Advertisements
Home

The Cesspool of Academia: Take Back Your Education, Advice From a Marginal Sociologist

2 Comments

I finally used he term “left-wing cesspool” in response to an academic assignment and, I must say, it feels like a burden has been lifted off my back. This is because most of my colleague have come to believe that they are superior to their fellow citizens; in their minds it is only the college “educated” class that deserves respect. To me, this is absurd. Interestingly enough, country music artist Brad Paisley’s “Country Nation”  provides a great example how, regardless of our education, we are all part of American society (especially due to identification with the university’s sports teams). Academics are not superior to the people they study; they are the people. What makes a person is their respect—their humanity—and those are qualities that are not tied to one’s level of education; that’s what Mr. Paisley implies in his song and it is something we would do well to keep in mind.

After reading a horrid racist tirade written by Eduardo Bonilla Silva and a few indoctrinated graduate students—disguised as academic work work—I second what I remarked earlier, the fact that Mr. Bonilla Silva is the head of the American Sociological Association is an insult to me. Additionally, I realized that we—as citizens and sociologists—must do to things to resist the fascistic spread of identity politics:

  1. We must TAKE BACK OUR NATIONS
  2. We must TAKE BACK OUR EDUCATIONS

The concretization of ethnicity as a result of identity politics has driven us apart; the pinnacle of this process was seen when the great-nephew of former U.S. President John F. Kennedy, Joe Kennedy, chose to respond to the President’s State of the Union address in Spanish at times.

In any other country a politician campaigning in a language other than that of the majority would be an issue; you do not see the President of Norway speaking, for instance, Mongolian. Yet it is the same absurd logic that encourages the building of a mosque at ground zero in New York; it is globalist logic. It is this logic within academia that uses the indoctrination to train the wealthy classes from foreign countries who come to study in the United States so that they return to their countries and inject the poisonous logic of identity politics into their societies (In Turkey, I have often seen Western-Educated students return to Turkey with heightened sensitivities to “identity politics” which tend to influence their voting). Again, this is part and parcel of the globalist logic—divide and conquer. From now on, students should be aware that it is not their skin color—or language they speak at home—that defines one’s success in life; rather it is their ability to stand up to the globalist education system that looks to divide more than it looks to unite. Despite what the globalist media’s interpretation of Merle Haggard’s classic “Are the Good Times Really Over” says, we must recognize that “progress” has meant diminishing returns for many and that it is only by coming together that we can live in harmony. In Mr. Haggard’s terms, we should want our Fords and Chevys to last for more than ten years just like we should stand up for our flags . . . and our education, which too many are willing to fall into debt for. If you’re willing pay for it, you should take it back and rescue it from the cesspool.

 

loan debt graphic.jpg

Despite the Media’s Attempt to Shield Former U.S. President Barack Obama From Blame, it is Clear that Student Loan Debt Increased to A Large Degree Under Mr. Obama’s leadership. Image Courtesy of: http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2015/aug/14/jeb-bush/jeb-bush-student-loan-debt-has-doubled-under-obama/
Advertisements

Tensions Between the U.S. and Turkey Rise as Erdogan Attempts to Re-Brand Himself as a Nationalist: The View From the Football World

1 Comment

On 27 January 2018 Voice of America reported that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was willing to risk a military confrontation with fellow NATO ally the United States in order to rid Turkey’s southern border of Kurdish YPG/PKK militants. While Turkey’s interest in the Syrian border has historical precedent since the region represents an area of crucial geopolitical interest to Turkey, the soundbite VOA chose to quote is an interesting one. According to the VOA article, “Erdogan has pledged to ‘crush anyone who opposes our [Turkey’s] nationalist struggle’.” Given the VOA’s framing of Turkey’s offensive in terms of “nationalism”—a term that has taken on a pejorative meaning in the West—it is useful to delve into this particular matter.

First of all, it is important to recognize that Mr. Erdogan is not a nationalist at all; rather his rhetoric is part of a wider re-branding strategy. That Mr. Erdogan is certainly not a nationalist was made clear last December during the opening of Trabzonspor’s brand new Akyazi stadium, an event that drew criticism from all walks of Turkish society. During the opening ceremony on 19 December 2016, four banners were hung from the stadium’s rafters. From right to left (and, ostensibly, in order of importance) the banners of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (the founder of modern Turkey), Recep Tayyip Erdogan (the current president of Turkey), the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Sani, and Binali Yildirim (the current prime minister of Turkey) were hung. Of course, the idea of the Qatari Emir’s poster appearing before a member of the Turkish government elicited criticism from many Turkish commentators. Yet, as if that was not enough, the Qatari national anthem was played before the Turkish national anthem at the opening. While Qatari involvement—and interest—in Turkish football is not unprecedented (indeed the Gulf state’s Qatar National Bank—QNB—is also Trabzonspor’s shirt sponsor), this degree of acquiescence to Qatari interests was unprecedented at the time. As commentators rightfully asked, “what was the Qatari Emir’s relationship to Turkish history”? In short, it is a manifestation of Qatari soft-power (and economic imperialism) through football. Turkey is effectively selling off its own infrastructure to Qatar, thereby succumbing to the rising tide of globalism, despite framing it as—alternatively—a Neo-Ottoman agenda or Turkish nationalist agenda. In reality, it is neither of these; it is merely a cynical attempt to attract foreign investment from a wealthy Gulf State.

 

katar-poster.jpg

From Left to Right: The Turkish Flag, Turkey’s Founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Sami, and Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.diken.com.tr/akyazi-stadinin-acilisinda-katar-emiri-al-saninin-posteri-asildi-katar-ulusal-marsi-calindi/

 

The reasons for Mr. Erdogan’s re-branding are complicated. It is both a response to the so-called “populist” turn in the United States (due to Donald Trump’s election) and the United Kingdom (due to Brexit), while also being a response to Mr. Erdogan’s failure to hide his own party’s corrupt globalist agenda (most recently revealed by disgraced Iranian trader Reza Zarrab). A third reason that Mr. Erdogan has had to re-brand himself is due to the stress created by the presence of a large Kurdish militant force on Turkey’s southern border; as a Turkish leader tasked with preserving Ataturk’s borders Mr. Erdogan cannot afford to lose an inch of Turkish territory.

While Mr. Erdogan is in a difficult position, sandwiched between the neoliberal globalism demanded by American (Western) interests and the mandate of Turkish nationalism bequeathed upon him by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the contradictory situation is one that reflects the contradictory nature of globalism itself. In the West, the ideology manifests itself as part of a utopic iteration of “progressive” politics. Yet—as the impasse in Syria shows—the globalist world is a world of war. While most progressives—and in fact many Americans—will tell you that the last World War ended in 1945, citizens of Iraq, Yugoslavia, Iraq (again), and Syria might tell you that they have lived through World War III in the past thirty years—the “globalist period” post 1991 have been characterized by the constant destabilization and ultimate disintegration of nation-states defined by strong statist governments.

Of course, it was American meddling that caused these destabilizations, coupled with the poisonous addition of identity politics. In Turkey’s case, the idea was certainly one “born” in the West; the carrot of European Union membership had been extended to Turkey if they would just extend more “rights” to their Kurdish minority. Here an article by an American academic who subscribes wholeheartedly to the poison of identity politics shows how real the problem is. While the author argues that “Turkish prejudice against the legitimacy of the Kurdish identity reminds one in some respects of the former prejudice against African-Americans in the United States”, it is clear that the author is only exemplifying the tendency of Western researchers to use Western discourse to dominate conversations in reference to non-Western areas; it is an example of the neo-colonialist nature of “progressive” academia in the West.

The end-result of this neo-colonialism and identity politics is, sadly, an attempt to divide Turkey. The case of Turkish footballer Deniz Naki is a great example of this division based on identity politics. Mr. Naki, a Turkish-German footballer of Kurdish descent who plays for Kurdish side Amedspor decided, on 28 January 2018, that he would not return to Turkey following an attack on his vehicle while in Germany. Following that decision, the Turkish Football Federation (TFF) decided to hit him with a fine. On 30 January 2018 the disciplinary wing of the TFF hit Mr. Naki with a three year six month suspension; since the suspension was over three years it means a lifelong ban from Turkish football for the footballer. He was fined 72,000 USD for “separatist and ideological propaganda”, due to his sharing “a video on social media on Sunday calling for participation in a rally in the German city of Cologne to protest against Turkey’s military offensive into northern Syria’s Afrin region” according to Reuters. Another result of identity politics in Football means thatt Diyarbakirspor could return to the top flight soon,

 

 

deniz-naki-1.jpg

A Defiant Deniz Naki in Happier Times. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/haber/spor/915063/PFDK___Turkiye_ye_donmeyecegim__diyen_Deniz_Naki_ye_ceza_verecek.html

 

Unfortunately, the ugly tentacles of identity politics extend from the globalist West to all corners of the world. Just like the United States, Turkey is unfortunately not immune to the divisiveness of identity politics. Despite Mr. Erdogan’s rebranding he is still a globalist at heart; after all, no true nationalist would have allowed the Syrian crisis to unravel the way it did on Turkey’s southern border, just like no true nationalist would have stoked the fires of identity politics and divided Turkey between ethnic Turks and ethnic Kurds. While Erdogan is trying to frame his actions in terms of nationalism, most observers of Turkish politics know that—due to historical constraints—Mr. Erdogan had little choice but to act on anything that threatens the territorial integrity of the Turkish state. That said—and despite everything—Turkey will survive this crisis like it has so many before. As Serif Mardin writes in State, Democracy, and The Military: Turkey in the 1980s, “there does exist an enduring populist, egalitarian, democratic strain in Turkish history which shows greater institutionalization than in other Middle Eastern countries and which has enabled this country to emerge from a series of soul-searching tests with pride” (Mardin 1988: 27).

As for the United States, they will survive this as well. As U.S. President Donald Trump said during his State of the Union Address, “the U.S. must give money to friends and not to enemies”. In return, then, the United States must be a friend to friends as well. By succumbing to the globalist logic, the United States has turned its back on too many “friends”. The presence of U.S. Troops on Turkey’s southern border—aiding Kurdish militants—does nothing for American national security, especially while the southern border of the U.S. with Mexico remains as porous as ever. The United States must return to being a republic, as its founding fathers envisioned it to be. Instead of wasting money in the Middle East, the U.S. would be much better off spending at home in order to improve infrastructure and address poverty within the country.

 

CD27FB3E-48E6-489B-8ADA-E0BF01E2E838_w650_r0_s.jpg

19EBCF20-473E-45D1-BE24-50A456475862_w650_r0_s.jpg

U.S. Soldiers–and the U.S. Flag Should Be At Home, Not Dispersed All Over the World. Images Courtesy of: https://www.voanews.com/a/ergodan-says-he-is-ready-to-risk-confrontation-with-us/4227613.html

 

This is why the end of globalization—and its ideological brother, globalism—will mean an end to WWIII and a fairer, more peaceful world in the end. It is up to us as citizens, however, to demand that our leaders resist the temptations that the corruption of globalization offers. After all, it is a system that enriches a global class of super-rich on the backs of a world-wide working class.

 

ft_cotw124.png

Globalization only seems to work if you’re part of the “super rich”; an alernative explanation has been chewing tobacco. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/01/the-story-of-globalization-in-1-graph/283342/

A Social Issue Regarding Role Models: An Interpretation of Lebron James’ Instagram Post From the Perspective of C. Wright Mills

1 Comment

Sociologist C. Wright Mills was influential for not only American Sociology, but world Sociology as well. In his book The Sociological Imagination, Mills distinguished between what he called “Personal Troubles” and “Social Issues”. For Mills, “Personal Troubles” were personal or private matters involving—and concerning—individuals. “Social Issues”, by contrast, were public issues that were experienced by society as a whole; they involved wider social structures and were indicative of wider social issues. As an example: if one individual is unemployed, that is a personal trouble; if the entire society is unemployed, then that would be a social issue since it might indicate a wider phenomenon (such as a recession).

In so many social and political events these days, we can see connections between personal troubles and wider social issues; in fact, it is possible that many things we are currently identifying as “personal troubles” in modern American society are, in fact, indicative of wider social issues. Lebron James’ absurd Instagram post—congratulating himself on reaching the 30,000 point mark in the NBA—is a good example from the sports world. Of course, the globalist media—like CNBC—championed his post, telling readers that it is “A great lesson in success”. NBA fans, for their part, mocked the self-congratulatory post. Below is the post in its entirety:

 

Wanna be one of the first to Congratulate you on this accomplishment/achievement tonight that you’ll reach! Only a handful has reach/seen it too and while I know it’s never been a goal of yours from the beginning try(please try) to take a moment for yourself on how you’ve done it! The House you’re about to be apart of has only 6 seats in it(as of now) but 1 more will be added and you should be very proud and honored to be invited inside. There’s so many people to thank who has help this even become possible(so thank them all) and when u finally get your moment(alone) to yourself smile, look up to the higher skies and say THANK YOU! So with that said, Congrats again Young King 🤴🏾! 1 Love! #striveforgreatness🚀 #thekidfromakron👑

 

Screen Shot 2018-01-24 at 8.24.27 PM.pngScreen Shot 2018-01-24 at 8.24.47 PM.png

Lebron James’ Instagram Post. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.cnbc.com/2018/01/23/what-you-can-learn-from-lebron-james-confidence-on-instagram.html

 

Of course, there are multiple issues with this Tweet, and very few of them are indicative of a “Personal Trouble”, i.e. this is not a sign of Lebron James’ megalomania. In fact—as CNBC pointed out—it could just be a sign of his self confidence which, in itself, is not such a bad thing. However, this wider Tweet is indicative of many wider “Social Issues” which are taking place across the United States, and they are what I would like to discuss below (I have pointed out before that Lebron James’ actions have had a history of revealing many social issues in American Society).

First of all, we should all remember that Mr. James took time in October 2016 to pen an Op-Ed for Business Insider endorsing candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign for the U.S. presidency. Judging by this, one would think that Mr. James—as an American citizen—would have the best interests of his country (and community) at heart; after all, isn’t that the point of getting involved in political wrangling in the first place? Unfortunately, from this post at least, it is clear that Mr. James advertises more of what is wrong about America than what is right about the country. Please consider the following:

 

  • The writing in the post is pathetic, and this is something I have criticized Mr. James for before. I am far from the grammar police, but I do expect someone who is an idol to many in the United States to at least take a modicum of pride in their writing, even if they are barely a high school graduate. A thirty-three year old grown man should not be writing something as incoherent as “Only a handful has reach/seen it too and while I know it’s never been a goal of yours from the beginning try(please try) to take a moment for yourself on how you’ve done it!”. A thirty-three year old man should recognize that “The House you’re about to be apart of” means something very different from “the house you’re about to be a part of” (the space bar here is, indeed pivotal). And I will just translate this for Mr. James in bold: “There’s so many people to thank who has help this even become possible” = “There are so many people to thank who have helped this even become possible”. Again, however, Mr. James is not an English professor and I could forgive him if his only fault was poor grammar.
  • Yet, even if Mr. James’ honor of being the youngest to reach the 30,000 point threshold in the NBA is overshadowed by his honor of being the oldest person in the U.S. to write this poorly, his status as a major role model and cultural figure in the United States is without question. The problem is that he is not living up to that standard, especially for the millions of young African-American males who might look up to him. Sending the message that grammatically correct English does not matter—and, by extension, that education does not matter—is not the right message to send young African American children. Sending the message that it is all “ME, ME, ME”—by congratulating yourself—is not the right message to send to young African American children. And it is especially not the right message to send at a time when your team is doing horribly and your team-mates have just scapegoated a fellow team-mate by questioning that team-mate’s commitment. It is not team play, it is just megalomania. Unfortunately, it is indicative of a society that has been so utterly and completely alienated by extreme capitalism that the only thing they can think of is themselves.
  • Instead of praising himself, Mr. James could have posted something that could have sent a positive message to young African-American children, a message that could have combatted the harmful messages sent out by the mass media and music industry that glorify guns, money, and big bootyed-hoes (among other things). It could have been a message that emphasized the importance of hard work and determination being able to overcome the impediments of structural racism within American society, or perhaps something about the family and his gratefulness for his mother’s support throughout the years. Instead, there was nothing of the sort. Nothing worthy of a “role-model” at all. Just megalomania.

 

This is clearly a shame, especially considering the commendable emphasis that Mr. James puts on charity and various civic causes, such as offering college scholarships to over 1,100 underprivileged students. This is why Mr. James’ self-congratulatory post is really not a reflection of himself, or his humanitarian instincts. It is not a personal trouble. Rather, it is a reflection of wider social issues. In this moment, perhaps one of the biggest of his career, Mr. James forgot about the family, the team, the community—and ultimately the nation—he represents, while only thinking about himself. If the United States (and the wider world) is to move forward out of this age of darkness we have found ourselves in, we must all recognize that sometimes it is not all about “Me”. It is also about “US”.

 

Screen Shot 2018-01-24 at 9.23.34 PM.png

The Kids–Quite Literally–Look Up To Mr. James; He Should Remember That. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.businessinsider.com/lebron-james-why-endorsing-hillary-clinton-for-president-2016-9

Martin Luther King Day 2018: A Marginal Sociologist’s Take on How the Controversy Regarding “Shithole Countries” Reveals the Hypocrisy of the Modern World

2 Comments

During a meeting with U.S. lawmakers regarding immigration policy, U.S. President Donald Trump’s allegedly asked a question: “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?”. According to the Washington Post, these comments were made by the President of the United States, despite the fact that no concrete sources were mentioned; the Post’s story mentions only “several people briefed on the meeting” and “people familiar with the meeting”. On the other hand, some U.S. lawmakers have come out to deny that Mr. Trump used such colorful language. Given that the Washington Post was unable to provide sources, it is still unclear whether or not these comments were actually made. For the purposes of this post, however, it does not matter whether or not said comments were actually made.

This is because there are a few things beyond argument regarding this incident:

 

  1. Trump’s comments were, clearly, less than ideal;
  2. This kind of event should have sparked real debate, in the vein of Sociologist Jurgen Habermas’ communicative action

 

Sadly, despite the fact that everyone could agree on number one above, it seems that no one could agree on number two. Instead of actually talking, there was only outrage, as evidenced by the sports(!) site ESPN’s focus on responses from the NBA (National Basketball Association) community (http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/22062684/raptors-president-masai-ujiri-criticizes-president-donald-trump-reported-remark and http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/22100611/adam-silver-donald-trump-controversy-discouraging ). Normally, one would expect that when a sports website focuses on politics that some sort of nationwide debate would be forthcoming; unfortunately, that was not the case at all. Instead it was the same old self-righteousness that most Americans should, by now, be used to.

Some readers may ask why this is a problem. Why should there be debate, some might ask, when Mr. Trump’s comments were so offensive? Sociologically, it seems to me as if the “offense” that so many have taken to Mr. Trump’s comments stems from the inner demons of many Americans. Perhaps, this is because many Americans might actually harbor the kind of condescending—and ultimately negative—view of other countries that Mr. Trump’s comments espoused (perhaps because they don’t travel?). It is possible that the president’s comments reflect the inner thoughts of many Americans, and to come face to face with this reality is simply too much for a great number of people.

Anyone who has traveled beyond their home knows that, inevitably, something goes wrong. It could be a missed train, a fully booked hotel, a closed restaurant, the inability to find Wi-Fi, or even something as banal as a convenience store that has run out of unsweetened iced tea. In a moment of exasperation, I am sure that most people have exclaimed “this place (town/county/neighborhood/or even country) is a shithole!”. To deny this would, in my opinion, not be realistic.

At the same time, I know for a fact that many people—who claim to be “liberal” and “tolerant” in their outlook—make the same value judgements about other countries (and cultures) as they allege Mr. Trump made. Of course, these people tend to not be as “eloquent” as Mr. Trump was in stating their opinion; instead they err on the side of political correctness. In college, a former girlfriend of mine—who was from a non-Western country—once told me how an ostensibly “tolerant” resident of our college town once told her (upon learning of where she was from) “oh, I heard it’s really bad over there”. During the 2013 Gezi Park Protests in Turkey, a neighbor of mine in the United States used the exact same terminology: “Oh, you’re going to Turkey? I heard it’s really bad over there”. Now, let me translate these statements for a moment from “politically correct” language to “real” language:

 

“I heard it’s really bad over there” = “I heard that place is a shithole”

 

While the latter may be more vulgar, and seem more disrespectful at first, it is clear that the former is no less condescending, no less insulting, and certainly no less disrespectful. And this is something that we, living in Western cultures, should be aware of when we discuss international affairs.

Importantly, this condescension manifests itself in other facets of the Western liberal mind as well. Take, for instance, the debate on illegal immigration in the United States (or the refugee crisis in Western Europe, since it is an analogous process). The globalist push to encourage immigration to the west is driven by the same sentiments of condescension and superiority. So many times, I have heard my fellow sociologists claim that illegal immigration should not be discouraged because “those people are trying to better their lives” and “escape from poverty”. Beside the fact that Mexico is far from the only “poor” country in the world (in fact, it is not even that poor, as Mexico is ranked 16th in GDP, just below Australia—where is the outcry for increased immigration from Guinea-Bissau, which clocks in at 181st?), the idea that lives will be “improved” by illegal immigration to the United States smacks of Western concepts of superiority.

 

Here, the logic goes:

 

  1. Your country is poorer than ours;
  2. Coming to our country—which is not poor—will improve your life;
  3. Welcome!

 

Of course, this logic could easily be translated as:

 

  1. Your country is a shithole;
  2. Coming to our country—which is not a shithole—will improve your life;
  3. Welcome!

 

And thus the Western individual’s sense of virtue and self-righteousness has been confirmed, another “third-worlder” has been rescued from the poverty, filth, and violence of the third world. Of course, it is never considered that—perhaps—the “third world” country that the immigrant hailed from had many positive qualities that the United States lacks: like a sense of community, a sense of family values, and a general lifestyle not dominated by the mechanistic and bureaucratic logic of extreme capitalism. These latter points are rarely considered because the Western countries tend to benefit from the cheap labor offered by immigrant populations. The economy of the United States is satiated by cheap labor from Mexico while the sense of national virtue and self-righteousness in Sweden is satiated by an influx of Syrian refugees; yet in both cases the underlying assumption is “our country is better for you than that shithole you came from”. Is it degrading? Of course it is. Is it insulting? Of course it is. And is it really that different than the comments Mr. Trump allegedly made? To me, I don’t see how it is, and there in lies the hypocrisy of modern liberalism in the West.

Since some of Mr. Trump’s comments were directed at Haiti—and even prompted CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, who choked up at times, to become emotional when discussing the topic—I will provide an experience I had with a former student who was from Haiti. My student was indeed a strong individual (as Mr. Cooper describes Haitians to be), but more importantly he was a strong thinker. He taught me things that I did not know about his country: this is one of the joys of teaching; often the teacher learns from the students. My student taught me that Haiti’s troubles were many, but they could be traced back to two sources: Politicians and Imperialism. This student told me that Haiti’s politicians were notoriously corrupt; they tended to take from their population much more than they gave. And he also told me that when the United States started providing rice to Haiti, it meant that the local agriculture business was destroyed; the island nation started to depend on the United States for rice and, rather than develop their own domestic agriculture, they began to rely on international sources. An excerpt from Thomas M. Kostigen’s The Big Handout, available on Google Books,  explains this situation well. Here it becomes abundantly clear—at least to me—that Haiti’s problems do not stem from it being a “shithole country” at all. But at the same time, their salvation is not to be found in more “international aid”. Rather Haiti—like all countries, including the United States—would be well served to embrace their own nationalism, their own country, to bring about a better future.

The hypocrisy of the outrage about Mr. Trump’s comments was brought home to me most recently on 15 January 2018 when a shooting took place at the Providence Place Mall in my hometown; that night my brother was at the mall. He was quick to point out the irony: Many people at his school had warned him about visiting me in Turkey over his Christmas vacation, they had told him that Turkey was “dangerous”. In short, they had warned him that Turkey was a “shithole country”, even if they didn’t use such politically incorrect language. Yet, he did not find guns blazing in Turkey—he found them in the United States, in his home town specifically, while out shopping for Matchboxes. Indeed, the idea that—somehow—other countries are much more “dangerous” than the United States is flawed. But don’t ask the politically correct to tell that to you, since they will only respond with politically incorrect formulations of their own thoughts and crocodile tears (Please see Anderson Cooper, above). Or—even worse—they will paint over the truth: that the globalist system desires to make all countries “shithole countries”.

Take the progressive mayor of Providence, RI, Jorge Elorza, who said the suspect was just “a knucklehead”. His further elaboration did not actually elaborate at all: “It was a terrible incident. Kids … rival groups, rival factions started beef at the mall and it resulted in someone pulling a gun out and shooting someone. It’s senseless, just dumb stuff”. That the Mayor, an elected official(!), of an American city could not come out and say what the police themselves could say—that they “wouldn’t rule out” gang involvement—is a testament to just how dangerous political correctness is for the city, for society, and for the nation. Senseless violence is not inflicted by “factions” or “groups”, senseless violence is inflicted by gangs.

But, sadly, this is the state of the United States in 2018. This is a country where people who imply that other countries are “shitholes” in a politically correct manner feign offense when the same sentiment is uttered in a politically incorrect manner without realizing that they do the same exact thing. This is a country where—in “honor” of Martin Luther King Day—the New Yorker magazine puts Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., kneeling, next to Colin Kaepernick on their magazine’s cover. I put “honor” in quotations because the fact that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. should be depicted as kneeling besides someone like Colin Kaepernick (whose divisive actions I have written about before) is a disgrace to the legacy of an American hero; in fact it diminishes his legacy.

 

CVN_TNY_01_15_18RGB-640x873.jpg

A Questionable Cover Image For The New Yorker. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.seattletimes.com/sports/seahawks/seahawks-michael-bennett-appears-on-the-new-yorker-cover-next-to-colin-kaepernick-and-martin-luther-king-jr/

 

MLK.jpg

Perhaps this Would Have Been a Better Cover Image For The New Yorker? Image Courtesy Of: http://guides.ll.georgetown.edu/c.php?g=592919&p=4172699

 

But this is also a country where such division—for reasons I cannot fathom—is welcomed. It is a country where someone like Eduardo Bonilla-Silva is the head of the American Sociological Association (ASA). As a marginal sociologist, it is an insult to me that someone as seemingly racist as Mr. Bonilla-Silva represents my profession. This is man who has written a book arguing that, basically, all whites are racists, and has given a talk entitled “the real ‘race problem’ in sociology: the power of white rule in our discipline”; as a sociologist—as marginal as I may be—I take offense to this. In reading one of Mr. Bonilla-Silva’s book chapters for a graduate seminar, I was taken aback reading some of his generalizations punctuated by blatant racism; it was clear to me that he certainly was not judging people by the content of their character but by the color of their skin–something Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. urged us not to do. But this is because Mr. Bonilla-Silva—like Colin Kaepernick—is unlike Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The latter was a hero who wanted to bring people together, the former two are cowards who only want to drive people apart. Just like it takes strength to be positive in the negative world we live in, it takes a strong person to unite people—the weak will only resort to division. By the same token, most of us know that it is easier to break a friendship off than work to make a friendship grow.

This is because people have no respect—nor idea—of their own community, their own nation. We cannot abandon our countries to the mercy of globalist leaders and corporate interests, both of which have no respect for their countries. We owe it to ourselves as citizens of whichever country we belong to to make our countries as good as they can be; we must strive to make our countries live up to the messages that they send us regarding “freedom”, “democracy”, and “liberty”. I saw the football fans stand up for their country in a small stadium in Istanbul, as the fans of Sariyer supported their nation with a Turkish flag, a banner reading “Long Live Mustafa Kemal Pasha” (Yasa Mustafa Kemal Pasa), and a banner reading “Country First” (Once Vatan). For me it was an inspiration. And I see the same sentiments it in a quote by Martin Luther King Jr. himself: “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools”. It is words like these that inspire me, not the negative rhetoric of division that the globalist media tends to proffer.

 

20171024_125747.jpg20171024_123309#1.jpg

On an October Day the Sariyer Players Stood For Their National Anthem While The Fans Made Their Sentiments Clear Through Banners. Images Courtesy of the Author.

 

martinlutherkingjr-027_0.jpg

A Sensible Sentiment Sociologists Would Do Well To Keep In Mind. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.quotesbycelebrities.com/martin-luther-king-jr.-quotes/we-must-learn-live-together-brothers-or For Audio of Mr. King’s Speech, Please See This YouTube Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bNPpEQkep2k

U.S. Congressman’s Response to U.S. Soccer Team’s Failure to Qualify for the World Cup Confirms That Some American Politicians Have Forgotten How to Govern

Leave a comment

Given the amount of money invested in Soccer in the United States, it is certainly a disappointment that the United States will not be playing in next summer’s World Cup. Interestingly, the fallout from the team’s failure has also given us an opportunity to see just how far American politicians are from the very people to whom they are supposed to be accountable. USA Today pointed out some odd Tweets made by Congressman Brendan Boyle, a Democrat who represents Pennsylvania’s 13th Congressional District, in the wake of the United States’ unexpected loss.

 

Normally, Congressman Boyle’s Twitter feed is filled with the type of tweets one would expect from a Democratic lawman: Messages disparaging Republican President Donald Trump and typical messages pandering to identity politics. According to his Twitter feed, Congressman Boyle was educated at Notre Dame and Harvard University and—of course—unequivocally supports worker’s rights. No problems there. Congressman Boyle has represented Pennsylvania’s 13th Congressional District since 2014, a district that includes part of Philadelphia and is 87.2% White. Perhaps that explains the Congressman’s odd Tweets about football (or Soccer); few of his constituents are soccer fans!

 

Screen Shot 2017-10-12 at 5.05.19 PM.png

Alienating Potential Voters is Not the Smartest Thing to Do. Image Courtesy Of: https://twitter.com/repbrendanboyle?lang=en

 

His first Tweet, following the loss, was “I was really disappointed the USA men’s team didn’t qualify for the World Cup. Then I remembered I couldn’t care less about soccer”. Clearly, for anyone who understands a modicum about public policy, this was not the best thing to Tweet. When it comes from a man with a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from Harvard University, it is even more surprising. One would think that alienating any part of your constituency—in the name of sports—would not be the best course of action. What is even odder is that Mr. Boyle dug in when a user asked, rhetorically, if he did not understand the sport.

 

Screen Shot 2017-10-12 at 5.07.03 PM.png

An Odd Response; I Wonder How Latino Voters Feel About This. Image Courtesy Of: http://ftw.usatoday.com/2017/10/brandon-boyle-us-soccer-twitter

 

Mr. Boyle, however, was not done. He followed up with another oddly antagonistic Tweet: “Had no idea soccer fans were such snowflakes. Guys, do yourselves a favor. Watch the baseball playoffs. You’re Welcome”. The irony of a politician from the Democratic party calling others snowflakes should not be lost on anyone, and it reveals a lot about the nature of politicians in the United States.

 

That Congressman Boyle did not shy away from telling sports fans what to watch (instead of soccer) is also telling as it reveals a fascistic streak of thought. Perhaps the Congressman should be reminded that supporting worker’s rights does not mean that one cannot be—or is not—a fascist. But this is the state of politics in the United States. Politicians are so removed from the people they ostensibly represent that they believe they can say anything. After all, the 13th District is Democrat and will likely continue to be. Little of what these politicians say is genuine and often party-line rhetoric serves simply to ensure votes. And, sometimes even off-hand Tweets like these reveal a lot about the character behind the political office. While the popular narrative tells us that Democrats are “tolerant” of others, I should say that Congressman Boyle’s Tweets tell a very different story.

Here I will give a shout out to writer Brian Hickey who–intelligently–pointed out one of contradictions of this tweeting debacle: “One might think a legislator who plays the pro-immigrant card would – y’know – not spit all over the sport many immigrants love. But, nope, that’s not what happened here”. Similarly, Philadelphia soccer writer Matt Ralph pointed out that Congressman Boyle’s district is a soccer hot-bed. Representatives like Brendan Boyle show just how broken the political system has become; it is not about Left and Right at all. It is about politicians who have absolutely no concern, whatsoever, about their constituencies.

Football and Geopolitics: The Media Impetus for the U.S. Strike on Syria, What It Might Mean for The World, and Why Media Literacy is Important

1 Comment

AUTHOR’S UPDATE  (7.20.2017): A few more news stories have come out recently regarding this topic which are worth sharing. The first is a piece from The Nation which, while pointing out the inconsistencies surrounding the alleged chemical attacks in Syria, serves as an anti-Trump piece arguing that the current U.S. President deliberately fabricated the intelligence reports regarding the use of chemical weapons by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The second is an article from Mother Jones. This piece is still anti-Trump, but it adds the important point that the Obama administration was also accused by journalist Seymour Hersh of fabricating chemical weapons stories in Syria (in fact, The New Yorker apparently declined to publish an article accusing Mr. Obama of fabricating chemical attacks in Syria). The point of this second “Author’s Note” is not, of course, to celebrate or denigrate either Mr. Trump or Mr. Obama. Rather, the point is to show why media literacy is still important. It is beyond politics since we should not question mainstream media in order to celebrate political figures we like or trash political figures we dislike; rather we should consistently question mainstream media narratives–especially if they don’t add up–regardless of our political persuasions. Otherwise we risk fueling the dangerous kinds of fragmentation we have seen recently in society.
Author’s Note: This Was First Posted on 7 April 2017 But The Text Was Not Visible. I am Re-posting, with some new stories and analysis included. The main point here is to take a post-modern approach in the tradition of French Sociologist Michel Foucault; we must be cognizant of the fact that there is no one single “Truth” with a capital “T”; in order to make sense of mainstream media we must strengthen our media literacy.  

 

syrian_league_match-lr_wepdwgn.jpg

The Bleak State Of Syrian Pitches During the Civil War. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/resources/idt-sh/syria_football_on_the_frontline

 

On 22 March the BBC came out with an eye-opening look at football in Syria during the ongoing six-year civil war. The article opens with the claim that “since the uprising began in 2011, there has been little positivity spoken in connection with the country, but then there is the remarkable story of Syria’s national football team. The relationship that exists between this national team and its people depicts the power of sport on a personal, cultural and political level”. Given this excerpt, one would be forgiven for believing that the BBC was publishing a humanistic piece. The reality—as is the case with most modern news media—is something less than humanist; after all the media (given its relationship to capital) is not wholly independent. Unfortunately, the authors Richard Conway and David Lockwood cannot resist bringing the political—in this case from a biased perspective—into their piece:

 

A month before the victory against China, Syria drew against former World Cup semi-finalists South Korea. These results mean gradually, the footballing world is starting to pay attention to Syria for sporting reasons. But this is not entirely a good news story.

There is no ignoring the control that president Bashar Assad’s regime tries to exert over its citizens and, once again, sport is no different. The relative success of the team is both a passing panacea and a propaganda opportunity, the former for the people and the latter for the president. To present a thriving football culture to the world fits in entirely with the agenda of normalisation, of having quelled the rebellion, of stabilisation and control. However, as we discovered, the reality is far from that.

 

The emphasis here is less on the football team and more on the ills of the Assad government, which sends a political message in the guise of a humanist piece of sports journalism. While the journalists claim that “the rapid return of football to these areas shows the government’s desire to use the game to display life as returning to normal and of the war as being won. What could be more normal than going to a football match? But like the normality, this ‘growth’ of the game is an illusion;”, it seems that both fans and footballers might have a different opinion.

The authors cite one un-named fan as saying “It is very important to keep hope and to stay optimistic. Live our life in normal way, in sport, in everything. The kids need to live a normal life, what’s happening is not their fault, they need to watch sport, go to their schools, go to public parks, they have to”. The “hope” that this fan speaks of is certainly essential, and increased violence in the country will not serve him/her —or the children—in the long term. Footballer Mohammad al-Khalaf says “we are angry because the families are separated by the war. All the Syrians’ families are separated, that’s why we have so much anger. But what shall we do?

We have to accept our destiny and adapt to it. We didn’t want this to happen but it wasn’t in our hands, they are trying to destroy the people. We hope that it will end and in God’s will we will be able to return to our country as soon as possible”. Again, the footballer’s description of the situation can be read in many ways; it is a lament for the destruction of his country without taking a particular stance on the issues. His next statement that is quoted is more nationalist: “sport has nothing to do with politics. We have to move forward and sport has a message and we should relay this message. If the Syrian team plays with any other country, for sure and from the bottom of my heart I will back it and support it”. The focus here is not on a particular government or political group, rather it is about the Syrian nation, the Syrian people—perhaps not even the state at all! The article even notes that assistant coach Tarek Jabban said he coaches for the love of his country, despite making just $100 (£80) a month. The team’s star defender, Omar al Midani, might put it best when he says “The football was much better before the war. We were happy, the only thing we cared about was football and school. Now the only thing we care about is to have our country back like it used to be”. This statement—more than that of any other person cited in the BBC piece, shows that there are at least some Syrian footballers who recognize the importance of the state; whether they are nationalist or not is immaterial, what matters is that they have a respect for the state independent of its leader—insofar as it provides law and order. The fact that Mr. Assad has managed to stay in power throughout this bloody six-year civil war implies some sort of support, thus these sentiments should not be surprising.

The article cites Brigadier General Mowaffak Joumaa who (unsurprisingly, given his role as a soldier) gives the nationalist explanation that “the Syrian government is defending our people and [is] keep[ing] Syria united, this country in land and people”, yet the authors of the article conspicuously eschew any statements remotely sympathetic to the regime (as an impartial media outlet would be expected to do). Instead, they write that Syrian President Bashar al Assad:

 

t_shirts-mr_umsjxpw.jpg

Sports Is Used In Syria To Support Mr. Assad’s Regime In Its Darkest Days. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/resources/idt-sh/syria_football_on_the_frontline

has led a war against opposition forces within his country for more than six years […and] that there’s nothing funny about him [al Assad] to those trapped within the country’s borders or living under his authoritarian rule. Many here will not talk of him openly. Most will not even dare speak his name when asked about their feelings towards him. The reach and menace of the regime runs deep in the Syrian psyche. What started as peaceful demonstrations, all part of a popular uprising across the region in 2011 known as the Arab Spring, quickly degenerated into a vicious and bloody war.

 

Again, the BBC’s piece is perpetuating the image of Assad as a killer and “menace” so as to (perhaps indirectly) influence Western policy (or readers’ support of the latter) vis-à-vis Syria, while also downplaying the fact that there are fans and players who just want things back to where they were. Unfortunately, because of a refusal to even acknowledge an alternative “truth”, the BBC’s work can be viewed as a form of intellectual imperialism. It is one characterized by media narratives and tropes that are repeated enough to become pseudo-facts.

Unfortunately, intellectual imperialism—even in the world of sports journalism—has its consequences. Less than two weeks after this piece was published with the passage “The Syrian government also stands accused of war crimes against its own people for numerous egregious breaches of human rights such as using banned chemical weapons and bombing water supplies” [my emphasis], the Syrian regime was reported to have used chemical weapons on its own people during an attack on Idlib province on Tuesday 4 April 2017. On Thursday 6 April 2017, doctors in Turkey confirmed that chemical weapons had been used in an attack that killed at least 72 people. Despite the reports, the fact remains that the Syrian state could stand to gain nothing from conducting such an attack at this stage; much of the world had grown to see that Assad was far less of a menace than ISIS/ISIL/DAESH and even the footballers and fans cited by the BBC had expressed their desires for a return to normalcy.

Without resorting to conspiracy theories, it is still important to keep an open mind and the words of one “expert” are useful to explain why this “attack” is so suspect. The Los Angeles Times’ Matt Pearce rightly points out that “there’s a mystery at the heart of an apparent chemical weapons attack in Syria this week: Syria’s government, suspected of carrying out the attack, was supposed to have gotten rid of all its chemical weapons in 2014”. Indeed, this is true (it even appears as a link beneath the Guardian’s story reporting this week’s attack). The “expert” cited by the LA Times is Markus Binder, a chemical weapons expert at the University of Maryland. According to the Times, he “still had basic questions about the attack that need to be confirmed, including exactly what chemicals were used and whether the Syrian government carried out the attack”. The LA Times points out that “the use of chemicals makes [no] immediate sense, given that the government has been using explosives that often kill civilians.” Mr Binder adds “Why now? It puzzles.’”. This alone should make any impartial observer pause for thought.

Now, given the United State’s attack on a Syrian airbase on 6-7 April 2017 in response to the purported use of chemical weapons (which Syria denies), we must think even harder: What is the motivation for this kind of aggression? There are three likely scenarios that come most immediately to mind:

  • The Megalomaniacal Theory; Mr. Trump Attacked Syria to further his own political agenda: This theory has three inter-related components:
    1. By attacking Russia’s ally Syria in such a conspicuous manner, Mr. Trump may have thought that he could put an end to the speculations that the Kremlin paved his way to the White House.
    2. This attack also serves to differentiate Mr. Trump from his predecessor—former president Barack Obama—during the first 100 days. By definitively acting on the alleged use of chemical weapons by Mr. Assad, Mr. Trump can show his ability to follow through when a “red line” is crossed (something Mr. Obama did not do). Similarly, if Syria did indeed use chemical weapons, it would show the failure of Mr. Obama in the realm of negotiation since he “agreed to a Russian deal to dismantle Syria’s chemical weapons program” in the first place.
    3. Trump may have believed that the use of force would restore credibility for the United States in the international realm, which feeds into a third theory.
  • The America First Theory: Since Mr. Trump campaigned on an “America First” platform, he may have seen this as a simple way to assert American military strength at the outset of his presidency in order to send a message to other geopolitical rivals like Iran and North Korea. The fact that Mr. Trump’s administration has been keen to point out that “no people were targeted” and that Russia was notified before the attack (even the sections of the base where Russians were present were not targeted by the strike) shows that the administration saw the airbase as a fairly safe target, PR wise, for a “one-off” strike. The Trump Administration may see this kind of a one-off strike as allowing them to negotiate for a settlement from a “position of strength”; threats are much more credible after force has been used. This approach would also signal a perceived return of the United States to global prominence.

 

Likely, the explanation for the United States’ first open use of force in Syria is a combination of elements from these three theories. The fact that the two candidates who fought a bitter presidential campaign should agree on the issue of using force in Syria is eye-opening, as is the coincidental nature of timing. While former presidential candidate and current Florida senator Marco Rubio thinks the timing of Mr. Assad’s attacks is coincidental since it came in the wake of tacit American support for the Assad regime; I would go the other way (while wondering about Mr. Rubio’s thought process) and point out that the timing is coincidental since it comes at a time when Mr. Assad is re-gaining (at least some) lost legitimacy while Mr. Trump is losing legitimacy (judging by polls that had put him at 46 % approval rating). It was a perfect storm that may have forced the American President into a corner, acting on any information he had—whether real or fake.

The reality is that if the state has an agenda, too often the media supports that agenda. While we should all be cognizant of conspiratorial stories (like those claiming that the Daily Mail deleted a story in January 2013 about a false-flag attack in Syria involving chemical weapons) we also need to recognize (in the Foucauldian tradition) that there is no one, single, “Truth”; there is nothing to say that mainstream media is telling “the Truth” all the time. As a country that fought a civil war–and emerged from it better off (and without major meddling of foreign powers)–the United States should be the first to recognize that there is little “Truth” (with a capital “T”) when it comes to civil war. There are embedded messages in every news story we read. That even a humanist story about a nation’s football team can carry political undertones—in this case directed against the Assad regime in Syria—is worrisome, regardless of Mr. Assad’s record (he is not a saint after all; politics is a dark game and political leaders rarely are saints).

 

map-of-control_bbc-news-mr_xclzaq6_lkaejnd-mr_pznrd9v.jpg

No One Can Be a Saint When a Country Is This Divided. Readers Should Imagine What They Would Think If Their Own Country Was as Divided as Syria Is Now. Would They Be Happy With Foreign Intervention? Would They Support The Government? Would They Support the Rebels? Empathy is Important in Moments Like This, Since It Allows For a Humanist Approach to the Issues at Hand. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/resources/idt-sh/syria_football_on_the_frontline

 

It means that—when used hand in hand with the policies of the state—the media can act as a shepherd of the masses; the media can condition public opinion before any action is taken by the state so as to mitigate the possible negative reactions to the state. Time will tell what the fallout of Mr. Trump’s actions will be in Syria and the wider Middle East; in the mean time the best we can do is be cognizant of the biases inherent in every kind of news story we read—whether about sport or politics—so as to increase our media literacy. Honing these skills will allow us to avoid being drawn in by “fake news”, while also allowing us to take a more critical view of mainstream media.

The Case for Americans Studying Abroad (With Help From George Herbert Mead)

9 Comments

Author’s Note: Parts of this post were written as an assignment for a graduate seminar in Classical Sociological Theory.

Sociologist George Herbert Mead’s concept of the “self” makes for interesting reading, even if it is presented in a manner that seems to be trying its best to be inaccessible to the layman. His theories are very useful when applied to the current state of Americans and their relationship to America’s role in the world. I read an article in The Atlantic recently about how a possible Donald Trump presidency could “change the world”. Even though I have my own personal doubts as to whether or not any particular U.S. President can, indeed, unilaterally change the country—let alone the world—I read on. The article makes the claim that the current world system, based on the post WWII order created by the United States through institutions like Bretton Woods and characterized by neo-liberal economics, is unequivocally good for the world. That makes me think—what does “good” mean? And is “good” for the United States necessarily “good” for the rest of the world? The interviewee in the article states “the record is pretty clear over the last five or six years that if the U.S. pulls out, things will get worse domestically in other countries, and they’ll become more fearful and more protectionist and more nationalist.” But who is to say that things are not bad now domestically in other countries? I can think of many examples where this is the case, and that is where Mead’s ideas are very useful.

Foreign Affairs ran a story last spring about how study abroad programs can make the United States “safer and stronger” by “opening the American mind”. As someone who enjoys traveling I have to agree, and George Herbert Mead’s ideas offer some perspective on why study abroad could help America in the long run. Mead states that

every human individual must, to behave ethically, integrate himself with the pattern of organized social behavior which, as reflected or prehended in the the structure of his self, makes him a self-conscious personality […] the sense which the individual self has of his dependence upon the organized society or social community to which he belongs is the basis and origin, in short, of his sense of duty (and in general of his ethical consciousness); and ethical and unethical behavior can be defined essentially in social terms (Mead, Mind Self and Society section 41; 3).

Mead’s ideas certainly are applicable to the individual, and I believe they can be extrapolated out to the larger “nation” and/or “state”. Is it possible that, since the United States is both geographically and culturally isolated from the rest of the world, many citizens do not have a “sense of duty” as regards the rest of the world? If the self is defined in terms of the other—and through interaction with it—as Mead argues, then it is possible that many Americans truly do not have this sense of ethics when it comes to international politics.

Interestingly, this separation of the U.S. from the rest of the world—and the relative isolation of its population—is reflected by the “asocial or personal aspect” of Mead’s self. This “differentiates it from, or sets it in distinctive and unique opposition to, the other members of the social group to which it belongs; and this side of the self is characterized by the individual’s feeling of superiority toward the other members of that group” (Ibid.). If we were to substitute the words “social group” for “international community” and “the individual” for “the United States” we would have a very good example of the concept that views the United States as “a city on a hill”; we are detached from the poverty and violence that plague the rest of the world which often makes many of us in the United States feel this “sense of superiority”. I have met many people who are, unfortunately, afraid to travel abroad because they have heard “its so bad over there”. Usually, I counter by explaining that living in a country where citizens are allowed easy access to firearms would be considered to be fairly dangerous in any other context; the point is it’s all about perspective.

George Herbert Mead’s ideas are very useful in the current geopolitical age, where American hegemony is in question. The self can only define itself in relation to the other; “it is the social process itself that is responsible for the appearance of the self; it is not there as a self apart from this type of experience” (Calhoun et al., 351). Like the individual’s “self”, the “national” self is formed in the same way. Without interactions with those from other national backgrounds, a national consciousness cannot be developed independently. Most nationalist identities are defined vis-à-vis other, competing, national identities. In the United States, this has not been the case traditionally. Rather, for the most part, American “culture” is imposed from the top down through cultural processes like music, movies, and sports. This does not, however, allow for an independent realization of what is “American”, or what it means in relation to other nations internationally. In order to foster a better understanding of what it means to be “American”, in relation to the rest of the world, I believe that social interaction is imperative. If America wants to continue to be a hegemonic power, it cannot neglect educating its citizens about the rest of the world; by doing so a more introspective—and ultimately stronger—American identity could emerge.

After all, the condescending “city on a hill” image is not really reflective of American values (at least not in the way that I interpret them). A recent New Yorker piece states that “The United States’ claim to moral primacy in the world, the idea of American exceptionalism, rests upon the argument that this is a nation set apart”. Of course, this is a highly conceited perspective that I—even as a patriotic American—find to be extremely misguided. The fact that the New Yorker ties it into race is even more disgusting:

The old presumptions hold that some element of national humiliation and decline predisposes nations toward fascism, or at least the appeals of fascistic movements. But in the U.S. this movement sprang up on the contrails of the first black Presidency—a moment that was, perhaps naïvely at the time, thought to be one of national affirmation and triumph. The unsavory implication here, of course, is that, for the cornerstone elements of Trumpism, that triumph was a national humiliation, that the image of an African-American receiving the deference and regard that the Presidency entails invalidated these Americans’ understanding of what the U.S. is, or at least what it is supposed to be […] In the broader context, Trumpism represents the demise of American exceptionalism, or at least the refutation of the most cogent arguments for it ever having existed in the first place.

This is just one troubling article that has come out following Donald Trump’s election victory, since Mr. Obama’s years in power have seen unprecedented chaos in the Middle East driven by American policies and arguably represent abject failure. To even imply that criticism of these policies is somehow racist represents poor journalism—the journalist’s job is to hold politicians responsible for their policies and a President’s skin color does not exonerate them from failure in office. As I have stated earlier, Mr. Trump’s presidency might just be a recognition that “American exceptionalism” has not only failed the United States, but it has also failed the world. After all, uninterrupted war—which Mr. Obama has presided over eight years of—is not the healthiest of situations for any country. Even if Mr. Trump wants to alter U.S. policies, he will still have to deal with the American deep state and its “deep secrets”. This in and of itself should temper any unilateral behavior on his part. In fact, the fact that state media’s Washington Post is already giving airtime to Islamists suggests that the stage is being set to discredit Mr. Trump before he even takes office.

These troubling articles have coincided with some troubling conversations I have had with close friends. While I respect these friends more than I can explain here—and I know they will be better scholars than I will ever be—their marked lack of knowledge regarding America’s role in the world is upsetting and tells me that we, as a county, would do well to encourage more international study at the college level. One friend told me that Mr. Trump’s election meant that his non-white friends were being threatened. When I told him that this was unfortunate and that such abject racists were disgusting fringe elements, I was accused of being an apologist for white supremacists. Unfortunately, I ended up raising my voice (and I apologize for that already) when coup—killed many people in Turkey during an attempted coup; actions speak louder than words for me. For some Trump detractors, it seems that the killing of “brown people” abroad can be completely swept under the rug, and that—to someone with an international outlook like myself—is just unacceptable. But that is the kind of thought process that American exceptionalism breeds! A second friend pointed out that my Turkish friends would not be able to come to the United States due to Mr. Trump’s proposed “ban on Muslims”. When I told this individual that my friends would have no problem getting a visa because they are educated and have been to the United States before, my friend was incredulous. “They need visas for the United States? They can’t just walk in with their passports?” was the reply. It was a typically “American” response, and fitting seeing as how the American passport allows the holder to just “walk in” to most countries in the world—174 to be exact , and this is one major reason that those born in the United States should really be thankful for the privilege they have. Sadly, this individual didn’t know that the United States’ visa waiver program  is—to use parlance that is in vogue following Mr. Trump’s election—very pro-“white”. The only non-European countries that enjoy visa free travel to the United States are Australia (white), Brunei, Chile, Japan, New Zealand (white) South Korea, and Taiwan. As if to make the list look longer, the U.S. State Department includes miniscule states like Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, and Monaco—like a bad joke. The Visa Waiver Program added this provision in 2015:

Under the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015, travelers in the following categories are no longer eligible to travel or be admitted to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP):

-Nationals of VWP countries who have traveled to or been present in Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, or Yemen on or after March 1, 2011 (with limited exceptions for travel for diplomatic or military purposes in the service of a VWP country).

-Nationals of VWP countries who are also nationals of Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria.

Brunei is the only Muslim country on the list; it is not a Middle Eastern country. When I told my friend that many Americans did not know the value of their own passport and that most foreigners have to obtain visas, it was insinuated that I was an elitist of some sort. It was never my aim, rather I tried to point out that life in other countries is very different than in the U.S., and that extends to travel as well. This friend then cleared up the misunderstanding: they had understood that Mr. Trump would be instating visas for Muslims traveling to the United States. Again, this is an example of many Americans who only vote (or protest) based on media hyperbole rather than any real knowledge of the issues. It is a sad state of affairs, when voters in the world’s foremost “democracy” show such ignorance in the face of the issues but I suppose it is just the way it is for now. I can only hope that more universities bring Study Abroad programs into their curriculums, since the world is opening itself up. Even if Mr. Trump’s presidency means a drawdown in American power (or application of said power) abroad, it doesn’t mean that we can afford to have a population left ignorant of the privileges they have.

 

Author’s Note: Readers; if you have a chance, please travel. It is the single greatest investment you can make in yourself over the course of your lifetime!

Older Entries