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Update to a Previous Piece: The Link Between Football and Human Trafficking

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A recent BBC piece, dated 29 November 2016, (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-38129536 examines the plight of African footballers. The BBC reports that:

The International Federation of Professional Footballers (Fifpro), a trade union of sorts, has conducted a global survey of nearly 14,000 professional footballers in 54 countries – the largest ever undertaken.

Over 3,000 of the players who took part in the survey are from 13 African countries: Botswana, Cameroon, DR Congo, Egypt, Gabon, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Morocco, Namibia, South Africa, Tunisia and Zimbabwe.

Results of the survey show that African footballers are victims of physical abuse (including sexual abuse), poor pay, and almost non-existent job security. Football is a part of the global economy, one that separates the global North from the global South. In this exchange it is inevitably the global South that gets exploited, and this is why the issue of African footballers needs to be addressed. Some people might not have agreed with my earlier post, explaining why human trafficking affects (male) African footballers and (female) eastern-European sex workers alike, but this recent survey might change some minds. I hope it does, since the BBC released a similar story about African football and trafficking in 2011 which—judging by the current state of affairs—was mere lip service; nothing has changed in five years. Only our awareness to current events can “change” things, not the promises of corporate or political leaders.

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.bbc.com/sport/football/15296412

A Marginal Sociologist’s Take on America (And the World) III: Thanksgiving and Extreme Capitalism

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Another Thanksgiving has come and passed. I took part in the football, food, and festivities (courtesy of some fellow graduate students who graciously hosted me in their home). During the night the conversation got sociological, as it so often does when alcohol and academics meet. I voiced an opinion that stores should be closed on Thanksgiving so that we, as Americans, can just enjoy one day free of needless consumption. The idea was rejected by a fellow student who argued that if people want to work on a holiday they should be able to, so as to make money to feed their families. While this is a valid argument, I countered that it is a paid day off (and if it is not a paid holiday in any workplace, it needs to immediately become one) and that I’m sure many workers would—if asked—prefer to stay at home rather than deal with the mobs of consumers.

My argument is not so much economic or personal, rather it is principled. As a country, nations have holidays to commemorate events. I recognize that the history of Thanksgiving itself might have its own dark undertones—take Slate’s humorous article (which is worth a full read) covering the holiday as if it happened in another country using the language of U.S. media:

The annual holiday, known as Thanksgiving, celebrates a mythologized moment of peace between America’s early foreign settlers and its native groups—a day that by Americans’ own admission preceded a near genocide of those groups. Despite its murky origins, the holiday remains a rare institution celebrated almost universally in this ethnically diverse society.

But I also recognize that the “event” in question can also be philosophical: taking one day out of the calendar to reflect on what you have (or have experienced) that makes you thankful can be useful. Thanksgiving could, in theory, be an introspective and cathartic holiday, prepping one for the New Year and its inevitable resolutions. Instead, Thanksgiving is (or maybe, was), a prelude to the mayhem of America’s unofficial holiday “Black Friday”. For a long time, stores would resist opening until 6:00 am on the Friday. Since the early 2000s, however, opening times have crept earlier and earlier (extreme capitalism anyone?) from 5:00am to 4:00am to 12:00am to, now, 6:00pm on actual Thanksgiving day. Its not that I don’t like material goods—I have a collection of football shirts—it is more that the connection between “national holiday” and “consumption” is troubling.

The website blackfridaydeathcount gives a running count of Black Friday deaths and injuries since 2006 and the casualty report is reminiscent of a small scale “third-world” insurgency: 9 dead and 102 injured over ten years. This year was no different, with shootings from sea to shining sea in Nevada, New Jersey, and Tennessee that left two dead and two injured. This doesn’t include those involved in a mass brawl at a California mall. Of course, it is the bottom line that matters and “Adobe Digital Index reported Friday that online shoppers had spent roughly $1.15 billion and were on track to spend close to $2 billion on Thanksgiving alone, an increase of 14 percent over last year, according to CNBC. The National Retail Federation expects holiday sales to increase 3.6 percent, to $655.8 billion, through November and December”. The deaths and violence are a small price to pay for sales increases.

Even though the economy might be helped by Black Friday, I can’t help but be repulsed at the violence and mayhem unleashed by consumers on the day after—and even day of—what is supposed to be an introspective holiday. Unfortunately, it is the same process I have seen in Turkey where national holidays have been slowly eroded so as to reduce people to the simple roles of “producer” and “consumer”, an argument I have made earlier. The scariest part is, Thanksgiving isn’t the only holiday under attack.

The “progressive” city of Bloomington, Indiana, recently renamed two long standing U.S. State and Federal Holidays. Columbus Day, celebrating the arrival of explorer Christopher Columbus to the Americas in 1492, was renamed “Fall Holiday” while Good Friday—a Christian holiday that marks Jesus Christ’s crucifixion—was renamed “Spring Holiday”. The renaming of a religious holiday is a fairly radical step, and one that is a part of the ongoing tend of global homogenization. Its part of the same trend of attacks on nationalism that spawned American Football player Colin Kaepernick’s protests, whose follower Mike Evans was recently criticized by an American sports anchor.

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Sage Steele Again Tells It Like It Is. There Should be a Small Amount of Decorum in Social Protest So as Not To Cloud The Issue. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.breitbart.com/sports/2016/11/15/friendly-fire-espn-analyst-rips-mike-evans-trump-anthem-protest/

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Mr. Evans Cuts a Lonely Figure During His Veteran’s Day Protest. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.breitbart.com/sports/2016/11/15/friendly-fire-espn-analyst-rips-mike-evans-trump-anthem-protest/

 

It is part of the same trend where students at Brown University tore down American flags ahead of Veteran’s Day (another holiday under attack) amid similar denigrations of the flag at American University. Last year, even at my own university, I argued with a student who threw an American flag on the floor in a classroom. As I picked it up off the floor, he told me that the flag “symbolized racism and oppression”, among other things. Obviously no country’s history is clean, but such essentialist generalizing of—and disrespect for—the flag is worrisome in a world that is (ironically) becoming more and more fragmented in the face of creeping homogenization. As a citizen of two countries I can see that nationalism has its positives and negatives, yet others don’t seem to see it that way.

The effect of this kind of rudderless society might, unfortunately, be dangerous. A story from the BBC, detailing a young British man who left to fight with ISIS/ISIL/DAESH in Syria, is indicative of the crisis in Western Society. Twenty-year old Rasheed Salah Benyahia left Birmingham for Syria to fight for the so-called Islamic State. BBC explains how ISIS’ recruiting works:

Through a simple them-and-us narrative. Stand with me, we shall be strong. That rhetoric, wrapped up in religious quotes stripped of their time and original meaning, was doing the rounds online. Young people, inevitably curious and not hearing the answers they wanted at home, were looking for solutions. Some became obsessed with the hyper-violence that the IS social media machine began pumping out to the internet.

The key part of this is that “young people” were “not hearing the answers they wanted at home [and] were looking for solutions”. In a West obsessed with extreme capitalism—to the point where people fight over shopping and where national holidays and national flags are continually disrespected and denigrated—people look for other sources of identity. The world is a dangerous and alienating place at times, and if individual and collective identities are completely erased it will lead to a search for identity elsewhere. The violent jihadists of ISIS/ISIS/DAESH are currently capitalizing on this dangerous trend in the West; the fact that the majority of their recruits know nothing of Islam shows that it isn’t necessarily an “Islam vs. the West” fight. Rather, it is just a magnet for those who feel marginalized by a global society that can offer no alternative to global homogenization in the name of corporate interests.

If we want to stop the spread of jihadist elements like these—and other opponents of “Western civilization”—we must realize that we need not live in a completely homogenous world. Fidel Castro, the revolutionary communist and former leader of Cuba, just died on 26 November 2016, aged 90. He had traded his military fatigues for an Adidas tracksuit, and if that isn’t a sign of capitalism overcoming communism, I don’t know what is.

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From Military Fatigues . . . Image Courtesy Of: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2634816/King-Castro-How-Fidel-lived-life-luxury-Cuba-complete-luxury-island-turtle-farm.html

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. . . And Cigars . . . Image Courtesy Of: http://www.unfinishedman.com/cohiba-cigars-a-legend-thanks-to-fidel-castro/

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. . . To An Adidas Tracksuit? Image Courtesy Of: http://www.repubblica.it/esteri/2016/04/20/news/per_fidel_castro_un_discorso_d_addio_presto_avro_90_anni_arriva_il_turno_di_tutti_-138010349/

 

And this interview with young Cubans, who support an opening with the United States, also tells part of the story. They say that they welcome investment but also “don’t want a lot of McDonald’s and Starbucks”. That’s the point that we need to realize. The world does not have to be one homogenous consumerist blob, characterized by McDonald’s and Wal-Mart and Starbucks and who knows what else. The world would be better off if countries could pursue their own interests, free from international meddling, and develop their own indigenous forms of capitalism. That would be the true globalism. Sadly, the recent attacks on national identity and perversion of national holidays in both the United States and Turkey tell me that we are still a long way off from that kind of world.

Race, Sports, and Politics in the United States: The Case of College Football

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As my “About Me” page states, I attended the University of Texas for my Master’s degree. As is the case with many of those who attended UT, I too was indoctrinated (!) into following the Texas Longhorns (American) football team—Hook ‘em Horns. Since my days at UT, I have continually followed my team’s fortunes. These days they aren’t doing so well and could be headed for a third-straight losing season, something unheard of in Austin, which has led to rumors that the coach, Charlie Strong, could be fired. Since this is a football blog and not an (American) football blog I will not go into specificities about sport; rather I will focus on politics.

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As the Article States, Charlie Strong Is Undoubtedly a Good Man. Unfortunately, The Bottom Line Is What Matters in (Extreme) Capitalist Sports–and Societies. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.texasmonthly.com/the-culture/want-texas-keep-charlie-strong/

 

Mr. Strong is an African-American, and for an (American) football coach that is a rare quality. But it is also a quality that can lead to a lot of—perhaps—undue controversy. The Houston Chronicle, on 20 November 2016, came out with a story claiming that the low number of African-American coaches in college football is due to racism. This is an interesting assessment of the situation, but the president of Texas A&M University said, in reference to the lack of minority coaches, “I don’t think anyone would deny that it looks like a significant under-representation”. The Houston Chronicle’s story says that 11.7 percent of the Football Bowl Subdivision (the highest tier of college football in the United States) schools have African-American coaches. According to another story, however, this figure is close to U.S. Census data that says 13.3 percent of the American population is African-American. The 11.7 percent of African-American coaches, then, means that the number of African-American coaches is actually nearly proportionate to the number of African-Americans in U.S. Society. So…where is the problem?

Unfortunately, the problem is historical since the heinous history of institutionalized racism in American society looms behind many aspects of American culture, sports included. What’s worse is that it creates an inequality that fails to address the true problems, and a troublesome double standard emerges. When, in late October 2016, a fan at a college football game in Wisconsin depicted current president Barack Obama in a noose state media (the Washington Post) called it a “racist incident”. On the other hand, following Donald Trump’s election victory, when protestors in Los Angeles burned President-elect Donald Trump’s head in effigy and a Houston haunted house showed Mr. Trump hanging from a noose and when, in New York, Mr. Trump was hung in effigy outside his residence there was no similar outcry. Even when, in the New York incident, American flags were burned there was no outcry—state media didn’t even report it! To a neutral observer this is very odd and it begs the troubling question: Is it because Mr. Obama is African-American but Mr. Trump is white?

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Uproar In Madison, WI. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/early-lead/wp/2016/10/29/fan-in-trump-mask-holds-noose-around-fan-in-obama-mask-at-wisconsin-game/

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But None In New York. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.thegatewaypundit.com/2016/11/hillary-supporters-hang-trump-effigy-outside-his-nyc-home/

 

Given the uproar at a simple college football game in the small town of Madison, Wisconsin—where fans of the University of Wisconsin heaped shame upon the (admittedly) poor taste of the fans who disparaged the current President of the United States—it is interesting (not to mention shocking) that the burning of the American flag on 5th Avenue, the heart of “America”, was not similarly condemned.

It is the product of a society that has been—continually—unable to come to terms with its racist past which creates a worrisome double standard not only in society, but sport as well. Sage Steele, an anchor for America’s largest sports network ESPN, sent a good message to America when she said:

As a self-proclaimed, proud bi-racial woman — my father is black and my mother is white — the word “diversity” is fascinating. These days, I call it “the D word”. Why? Because everyone likes to say it. At work, at home, at the podium, at colleges and universities. Diversity. EMBRACE DIVERSITY! Fortunately, millions of Americans of all races, religions and cultures do just that. But, how many of us actually mean it? Specifically, how many people of color actually mean it? Or is it simply a socially acceptable, politically correct term that just sounds good, and feels good to say, or to demand? Unfortunately for way too many African-Americans and people of color, I believe it’s the latter. I’ve actually believed this for years and have spoken publicly about it a few times recently, contemplating when the best time would be to fully “go there”. In light of recent events around the country and personally, I feel the time is now.

[…]

 You don’t get a hall-pass just because you’re a minority. Racism is racism, no matter what color your skin is.

 […]

Believe it or not, we can disagree and still be civil. Respectful. Kind. Accepting of our differences. Isn’t that what DIVERSITY is all about? EMBRACE DIVERSITY…but mean it. All the time, not just when it’s convenient for you. I pray that we can all begin to have more open-minded, non-judgmental, healthy conversations to ensure that diversity applies to ALL Americans, all of the time.

I could not have said it better myself, and it is remarkable that we miss out on how counterproductive this refusal to embrace diversity really can be. The reason for the dearth of African-American coaches in college football is just one small example of the issue. As the article states:

Given the history of major institutions hiring black coaches, the problem is not a resistance to hiring, but rather that a black coach is extremely difficult to fire because groups such as TIDES and people such as Ty Willingham might call you a racist.

The only color that college boosters and alumni care about is green, the color of money that flows into the school as the result of a winning program with sustained success over a long period of time. Schools such as Texas and Texas A&M have given the “power” to black coaches they believe will deliver that kind of success.

If the media and former head coaches-turned-activists wouldn’t launch inquisitions and hurl accusations of racism, more would do it [coach college football teams].

As is the case with industrial football, money is all that matters to those in charge of sports teams; all they want is success on the field so as to line their pockets. Understandably, that means having the power to hire people who can bring success. Unfortunately, the flip side of that means having the power to fire people who don’t bring success and teams will become more reluctant to hire African-American coaches if firing them leads to controversy. To cloud such issues with race only serves to miss the point entirely, and it unfortunately supports a dangerous and divisive double standard in society that helps neither whites nor African-Americans. Rather than fomenting race-related controversies where none exist American society would be better served focusing on how to alleviate the poverty and violence in African-American communities, the kind depicted in ScHoolboy Q’s poignant video for the song John Muir. Just a bit of perspective from a marginal sociologist with a multi-cultural background.

RB Leipzig and Zenit St. Petersburg Take Different Approaches to Industrial Football and Extreme Capitalism in the Post-Communist World

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Karlsruhe Fans “Voice” Their Disapproval”. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.goal.com/en/news/1717/editorial/2015/04/07/10495172/the-next-chelsea-or-anzhi-red-bull-gives-leipzig-wings-and-funds-

 

When RB Leipzig went top of the Bundesliga last week, becoming the first newly promoted side to remain undefeated after 11 weeks in the league’s history, one would have thought it would be a cause for celebration. After all, everyone likes an underdog, right? Just think of Leicester City’s fairy tale season last year in the Premier League. Despite love for the underdog, RB Leipzig’s rise to prominence has divided football fans with the Daily Mail calling them “the most hated club in Germany”. The cracks were there in September, when fans of Borussia Dortmund refused to travel to an away match in Leipzig. The leader of the protest, Jan-Henrik Gruszecki, said “Of course Dortmund makes money, but we do it in order to play football. But Leipzig plays football in order to sell a product and a lifestyle. That’s the difference.” This simple response shows why RB Leipzig’s rise is so repulsive to many fans; the team embodies the extreme capitalism that has characterized globalization in the last twenty-plus years, a poster child for the “Industrial Football” that has slowly taken the beautiful game away from fans and put it squarely in the pockets of big business.

RB Leipzig, on paper at least, should be celebrated as the first team from former communist East Germany in seven years to appear in German Football’s top flight. The reality is much different. As the Guardian explains:

Until 2009, RB Leipzig was a fifth-division club called SSV Markranstädt that few had heard of even in its native Saxony. Then the Austrian energy drink manufacturer Red Bull bought the club’s licence, changed its name, crest and kit, and promised a transfer budget of a rumoured €100m (£85m).

 Money was all that mattered, and the team had it. They also had the clout (or cunning) to skirt a rule that prohibits German teams from being named after sponsors so “the new club was christened Rasenballsport Leipzig, meaning lawn ball sports’”. Fans in the USA and Austria are, no doubt, familiar with similar “Red Bull teams” like Red Bull New York (who destroyed the legacy of the young—but proud—New York/New Jersey Metrostars and Red Bull Salzburg. It was not the naming of the club, however, that irked most people.

Rather, it was the fact that the club took control away from the fans in true corporate/extreme capitalist fashion. This was especially irksome in Germany, since the teams tend to value their fans: “The statutes of the German Football Association deter big investors from taking over its clubs. According to the so-called ‘50+1’ rule, clubs must hold a majority of their own voting rights. Only investors who have been involved with a club for more than 20 years can apply for an exception to the 50+1 rule.” It is a good rule that gives fans a say, but RB Leipzig has made being one of those “owners” prohibitively expensive: The Guardian reports that “while membership at Dortmund costs adults €62 per annum, being a ‘gold’ member at Leipzig will set you back €1,000 a year – and that still only makes you a ‘supporting’ or non-voting member,” and, therefore, RB have only 17 members—all of whom are either employees or associates of Red Bull.

There has—predictably—been a backlash to this from other fans. One fan of RB’s local rival Lokomotive Leipzig says “’My club was founded in order to play football, RB Leipzig was founded to make money. To sell an energy drink.” Indeed, in a cup match this season with Dynamo Berlin, opposing fans threw a severed Bull’s head onto the side of the pitch. While it is important to note that it is not all doom and gloom—RB have a great youth setup and tend not to invest in players over 24—there is still something unsettling about the corporate outlook that has overrun the East German side.

 

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Horse Head In Your Bed? Dynamo Dresden Fans Respond to RB Leipzig’s Policies. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.theguardian.com/football/2016/sep/08/why-rb-leipzig-has-become-the-most-hated-club-in-german-football

 

Fortunately, there have been pockets of resistence to this trend. Union Berlin, another of East Germany’s (formerly) famous sides, saved themselves by selling shares to fans—not corporate interests—in 2012. (They also wrote an article about bull farming in their program for the match against RB Leipzig in lieu of writing about their rivals).

 

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Union Berlin Chose Not To Give Their Rivals Any Press In Their Program. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-3599158/Why-RB-Leipzig-hated-club-Germany-Owned-Red-Bull-crafty-sponsor-s-outpriced-fan-power-aiming-Bayern-Munich.html

 

Elsewhere in Eastern Europe, Russia’s famous Zenit St. Petersburg turned down a lucrative offer from American fast-food chain Burger King to rename the club “Zenit Burger King”. While this is not the “McDonaldsization” of the world but an attempt to “Burger King(ize?)” the world, the response by Zenit fans was amazing—Russia Today found it (predictably) “hilarious”. For my part, I was left wondering which genius at Burger King thought that this attempt at cultural/economic imperialism could have ever been successful but that is beside the point; after all I’m just a marginal sociologist making much less than a big-wig in Burger King’s corporate structure.

 

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The Letter in Question. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/european/zenit-st-petersburg-burger-king-offer-57m-offer-change-name-a7221766.html

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Zenit Embrace The Past. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.rt.com/sport/358140-zenit-st-petersburg-burger-king/

 

Zenit’s social media presence has been a welcome breath of fresh air, resisting the corporate imperialism of globalization. They shared a picture of the team that harkens back to the artistic history of their city—a solid rebuke of the homogenizing trends of globalism—and even engaged in a humorous polemic with the English newspaper The Daily Mail for insulting their logo that I found to be very funny. The attempts of global (extreme) capitalism to steamroll the world into submission are being resisted in pockets of the world such as Berlin and St. Petersburg but are being accepted as a matter of course in Leipzig. The fact that we see the conflict play itself out in football is indicative of the power of the world’s most popular sport to accept—or challenge—global trends that extend way beyond the football pitch.

 

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Zenit’s Social Media Team Working Hard–At Least It Made Me Laugh (Out Loud). Image Courtesy Of: https://tr.sputniknews.com/spor/201609051024704838-zenit-burger-king-cevap-kral/

Protest in the Stadium Vs. Protest in the Theater

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I have written earlier about Turkey’s controversial proposal to legalize statutory rape. Today we saw a response to this heinous proposal on the football field. The players of Kocaelispor appeared on the field carrying a banner that read “Children Also Have Rights”. In a polarized country like Turkey it is refreshing to see footballers stand up for what is—undeniably—right. Unfortunately, on the same weekend of matches, we saw examples of violence against children when the Sivasspor goalkeeper inexplicably attempted to attack a ball boy during a second division match and when football hooligans in the southern city of Adana attacked a car driven by a man wearing a Besiktas jersey that was carrying a three year old child ahead of a clash between Besiktas and Adanaspor. In a social climate like this, we should thank the footballers for standing up for children, who are all too often voiceless.

 

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Footballers Do What Is Right. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/haber/futbol/632950/Kocaelisporlu_futbolcular__Kizilcabolukspor_macina__Cocuklarin_da_haklari_var__pankartiyla_cikti.html

 

Interestingly, this weekend saw political protest in the United States as well, albeit in a very different venue. Vice President-elect Mike Pence was booed when attending the Broadway show “Hamilton”, before being addressed by the actors themselves. During the curtain call, a cast member of the play made this address to Mr. Pence:

Vice President-elect Pence, we welcome you and we truly thank you for joining us here at ‘Hamilton: An American Musical.’ We really do. We, sir, we are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights, sir. But we truly hope this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and work on behalf of all of us. All of us.

 While the cast’s message is of course valid, it raises the question of where political messages should be voiced; is the stadium or the theater a more reasonable place to voice political protest? Personally I am of the belief that art should be separated from overt political displays. After all, no one came to the show to hear a political message, and there should be a certain level of decorum regarding a Vice President-elect. Mr. Pence was gracious in praising the show while acknowledging that the venue may not have been the most appropriate place for a political protest (Mr. Pence would know, since he has been booed in a stadium as well).

 

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Mr. Pence Has Faced The Boo-Birds In a Stadium as Well. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/early-lead/wp/2016/11/20/mike-pence-has-been-here-before-booed-at-an-indiana-baseball-game-then-hamilton/

 

The difference here, perhaps, is more than one between the “low-culture” of the stadium and the “high-culture” of the theater. The difference is that one protest is based on opinion while the other is based on fundamental human rights. I’m not sure that actors have a right to grandstand in a theater in order to profess their personal views, but I am sure that any attempt to legalize pedophilia and rape should be stopped. And therein lies the difference between these two protests. Still, the situation is one worth watching since it shows that, all over the world, people are growing more politically conscious in both “high” and “low” culture. Hopefully, governments in both countries become more responsive to their people since that is—after all—the goal of democracy.

The Offended States of America: Is The Intolerance in American Higher Education A Product of The Culture Industry? Kanye West and Internet Memes Might Help Us Find an Answer

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Image Courtesy Of: http://imgur.com/gallery/13HUEao

In addition to what my “About Me” page says, I am a PhD student in the department of Sociology at a University in the southern United States who grew up bilingually in both the United States and Turkey and carries two passports. Racially—a category Americans obsess about but something that I cannot understand—I look phenotypically “white” (although I have, on occasion, been mistaken for being Hispanic). That’s me. Just another human being trying to make sense of the world, combining my experiences to reach a cogent understanding of the chaos around me. I give you this information because—due to my background—I do not feel safe in President-elect Trump’s America. But it is not the kind of “unsafe” most “educated” people on college campuses would assume.  In this climate of rising intolerance, it is impossible to feel safe. It is like trying to stay dry in a Florida hurricane. It is chaotic, it is loud, it is unpredictable, and…it is wet. Really wet. Like the rain, the intolerance surrounds you until you can barely keep your head above the water. They say that the rain will wash you clean, but what if it only makes the dirt cling to you more?

I was sitting in a gender sociology graduate seminar last week as students vented their frustrations at the election. In a country where campuses have organized cry-ins and professors have cancelled tests, we have seen education—one of our most vital national resources—be sacrificed in the face of fear. That is why it is a good discussion to have, and a necessary one at that. But only if it is, actually, a discussion. I emphasize it because Merriam-Webster describes the word as “the act of talking about something with another person or a group of people; a conversation about something” or “a speech or piece of writing that gives information, ideas, opinions, etc., about something”. Both definitions describe a process of a dialectic—exchanging opinions and ideas is the goal. As critical theorist Jurgen Habermas said, we need communicative action, where “participants are not primarily oriented to their own successes; they pursue their individual goals under the condition that they can harmonize their plans of action on the basis of common situation definitions”.

I didn’t experience that kind of communication last week. When a fellow student told the class that we, as educators, need to tell the students what is happening and that we are here for them she said that she told her class that she rejected the President-elect and expressed an opinion that, unequivocally, supported one side of America’s political debate.

I had been silenced all year in this class, by nature of being a “white” (in quotations because I am unsure as to what it even means) heterosexual male in a gender Sociology class. I was told that “fathers didn’t matter” and that [white] males are to be blamed for everything that is wrong with our world. I bit my tongue all for three months. It was difficult, because such divisive essentialist statements that reek of sexism and bias are disgusting but I didn’t really care for the discussion; my research focuses on nationalism and national identity—not gender identity, so I let those with more knowledge of the topic have their say. Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t speak. I was a male in an environment where males were tolerated but not wanted. I could only be savaged if I ever dared open my mouth. So I didn’t. I was complicit in accepting the seminar’s fascistic atmosphere. I was scared and certainly didn’t feel safe. But I let it all go—it was just three hours of a 168-hour week. I could deal with it.

This class was different. When I heard this student—who is also an instructor, working within the purview of the exploitative nature of higher education—explicitly advocate bringing politics into the classroom I could not hold back any longer. I had been asked before by fellow instructor/students if I brought politics into the classes I teach. I said absolutely not; it is unfair to the students. My fellow instructor/students were incredulous, which—in turn—made me incredulous. The job of higher education is not to indoctrinate but to present facts; the troubling result of such indoctrination were made clear this election. So I decided to test the waters—I told the student she should follow the rule I follow, the “Max Weber” rule. He said that politics does not belong in the lecture-room,

the prophet and the demagogue do not belong on the academic platform […] speak where criticism is possible. In the lecture-room we stand opposite our audience, and it has to remain silent. I deem it irresponsible to exploit the circumstance that for the sake of their career the students have to attend a teacher’s course where there is nobody present to oppose him with criticism. The task of the teacher is to serve the students with his knowledge and scientific experience and not to imprint upon them his personal political views” (Max Weber, Science as a Vocation. Emphasis Added).

Had more academics followed this line of thought, we wouldn’t be in a situation where universities have arguably systematically indoctrinated students, thereby creating a situation where those who hold certain political views come to see themselves as “more intelligent” and “morally superior” to those who hold opposing views. To conflate a political position with “intelligence” is dangerous, and leads to a situation where one side continually ignores the other. I want more critical debate and less shaming. Sadly, I didn’t get what I was looking for.

After my comment suddenly, like a thunder crack, all hell broke loose. The student asked me if I was aware that Max Weber’s close associates joined the Nazi party. I was taken aback—I couldn’t believe it was happening. A harmless comment made her liken me to a Nazi. It was amazing. But it was also as American as Apple Pie and Chevrolets unfortunately. When in doubt, call the other person a Nazi or a racist and you win the argument, no questions asked. Admittedly, as someone accused of being something they are not, I gave an emotional response. If someone calls me something I am not I will give an emotional response; the response to being called a racist will be the same as it would be if someone called me a Yankees fan (I’m from Providence—Red Sox all the way) or a Fenerbahce fan (I bleed Galatsaray’s yellow and red). I asked her how she could compare me to a Nazi. She raised her voice and it all just fell away into a haze, one of those heated moments when the heart is beating and its tough to keep composure. As her voice rose I tried to calm her down—just “relax” I said, because (after all) its just politics. She berated me. She yelled. My telling her to relax apparently belittled the fact that she didn’t feel “safe”. When I told her I was the one who didn’t feel safe and that I would leave the class she didn’t mince words: “GO! JUST GO! GET THE F**K OUT!”. It was surreal. I was being kicked out of a graduate seminar by someone who couldn’t see things any other way than her own. It certainly wasn’t healthy. But it needed to happen if only to—maybe—wake people up. The toxic environment on American college campuses does not affect just one end of the political spectrum. It affects both. And that is something we need to—in fact, we must—change if we want to have a semblance of a functioning educational system and, ultimately, democracy.

In this environment free speech is only good if someone thinks the same way as you think. Just like democracy is only good if your candidate wins. Those protesting Mr. Trump’s victory feel the same way; the same people who were worried his supporters would not accept the election’s outcome are the same people taking to the streets today—even assaulting those who they think voted differently. They are those that cruelly savage a Muslim woman for daring to explain why she voted a certain way. This climate creates a situation where people fabricate attacks on campuses which only serves to mask the fact that there are real attacks, perpetrated by supporters of both sides. This is a product of a society that promotes “Me” over “Us”: More selfies, more Tweets, more “ME”.  It is symptomatic of a society left rudderless, with no ideology other than “MY” ideology. There is no concept of what America is supposed to mean. But that is not what I am here to write about; I am here to point out that lumping almost 50 percent of the population into the categories of “racist”, “sexist”, “homophobic” and who knows what else, people really miss the point.

People miss the point that there are points of convergence which, if seized upon, could actually improve our democracy. People miss the point that the working class is divided along racial lines. People miss the point that institutionalized slavery has been replaced by “political slavery”; the rich are coopting the vote of the poor by appealing to racial difference and are really failing black Americans. People miss the point that—in most of the world—one faces deportation for entering a country without proper documentation (or, to put it more simply, “illegally”) and that allowing it to continue is unfair not only to Americans, but those immigrants who wait years following the legal path to citizenship. People miss the point—perhaps most importantly—that America’s interventionist foreign policy is based on “American Exceptionalism”, an ideology that could be construed as racist and fascist by promoting an idea that the United States is inherently “better” than the rest of the world.  Many innocent (and other not so innocent) people have died at the hands of this ideology, yet some people are fighting for a continuation of this flawed ideology and lamenting its (possible) passing.

The world we live in is no longer the immediate aftermath of the second World War, when America had to fund the world through the Marshall Plan. Other countries have advanced economically. This is not the Cold War era, when capitalism had to be forced on the world through the barrel of a gun. Capitalism has been accepted as the dominant economic philosophy, the United States doesn’t need to continue driving it through neo-liberal policies and ignoring human rights in the process. The national mission must evolve with the times. Francis Fukuyama’s end of history has not materialized, its time policies recognize that. I’m not unaware of the oddity that it is a billionaire espousing some of these positions. Of course it’s odd.

But, it’s a necessary shock to the dominant ideology and may actually be a chance to return to true American values of liberty and freedom for all. I wish slavery hadn’t happened; it destroyed the fabric of the country. Now we all must deal with the repercussions. Political correctness has only put a band-aid on people’s true racism by silencing them. Now some bigots are coming out and spewing hatred and promoting racist attacks. By lumping all such misguided individuals together as “Trumpists” we again miss the point. Because these hateful people are coming out and expressing their views we now know who they are, they have been uncovered, and law enforcement can take care of them so that—instead of band-aiding racism—we clean it up and get such people off our streets. Indeed, when I spoke up about political correctness in another class, arguing that the policy of “language policing” actually exacerbates racism rather than solving it, another student dared support my position and was savaged by an African American student because he was “a white male who couldn’t understand”. It was a racist statement. But, it was accepted because it was within the purview of political correctness. This kind of behavior can only divide people further.

Just twelve years ago, back when I was in college, “left” minded people would have been voting in droves for a candidate who was against foreign intervention and who was against the exploitation of workers (foreign and domestic) through free trade agreements and outsourcing that promotes child-labor. They would have been jumping for joy at a president-elect who promises to work for free, eschewing the presidential salary of a not insignificant 400,000 dollars and who is interested in scaling down the funding for transnational security agreements like NATO so as to free up money to spend at home in social services like healthcare, education, and infrastructure. Instead, people only look at the surface. “Racism” and “sexism” are the buzzwords, no criticism is focused on policy at all. This is why it is important to move towards a post-ideological society. Less left and less right and more critical thinking about the issues, and about society is what is necessary. Respect our values and traditions, positive nationalism that is not fascistic. Foreign policy that leads by example, not force. And an understanding that, in modern society, the “left” and “right” might have more in common than we realize.

 

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A Libertarian Celebrity’s Graphic Tries To Bridge The Gap Between Ideologies; Less Spending on International Military Alliances Might Mean More Money Can Come Home. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.bigskywords.com/uploads/1/2/8/0/12804055/military-spending-meme.png?605

 

Shockingly, some perspective was offered by—of all people—Kanye West (the rapper whose “Famous” video is worth watching) who proclaimed that, had he voted, “he would have voted for [Mr.] Trump”. Of course, this offended most of the (ostensibly liberal) crowd at Mr. West’s concert since, as an African American, such support for a Republican is unexpected—and we have America’s racialized politics to blame for this. The Tweets in response to Mr. West show an inability—indeed a refusal—to see things from any other perspective, similar to what I have experienced in my own university.

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Kanye West Is Savaged by “Supporters”. He Is my Musician…Only If he Follows MY Politics, Just Like Free Speech Is Good, But Only If You Think What I Think. Images Courtesy Of: http://www.cnn.com/2016/11/18/entertainment/kanye-west-donald-trump-trnd/

 

Mr. West’s words in Sacramento, California, seemed quite sober to me in pointing out the failure of America’s “free press”:

It’s a new world, Hillary Clinton, it’s a new world […] Feelings matter. Because guess what? Everybody in Middle America felt a way and they showed you how they felt […] A lot of people here tonight felt like they lost. You know why? Because y’all been lied to. Google lied to you. Facebook lied to you. Radio lied to you.

Mr. West continued to hit out at the corruption in the corporate music industry, something akin to the corruption of sport by way of Industrial Football. Passion has fallen victim to money, and this means that in the world of extreme capitalism independence (in both art and sport) is hard to come by. I quote Mr. West’s passage at length below, taken from (state media’s) New York Times:

Turning his focus on the music industry, Mr. West questioned gatekeepers for promoting songs by Drake but not Frank Ocean, and wondered once again why he is often overlooked at awards shows. Referring to this year’s MTV Video Music Awards, Mr. West pulled back the curtain on what he said was the political behind-the-scenes dealings that go into booking celebrities for such events.

“Beyoncé, I was hurt because I heard that you said you wouldn’t perform unless you won Video of the Year over me and over ‘Hotline Bling,’” he said.

Sometimes we be playing the politics too much and forget who we are just to win,” he continued. “I’ve been sitting here to give y’all my truth even at the risk of my own life — even at the risk of my own success, my own career.”

However, Mr. West said, such truth-telling was necessary for real progress. “Obama couldn’t make America great because he couldn’t be him to be who he was,” he said. “Black men have been slaves. Obama wasn’t allowed to do this” — the rapper screamed — “and still win. He had to be perfect. But being perfect don’t always change” things.

What Mr. West says is not insignificant. As a musician that represents the Culture Industry—in which an “enlightenment” is produced that actually amounts to mass deception—Mr. West has a mass following. The fact that even his deviance from the dominant “narrative” sparks anger in fans is indicative of a society that has become sheep-like. No one can think for themselves, since they have been force fed beliefs from a culture industry that is, in fact, far removed from the masses of society due to a combination of money, power, and status (to borrow, again, Max Weber’s terminology). This is why we, as individuals who embrace democracy and freedom and equality for all, must fight against this kind of intolerance and resist being blinded by ideology.

I ask student and educators across the country to resist this culture industry in which “consumption of the easy pleasures of popular culture, made available by the mass communications media, renders people docile and content, no matter how difficult their economic circumstances” and give it a break. To realize that this message is not directed at my institution is very important. I have met some of the best—and I stress, the best—faculty in the world at my university. They have been nothing short of extremely supportive—not just “supportive” but “extremely supportive”, I cannot stress this enough. They are the epitome of what graduate faculty should be. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for some of the students and to them—and students across the country—I have a message. Give your political process a chance before passing judgement. I cannot predict the future—I am, after all, just a marginal sociologist who knows more than to trust a politician—but I can see the present. It is one driven by hate and by vitriol, characterized by paroxysms of rage on both sides. And that is definitely no way to treat your fellow human beings. Politics is not a sport, it is not a zero-sum game. Have some respect for democracy. Have some respect not only for others but, probably most importantly, have some respect for yourselves.

As a bonus, please enjoy the memes below which—I believe—go some way to showing the problems in America’s higher education. Sometimes, it takes the unexpected to challenge the status quo; just look at Hoffenheim’s 29 year old coach Julian Nagelsmann who is taking the Bundesliga by storm!

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This One Is For the Students. Image Courtesy Of: http://thefederalistpapers.org/us/every-college-student-needs-to-read-this-genius-message-meme

 

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This Is, Sadly, a Fascist Strategy Embraced by Many American Graduate Students. Unfortunately, It Merely Ends the Conversation Meaning That No Constructive Debate Can Take Place. Image Courtesy Of: http://dirtyconservative.com/the-liberal-argument-methodology/

 

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Another Sad Way of Silencing Debate In the United States’ Academic Community: Invoking Hitler. Image Courtesy Of: http://imgur.com/gallery/SjQclIQ

 

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More Free Speech and More Critical Thinking Is What We Need in America, Regardless of Ideology. Image Courtesy Of: http://world-visits.com/2011/12/flag-of-the-united-states

 

 

A Marginal Sociologist’s Thoughts On Why Perspective is Important: Americans Are Terrified About Donald Trump’s Views About Muslims…While I’m Terrified About Turkey’s Views About Rape

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The election of Donald Trump as President-elect of the United States has sparked fear in the hearts of many Americans. Unfortunately, I have seen a lot of it in my own university. One of the fears—along the lines of those pertaining to immigration and diversity—regards Muslims. As a Turkish-American this is a subject that I pay attention to every day. Today, I was not happy with what I saw.

 

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The Position of Muslim-Americans–Even Those Who Represent the United States in Sports–Is Difficult. Fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad Was Discriminated Against In The Ultra-Liberal City of Austin, Texas, Of All Places. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/sxsw-south-by-southwest-us-olympian-ibtihaj-muhammad-donald-trump-a6928471.html

 

The first story I read was a response to Mr. Trump’s plan to “register” Muslims in the United States. One response to this proposed plan by Americans is one where

 

citizen allies of the community have been increasingly stepping up on social media and offering to register themselves instead. The goal is to confuse ICE officials — the more names on the list, the harder they will be to identify, the argument goes  —  and to establish ties of solidarity. A website that has since gone viral, known as Register.us, allows allies to sign a pledge to register themselves in the event of a Muslim registry.

 

As with most issues in the current political climate there was a reference to the Holocaust, designed to horrify rather than stimulate debate: Benjamin Gladstone wrote that, “All Jews should should register as Muslims because we know the horrors of religious registration all too well […] The new American president-elect, Donald Trump, whose Islamophobia, misogyny, ableism, racism, and anti-Semitism have brought protesters out into the streets, has also announced a plan to ‘register’ Muslim Americans, just as the Nazis once did the Jews.” The comparison is disgusting—and that is where critical thinking needs to come in.

I think that this visceral reaction comes for two reasons: The first is a misinterpretation (or misunderstanding) of Mr. Trump’s position, mainly because he has not articulated it very well. The second comes from the fact that vast numbers of Americans have never visited or lived in a Muslim country, and that the few—if any—Muslims they may have met are most likely to be Americanized. In response to the first point, I must say that racist/bigoted policies in the West towards Muslims are not new. Just look at Turkey’s (failed) bid to join the European Union. The country—if Europe had wanted it to—could have (and, given the state of Turkey now, probably should have) joined the European Union long ago, before the current government even came in. The main obstacle was that Turkey was too big; Christian Europe did not want a Muslim majority country to be the second largest country (after Germany) in the European Union. Now, had they allowed Turkey to join, we may have now been living in a very interesting world—but that hypothetical is a job for the alternative historians.

In response to the second point, I really do wonder what Americans would think about living in a Muslim country. Having lived half my life in the United States and half my life in a Muslim country (and an officially secular Muslim country at that) I must say “it isn’t easy”. But American ignorance of things international is nothing new. I look at one Tweet featured in the article outlining Americans’ response to Mr. Trump’s proposed registry, which claims that “allies of the Muslim community offered to step up and be registered first, arguing they could use their privilege to help others”. I have never known what the term “white privilege” actually means, but perhaps the Tweet featured below might give me a hint:

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Image Courtesy Of: http://mashable.com/2016/11/17/ways-to-fight-muslim-registry/#vGMJkwBaM5qQ

 

The user cited in the article, “liam and the bees” (https://twitter.com/liamandthebees?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw , vows to “stand with Muslim-Americans” as a “LGBTQ citizen”. The irony here is palpable, since the sentiment expressed is one that could only be expressed by someone with “white privilege” who lives in the West. An article in The Independent regarding the international status of LGBT relationships notes that according to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA):

 

In 13 countries, being gay or bisexual is punishable by death. These are; Sudan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Mauritania, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Qatar, UAE, parts of Nigeria, parts of Somalia, parts of Syria and parts of Iraq.

In 17 countries, bans are in place to prohibit ‘propaganda’ interpreted as promoting LGBT communities or identities. These are; Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Nigeria, Somalia, Tunisia, Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Lithuania and Russia.

 

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/gay-lesbian-bisexual-relationships-illegal-in-74-countries-a7033666.html

 

Of all these countries, only Russia, Lithuania, and Nigeria are not majority Muslim countries. And that makes me think: What do Americans really know about Muslim countries? Does “liam and the bees” know that, in many Muslim countries, it would not be possible to express being a member of the LGBTQ community? Probably not, and the reason I’m terrified for Turkey’s future should be indicative of why all Americans should do a little more research on what goes on in Muslim countries before taking such bold stances.

In Turkey, my other country, there will be a historic vote on Tuesday. The result could be far more terrifying than the result of the American Presidential election could ever have been. The vote will decide if men can be cleared of statutory rape as long they marry their victims. This is obviously a stomach-turning proposal, which, if passed, “will likely quash the convictions of some 3,000 men accused of assaulting an under-18-year-old”. For some background on a motion that states: “in the case of sexual abuse of a minor committed before November 11, if the act was committed without ‘force, threat, or any other restriction on consent’ and if the aggressor ‘marries the victim’ the sentence will be postponed”, we can look at some pieces from Al Jazeera:

 

Under current law, the age of consent in Turkey is 18 years old, meaning individuals aged 17 or younger are not legally able to consent to sexual activity, and such activity may result in prosecution for statutory rape.

Turkey’s statutory rape law is violated when an individual has consensual sexual contact with a person under the age of 18, but sexual contact with minors between the ages of 15-17 can only be prosecuted upon complaint.

[Turkish Prime Minister Binali] Yildirim said the motion will be a “one-off” pardon for people who violated the law “unknowingly”.

 

In a country where child marriage is widespread, this is clearly a troubling motion since it will allow the rape of young girls “as long as they consent to marry”. How a twelve-year old girl can consent to anything like marriage is mind-boggling. If it is passed, Turkey will be moved back hundreds of years. Yilmaz Ozdil, a Turkish political commentator, listed a number of offenses committed against underage girls in Turkey which will be legalized if this heinous motion passes in his recent column, noting that as long as the Imam—or religious leader—accepts the marriage on religious (Islamic) grounds, the rape is acceptable.

 

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Many In Turkey Are Coming Out Against The Government’s Stomach-Turning Proposal. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-38030182

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Women From All Walks of Life Protest The Government’s New Proposal in Turkey. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/11/turkey-motion-protecting-child-marriage-draws-debate-161118124734306.html

 

The reason this is important is that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) who is seeking to change the laws so as to rule until 2029 (he has been in power since 2002), was backed for many years by the United States during Barack Obama’s presidency with Mr. Obama claiming Mr. Erdogan as one of his best buddies among world leaders. With Mr. Trump now pushing a harder line on Muslims in the United States, we have seen the domestic backlash I described earlier. Still, state media is pushing the idea that—somehow—Mr. Erdogan is delighted at Trump’s victory. I am not sure that I can see any reason that Mr. Erdogan would be enthused about Mr. Trump’s victory but, as I have said earlier, state media in the U.S. have an agenda to push and mendacious stories are not totally unexpected. Even state media’s (Bloomberg’s) piece mentions an Op-Ed (that I have cited in an earlier piece) written by Trump advisor Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn (Ret.), former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, and they note that Flynn’s “language was deliberate. He said he wanted to provide Erdogan a choice to move away from the Islamist ideology of his own party”. This sounds like more of a threat than an endorsement, and that is why I see things differently, in the vein of Brookings’ more nuanced analysis.

The Mr. Obama who supported Mr. Erdogan so whole-heartedly is the same Mr. Obama who could not utter the words “radical Islamist terrorism,” during his years in office. Mr. Trump, on the other hand, was quick to state that “Turkey looks to be on ISIS’ side” (something I have also written about). This is, obviously, not something Mr. Obama could say since his administration did, arguably, have a hand in the emergence of the so-called “Islamic State” through the funding of various shady “opposition” groups in a bid to bring down Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Now that Mr. Trump is shaping his new administration, fears have arisen since  “’President-elect Trump’s first appointments and nominations display a troubling Islamophobic trend that is of concern to American Muslims and should be of concern to all Americans,’ Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said in a statement”.

What the media frames as “Islamophobic” is merely realist geopolitics (even state media can admit it) —and given the hard line stances that Mr. Trump and his possible cabinet member Mr. Flynn have expressed—I cannot imagine that it will be free sailing for Mr. Erdogan. Perhaps that is why he is attempting to push openly-Islamist legislation (like the one mentioned earlier regarding child rape) before a possible threat to his hold on power stemming from the changes in Washington.

Given what I have seen in Turkey, rising from the rhetoric of a strongman leader who has stated that “to lead people one must understand the philosophy and psychology of a shepherd”, I am (unlike most Americans) not overly concerned about the hardline rhetoric emanating from President-elect Trump. Just two weeks ago, before the recent proposal to legalize statutory rape, an art show was attacked in Istanbul by those objecting to the presentation of an Ottoman Sultan’s image on a female body. The growing misogyny and repression of women in Turkish society is worrying and it needs to stop, and I think one way would be a concerted effort to confront ISIS/ISIL/DAESH.

 

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The Sculpture in Question. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/haber/turkiye/625771/Contemporary_istanbul_acilisina_gerici_saldiri.html

 

Politico.com points out that Mr. Obama refused “to use the phrase ‘radical Islamic extremism’ for fear of alienating moderate Muslims who might hear in those words an attack on their religion”. I, as someone who has lived half of his life in a Muslim country, see things differently. I have met many completely peace-loving people who are also observant Muslims. Traveling in Egypt I met some of the kindest people I have ever had the privilege to meet in my life; even though the country was in turmoil they were excited to help a foreign visitor since they were (rightly) proud of their country. That’s why the term “radical Islamic extremism” should not be offensive to Muslims since it serves to separate the small number of “radicals” from the vast majority of peace-loving Muslims. The world is a difficult place, and most people just want to live out their days in peace without having to worry about violence. Unfortunately for many in the Middle East—especially those who are not “radicals”—the “radical Islamic extremists” of ISIS/ISIL/DAESH and their ilk are not allowing the majority to live in peace. If we need to use “bad words” to wake people up to the threat that radical Islamic extremists pose to the world—whether the United States, Turkey, Syria, or anywhere else—then so be it.

But I believe that, first and foremost, the small number of bad must be separated from the vast numbers of “good”. I am speaking from experience: Mr. Erdogan was seen as a “moderate Muslim” when he was first elected, but the term offended him back in 2007. “Moderate Islam” was seen to not be offensive in the West (even though it implies that there are non-moderate Muslims, as Mr. Erdogan showed), yet “radical Islamist” is now offensive? If we want to truly show Muslims that they are respected and accepted, then we must do our best to single out those Muslims who give the entire religion a bad name first. No one wants art shows to be disrupted or statutory rape to be legalized, any more than people want concerts or airports to be bombed, and I think that is something both Muslims and non-Muslims can agree on. That’s why those in the United States—many of whom have never even visited a Muslim country—should try to step back for a minute before balking at everything that “offends” their refined sensibilities, and hope that the United States can develop a more positive policy towards Muslims in the future.

 

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