Cartoon: How Trumpcare Helps Ordinary Americans

medicaid-cuts

WE CAN STILL SAVE MEDICAID!

If you live in Alaska, West Virginia, Maine, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, or Arkansas, it’s ESSENTIAL that you call your senator! It’s easy and doesn’t take long; you can find calling scripts here.

Special shout-out to my talented collaborator on this cartoon, Mr. Adrian Wallace!

If you like these cartoons, please support my patreon.

Transcript:

This is a single panel cartoon.

The cartoon shows three giants, in fancy dinner dress, at a dining table. The room screams “wealth”; the chairs are fancy, the windows are huge, the wall is pillared, etc. The table is also fancy, with expensive-looking chairs and a fancy lace tablecloth.

Lying on the table is a woman with a grimace of pain and fear, who is labeled “Medicaid.” The three giants are ripping away huge chunks of her body and eating the chunks.

In front of these scene stands an ordinary-sized human, a white man wearing a suit and tie. He is smiling and talking directly to readers.

MAN: Our plan is all about helping ordinary Americans.

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Health Care and Related Issues | 1 Comment  

Cartoon: Who’s A Good Voter?

good-voter-1200

If you enjoy these cartoons, please support them on Patreon.

Trump is in some ways more awful than the typical Republican politician – more crass, more ignorant, more dangerously impulsive. But a lot of his awfulness is just what we’ve come to expect from Republican politicians. You can’t be a viable Republican politician, in this age, unless you sign on for a long list of indefensible and irresponsible positions.

My point is, Trump’s election didn’t come out of nowhere. The GOP spent years teaching its voters to accept ridiculous nonsense as truth, and Trump is the result.

Artwise, I think this is one of my better efforts – I like the flat pink colors on the crowds versus the fuller colors on the two GOP operatives. (Thanks to my friend Naomi for suggesting that approach!) Better still, to my eyes at least, it really doesn’t look like any of the other political cartoons out there. And by the way, those Tea Party hats are pretty hard to draw!

TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON
Panel 1
Two men are standing slightly above of crowd of people. They are petting people in the crowd on the heads, as if they were dogs. The crowd looks happy. There are t-shirts and a banner that say “Reagan.”
One of the men is young, blond, and wearing a shirt and necktie. The other man is bald, has glasses, and is wearing a vest over his shirt and necktie. Both are white.
BLONDE: We can cut taxes, up military spending, and balance the budget! Yes we can!
GLASSES: WHO’S a good voter? YOU are!

Panel 2
The same scene, but now the crowd is wearing “Dole” t-shirts.
BLONDE: Industry would be doing great if it wasn’t for evil enviornmentalists. GOOD VOTER!
GLASSES: Tax cuts for the rich pay for themselves! GOOD boy! GOOD voter!

Panel 3
The same scene, but now the crow is wearing “Bush” t-shirts.
BLONDE: All your woes are caused by immigrants and Black people! Yes they ARE!
GLASSES: Global Warming is a HOAX made up by Al Gore! What a GOOD voter!

Panel 4
The same scene, except the crowd is looking angrier, and some of them are wearing tricorn hats, indicating that they’re Tea Party members. One wears a “NObama” t-shirt.
BLONDE: Illegal voters are stealing elections for the Democrats! GOOD VOTER!
GLASSES: Experts and journalists are all LIARS! Only Fox tells the truth! GOOD VOTER!

Panel 5 (final panel)
The two men are looking unhappy, having been left behind by the crowd of voters. We can see the crowd well in the foreground, wearing “Make America Great Again” hats.
BLONDE: Trump’s a con man and a liar. But our base LOVES him!
GLASSES: How’d they get like that?

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Elections and politics | 12 Comments  

It’s Gross to Use Otto Warmbier’s Tragedy to talk about White Male Privilege

Otto Warmbier was a 22-year-old American who, early in 2016 was convicted by a North Korean court of stealing a poster. He was put in a North Korean prison, until he was returned to the US in a coma on June 13th of this year. Warmbier died without waking up on June 19th.

affinity-mag-is-gross

A few progressives have responded by saying… Well, I’ll let Affinity Magazine’s (now deleted) tweet speak for itself.

The comedian Larry Wilmore (who I’m usually a fan of) also criticized Warmbier harshly about a year ago, making fun of Warmbier for crying as he begged for mercy:

Look frat bros dudes, if your hazing includes international crimes, you’ve got to read the fine print on your American frat bro warranty. It’s all the way at the bottom so it’s easy to miss, but it says: “Frat bro privilege not valid in totalitarian dystopias.” Listen, Otto Von Crybaby, if you’re so anxious to go to a country with an unpredictable megalomaniac in charge, just wait a year and you’ll live in one! It’s coming, you guys! You know that shit is coming! Make America Great! It is catchy. I’m going to cry. Okay, to get a better sense of Otto, let’s talk with some of his fraternity brothers. So, please welcome Preston and Hawes. So guys, is it upsetting to see your frat brother begging for mercy in North Korea?

Do I have to explain how repulsive that is?

(Wilmore apologized a couple of days ago.)

The writer La Sha wrote the HuffPost article “North Korea Proves Your White Male Privilege Is Not Universal.

It’s important to note that La Sha’s article was written before Warmbier’s coma and subsequent death. Also, the article’s approach is all over the place; for a few paragraphs, it verges on satire, demonstrating what it would sound like if people responded to Warmbier’s case the way many whites respond to police shootings of Black people. But that satiric tone, if it was intended at all, is ambiguous and not maintained. Both the introductory paragraphs and the conclusion seem very much in earnest.

All these views fall somewhere on the spectrum from wrong to disgusting. Here’s why:

1) It’s blame-the-victim. Placing the blame on a victim when what happened to them is grossly disproportionate for whatever they allegedly did wrong is, well, wrong. And it blames the wrong person.

The reason I object to people saying “well, rape is horrible, but she shouldn’t have gotten drunk” when a woman is raped is not that I think it’s never a mistake to get drunk. (For example, if she had gotten drunk, slipped in a puddle, and thereby gotten mud on her favorite shirt, I probably would think it’s her own fault for getting so drunk.) My objection is, first of all, that it’s unreasonable to say “well, she shouldn’t have gotten drunk” regarding a rape victim, because the harms she suffered is so grossly disproportionate to anything she did wrong, that bringing it up that way is frankly indecent. And, secondly, it fails to put the blame where it belongs – on the rapist.

That the person acknowledged “rape is horrible” in passing on route to their main point doesn’t change any of that.

The logic in this case seems similar to me. Even if Otto Warmbier did steal a poster, what happened to him was so vastly disproportionate that blaming Warmbier himself becomes indecent. And La Sha’s passing acknowledgement that the punishment was wrong doesn’t make it okay.

2) All of these people take it as fact that Otto Warmbier stole a poster. But we don’t know if that’s true. The face of the man in the video is impossible to make out. Human Rights Watch called his trial a “kangaroo court.” And it’s safe to assume that Warmbier’s “confession” was coerced.

This is not a trivial point. When we accept without question North Korea’s version of events, we are (effectively if unintentionally) taking the side of the oppressor against the victim.

3) Using “privilege” to explain one individual act (that may not even have happened) is the wrong way to think of privilege.

Privilege is a useful way of talking about aggregate disparities between groups of people. We can say, for instance, that employers favoring thin job applicants over fat job applicants (because they assume fat job applicants are lazy) is an example of thin privilege. But we shouldn’t point to a single instance of a thin person being hired and say that it’s an example of thin privilege.

We don’t know that. Even if thin privilege didn’t exist, some thin people would still get hired. Similarly, if even white male privilege didn’t exist, some 22-year-olds would still make foolish mistakes.

Privilege is a little like global warming in this way. We can say for certain that extreme weather events are happening because of global warming. But that doesn’t mean we can point to any one storm and say “this was caused by global warming.” Global warming tells us what’s happening in the aggregate, but it doesn’t establish causation for any single event.

Even if Otto Warmbier stole a poster – and I feel compelled to repeat, we don’t know that he did – we can’t know what caused him to be do that. It could be white male privilege, but it could also be any of dozens of other factors that make up any individual’s personality. Privilege is real and important, but it’s not a one-size-fits-all explanation of any time a privileged person acts badly.

4) It’s not always wrong to politicize tragedies. Sometimes a tragedy suggests policy actions we can take to make future tragedies less likely, and in that case not talking about the steps we could take might be irresponsible. (Questions of time and place still apply, of course). Are there policy options that would make it harder for firms to promise American tourists that visiting Korea is safe (as the tour firm that took Warmbier promised)? If so, now might be a fruitful time to push for that change.

Similarly, BLM activists are 100% right to use each new police shooting as an occasion to push for change.

But it doesn’t follow that every tragedy should immediately be politicized. When we consider responding to a tragedy with politics, we should ask ourselves: Is what I’m saying related directly to a policy change that could have prevented this tragedy? Am I discussing this in a way that disparages the victims? Is talking about this in this way showing a lack of compassion for the victim and their family? Will this actually help in any significant way?

I assume that La Sha, Wilmore, and Affinity Mag failed to ask these questions. They considered only one factor. That’s rigid one-note thinking; that’s doctrinaire politics taking precedence over compassion. And yes, it’s wrong.

I have no interest in being part of a political movement that blames the victim of an authoritative regime; that laughs at the suffering of torture victims; that can’t imagine any priorities other than their own political narratives could ever be relevant. But that’s what our movement would be if Affinity Magazine’s attitude, as displayed in that tweet, becomes the norm.

Posted in In the news, Korea, White Privilege | 50 Comments  

Cartoon: It’s No Longer About Obamacare

medicaid-1000

If you enjoy these cartoons, please support them on Patreon.

Transcript of cartoon.

This cartoon has a single panel, which shows Mitch McConnell, holding an axe, standing next to a huge tree that he’s clearly been chopping down; the tree is labeled “Medicaid.” Next to the tree is a tiny baby tree that he’s not chopping down, labeled “Obamacare.” In the branches of the Medicaid tree, there are countless tiny people looking terrified.

MCCONNELL: What’s the fuss? We’re only repealing Obamacare.

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Conservative zaniness, right-wingers, etc., Health Care and Related Issues | 4 Comments  

Open Thread and Link Farm: Just Wash Your Hands Edition

bathroom-sign

  1. Daughters Will Suffer From Medicaid Cuts – The New York Times
    “The burden [of elder parent care] is particularly demanding for daughters, who spend as much time on such care as spouses of older adults, and as much time as sons, in-laws, grandchildren and other relatives combined.” (Indirect link.) Thanks Grace!
  2. Why Are So Many Young Voters Falling for Old Socialists? – The New York Times
    “Britain and the United States used to have parties that at least pledged allegiance to workers. Since the 1970s, and accelerating in the ’80s and ’90s, the left-wing planks have one by one been ripped from their platforms.” Again, hat tip to Grace. (Indirect link.)
  3. For Foster Teens Seeking Abortion, Going to Court May Be the Only Option – Rewire
    Grace says: ” Remember my post on restricting access to abortion, a few years ago? I missed a spot.”
  4. This 2016 HuffPost article, “North Korea Proves Your White Male Privilege Is Not Universal,” was disgusting when it was published over a year ago; it seems even worse now that Otto Warmbier has died.
  5. Mathematician turns Juno images into stunning Jupiter flyby video: Digital Photography Review
  6. News media do under-report some terror attacks – just not those involving Islamist extremists | The Independent
  7. Lawmakers across the US are finding ways to turn protesting into a crime – Vox
    So much for conservatives’ commitment to free speech.
  8. How G.O.P. Leaders Came to View Climate Change as Fake Science – The New York Times
    At this point, very few GOP leaders would dare speak out in favor of climate science. It really makes me despair. The Times article blames Obama for using executive powers to address climate change, but what other approach was possible?  And it exaggerates how willing to accept science the GOP was during McCain’s run, although it certainly was better than it is now. (Indirect link.)
  9. NEW YORK 1911 | MoMA
    Amazingly clear film footage of NYC in 1911. Mostly just street scenes, almost entirely of white men, but still fascinating to me. I forget how universal hats once were.
  10. Don’t just blame Trump for quitting the Paris deal — blame the Republican Party – Vox
    Trump isn’t an outlier on this one; his ignorance and his denial of science lies firmly in the mainstream of his party.
  11. The Myth of the Kindly General Lee – The Atlantic
  12. Far right raises £50,000 to target boats on refugee rescue missions in Med | World news | The Guardian
    “Far-right activists are planning a sea campaign this summer to disrupt vessels saving refugees in the Mediterranean, after successfully intercepting a rescue mission last month.” Perhaps not legally, but morally this is basically murder.
  13. On Harvard and Humor – In A Crowded Theater
    A blog post (which I mostly agree with) criticizing Harvard’s decision to rescind acceptances of students who had a private online conversation where they exchanged offensive memes. There’s also a follow-up post in which she addresses some criticisms of the first post.
  14. Body-cam study: Oakland police spoke less respectfully to black people – San Francisco Chronicle
  15. Amazon Patents Method to Prevent In-store Comparison Shopping
  16. Obama / Trump / Caesar – Rob Melrose – Medium
    Essay from the director of the Obama Caesar about the current controversy with the Trump Caesar. Apparently the controversy was started by a Brietbart writer who hadn’t actually seen the play and who thinks it ends with the death of Caesar.
  17. Nevada’s legislature just passed a radical plan to let anybody sign up for Medicaid – Vox
    Calling it a “plan” is a bit of an exaggeration – essential details are lacking. But still, this is potentially very exciting. UPDATE: Nevada governor Sandoval vetoes Medicaid-for-all plan. That’s too bad, but I won’t be surprised if this comes up again.
  18. How Many People Are Wrongly Convicted? Researchers Do the Math. – Phenomena: Only Human
    They estimate that about 4% (!) of prisoners on death row are innocent.
  19. Eager To Burst His Own Bubble, A Techie Made Apps To Randomize His Life : All Tech Considered : NPR
    I saw someone on Twitter criticize this person for being privileged, to be able to assume that he could go to any public event (including parties thrown by people he’d never met) and be welcomed. If so, I think it’s one of those privileges that we should want all kinds of people to have, not a privilege that we should want wealthy white men to stop having.
  20. 3 ways Senate Republicans can pass Obamacare repeal – Vox
  21. Silver lining watch: Republicans are about to make Medicare-for-all much more likely – Vox
    “If Republicans strike down Obamacare, the ‘Medicare for all’ movement will become more powerful than they can imagine.”
  22. The real reason Republicans can’t answer simple questions about their health care bill – Vox
    Because the bill itself – which is cuts health care for millions of people and uses the savings for a tax cut for the rich – is too odious for them to risk talking honestly about it.
  23. Maria Tiurina: My Giant Watercolor “Eden”
    Inspired by Bosch’s “Garden of Earthly Delights.”

Maria Tiurina eden

Posted in Link farms | 21 Comments  

Cartoon: 36 Annoying Anti-Feminists (revised and expanded!)

36-antifeminists

Please support these cartoons on Patreon.

You may remember an earlier version of this cartoon, which had only 32 anti-feminists.

After this cartoon was first published, I got a lot of criticism. Some of it was the expected mindless anger (I hope you die, you’re just trying to get laid, etc etc) from the less intelligent anti-feminists. Some of the comments from the smarter anti-feminists were actually helpful (for instance, if a lot of people misread the same panel in the same way, that’s a panel I can clarify).

But the comments that really made me want to revise the cartoon came from feminists who reminded me of some anti-feminists I missed. (Indeed, on reading this, one of my housemate’s first comment was “where’s the bitter divorced guy?”) I had a little free time during my New York City trip, so I decided to add in four of the anti-feminists I missed last time. And while I was doing that, I thought I’d revise some of the old panels. For instance, in the first version of Mr. Buzzword, I somehow forgot to include the word “snowflake,” an omission that has bothered me ever since. :-)

(In one case – “the comparison shopper” – I completely redrew the art. The original drawing for that showed an angry character. Anger seemed like the wrong emotion entirely, so I drew a different character who was more snotty than angry. The original, angry character drawing got moved to the “kicker” panel below the bottom of the strip.)

If you want to just skip to the new ones, they are panels 31-35 – that is, the fifth-to-last to the second-to-last panels.

Transcript of cartoon is below the cut. Continue reading

Posted in Anti-feminists and their pals, Cartooning & comics | 9 Comments  

I’m in Chicago at CAKE (Chicago Alt Comics Expo) This Weekend

I’m in Chicago for CAKE (Chicago Alt Comics Expo) at table 313, both today and tomorrow.

It’s free to attend, so if you’re in Chicago, I hope you’ll come say hi. (And let me know you’re an “Alas” reader! I love meeting “Alas” folk.)

I’ll have HEREVILLE with me, of course. And I’ll be selling the first issue of SUPERBUTCH. And I’ll have a few minicomics, as well, including 36 ANNOYING ANTIFEMINISTS I’VE MET ON THE INTERNET. Hope to see you there!

hereville-ad

Posted in Appearances | 3 Comments  

Lines That Didn’t Make The Cut: Ruth’s Story

Trigger warning: These lines describe the sexual exploitation of a young woman.

Ruth’s Story

It wasn’t like I showed him anything
he hadn’t seen before. Besides, he took
the ones with clothes, the good ones, only if
I did a few from the waist down. Once,
we hadn’t been together for two years,
because I promised my friends I’d score, I posed–
one last time I told myself–for a hundred
dollars worth of coke. One hundred dollars.

When I said I didn’t want to end the shoot
the way we always did, he offered more:
a twenty dollar bill to fuck. I walked out.

I know if he called right now with fifty
bucks worth of cocaine, I’d consider posing.
What scares me is for twenty-five I wouldn’t.

I wrote these lines, which tell a true story–my memory is that the last two tercets make up pretty much an exact quote–more than a thirty years ago. I was an undergraduate in college at the time (I think it was my junior year), and I was working part-time as a youth advisor for the local Jewish Center. I remember thinking when I wrote them how important it was to tell stories like Ruth’s, and I tried unsuccessfully for many years to get the poem published. Over time, though, I came to realize just how much of Ruth’s story is missing from the poem: how “he” got her to pose nude in the first place, for example, or the fact that she was not older than sixteen when it happened and that she was only seventeen when she told me about it.

The Ruth in the poem of course is not the same person as the Ruth I knew in real life, and there is nothing in the poem that hints at why its Ruth has chosen to tell her story, or to whom; and there is no exploration of how telling the story changes her or how hearing it changes her audience. The lines remain, in other words, a generally faithful rendering of a disturbing story a girl told me a long time ago, a girl whose face I can still see, whose last name I still remember, whose trust changed me, but a story which–I think this might have been the first time I tried to write about a topic like this–I was not able to transform into art.

I have not thought about Ruth in a very long time, but this morning, as I was paging through the drafts of poems on my desk, trying to decide which one to work on next, I took the time to read these lines all the way through, which brought her back to me. I hope, wherever she is, that she is happy and fulfilled.

Posted in Rape, intimate violence, & related issues, Writing | Leave a comment  

Cartoon: “The Democrats Abandoned Blue Collar Voters”

blue-collar-1200

If you enjoy these cartoons, please support them on Patreon.

This is something that I hear and read frequently, and it always annoys me: People who say “blue collar” or “working class” when what they mean is white working class people. As if people of color somehow don’t count as part of the working class. Ever since the election, this has come up a lot in “why did Hillary lose” analysis.

I don’t usually laugh at my own cartoons, and what I do laugh at is sort of random. But the final line in this comic strip, for whatever reason, makes me chuckle.

(The two paragraphs above, taken together, summarize the job of being a political cartoonist:: Think of something that pisses me off, and then try to make it funny. )

Right now the art looks pretty good to me – but it usually does, right after I finish drawing it. I mainly concentrated on trying to keep the figure drawings loose and lively; I have a real tendency to stiffen up which I’m always fighting against.

TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON

Panel 1
Two women are having a discussion on the street, a brunette and a redhead. Redhead is speaking intensely.

REDHEAD: Democrats abandoned blue collar voters! That’s why they lose!

Panel 2
BRUNETTE: But don’t democrats push a lot of stuff to help the working class? Minimum wage, obamacare, college grants, the dream act…
REDHEAD (dismissively): Those all help urban people.

Panel 3
BRUNETTE: Besides, Clinton WON blue collar voters, so-
REDHEAD: She only won the blue collar vote if you count urban voters.

Panel 4
Redhead is now looking annoyed, with her arms folded; Redhead leans forward and yells angrily.
BRUNETTE: So to clarify, when you say “blue collar,” that means white?
REDHEAD: I HAVE NEVER ADMITTED THAT!

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Class, poverty, labor, & related issues, Race, racism and related issues | 117 Comments  

Repost: Reading The Veil and The Male Elite: A Feminist Interpretation of Women’s Rights in Islam, by Fatima Mernissi

About two-and-a-half years ago, I posted about Mernissi’s book because reading it was an instructive journey into my own ignorance about Islam, particularly about an aspect of that religion that, to put it mildly, sticks in the craw of many, many people in the west: the hejab. My plan at the time was to read her book and post a kind of reading journal as I went, but a host of circumstances intervened, making my reading a far more disjointed experience than such a project would have required. Even if I’d been able to devote the time to the book that I’d wanted, however, a single reading would not have been enough for me to post in the way I originally had in mind. Mernissi’s argument is subtle and complex and relies not only on a textual analysis of passages in the Quran, which I have never read, not even in English, but also on a body of religious and historical research and commentary with which I am completely unfamiliar. I simply did not know enough to do what I originally wanted to do in the way that I wanted to do it.

Instead, I posted some passages from Mernissi’s “Preface to the English Edition,” which is clearly intended to frame her book for a Western audience, because I thought then that encountering the very different framing that she, as a Muslim woman, brought to the issue would be instructive. Now, in light of the recent attacks in England and President Trump’s subsequent doubling down on his travel ban, I think it’s worth encountering that framing again. There is a difference between confronting oppression and violence perpetrated by Muslims who justify their actions within Islam and essentializing as inherently Muslim the hatred motivating that oppression and violence, which is what Donald Trump did when he said, “I think Islam hates us.”

From page vi:

Is Islam opposed to women’s rights?….Is it not odd that in this extraordinary decade, the 1990s, when the whole world is swept by the irresistible chant for human rights, sung by men and women, by children and grandparents, from all kinds of religious backgrounds and beliefs, in every language and dialect from Beijing to America, one finds only one religion identified as a stumbling block on the road to true democracy? Islam alone is condemned by many Westerners as blocking the way to women’s rights. And yet, though neither Christianity nor Judaism played an important role in promoting the equality of the sexes, millions of Jewish and Christian women today enjoy a dual privilege–full human rights on the one hand and access to an inspirational religious tradition on the other.

That initial framing question is important. She is not denying that there are Muslim governments which actively deny rights to women; she is asking if Islam itself is opposed to women’s rights, asserting that if nothing inherent in being practicing Jews or Christians prevents Jewish and Christian women in the West from accessing their full rights as citizens and asking why we should assume the same can’t be true of islam.

From pages vi-vii:

Westerners make unconscious religious references constantly in their daily activities, their creative thinking, and their approach to the world around them. When Neil Armstrong and his fellow astronauts walked on the moon on July 20, 1969, they read to the millions watching them, including us Muslims, the first chapter of the Book of Genesis: “In the Beginning God created the Heaves and the Earth…” They did not sound so very modern….Here is a clear message for those who doubt Islam’s capacity to survive modernity, calling it unfit to accompany the age of higher technology: why should Islam fail where Judaism and Christianity so clearly succeed?

Again from page vii:

[H]ow and where can a businessman who profitably exploits [Muslim] women…find a source in which he can dip his spurious rationale to give it a glow of authenticity? Surely not in the present. To defend the violation of women’s rights it is necessary to go back into the shadows of the past. This is what those people, East or West, who would deny Muslim women’s claim to democracy [as practicing or at least consciously self-identified Muslim women] are trying to do. They camouflage their self-interest by proclaiming that we can have either Islam or democracy, but never both together.

From pages vii-viii:

Any man who believes that a Muslim woman who fights for her dignity and right to citizenship excludes herself necessarily from the umma and is a brainwashed victim of Western propagand is a man who misunderstands his own religious heritage, his own cultural identity. The vast and inspiring records of Muslim history…speak to the contrary. We Muslim women can walk into the modern world with pride, knowing that the quest for dignity, democracy, and human rights, for full participation in the political and social affairs of our country, stems from no imported Western values, but is a true part of the Muslim tradition….Women fled atristocratic tribal Mecca by the thousands to enter Medina, the Prophet’s city in the seventh century, because Islam promised equality and dignity for all, for men and women, masters and servants. Every woman who came to Medina when the Prophet was the political leader of Muslims could gain access to full citizenship….

From page ix:

[That Mohammad’s] egalitarian message today sounds so foreign to many in our Muslim societies that they claim it to be imported is indeed one of the great enigmas of our times […] For those first Muslims democracy was nothing unusual; it was their meat and drink and their wonderful dream, waking or sleeping.

These last two quotes made the most impression on me, not because I am sure Mernissi is right–I find her book persuasive, but I don’t know enough to say more than that–but because her assertion that “the quest for dignity, democracy, and human rights, for full participation in the political and social affairs of our country…is a true part of the Muslim tradition” so thoroughly undermines the Western-centric framing used by so many people—too many of them in positions of policy-making power and influence, who claim to be fighting “radical Islam.” Mernissi is a serious scholar of Islam in ways that the overwhelming majority of those people are not. On that count alone, her assertion deserves to be taken at least as seriously as anything they have to say on the matter.

Finally, I’d like to say this. In writing this post, I am not trying to defend Islam as a religious practice, a body of law, or a way of life. Rather, I am interested in making visible the often very biased framing that we use to understand and critique Islam here in the West–which, I hasten to add, doesn’t mean that I think we have no right to call out the oppressive behavior of Muslim governments, organizations, or people, or to call oppressive Islam as it is practiced and/or enforced by those entities. To acknowledge the existence of Mernissi’s perspective, much less its validity, is merely to acknowledge that the most useful, constructive, and effective answer to that oppression may not lie with us and that perhaps we ought to stop behaving as if it did.

Posted in Islam, Islamaphobia | Leave a comment