Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The American Way

"Go back to your country, you terrorist."

That's the message left in a note next to the body of Shaima Alawadi, a 32-year-old mother of five who was beaten with a tire iron in her California home on March 21.

She can't go back to her native Iraq, now, though, after nearly two decades in the US. She's dead. A few days after the attack, she died, in a hospital.

Evil as it was, Shaima's murder was not senseless. It was a predictable, logical expression of the culture. American politicians elbow each other to justify precisely this kind of treatment of Iraqi women, from Operation Desert Storm in 1990, to the bombing raids and brutal economic sanctions of the ensuing decade, through 'Operation Iraqi Liberation', to Obama's faux withdrawal from Iraq late last year.

I want to make this point as clearly as possible, but it is difficult, because it is at once so obvious and so upsetting.

American politicians, military personnel, and business people tied to "defense", "security", and "energy", have been literally and figuratively gunning down Iraqi mothers since at least 1990. They do this with the total approval of US media, from the New York Times to FOX, from CNN to NPR. They do this with the complicity of Americans who reinforce such actions with votes, patronage, a willingness to be perpetually misinformed, a refusal to unpack their privilege.

This murder is the embodiment of the culture: the brutal beating of a woman, an outsider, a mother; an infantile note with an inane message; the victimizer running from the scene of his crime; the news media turning from it (and, in the same moment, attempting to smear Trayvon Martin, the victim of another targeted assasination on the other side of the country).

This is the American way. This is what America does. It beats Shaima Alawadi with a tire iron. It guns down Trayvon Martin for the color of his skin. It trespasses, off duty, into the neighborhood of Rekia Boyd and fires a bullet into her skull. With badges on, it chases 18-year-old Ramarley Graham into his own home and murders him. It plugs holes into children, women, and men in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, sets them on fire, and then spirits away a single man, as if he alone were responsible, as if it was an isolated act, as if the US didn't bring the killer, many killers, and more than a decade of devastation to Kandahar Province.*

This is the American way. It threatens to drop nuclear bombs on Iran while cautioning the starving of North Korea to obey whatever diktat the US sees fit to impose. It manufactures and sells the weapons to crush liberation uprisings from Egypt to Palestine, from China to Tibet, from LA to NYC.

Each US president reiterates what the last said, that there will be no apologies, to great applause. Each stands in front of a flag and feigns remorse when the stories of individual victims of predictable violence become known, when these stories shock enough people that a response is demanded, when there's an angle that the news media can parley into better ratings with the insightful banter of authoritative white men in suits. With the most insincere sincerity they declare their determination to "get to the bottom of this", which invariably means forcing the issue out of the collective consciousness as fast as possible.

Talk to anyone who wears the American way as a badge of honor and wait -- wait in vain, wait forever -- for them to talk about patriarchy, about white privilege, about the myriad ways to be "othered" in the US: for being a woman, for being a person of color, for being born somewhere else, for living in the wrong neighborhood, for wearing hijab, for dressing differently, for speaking differently, for loving differently, for working differently, for praying differently, for being indigenous, for defending oneself.

America is 300 million white supremacist, xenophobic, homophobic, misogynist imperialist murdering rat bastards.

And you. You're not this. So prove it.

No one needs anyone's casual shock, how terrible this or that isolated incident is, change the channel. Their violence is coordinated, it is premeditated, and it is sustained. That's what our resistance to it must be. Thoughtful, creative in the extreme, persistent, diverse. If you are a person of conscience, if you have had enough of young mothers living under the threat of a beating -- from anyone, for any reason -- if you have had enough of teenage boys gunned down by cops, whole families incinerated by the Pentagon, smooth-talking asshole criminal politicians tap dancing for the camera, your friends and neighbors constantly marginalized for this or that otherness, women slut-shamed, you're in luck, even the climate of the planet agrees with you. You know where to find others who feel as deeply as you do the need to stop the beatings, the bombings, the shootings, the imprisonments. Find them, get to work, before the next manifestation of the American way takes a tire iron to another mother, before it puts a bullet in another beloved son.

* The victims of the (most recent) massacre in Kandahar have names: Mohamed Dawood, Khudaydad, Payendo, Robeena, Shatarina, Nazia, Masooma, Farida, Palwasha, Nabia, Estmatullah, Faizullah, Essa Mohamed, Akhtar Mohamed, who were murdered, and Haji Mohamed Naim, Mohamed Sediq, Parween, Rafiullah, Zardana and Zulheja, who were wounded.

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