You are currently browsing the Talking Cultural Diversity blog archives for September, 2010.

Noise Makers

By Thomas Kochman - 09.27.2010

You have to make a lot of social noise if you want to get public attention. At times that is an absolute necessity if you want to move the country in a different direction.

Most of the time, social noise has a purpose you can identify with, or at least, respect, coming from people who experience significant social indifference or neglect, or outright racism or discrimination.

Those without paid lobbyists have only the street to voice their opinions or grievances.

Understandable! So be it. Politicians need periodic wake up calls to do the right thing.

Today’s public noise in the U.S. political arena is harder to respect.

It comes mainly from the Tea Party movement and anti-Muslim extremists.

In one way, I am glad for their existence.

They coalesce the anti-matter that is out there—people organized, if not united, by what they are against, like their Republican counterparts in Congress.

Better to have that energy funneled though established social channels than randomly expressed by angry individuals bent out of shape and on destruction.

What’s harder to respect is social noise for the sake of noise and a following like Newt Gingrich comparing “Ground Zero” mosque backers to Nazis or Pastor Terry Jones who threatened to burn the Quran preying “on growing hostility and uneasiness in the lead up this year’s 9/11 anniversary of the U.S. terrorist attacks.”

People caught up and captured by the sound of their own voice: narcissistic revelers — characters in search of the widest possible audience.

Daniel Boorstin once defined a celebrity as someone who “is known for their well-knownness.”

Good for a pop TV show perhaps, and being made fun of on “Saturday Night Live.”.

But not really to be taken seriously politically.


Movies and Real World Politics

By Jean Mavrelis - 09.13.2010

Movies like On the Waterfront, Grapes of Wrath, Norma Rae, and Erin Brockovich are etched on the psyche of baby boomers like myself.

The theme of all of them strike the same chord: working people who take a stand and fight back against a system that serves everyone’s interests but theirs.

Great stories for movies–the heroic efforts of  individuals, families or communities prevailing against great odds. The theme continues to resonate and sell tickets.

But it would be nice to have government and the system once in a while work for the have nots and not always or only for the haves and those who lobby for them.

It may not make much of a story for a movie, but it would sure help average working  people living next door.

That’s why I was so heartened by Obama’s latest stand, taking on the Republicans, in discontinuing Bush style tax cuts for the rich but keeping them for the middle class.

He also hit the nail on the head in identifying what is a major difference between Republicans and Democrats in terms of America going forward.

Republicans will likely grow the economy for rich Americans, and for Americans with big stock portfolios, but they will do it by sending jobs overseas, at the expense of American workers.

Democrats are protecting a U.S. middle class. Republicans are protecting money at the expense of American workers.

I was at a barbecue over the weekend where my liberal family members were complaining about Obama.  Maybe Jonathan Chait is right about Democrats’ biggest problem being liberals.  I thought Obama was fabulous in his speech from Ohio.

We are looking at a midterm election that pits the “Smiths” against the “Grabowskis” — the upper class against the working class.

Obama is working to reward companies that keep jobs in the U.S., provide health care for the everyday man, pass a job infrastructure bill, and promote good education for all.

These efforts undermine the Smiths who want to grow the economy in terms of dollars, not in terms of the well being of most American citizens.

The Republicans would boost the economy by helping those who make over $250,000, and have big stock portfolios.

“Trickle down” economics doesn’t work. But the myth –promoted by those who would keep wealth in the hands of the few– keeps it alive, and gains support from people who support it even though it works against their economic self interest.

I also vote against my own economic self interest but in a different way.

I grew up in a union family, and labor stories have shaped my values. So my vote goes for the working class whether my stock portfolio takes a hit or not.

It may be inevitable within our capitalist-run oligarchy that big business will make its money in the global market and send jobs abroad, and the middle class will suffer for a couple of generations until we hopefully switch over to a clean energy, service economy.

In the meantime, I vote for making it easier on the Grabowskis.

Harvest of Ignorance

By Thomas Kochman - 09.10.2010

Roger Cohen’s, “Harvest of Anger “ Op Ed piece does an excellent job of cataloging the anger of many in the U.S. and Europe towards Muslims –not only terrorists but also immigrants—but comes to the misplaced conclusion that because of that anger the decision to build a mosque near the world trade center bombing is wrong. By way of comparison he cites the field of crosses displayed around Auschwitz when he visited there 12 years ago as an affront to Jews, based on the numbers of Jews who died there compared to non-Jews.

Why I think Cohen’s reasoning and conclusion are wrong principally has to do with who or what was blamed for the Holocaust.

In the West, Christianity as a religion was not under fire, or directly held responsible, because of the Holocaust or the concentration camps.

Islam as a religion, because of Al Qaeda backed terrorism and 9/11 is.

Despite the long standing history of anti-Semitism around the world and its roots in Christian thinking and attitudes towards Jews and Judaism people in the West saw the camps as the concoction of madmen, and a deviant moral aberration, and not what Christianity was truly about.

Because of our familiarity with Christianity we in the West were able to separate Christianity from the murderous actions and behavior of people who also happened to be Christian, holding the latter, but not the former, accountable for what happened.

This has not as yet happened in the West with Islam and Muslims.

For that reason when I heard that a Mosque was going to be built near the World Trade Center bombing –quite apart from thinking about First Amendment Rights — I thought, “Great!” What better way for Muslims to make the distinction between the practice of Islam as a religion and those who would hijack it for political ends, despite what the Quran itself says about righteous struggle (Jihad) and suicide.

In that regard, I think it is significant that the Al Qaeda recruitment manual aims to target those who are essentially non-religious and “not to trust potential recruits who know the Quran by heart.”

So what is the thing to be really afraid of here:  irrational and politically motivated anger?

Try Ignorance!