Islamophobia and Racism in an American Movie Theatre

Fresh off the news of a New Yorker throwing a brown-skinned man in front of a train for thinking he was Muslim (click here), the following tweets were brought to my attention of Americans who decided to go and watch Kathryn Bigelow’s new craptastic movie “Zero Dark Thirty.”

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Not only is that excuse of movie Zero Dark Thirty grossly inaccurate, nauseatingly stereotypical and a disgustingly shameful propaganda (click here), but it seems to be resonating with its intended audience by rousing up their Islamophobia and racism.

This is not an isolated incidence in the United States. The growing sense in American culture that Islam is all a bunch of jihadists who can’t wait to blow themselves up is unacceptable. And American media not only propagates that feeling, it helps fuel it.

How is it legal to have a whole ethnicity and religion categorized as such in these times and age?

You know something about those filthy Arabs and Muslims? They are sure taking all this crap in strides when they’re the most hated group on the planet.

Some people need to be ashamed of themselves.

Thank you @IsmailSakalaki for sending the tweets my way.

Lincoln [2012] – Movie Review

Lincoln Movie Poster

Steven Spielberg’s new movie, Lincoln, is the American Civil War-era story of the United States’ 16th president on his quest to get Congress to pass the 13th amendment to the constitution, effectively ending slavery, something he wants done before his inauguration ceremony for the second term which he had just won. In order to do this, he must gather a 2/3 majority in the House of Representatives – one that goes beyond the 56% majority that his Republican party held and into Democrat territory, a party that is staunchly against such a thing.

Lincoln is Spielberg’s best movie in a long time, something that is definitely helped by the fact that the director has been fascinated by Abraham Lincoln since he was a little boy. In this highly dignified portrait of the late American president, you are invited to delve into a world of charged polarizing politics on a story with an undertone of liberty and humanity. The movie can be divided into two halves: A strong first half sets the tone – the era, the characters, the entire situation and its framework.  The even stronger second half shows how the wheels set forth in the first half play out.

The true gem of Lincoln and what helps elevate this movie into a masterpiece is Daniel Day Lewis who incarnates the character he’s portraying to the letter – from the mannerism, to the tone. Lewis’ subtle, engaging, deep and highly emotional performance is one for the ages. His portrayal of the late American president is spot on in every sense. It never wavers, never falters, never drops from the standard that is set with the movie’s opening scene down to the last frame. He adds a sense of humanity to the commander in chief: a man who tells stories, laughs at his own jokes, cares deeply for his family. This sense of humanity gives the character an entirely new dimension.

Daniel Day Lewis is helped as well by chilling performances by Sally Fields and Tommy Lee Jones. Fields plays Mary Todd Lincoln. As a mother, she’s afraid for the life of the sons she still has and as wife, she’s growing more distant by her husband’s coldness towards her after the death of a child that she blames on him.

Tommy Lee Jones plays Thaddeus Stevens, a “Radical Republican” congressman whose goal in life is to establish equality between America’s black and white populations.  Jones is the only character in this movie that knows, deep down, that blacks are equal to whites in every way. The hurt that his character has to go through as he’s forced to tone down his convictions is passed on convincingly in a multi-layered and highly engaging performance.

However, not all acting performances in Lincoln are as great. Joseph Gordon Levitt, for instance, as Lincoln’s oldest son who wants to enroll in the army but is forbidden by his protective parents never quite finds his footing, causing the father/president-son story arc to falter and be less compelling than it could actually be. The father-son story that is interesting, however, is Lincoln’s relationship with his younger son Tad, played by Gulliver McGrath, as a young boy who wants his father to curl up next to him besides the fireplace and look at portraits of slaves who should be freed.

Tony Kushner, who wrote the screenplay for Lincoln, did a great job at turning a mostly dialogue-driven movie into something that doesn’t drag on and, despite the extensive running time, doesn’t feel overstuffed. His take on the story is very focused and specific which in itself is a very good thing if you’re familiar with the history behind the movie, which I believe every American viewer is and should be. In a way, it is the screenplay that sets Spielberg in a certain framework that helps him not turn the movie into an overly melodramatic mess but to give it a documentary grit. However, many non-American cinema enthusiasts, who will end up watching Lincoln because of the attention it’s garnering, might end up being overwhelmed by the details causing them to care less about the story which should be front and center and seek entertainment in the acting performances that I’ve previously mentioned or other attributes that I will mention subsequently.

What helps Daniel Day Lewis in his Lincoln incarnation is a stunning make-up work that transforms the actor’s face into that of the late president’s identical twin. In fact, Lincoln is bolstered by a technical team that spans from the aforementioned makeup to the cinematography to the sound mixing to the art direction. Almost every aspect of this movie is taken care of in a way to ensure authenticity.

Lincoln is a highly engaging and entertaining film, one that stops being a historical portrayal and becomes a character study of what many Americans believe is one of their best presidents. By becoming a character study, Lincoln also becomes a movie about politics which are the wheels that get the movie rolling: how these characters interact to make legislation, how these characters use each other’s flaws in order to advance their agendas, how this presidential character so deeply believes in the sanctity of freedom, how this presidential character wants peace for his nation and for himself.

If I were an American, I’d be proud to have a movie such as Lincoln portray one of my presidents.

9/10

 

Which iPhone 5 to Buy in Lebanon?

I told you about this before (here and here) but minister Sehnaoui confirmed it on twitter yesterday.

Nicolas Sehnaoui iPhone 5 tweets

For the many Lebanese who will benefit from the price reductions (the phone is going for $800 max these days for the 16GB capacity) to buy the iPhone 5 either for themselves or for their loved ones this Christmas, there’s one important thing you need to ask the shop from which you’re buying the phone: which country did you get it from?

If they got their iPhone 5 from the United States or Canada, model being A1428, the LTE that will launch later in 2013 won’t work on it as the chips are incompatible.

If the country of origin is anything in Europe or Australia, then it will work. The model should be A1429.

If you can’t but buy it from the United States, here’s a way you can do it: send the person buying it for you to an Apple Store and get them to buy a no-contract Verizon iPhone 5. It will have the sim card slot fully unlocked and its LTE capabilities are compatible with the frequency that’ll be launched in Lebanon soon.

For those of you who have already bought their iPhone 5 without asking about the country of origin, tough luck. Odds are you won’t be able to benefit from LTE once it’s rolled out.

Lebanese Observations of the 2012 United States Presidential Election

 

Many may find this hard to believe but I was much more enthusiastic about the US presidential elections in 2008 than I was about the same event in 2012. It was to the extent that an American friend of mine from Kansas sent me McCain bumper stickers which I still have on the car until today. I saw nothing but McCain/Palin back then. It was the only thing that made sense and certainly not Obama. And I lost.

In 2012, I decided to be more cautious. I didn’t like Romney and I didn’t like Obama either. The former had moments of sheer stupidity (“it’s their culture”) while the latter didn’t make sense to me at all. But I decided to back a candidate based on my convictions and I went reluctantly with Romney, fully knowing that any of the candidates winning won’t have a major effect on our situation as Lebanese and of the Middle East as a whole. Both of them will adopt the same color by number American foreign policy: If you’re not Israeli, you don’t matter.

So as I stayed up all night to follow the results of what had promised to be a close election, I had more than a few observations to make.

Who’s running again?

The amount of Americans that panicked when state results started rolling is too high. It seems few understand the electoral college board system and few had actually looked at the polls in different states to know that the early lead Romney got was absolutely meaningless. This conforms with a report that many Americans had absolutely no idea who was running for elections with google searches peaking a few days prior to election day with queries of “who’s running for US president elections?” and “am I registered to vote.” I wonder how they were able to escape the deafening ad campaigns. Personally, I think it’s sad that I understand the American electoral system better than a lot of Americans. How could you expect people who are that disassociated from their country to know how to choose?

All those Godless places! 

Once the results started forming a concrete picture of an Obama advantage, the polarization started. Half of my American Twitter followers and Facebook friends were in absolute outrage whilst the other half was in orgasmic bliss. Some were in hell, others were on cloud nine. And it is then that the level of the discussion started sinking so low it reminded me of our elections of which we’re sure to get a taste in a few months. Many Americans believe Obama is the second coming of Christ, a savior who will ride in to change everything. Others literally think he’s Muslim who was sworn in back in 2008 over the Qoran, not the bible – and they don’t want that to govern them. But be careful, they’re “not being disrespectful to Muslims.” It’s just how can “a Muslim govern God’s country”? When a discussion ensued because of those tweets, those Americans made it known that they believe the US is the only “country of God” in the world. Every other country is a Godless place. Good to know.

Your opinion is invalid

Some of the issues that were voted upon in some states were assisted suicide, such as in the state of Massachusetts. One of the people whose vote had been against such a legislation (it ended up passing) was busy throwing a fit about how “selfish” it was for patients to ask for it. So I personally replied that “it’s not that simple.” The answer I got, which was one of many that night, is: you’re not a US citizen so your opinion is invalid. It seems that assisted suicide and abortion and other humanitarian debates are US-only issues. Because physicians abroad do not face these decisions. Not one bit. My medical education also makes my opinion even more invalid.

Let’s get high! 

Let’s talk about legalizing marijuana. Honestly, I have no idea why this is even an issue. Marijuana should not be legalized. Whether hippie liberals believe it’s of benefit or not is out of the question. Marijuana is a known hallucinogen and it has been associated with other medical conditions as well (check this). The fact that it’s even a question on the ballot is, in my opinion, absolutely silly. And many Americans seem to agree with me on this. Conversely, many seem to disagree. Nothing should come between them and their pot – not even common sense. So now when marijuana-caused adverse incidents increase, who’s to blame?

Hope or lack thereof 

Once the results of the elections were almost certainly pointing to an Obama victory, the rhetoric changed into people who decided that their country is now a hub of communism with Obama being the world’s new version of Hitler. They were no longer proud to be Americans. Their country is such a disgrace. On the other side of the spectrum, you have those whose pride and hope in the US has just been re-established. And I sat wondering: if these citizens of the world’s biggest economy, toughest superpower and leading nation are this weak-minded, what does this say about all of us living in absolute hell-holes? I then realized that Americans need to toughen up. Their convictions regarding their country should not be this weak. They should not waver because of an election, regardless of results – especially not when their country has so much to offer to them. When your country is envied by many, you are not allowed to be this weak towards it and this goes to those who gained back hope and those who lost it.

Hollywood

The absolute majority of Hollywood actors and actresses, even some who hadn’t made their opinion known before, came out in support for Obama as the results were unveiled, which was very much expected. Some, such as Whoopi Goldberg, subtly accused all those who were dissatisfied with Obama’s victory with racism and invited them to get the “crap outta here.” Very smooth.

Trump’s Wig

Donald Trump was absolutely freaking out. He even called for a revolution and was immediately turned into an immediate mashable article. I guess he doesn’t know that revolutions never work for men with wigs. Never, ever.

Canada

The Americans that were dissatisfied with the Obama victory suddenly wanted to move to Canada. I found it odd that they wanted to move to a country which employs many of the policy’s they’re hating on: welfare, same gender marriage, etc… regardless of what I personally think of these policies. Canadians commented that this reflects the lack of knowledge they have of their neighbor to the north.  A level-headed discussion with these Canadians, who preferred Obama, showcased the absolute necessity for Americans to learn more about the world in their education system. After all, for many Lebanon is but a city in Ohio and Canada is that very cold place no one wants to visit. Of course, this does not apply to all Americans because many know more about Lebanon and Canada than many of us but, again, these are just observations.

The Lebanese

The Lebanese people who were observing the elections were many. Once an Obama victory became certain, those with Romney immediately disappeared in typical Lebanese fashion. Those with Obama, however, made it known that they were happy. Some were even more enthusiastic about it than the most enthusiastic of Americans with rhetoric that slipped down, again in typical Lebanese fashion, to lower than the lowest tone employed by pissed off Republicans. It seems that the GOP is a bunch of anti-gay, anti-women, pro-rape, anti-science, anti-environment, anti-common sense, anti-all that is good, pro-religion, pro-everything that is bad. Delusional much? You betcha, à la Palin. But you can’t discuss that with them because they’re Lebanese and one does not have a decent discussion with a Lebanese. I bet they’d be interested to know that the pro-rape senate candidates lost their seats with a lot of Republicans not voting for them.

The Bottom Line

For the rest of the world, nothing will change upon Obama getting re-elected, especially not for us with both of them having similar effective foreign policies. Even when it comes to the internal workings of the United States, very few things will change between now and 2014 with the country being as divided as it is today: the House controlled by the Republicans and the Senate controlled by the Democrats. Obama will have to use his executive function, more than his legislative branch, in order to be able to do anything. And what he’ll be able to do is very limited. Which means that those whose candidate lost have no reason to fear their country would turn into Cuba. And those who won shouldn’t be this comfortable regarding the future because it may not be this bright. A few questions though: Obama’s failure, as perceived by his drastically declining numbers compared to 2008, was attributed to Bush. If nothing changes by 2016, will his failure be attributed to Bush as well?

Will the Republicans see the need for a restructuring of their party away from the radicalization of the Tea Party, one which doesn’t represent the core values of the Republican party, and move towards moderates in order to be able to contain the growing disparity between their views and those of mainstream Americans especially with changes in American demographics which may turn them, if not tackled, into a party that isn’t able to win nationally?

Good luck to president Obama and congrats to those who voted for him. Hard luck to Mitt Romney who gave a phenomenal underdog race to give one of the tightest popular vote results in recent history and hard luck to those who voted for him. However, the winner after the American elections was the whole world for being able to observe democracy being applied at its finest and that is something that all Americans should be proud of.

In other news, I really need a crystal ball to choose winners to back next time. This losing streak of mine has been going on for far too long.

The White Guilt of American Elections

Subtle racism has found its way to the American political scene in the final days before Americans head to the ballots to vote on who should run their country for the next four years. The issues both candidates stand for are known. Conservative versus liberal, right wing vs left wing, grosso modo. However, with elections being less than 48 hours away, the talk isn’t centered around the core issues anymore.

The American elections are now all about demographics: who’s voting for who. Because demographic talk is important to see how the country might vote on November 6th.

Pro-Obama analysts underplay the shift in numbers from 2008 to 2012 as something that can be compensated for on election day. Pro-Romney analysts extrapolate the shift in numbers to claim a premature victory they desperately seek. But what is the demographic talk they speak of?

It is that of Catholic and Protestant voters. It is that of independent voters. It is that of women. And do you know what’s the common thing among all those demographics that are up for grabs still?

They’re all white. Or caucasian, whichever term is more politically correct.

In the dying minutes before Americans choose, the tactic is to bring out the colonial white guilt that hasn’t died down since America’s old days. Bringing out the guilt happens even in subtle comedy that, when not read into, is another funny gimmick to make people laugh. However, after a careful minute of reflection, a seemingly harmless skit holds a deeper meaning than it presumably intends to.

For struggling campaigns, the play on the emotional cords of voters is essential to rally them up come election time. The emotional cord for white American voters is the issue of racism. If you don’t vote for this candidate, then you are subtly racist. The fear from the label pushes some people to vote against their convictions in order not to fall into the stereotype.

And this is the inherent hypocrisy of the American system.

More than 90% of African American voters are voting for Obama come election day. Are they accused of racism? No. How many of those voters are more inclined to vote for Obama because of the color of his skin? How many are voting for him based on their convictions and political stance? Both questions are quite irrelevant because they don’t apply here. They apply to “others.”

On the other hand, caucasian Americans do not have the prerogative to vote for their convictions guilt-free. It’s because they weren’t the segment of American society that was marginalized for years and years. But does the fact that African Americans had a very tough phase in their history warrant the rhetoric that has sunk to the level it’s at today?

And we’re not even going into the baggage that voting for one candidate over the other carries: xenophobe, homophobe, female-phobe, anything-phobe.

The bottom line is: it’s not racism and you’re not a racist when you’re voting for someone not because of the color of his skin but because of what he stands for. It’s not racism and you’re not  a racist if you haven’t really thought about a candidate’s skin color until now. Come election day, everyone – regardless of their skin color – should vote to who they believe can get their country in the right direction. The “white result” of 2008 has shown that the majority of Americans don’t care about a candidate’s skin color. So for those who voted to one candidate in order to prove they weren’t racist in 2008, mission accomplished, no need to feel guilty if you cast an opposite ballot this time around. One thing to be said though is shame on media that would revert to such cheap tactics in order to get their preferred candidate a boost.

 

AUB Elections: Vote Students At Work

You know what baffles me about pro-Hezbollah (and affiliates) people attending AUB? They tend to forget that it’s the AMERICAN University of Beirut.

All they do is go there and bash the American system left and right, totally ignoring that they are in the midst of what they’re criticizing. I guess the Lebanese proverb: “2e3ed b7edno w bientof bida2no” applies here. And you know what’s even sadder? The Aounists that join Hezbollah, SSNP and other political parties in their chants against the “American devil.” You’d think they would know better than to be this brainwashed.

Let’s get one thing straight: as an AUB student who graduated back in 2010, I voted three times in my university’s elections and was almost nominated twice with Students at Work. I have every reason not to want to support them but my reasons are personal and not as relevant to the greater picture. But here’s what you need to know: the amount of work any student body would put into enhancing your student life is minimal. But at least with Students at Work, you know they will actually attempt to do something and not live in the orgasm of their victory for a whole year straight.

The independents didn’t do anything as well the year they won via a political play with March 8th people, which happened to be during my junior year. Students at Work needed one more seat in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences back then, one they had relinquished in my year to leave an open list. Their list would have won if it had been fully closed.

With Students at Work, you’ll know that AUB’s Main Gate will not turn into a shouting fest where a slogan calling for the death of a major Lebanese leader is chanted and celebrating the assassination of one of our country’s most inspiring presidents. With Students at Work, Main Gate will not turn into this.

So come Wednesday and you’re standing in front of a ballot, thinking about who you need to vote for, remember that you are at the American University of Beirut because you and your parents believe this is the best education that can be provided in Lebanon today. Remember that the level of the university you’re in is not the way it is because of people whose daily habits have hypocrisy written all over them and remember that your future endeavors, soon after finishing your degree, will not take you to Iran. You’ll be going to the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom and France. Don’t be a hypocrite. Vote Students at Work. It may not change your scholastic life but at least you’ll know you’re voting with the air of freedom of the institute that is providing your future.

9/11 Remembered. And Put in Perspective.

I still remember this September day, ten years ago, when my whole family sat dumbfounded in front of our television set, not believing what we were seeing.

How could the United States, the world’s leading country (despite some in-denial people thinking otherwise), have this happen to it? Shouldn’t they have been more prepared? After all, two airplanes hitting their country’s biggest towers and an attack on the Pentagon isn’t exactly a small feat – for any terrorist group.

Any group responsible for the attack must have taken months, if not years, to slowly brew the intricate details of the assault. Therefore, it’s very hard to believe the United States’ intelligence agencies had no idea about it. Instead, they chose to shrug these threats off. There’s no way something like this could happen to us, I’m sure they thought.

But it did happen, taking the lives of 3000 people with it and launching the “war on terrorism” propaganda that has been going on for the past decade.

I still remember holding my mom’s hand as she saw those people jump out of the building, hoping they would be saved somehow, thinking that jumping increased their chances of survival. I still remember news anchors going silent for minutes on end because they were out of words. I still remember my whole household feeling shaken. I still remember my grandma’s panic-stricken face as she stumbled towards the phone, trying to call her sons even though she knew they were far from New York City.

What we did not think of was the aftermath.

I never thought I’d be automatically labeled as a person of suspicion just because of my country’s geographical location. I never thought my aunt would have to wait three hours in LAX before they allowed her to go out and see my family. I never thought it’d become so difficult for me to go the United States, even if I hadn’t seen my family for over five years. I never thought my Muslim friends would automatically become one of the most hated groups in the world just because of their religion. I never thought things would change as much as they did.

I am not a mean person. In fact, I am probably one of the most American-sympathizers you can find – at least in Lebanon. But the thing is, 9/11 needs to be put in perspective.

It will always be a memory of hurt. But ten years later, where should we really stand regarding 9/11? The people who lost their lives should forever be remembered. They were innocent victims who fell to the brutality of a radical group that has a distorted view of their religion.

But ten years later, that’s the only thing I can take out of 9/11. And here’s why.

Sure, 9/11 revealed the United States’ vulnerability. But I’m sure the ship has sailed on that vulnerability. Following that day, the United States’ assumed the role of the policeman of the world. No one did anything unless the United States approved. And if some country happened to dare the United States, they were met with a bunch of sanctions they could never get out of.

The War on Terror has led to the death of not 3000 but more than 900,000 people, most of which are women and children whose only fault was to be in the wrong country at the wrong time of history. What do these men, women and children differ from those 3000 men, women and children that died in the World Trade Centers? Their ethnicity? I hardly think so. Their religion? I’m fairly certain all victims were not uni-religious. The main difference is that the world thinks more of those 3000 people that died on 9/11 that they do of those 900,000 that died in the War on Terror. Why? because in the world’s mind, those 3000 are innocent. The 900,000 are terrorists. Wrong place, wrong time.

The 9/11 attacks also gave the U.S government a free pass to do whatever it wants militarily until it was too late. Example? The Iraq War – also known as Operation Iraqi Freedom.

I still have no idea, even to this day, how Iraq fit into the whole Al Qaeda scenario of the 9/11 attacks. Their only fault? Too much oil beneath their soil. I am also fairly certain the United States’ intelligence agencies were more than knowing that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. Live and let live no more.

But why go so far back in time – even if all of this is a few years old. Let’s look at what’s happening around the world today.

There’s a famine in Somalia. Children are dying every few seconds out of hunger. The United States has the world’s highest obesity rate. They’re throwing food away because they can’t eat it anymore. The children of Somalia, on the other hand, don’t even have access to bread crumbs that fall off a table and we don’t notice.

As a result of “Operation Iraqi Freedom,” thousands of Iraqi Christians lost their lives and were forced to leave their land and country, becoming not welcome there anymore. Their only fault? They were of the wrong religion at the wrong time in the wrong place. What could have the US done, for instance? Protect them.

Massacres are taking place daily in Congo. Women getting raped has become their way of life. Children getting murdered just because they happened to be caught in a crossfire between greedy tribes, who happen to be the pawns of bigger players, in a game of gold and diamond.

Palestinians get murdered every day by Israeli “Defense” Forces. The U.S covers those murders to the extent that they vetoed the Palestinian request to become a recognized UN state. I am not the most Palestine-sympathizer. But when the United States asks for its victims to be remembered, then all victims that are falling because of the United States’ involvement need to be remembered as well. I am fairly certain Israel wouldn’t be as ferocious if it didn’t know the United States had it back, whenever and wherever.

Thousands have been murdered by a tyrant Syrian regime, since their protests began, and the international community (led by the United States) has done very little to help alleviate the suffering of those people.

And not very recently, in the calm country of Norway, a Christian fundamentalist let loose on teenagers whose only fault was, yet again, being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The American reactions to that are summed up in this video.

Yes, it has been ten years since 9/11. But that is precisely why it’s time to get over it. 3000 people that died do not compare to the thousands dying everyday because of 9/11 ramifications. 300 million Americans are not better people than the other 5.7 billion that make up the rest of the world. After all, isn’t equality one of the fundamental and founding principles upon which the American system is built?

There are way worse things taking place everyday all around the world. Their only fault? They’re happening at the wrong place.