31.1.2017:  The 'Muslim Ban'

Religion has no place in political discourse.  I feel like I'm trapped in medieval times:  not the good kind with turkey legs & jousting, the barbaric kind with the ridiculous Crusades.

It began during the presidential primary when it seemed the entire debate between the Democrat & Republican candidates focused on abortion.  The VPs boasted about their well-rounded Christian upbringings and discussed the extent to which it affects their lawmaking responsibilities.  It doesn't matter how you interpret your holy book - women's rights should be a given.  End of debate.  End the theoretical discussion regarding body parts you don't even have and move on to foreign policy.  The Presidential candidates weren't any better - too busy name-calling that they didn't even discuss climate change!

Anyways, returning to the present, we have people protesting all over the place because they believe Trump has followed through on a campaign promise or idea to ban Muslims.  On the one hand, it's obviously wonderful that more people seem to be aware of the political climate in America and are loudly voicing their opinions on the streets and social media.  On the other hand, it's absurd that:  1) we still need to fight for basic civil liberties, and 2) it took people so long to wake up and smell the coffee.  This coffee's been brewing for a long time... at the very latest, since 2001.

The 9/11 terrorists were all Saudi nationals.  Nonetheless, the Bush administration wanted to invade Iraq  and used the media to rally support.  People largely, unquestioningly accepted mainstream media's propaganda and willingly, or perhaps unknowingly, sacrificed individual freedoms as a result.  What the Bush administration began, in terms of mass surveillance and 'fighting terror,' the Obama administration continued and expanded.  After 9/11, the Bush administration amended the Visa Waiver Program, which began in 1986, to require machine-readable passports.  The Obama administration created the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015, which said, "travelers in the following categories are no longer eligible to travel or be admitted to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP):

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

The first version of this Act in 2015 referred to Iran, Irag, Syria & Sudan while Somalia, Yemen, and Libya were added in February 2016.  This did not disallow travelers from these countries to enter the US, but it required even visitors to these countries to go through the visa application process (which is very time-consuming & uncertain) before stateside arrival.  The Obama administration identified these 7 countries as supporting "acts of international terrorism" (HR 158).  I don't necessarily believe, however, that zero terror attacks from these countries is a result of an effective and proactive Homeland Security.

Within a year, the next administration placed a 90-day suspension of entry for nationals from these 7 countries and included an indefinite refusal of refugees from Syria.  The President's Executive Order (auf Deutsch) is essentially the "culmination of [this] war on terror mentality" (Greenwald). 

So where does the Muslim aspect fit in?  Western demonization of Islam has coincided with the development of the comprehensive war on terror.  Human beings are visual learners and it makes for more effective propaganda to stereotype a common enemy.  Whereas the media under Bush & Obama was a little more discreet in pushing this anti-Islam agenda, Trump blatantly spoke out against Muslims on the campaign trail.  He actually is anti-Muslim or cunningly used the scapegoat tactic and played on peoples' fears to gain votes.  Either way, the media immediately equated this Executive Order with a Muslim ban and thus ignited protests at JFK, LAX, etc.  While the popular outrage is understandable, it is also curious and frustrating that it took people up until this point to realize the nature of American foreign policy.  Even now, most people probably still don't know that the largest Muslim populations are in Indonesia, Pakistan, India, etc. 

With religion dominating the headlines, one is wont to forget that there is a constitutionally mandated separation of church & state in the United States.  I would have hoped that a civilized humanity could move past not just war, but specifically holy wars.  If the recent protests show anything, however, it is that people have moved past conflict while the politicians and corporations continue down this capitalist rabbit hole.

The other half of Trump's Executive Order is a specific & indefinite refusal of entry for refugees from Syria... which is essentially what all European countries besides Germany have been trying to do for the past year.  The UK is a particularly hypocritical example as the government committed to accepting just 20,000 refugees over the course of FIVE YEARS and need I mention the ongoing Brexit fiasco fueled by xenophobia?  Then, more than 1.5 million Brits signed a petition for May to disinvite Trump for his state visit because... suddenly they have a change of heart?  Similarly, the world is enraged by Trump's intention to build a border wall between the US & Mexico, while everyone seems to ignore or forget that Hungary already built a wall.

This selective morality is extremely aggravating because it essentially amounts to too little too late.  What is the endgame now?  Impeach Trump and have this 'alt-right' Christian extremist VP at the reins?  The Christian extremists are the real terrorists - committing horrific massacres and now staging a government coup.  I wish people had been more involved when it would have been easier to effect change.  It pains me to think about what could have been had this popular energy been harnessed during the primary and directed towards the Sanders campaign (#berniewouldhavewon).  Bernie said, we should "never lose our sense of outrage."  People must maintain their political involvement and focus not simply on protesting, but on constructively participating in government from the bottom up.