Saturday, July 2, 2016

A Fourth of July Call to Action


Having watched the films "Spotlight," "Trumbo," and "Selma" on my trans-Atlantic flight this past Monday, I think it’s fair to say that I’m rather short on patience when it comes to the subject of ruthless dark souls willing to destroy the lives of innocents as a means for advancing their insidious political agendas.  Which I think is an appropriate way for one to feel over this 4th of July weekend celebrating the birth of our nation of immigrants and refugees.

The subject of intolerance is not new to me, for I’ve spoken out several times before against Greece’s neo-Nazi political party, Chrysi Avgi aka Golden Dawn and its use of violence against those it considers less than Greek. (“Greece Cannot Allow That to Happen,” August 11, 2012, and “I Will Not be Silent,” June 30, 2012).

Nor is immigrant-directed violence elsewhere in Europe a surprise.  It’s been on the uptick for years, fueled by the intolerant preaching of agenda-laden demagogues warning communities to band together to protect themselves from the invading foreign hordes.  Undoubtedly, the recent flood of immigrants into Europe has made those communities far more susceptible to such messages of intolerance, giving false credence to the demagogues’ claims that people cannot trust their governments to be there for them.

Precisely how to accomplish the promised protection is left purposely vague, for the real goal of such faux populist saviors is always the same: gaining personal power at any cost.

They offer catchy buzzwords and blame, subtly directed at those of a different color, religion, national origin or sexual orientation.  It is a longstanding favorite ruse, one used to generate that feeding frenzy of emotion demagogues rely upon to drive wedges between their proffered solutions and a principled civilized society.

Too often the technique works, especially when those who truly disagree with the message still find excuses for doing nothing to oppose it, or, worse still, see its success as a sort of retributive gesture to those in power.  All one need do to see that awesome angry force in action is watch its march west from the Philippines elections, through the Brexit vote, and on into the US Presidential campaign.

Philippine President

For those who say, it could never happen here—wherever here may be—I commend you to this post by a British friend of mine, Ali Karim, with whom I sit on the Board of Bouchercon.  I first saw it on Facebook and at Ali’s request Stan posted it here on Murder is Everywhere in his Thursday slot. Ali is an educated, thoroughly engaging, native born British family man and successful businessman who happens to possess the sort of permanent tan I spend far too much time in the Mykonos sun trying to emulate.

That's Ali, second from left.

I defy you to read his words without wondering how you would cope with what Ali and his family must face each day.  And then ask yourself, how can I not speak up?  Act up?

There is a hideous poisonous growth out there, spreading, taking root, and flourishing.  Nothing we can do will ever stamp it out. Nothing. But we can cut it way back through vigilance and hard work.  It will not be easy, for it grows tendrils far too easily, but fight it we must. If not, we have no one to blame but ourselves for the horrific consequences.

Yes, do not think you can blame the demagogues, for they are doing only what comes naturally to them.

Blame yourselves, because those who find convenient excuses for doing nothing in the face of obvious impending horror have only themselves to blame for the consequences.

These are truly times that try one’s soul, and we must stand up and be counted for the sake of those like Ali, for the sake of our nations, our world, ourselves.

––This is Saturday, my name is Jeffrey Siger, and I approved this message.


  1. Much as I hate to admit it... when you're right, you're right on.

    1. Thank you, my friend. These are serious times.

  2. Very astute reflection on our current situation, and thank you for the very generous words in these troubling times -

    1. Thank you, my friend, and though we've both been on the same page on this for a very long time, it's now a matter of turning it into an audio book.

  3. Jeff, just to set the record straight. Ali did not ask us to post his story. I asked his permission to put it here. Stan volunteered his spot.

    Everything you say here is true about the prevalence and insidious strength of prejudice and hate. We MUST stand up against it. We WILL stand up against it. People die every day on this planet because of it. But let's not forget. People also die everyday in the service of what is good and right--combatting oppression, working to feed the hungry, to rescue the captives, to heal the wounded. There is a huge army of right-thinking people engaged and ready to be engaged in battle for justice.

    Ant the most heartening thing of all: THE YOUNG ARE LARGELY ON OUR SIDE. My optimism is not jejune. I have no illusion that the hate mongers will go down without a struggle. But look at the facts: The president of the United States is black! Marriage equality is the law of the land in many countries. More and more schools in London, in Rome, in Oslo are filled with children of varied backgrounds Struggle we must. But we SHALL overcome.

    1. Interesting coincidence that you should cite the examples you did of optimistic signs! You see, I'm back in the States to attend the wedding tomorrow of two people who have been with Obama since the beginning, and worked in his White House; plus the groom's brother was one of the key people at the Justice Department involved in overturning the Defense of Marriage Act!

      But all we've seen achieved is always at risk without without relentless vigilance. It's the nature of things I'm sad to say.

  4. In times of economic austerity, people look for a blame hound and any ethnic minority is an easy target. I agree with Jeff that education is the way out, I agree with Annamaria that most young people today get it. Racism leads to exclusion and that exclusion concentrates the core of being different, and encourages 'like to be with like'...which leads to more separation and the whole thing starts again. As was said in the comments yesterday, young people overwhelmingly voted for a united Europe.
    I have just seen the Smashot parade go past ( next weeks blog!), the most delightful sight was two pipers accompanied by two Jamaican steel drums boogieing their way down the street, paying no heed at all to the wind and the rain.....

    1. The young have always been among the first to see the need for a different approach and change of attitudes. In the US we saw that during the Vietnam War and Civil Rights days.

      BUT, it is also the young who have flocked to ISIS. In these times, nothing can be taken for granted except those who care must stand up and be counted.

  5. I'm pleased to see that you didn't leave South Africa out of the picture. Zapiro's cartoon shows Julius Malema turning the Marikana massacre to his advantage. And he has a lot of young followers. Faced with no jobs, no prospects, and no future, they too can be led.

  6. I wouldn't dream of leaving you out of the party, Michael :). And absolutely yes, no one side in a moral battle ever has an exclusive claim on the enthusiasm and energy of the young.

  7. The young want to live in a multicultural society; they've grown up in one. Universities have diverse populations. The world of clubs, music, art, etc. is a multicultural one. London and other cities have very diverse populations. So, yes, the young are more progressive, and many are angry that their elders voted for Brexit.
    But I don't think bigotry is innate. There are economic problems in Britain: Austerity policies have had an impact. So has unemployment, declining real wages, and cuts in health care and other government programs.
    So, populist, right-wing politicians and media blame immigrants for it, just as Trump does here. And some people buy into that and believe it in Britain, other European countries (rise of ultra-right parties) and right here, which is why Trump can whip up a certain segment of the white population against people of color, immigrants, Jews, women, disabled people.
    All this has to be opposed with words and deeds. On Sept. 12, 2015, thousands all over Europe marched in capital cities to say "Welcome, refugees." This is needed very much.

    1. You are so right, Kathy. The BIG LIE, is that the lower middle classes are neglected because the immigrants are stealing their jobs. What is really happening is that the ultra rich are convinced that they should not have to pay taxes. And the whole society is impoverished asks result.

  8. Yes, agree Annamaria, but also the rich initiated and carried out a brutal campaign of austerity against working and poor people, cuts in health care, disability benefits and more.
    And the right wing is blaming immigrants when, in fact, everyone should get health care and other services. Right-wingers are yelling about Poles and Romanians using the National Health System. But they're human beings and need it, too.
    There are demagogues who are only too glad to provide the racism and xenophobia in this situation, as Trump does in the States.
    Hate crimes have gone up 500% in Britain since the Brexit.
    And for movie-goers who want more revelations of reality, see "Truth," and "The Big Short." Both are excellent movies.