Monday, July 24, 2006

Generational Differences

My father forwarded me this email, introducing it as "very interesting:"

"I do not know if this article is real, but it sounds accurate to me.

Subject: Spanish newspaper article, something to think about.
All European life died in Auschwitz By Sebastian Vilar Rodrigez(*)

I walked down the street in Barcelona, and suddenly discovered a terrible truth - Europe died in Auschwitz. We killed six million Jewsand replaced them with 20 million Muslims. In Auschwitz we burned aculture, thought,creativity, talent.

We destroyed the chosen people, truly chosen, because they produced great and wonderful people who changed the world.The contribution of this people is feltin all areas of life: science, art, international trade, and above all, as the conscience of the world. These are the people we burned.And under the pretense of tolerance, and because we wanted to prove toourselves that we were cured of the disease of racism, we opened our gates to 20 million Muslims, who brought us stupidity and ignorance, religious extremism and lack of tolerance, crime andpoverty due to an unwillingness to work and support their families with pride.They have turned ourbeautiful Spanish cities into the third world, drowning in filth and crime.

Shut up in the apartments they receive free from the government, they plan the murder and destructionof their naive hosts.And thus, in our misery, we have exchanged culture for fanatical hatred,creative skill for destructive skill, intelligence for backwardness and superstition. We have exchanged the pursuit of peace of the Jews of Europe and their talent for hoping for a better future fortheir children, their determined clinging to life because life is holy, for those who pursue death, for people consumed by the desire for death for themselves and others, for our children and theirs.What a terrible mistake was made by a miserable Europe."

My father and I have come to verbal blows on this subject before (and similar ones- Israel vs. Palestine, the 9/11 response). Dad is of the generation of American Jews who grew up during WWII, not concerned for their personal safety but fearing for European relatives, angry with America for not getting involved sooner. The establishment of Israel was a moment of unmitigated celebration for them.

I am of the generation that questions the orthodoxy of the Israel story. I have also spent time in countries like France, which is not as pro-Israel as we are, and Senegal, which is of course Muslim. I am proud of my Jewish heritage but also question the circumstances which brought Israel into being and am not unhesitatingly supportive of everything it does.

I'm digressing, somewhat, but want to put the email in the context of my dad's worldview, and my response in the context of mine. The subject here, though, is European Muslims.

Anyway, I wrote my father back (quickly)-

"Dad, this is so wrong on so many levels- I'm happy to explain in detail but here are a few key points:

1. The Jews weren't "replaced" by Muslims. The Jews in Western Europe, anyway, were part of the middle class (for the most part, of course, with exceptions). The muslims arrived mostly from at the time European colonies in North Africa to do manual labor that the Europeans refused to do, at wages too low for Europeans (much like Hispanic immigrants in the US today). Muslims from North Africa were INVITED to do factory jobs (in France, anyway)- the fact that the jobs ran out and the people found themselves stranded in a strange land with no work is not really the fault of the Muslims. It had nothing to do with "proving to ourselves we're not racist"- if Europeans wanted to prove that they probably shouldn't have colonized North Africa in the first place.

2. I take exception also to the idea that Muslims haven't donated a great deal to the artistic and cultural fabric of the world. You and I have argued this before and I'm happy to show you examples of what I mean- but under the Ottoman Empire, for instance, places like Turkey, Persia were great centers of learning and culture. In Muslim Africa, Mali and Senegal had universities that were established more or less concurrently with those in Europe. Sure, the learning and culture were very DIFFERENT from that of the West, but that hardly makes their traditions better, or worse. (By the way, much of Southern Spanish culture owes its roots to the Moors, Muslims who occupied that region for centuries. In other words, Spain would NOT BE SPAIN if it weren't for Muslim history and influence.)

3. True that in France Muslim youth have been rioting and generally not helping their cause- violence like that is always wrong. You have to take into consideration the broader situation of Muslims in Europe, though- they immigrated, as I said above, largely at the INVITATION of the European countries, and second- and third- generations of Muslims now find themselves poorly educated, without job opportunities, looked down upon by the broader population, and definitely susceptible to extremist thought. Of course, every individual is ultimately responsible for his or her own actions, but European governments have recognized that they have to do more to offer their Muslim populations equal opportunity for education and advancement that is available to the rest of the population. Until that happens, the violence will probably continue.

Now you know I'm not devaluing the horrible events of WWII and the devastating effect they had on the cultural, political, economic situation of Europe in general- Europe lost a great deal when they lost the educated, worldly, cultured Jewish population. But I get very upset when I read something like this- it's propaganda, and doesn't take into account the actual historical facts."

There is of course a longer response to my dad's forward that needs to be made, but as usual, I don't have the time.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

I'll show YOU something counterintuitive...

From WaPo:

"House Republicans signaled a coming clash with the Senate over the future of military tribunals yesterday when Armed Service Committee members indicated they were inclined to give the Bush administration largely what it wants in the conduct of terrorism trials. ...

'This could be easy,' said Rep. Candice S. Miller (R-Mich.), who proudly announced she has neither a law degree nor a college degree as she denounced the high court's 5 to 3 decision against the tribunals as 'incredibly counterintuitive.' 'We could just ratify what the executive branch and the [Department of Defense] have done and move on.'

'That would be a very desirable way to proceed,' said Daniel J. Dell'Orto, the Pentagon's principal deputy general counsel."

Good times. Treating military prisoners humanely and giving them due process rights in accordance with OUR OWN laws of war is "counterintuitive." Maybe Rep. Miller skipped that "Logic 101" class in college. Oh, wait...


We're running off to Japan in September for one more wacky overseas trip before the birth of the miracle child (his/her due date is roughly Christmas, and I figure- what irony if my atheist, secular womb produces a messiah- and goodness knows I LOVE me some irony). Unfort, we only have about 9 days to spend there (the mindf**k that is Lillyfirm will not allow me to take any more vacation time guilt-free, and somehow I'm already worried about taking a paltry 9 days off- durn you, Lillyfirm!). We're thinking of spending a few days in Tokyo/environs and another 4-5 days in Kyoto/environs. I don't think our timeframe and my pregnant self will allow us any more running around. Still, I'd be open to suggestions- if anyone in my vast fanbase has been to/loves/has one of those weird, Western, usually male obsessions with/ Japan, please regale me with stories of your favorite places, experiences, strange moments, etc.

I figure I won't get much of a response, but it's worth a try, right?