Right, so today is International Women’s Day and all over the country and the world women stood on bridges to celebrate. Nice symbolism. Bridges lead from one place to another. They unite places otherwise separated and bring people together.
Think about it, though. For all our progress–some might even say because of our progress–women seem to be standing on some pretty shaky bridges these days. Yes it’s lovely that the Secretary of State is a woman and I do like Ms. Clinton but wish it were possible that we could call her Ms. Rodham. Remember how she had to change her name to make conservative politicos in both parties comfortable enough to vote for her HUSBAND? She had to do that not so she could get elected, but rather so HE could, and so that she might snug into the quaint and mostly decorative “First Lady” role. This the voters demanded, apparently.
And look, now, after we thought we were done, at least for a while, with that demented, logic- and syntax-challenged, gun-toting white wacko who calls herself “feminist” while training her rifle’s cross-hairs on democratically elected politicians who support all women’s right to sovereignty over their bodies, we’re suddenly beset with a radical extremist Christian who is going around the country spreading hatred for Muslims. Have you tuned into Brigitte Gabriel yet? Apparently she grew up in Lebanon and lived in Israel for a spell yet typically greets her audiences by screaming “Yee-Haw!” into the microphone. Then she launches into a well-rehearsed rant against Muslims who, she says in an all-capitals sort of way, are TAKING OVER THE COUNTRY and INFILTRATING AT EVERY LEVEL OF PUBLIC AND PRIVATE LIFE:
“America has been infiltrated on all levels by radicals who wish to harm America,” she said. “They have infiltrated us at the C.I.A., at the F.B.I., at the Pentagon, at the State Department. They are being radicalized in radical mosques in our cities and communities within the United States.”
Remind you of anyone? I think she learned it from the guy who is infamous for having spread his paranoid fever with statements such as:
“I have here in my hand a list of two hundred and five (people) that were known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping the policy of the State Department”
You guessed Joe McCarthy, right? Right. This woman draws enormous crowds of fawning American Islamophobics, who write letters to her such as the following, which her organization, Act! for America sponsors on its website:
Now you are doing the right things to help this once great country try to regain it’s center. You are an awesome individual with such a sincere heart. And that brain of yours. You always know just what to say.
First of all, the proper punctuation of the possessive “it” is “its” not the “it’s,” which is a contraction of the verb “to be.” Not clear whether this grammar problem stems from Act! for America or from the enthusiast who is awed by Brigitte’s brain. In either case the quotation doesn’t convey a strong sense of intelligence and education. Here’s more testimony from a loyal follower, who wrote this on ‘The Tea Party Platform“:
It was a distinct privilege to be among those at the Faith Bible Church in Arvada, CO on August 10, 2010 to listen to Brigette Gabriel. It was an honor to later have the opportunity to meet her. I walked away from that meeting with far more than her book,They Must Be Stopped, her 55 minute DVD and a lapel pin. I walked away with a sense of urgency that should be felt by every American who wishes to preserve his/her way of life.
This follower explicitly stated that Gabriel preaches the following points:
- The single goal of muslims is to replace our republic with a government based upon islam. Their goal is islamic control.
- There are a large number of active terror cells in this country already in place. Some cities have a large number of active members. Among those cities is my home, Denver.
By the way, Brigitte changed her name, too. It seems “Nour Saman,” her real name, was way too Ay-rab for her radical Christian and right-wing Jewish audiences. (Why the Aryan ‘Brigitte’?) And let’s take a look at her erudition.
Willing to bet that these audiences would characterize the following statement, which Brigitte allegedly made, as “just what to say”?
The difference, my friends, between Israel and the Arab world is the difference between civilization and barbarism. It’s the difference between good and evil [applause]…. this is what we’re witnessing in the Arabic world, They have no SOUL !, they are dead set on killing and destruction. And in the name of something they call “Allah” which is very different from the God we believe….[applause] because our God is the God of love.
Oy, vey! This hits on so many levels of “what not to say” that even my Republican grandfather, who rolled over in his grave the day I applied to work for Senator Alan Cranston (D-CA), must be kicking the sides of his coffin. You don’t go around saying that some human beings who name their higher power with a different name than you do have “no soul” unless you’re trying to dehumanize them. And we all know that dehumanized “things” are lot easier to kill than human beings. There is “our God” who is the god of love and “their God” who is the god of hatred and therefore “our God” won’t mind if we exterminate them. All in the name of love, of course.
This woman is an alleged apologist for the Phalange group, Kataeb, and the terrorist group, the South Lebanon Army (SLA), who carried out the slaughter of thousands of Palestinians, most of whom were women and children, in the notorious Sabra and Shatila camps.
The veteran Middle East journalist Robert Fisk described what he found there this way:
there were women lying in houses with their skirts torn torn up to their waists and their legs wide apart, children with their throats cut, rows of young men shot in the back after being lined up at an execution wall. There were babies – blackened babies babies because they had been slaughtered more than 24-hours earlier and their small bodies were already in a state of decomposition – tossed into rubbish heaps alongside discarded US army ration tins, Israeli army equipment and empty bottles of whiskey.
This woman, who has been accused of defending this holocaust of innocent Muslim women and children, thrills American women and American men, with statements such as:
a practising Muslim who goes to mosque every Friday, prays five times a day, and who believes that the Koran is the word of God, and who believes that Mohammed is the perfect man and (four inaudible words) is a radical Muslim.
Has this woman heard of Indonesia? Does she know any American Muslims? Does she really want me to believe that the lovely Indian woman I recently met, a physician in her 70s, a volunteer, like me, at the Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh, and a Muslim, is a radical?
Muslims who believe that the Koran is the word of God and who believe that Mohammed is the perfect man do not share my beliefs but that does not make them radicals Muslims. A Christian or Jew (or Buddhist or Jain, for that matter) who is so intolerant as to equate all Muslims with murderous terrorists does, however, fall into the category of “extremist” in my book.
Particularly when that woman encourages Americans–who are raving mad for her–to consider all Muslims “soulless” beings. The name of her book, “Because they Hate,” more accurately describes her followers than the people she’s going around denouncing.
For International Women’s Day some Pittsburghers stood on a bridge to draw attention to the plight of Afghan Women, who happen to be Muslim and therefore members of the same “soulless” zombies that Brigitte Gabriel is urging Americans to hate and fear.
We’re standing on some shaky bridges–and women like Brigitte Gabriel and her followers are working hard to undermine them completely. How should we understand such extremism? Doris Lessing, who almost always builds bridges, has this to say in Prisons We Choose to Live Inside:
Anyone who reads history at all knows that the passionate and powerful convictions of one century usually seem absurd, extraordinary, to the next. There is no epoch in history that seems to us as it must have to the people who lived through it. What we live through, in any age, is the effect on us of mass emotions and of social conditions from which it almost impossible to detach ourselves. Often the mass emotions are those which seem the noblest, best and most beautiful. And yet, inside a year, five years, a decade, five decades, people will be asking, “How could they have believed that?” because events will have taken place that will have banished the said mass emotions to the dustbin of history. To coin a phrase (8).
The very same people running wildly after Brigitte Gabriel today will probably disown her in the future. But for now, they have caught the fever, the mass emotions of suspicion and fear and xenophobia that afflict so many Islamophobic American men and women today. It would be nice if these extremists would stop building bombs under the bridges, these way-stations between groups of human beings who are different from one another, people who might actually like to get to know each other and who would surely get along better if they had ways to reach one another.