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Yilan, Taiwan
I'm a Social Studies teacher and single mom from Colorado and have lived here for 9 years. Taiwan is an excellent base for us explore Asia, while living in relative (gun free) safety, while benefiting from a cheap and efficient national health care system. The people are amazing too. I have friendships that are 14 years old and I'm always making new ones.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Incites of Brigitte Gabriel

Last Women's Bible study meeting we watched a DVD taped at a local Denver area church of the dynamic speaker Brigitte Gabriel, the Christian Lebanese survivor of her countries Civil War, her experience of Israeli civilization and her ranting warnings of Islamic infiltration of the American Education system. Her life story is incredible, I can see why she believes in the things she does. There were some points she said I completely agreed with (allowing hate speech in Mosques and Madrassas in America + US dependence on oil is crazy). I went on her website and signed one of her petitions, but did I agree with everything she said, NO! Did I cheer when her white, middle class, conservative audience cheered, not at all.

The issue of Islamic mosques and Madrassas promoting hate education that literally states their followers are to eventually kill or destroy anyone should be banned. This is not something so very hard to do. If Bush could dismantle free speech and political rights under the banner of the “Patriot” Act, then something could be done. A few years ago there was an Amendment here in Colorado, a Hate Speech Amendment that the voters did not pass. The Christian Conservative lobbied that the amendment was pro-homosexual, that current legislation already provided for the protection of gays and they didn’t need any special laws. A federal Hate Speech Amendment can allow for the freedom of expression and assembly only up the point where it does not arm or threaten to harm someone else. Thus mosques and madrassas here in America could be regulated.

Some of the comments that I disagreed with was her belief that all Muslims condone the destruction of Israel and America. I think its dangerous to promote the idea that all Muslims because of their religion believe in suicide bombs, in taking over America, like they did in Lebanon. I know from personal experience that this is not the case. My friends from Bangladesh certainly do not. Sufist Muslims do not. Turkey is a secular country, I was treated more than well while traveling there and in fact felt safer being a woman in Turkey than in America. (Brigitte mentioned the Armenian genocide by Turkey but failed to mention the Native American genocide, or the black genocide of the slave trade). In Muslim Kashmir, Egypt, and Turkey I was treated well. Muslim hospitality outshines American any day. That’s not to deny the existence of Muslim militant extremists or minimize their threat. The Islamic Brotherhood is in Egypt after all, there were bombings in Istanbul, Delhi, Dahab. But to preach that all Muslims have this agenda is also extreme, especially within the current American environment of anti-brown, anti-Muslim, anti-anything that does not conform to this cookie-cutter mentality. I don’t see how this will promote peace in the Middle East.

Brigitte also praised America for it’s “civilization”, for being the greatest country in the world and if “people didn’t like it they should get out! ” (standing ovation, claps all around). It’s scary that informed dissent is synonymous with anti-patriotism. By sheer definition of democracy, it’s the cooperation of different views being allowed the space to express those views that makes a democracy what it is. If we all believed the same and if differences of belief are not allowed space we might as well be living in Tehran. She invoked the “founding fathers” who themselves were more influenced by the political philosopher John Locke and his “tyranny of the majority” than Jesus’ example of renouncing the accumulation of wealth and befriending the rejects of society.

I sat there asking myself, what does she mean about America being this beacon of civilization and greatness? Does she mean economically? Lets give credit where credit is due, because our industrialization was won by the genocide of millions of Natives, the slavery of millions of kidnapped Africans, the exploitation of European and Asian immigrants and the free labor of women. The US gov’t doesn’t hide the fact that it exists to protect private property, the accumulation of wealth by a minority and maintain an economic system that be definition classist (there is nothing democratic about capitalism).

She talked about trashing political correctness and yet she was hardly historically correct. American’s “noble” war history of fighting Nazi fascism was invoked, and yet America knew for 3 years about the Nazi concentration camps and the mass genocide of Jews and did nothing about it, for 3 years! Isnt it more true that the US joined the war in Europe when US markets supplying arms to the Allies was threatened? That the US provoked the bombing of Pearl Harbor because the US did not want a post war Asia with Japan controlling Pacific markets?

Not only is it a lie but its dangerous to make a god out of America, to glorify a myth at the expense of truth.

Brigitte Gabrial brought up how immigrants need to learn English the way every immigrant in the past learned English (more thunderous applause), that in the past it only took one generation before the immigrants’ kids learned English and she might as well as called Spanish speaking (that was who she was referring to) immigrants “illiterate peasants”. I take issue with this sentiment. I have worked with illegal Spanish speaking immigrants (through this same church, in cohort with different ladies) and their children are fluent in both English and Spanish. Its also much harder to learn a new foreign language as an adult when all your free time is spent working at McDonald’s 7 days a week. Brigitte’s pro-English statement brought up a host of issues for me, how my father was spanked for speaking English in kindergarten, how his (and my mother’s) family has been living in the SW United States since the 1500’s and how Spanish speaking peoples living in these areas were protected to speak their language under the Treaty of Hildago through the loss by Mexico to the American instigated war for territory (the former Mexican citizen’s land and property were also protected under the treaty, but like ALL American treaties with Natives, was broken---but that’s another story).

Far be it to ask the common American (white, middle class) to learn a foreign language that is useful. The majority of the world’s citizens speak Mandarin 1st and Spanish 2nd, .
English is the lingua franca of the elites.

I also sat up thinking last night about her very original statement, that if “people didn’t like America they should get out !” Doesn’t she know how hard that is! If it were that easy to get EU Citizenship I would. Not to say Europe is morally superior to the US, because it is not, they are also dealing with their racism and anti-Semitism, but I and my daughter would have a higher quality of living. I would be a citizen of France because of the health care system, free University, subsidized housing for parents, free day care. Its much easier to be a mother in France. In Italy I would be paid for having children! I would be a citizen of a Scandinavian country for the 3 years paid maternity leave, not to mention 5 weeks paid vacation, higher quality of food, and importance of relationships over working.

What do you say to the people who believe in the American Dream? It must work for them. I find it a myth myself. And when it doesn’t work, like now when its all starting to fall apart, unemployment, high gas costs, high food costs, soaring foreclosures, what does Middle America believe? They don’t question the myth, they find a scapegoat, illegals taking all the jobs, Saudi conspiracies, far be it for them to question the fiscal sanity of financing a war (516,000,000,000 $ as of this writing) while cutting taxes or the morality of cutting programs for poor children to finance the war. How can you have an intelligent debate with people who get their facts from their daily newspaper or local TV news? These people who have never even had lunch with a Muslim much less lived in a Muslim country? Whose only friends are heterosexual and white? Who voted for Bush?

When someone like Brigitte Gabriel comes along and legitimizes their racist and classist fears and scapegoats illegals, all Muslims because she herself is brown, I think that’s dangerous. Its time for Middle America to deal with their White privilege. They have taken it for granted so long, and though it should be their responsibility to educate themselves about it or at least bring up the subject, this painful issues will probably fall on the shoulder of poor people of color (again) to teach them about it (and pat them on the shoulder when they inevitable break down and cry in a the fragilest moment of self-realization). I’ve seen educated white women deal with their white privilege, and it aint pretty! (“But I dated a black man I cant be racist!”)

What specifically is Brigitte Gabriel’s mission? To protect America from becoming like Lebanon, a democracy that disappeared under Muslim infiltration where Christians were mass murdered. Fine I can agree with that! That may have something to do w/ border control, I can see the logic, but to voice anti-Mexican sentiments is wrong, To gloss over American history without attention to the details to make a point is misleading and inciting.

So what am I going to do about it? Silently squirm during the applause, the discussion?I have to say something to these women without damaging our friendship, just to be respectful to them and not be fake or 2 faced. I hate to be the b--sh-- police, but as long as it is spoken in love I suppose because "Love covers a multitude of sins..."


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