantaged, and a very nice pool. No one protested a community center being built. No one really cared. But in one headline, in three words, a mob of angry, confused, scared idiots descended upon the city, like a fog from darkest night, clouding the judgment of many. It was lunacy. They repeated the words over and over again, like school children singing “Ring around the Rosy”, not realizing the somber and deadly connotations behind the lyrics.
Sights of a black New Yorker being attacked by a mob who believed he was Muslim because he was wearing a beanie was haunting. A beanie! I wear a fucking beanie and have a funny nose! Does that mean I’m Jewish? NO. Me wanting to get into the film business, that makes me Jewish. Point is, this was how crazy things got. A man, who goes on to scream “I’m Christian” to the crowd, was attacked, because they thought he was a Muslim. Let’s hypothetically say he was. Then what? The mob claimed this wasn’t anything against Muslims, but why could there not be a Muslim Community Center in that street? Were there not innocent Muslims who died in the planes too? In the buildings? On the street below caught in the collapse? What about the fire fighters who everyone cheered on in the wake of the disaster? What about the Muslim ones? Tons of churches and synagogues were erected in the honor of the lost. Why not a public community center? 

But now I’m diverging from the point. For soon after the mobs had descended, a lone preacher, Terry Jones, responded to the proposed building of the community center in the greatest example of America’s failure in the war of terror. He threatened to burn a Quran (a.k.a. Koran (Islamic Holy Scripture (the Muslim Bible basically)). My objection is not necessarily with the fact he thought this would do something, or that it would have some sort of important meaning. My philosophy is let stupid people say and do what they want because it won’t be intelligent anyway. My objection isn’t even the fact that it showed the ignorance of him by the fact he didn’t think to read it and find a passage that would support his case. My objection is the fact he threatened to harm someone’s philosophy and set of morale codes… the same way terrorists did on 9/11. And the sad thing is… it kind of worked. Terry Jones gained the attention of the Imam of Park 51, Feisal Abdul Rauf, and announced on September the 11ththat he would not burn the Koran. But he would then later go on to do so April of this year. The location and planned construction of the community center is still subject to debate, with some sources saying it will be relocated, and some saying it won’t. But the matter still stands. 

It was been 11 years this year since I was an 11 year old boy, turning 12 in a matter of days, when I went around to my grandmother’s house after school. I went upstairs to a television room she had for us. A bare room. With a closet with no clothes inside, a knocked about teddy panda bear (large enough I recall), and an analogue television with its a circular antenna sticking out of the back. Hanging above on a wall was a portrait of the Virgin Mary. I remember turning on the television, a loud “BLOINK” rang out, the image of two buildings fading in from the black, my reflection seeping away, only visible in the ash clouds streaming out, shaking the people from the windows like fleas from a dog or lice from my head. I was 11 years old when I saw planes slip into history, represented before my very eyes in an arrangement of blue-green-red dot patterns. Years before YouTube. Years before recordable TV. I didn’t know any of this. Yet something told me I shouldn’t watch cartoons. Not out of a sense of respect, but rather out of an animalistic sense of preservation, like when you’re watching your mother cook, or study how movie stars kiss on screen, or write down in your head every word you hear from an argument you can’t help but overhear. Something told me I would call upon this. And I have. For seeing where we have come from, getting worse as time goes on.
Ironically the greatest moment was the unity and strength felt in the break of the event, when surely it should have only gotten stronger by now. But no, of course not. Because we have the luxury of excuses and anger. We have the luxury of the belief that we’re special because we’re blind to our flaws but knowledgeable of others. We have the luxury of not needing to work out whom to blame because the TV makes that decision for us. We have the luxury of not knowing the full extent of our every decision but the paranoia of someone else’s decisions affecting us. America has lost the war on terror because it has been terrorized. You can cry, you can shout, you can get mad. But for god’s sake we had one thing to do to not prove to them they got to us. And we failed. As nihilistic as it sounds, we would have been better off laughing at offensive jokes, because we knew what the context was, instead of what we chose to forget. 

Conor Matthews, who is a regular contributor to DDA, can be reached at: matthewsconor@hotmail.com, and at Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/conorelmo.
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