Good morning, gentle readers! This week we’re taking some looks at slices of Muslim life in the US, the fate of peace in Ireland, the role of natural disasters in fights for power and control, and how the US right got so powerful, so quickly. Join us — and do tell us what you’re reading, too!
‘How the Death of a Muslim Recruit Revealed a Culture of Brutality in the Marines‘ (Janet Reitman for the New York Times Magazine)
This is a troubling, and intense, dive into the story of a Muslim recruit who died after signing up to serve a country he loved, even if at times it didn’t love him back. The most disturbing thing? He wasn’t killed in action, or by enemy fighters, or even in a tragic accident.
The Siddiquis, who emigrated from Pakistan in the 1990s, hadn’t wanted their precious oldest child, and only boy, to join the Marines. Slender and unathletic, Raheel had always seemed most content designing video games on his computer. He graduated ninth in the class of 2014 from Taylor’s Harry S. Truman High School, a valedictorian with his pick of colleges, including a full academic scholarship to Michigan State. After months of deliberation, he decided on the University of Michigan’s Dearborn campus, where he enrolled in September 2014, lured by its new program in robotics engineering. But the following July, after his freshman year, Raheel drastically changed course, announcing to his family that he had decided to leave college and enlist in the Marines.
‘‘Love Thy Neighbor?’‘ (Stephanie McCrummen for the Washington Post)
A doctor just wants to serve patients in a quiet community that should be a safe place to raise a family. That story changes, though, when the doctor is Muslim, and surrounded by hatred, calls to educate the people trashing his faith, and Trump’s America.
In two hours, he was supposed to give his third lecture on Islam, and he was sure it would be his last. A local Lutheran pastor had talked him into giving the first one in Dawson three months before, when people had asked questions such as whether Muslims who kill in the name of the prophet Muhammad are rewarded in death with virgins, which had bothered him a bit. Two months later, he gave a second talk in a neighboring town, which had ended with several men calling him the antichrist.
‘How power profits from disaster‘ (Naomi Klein for The Guardian)
Klein is a sharp thinker, with the power to cut through dross to the heart of systemic issues, looking beyond the short term and into larger implications. This read, on the exploitation of disaster for power and control, is a fantastic example of incisive way of approaching politics and policy.
I started to notice the same tactics in disaster zones around the world. I used the term “shock doctrine” to describe the brutal tactic of using the public’s disorientation following a collective shock – wars, coups, terrorist attacks, market crashes or natural disasters – to push through radical pro-corporate measures, often called “shock therapy”. Though Trump breaks the mould in some ways, his shock tactics do follow a script, and one that is familiar from other countries that have had rapid changes imposed under the cover of crisis.
‘What the Alt-Right Learned from the Left‘ (Hannah Gais for the New Republic)
The rise of the extremist right in the US should look familiar to the left, because many of the tactics these political organisers are employing are the same as those used on the left. The mastery of these political tools to the point where they’ve become parodies of themselves is a powerful testimony to mimicry.
The alt-right has also demonstrated a proclivity to steal and distort pieces of left-wing theory at will, all the while unironically harping on the dangers of so-called “cultural Marxism.” Much like one of its ideological forerunners, the French New Right, the alt-right has embraced a Gramscian approach to political change by focusing almost laser-like on what they view as left-wing cultural hegemony. “The point is ultimately to redefine the conditions under which politics is conceived,” Friberg explained in an excerpt from his book The Real Right Returns. “Only by understanding this tool, countering its misuse, and turning it to serve our own ends, can we overcome the miserable situation that our continent is in.” He is referring to Europe, but the same could easily be said of the United States, where the far-right is well aware it lost at least one stage of the culture wars. It is posed to turn its enemies’ tactics against them.
‘Why the New U.K. Political Coalition Could Undermine Peace in Ireland‘ (Lorraine Boissoneault for Smithsonian)
There’s a long list of reasons people are concerned about the UK government. The fate of peace in Ireland is one of them — and this article delves into why some are concerned that the Tory-DUP mashup could spell trouble.
The other problem is that the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 hinges on the British government being a neutral, third-party peace broker. “The Tory-DUP pact undermines the neutrality as it is an agreement between the governing party and a staunchly unionist party. This could have far reaching ramifications,”—including difficulty reforming the devolved government, said Henry Jarrett, University of Exeter professor of international relations, by email.
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Photo: Thorsten Shröder/Creative Commons