Thank You, New York Times, For Making Us Free

By Mohammad T.

This article was written originally for KABOBfest, and can be viewed here. Big shout out to the editors there for accepting this contribution.

I’ve never seen an Iraqi break dance before. But apparently Tim Arangon and Yasir Ghazi have.

You see, these New York Times reporters are truly on the cutting edge. They dig deep. They unearth the worms. They uproot the, well, roots. Everybody else is too lazy, or too stupid, to do any serious journalism. Everybody else covers the same old Negative Nancy material.

Iraq may still be a place defined by Islam, sectarianism, violence and political dysfunction, but here in this clubhouse, and at larger gatherings of rappers and dancers in Baghdad’s parks, are vignettes of another sort, defiant gestures of rebellion in a social order with little space for individual expression, especially of the sort draped in Western mores.

The New York Times? Nope. They don’t care about that stuff. They care more about Bruce Lee and Avril Lavigne (who?) – you know, the real barometers of development and democracy. The New York Times despises the hegemony of Islam, how it seems to suffocate its adherents, how it seems to reinforce their tribalism, how it eggs on the sectarianism of those crazy dudes who wear black turbans and yell to those crowds who wave flags and who jump up and down and occasionally beat themselves in this one funny time of the year because of some cooky old religious cookiness. No, the New York Times is different. They focus on what matters, what is truly important. The people. The youth. The society. The money. Break dancing.

“We are living in a tribal society, that is very religious, and this is against Islamic traditions,” said Aksan Adel Habeb, 28, outfitted in a Los Angeles Lakers jersey and white do-rag.

(Hey Aksan, you know what I think is against Islamic traditions? The lockout.)

In fairness to the Times, modernity and liberalism doesn’t just come about through hip-hop. Baroque symphony orchestras also drink freedom juice.  Nightclubs and hookah too. (Incidentally, I’ve been to the offices of the New York Times, and I can assure you they are so free that their secretaries do sheesha while jamming to Waka Flocka.)

It’s not just in Iraq where the Times does its signature documentary work. Courtesy of the Associated Press, the Times highlights Pakistani freedomlovers too, like Adil Omar.

“But hard-core rap like Omar’s laced with profanity and sexual innuendo is almost unheard of, and could even be dangerous in a society plagued by Islamist militants.”

Profanity! Sexual innuendo!


I’ve noticed that every once in a while, the NYT produces one these kinds of articles in which some kind of imported musical tradition takes shape in a cooky, backwards tribal land, as evidence of the slow waning of the cooky toward the embrace of modern, inclusive, edgy democracy. That’s the power of ideology – the failure to imagine an alternate world, an alternate world where equality and hope and justice come in different flavors.

I’m not a relativist, nor am I an apologist. I don’t like incompetence, bigotry, or reactionary politics as much as the next person. But I also believe in self-determination and autonomy. I believe in agency and the power of communities to realize their goals, on their terms, without the nagging, pervasive, all-engulfing power of ideologies foreign to them.

In short, it’s not just about us. It’s not about how they live vis-à-vis us. It’s not about how we understand them on our terms. We shouldn’t ignore our sisters and brothers in Iraq or Pakistan, but we should allow them the space and the support to realize their aspirations.

Oh, I almost forget: I have seen an Iranian break dance, and, honestly, I hope to never see it again.


1 Comment

Filed under American Politics, The Iraqi Crisis

One response to “Thank You, New York Times, For Making Us Free

  1. The entire 310 million Americans will be forcefully deported into two narrow but roughly rectangular territories – walled, fenced, blockaded and road-blocked!

    Let’s do a thought experiment! Why? Come to think of it: The majority of U.S. congressional ass-lickers of Israel pressure Obama towards military action confronting Iran. Netanyahu’s pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC staged a coup once again to line-up the American government into fighting a proxy war of aggression, this time against Israel’s bitter enemy Iran.

    For the brown-nosed American public it is too late to implement less corrupt U.S. governance, but who will be expert at regime change and in redrawing the American map?

    American conspiracy theorists will feel baffled when their country is taken over by an international army under command of the U.N. and the entire 310 million Americans are forcefully deported into two narrow but roughly rectangular territories – walled, fenced, blockaded and road-blocked! What will America look like broken up into a duo of stripe-states? Pretty much like the divided two parts of Palestine look, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip! This break-up will make the two American stripes ready for the 22nd century, when small will be the new big!

    Smaller-is-better and stripes are fashionable in these meager recession-times. The Northern American stripe will be wedged between Canada and the former U.S. of A., and the Southern American stripe borders Mexico. The Northern and Southern stripes resemble on closer inspection two XX-Long worm-like voting districts in racially segregated America, where everyone votes on ethnic lines. The voting results are usually falsified and the election winner is decided by a corrupt U.S. Supreme Court.

    In a reference to Obama’s African heritage, the two stripes look strikingly similar to the two narrow banks along the Gambia River in West Africa which make up the state of Gambia, with breeding grounds for swarms of flies, which keep fly-Terminator Obama busy one blow at a time.

    The world’s population is ready to violate America’s most basic right in the name of fighting U.S. terrorism! All American-guns will be confiscated, including those of state militias, turning the American stripes into two pitiful archipelagoes of defenselessness. No state (listen-up Texas!) can reserve the right to secede from the two stripes, because states no longer exist! As if by a dictate from God the separation into stripes will help ease tensions between the North and the South of bygone America! Just as ’liberal’ Americans claim that Palestinians don’t need their own state; some people might suggest that a Northern and a Southern stripe will do for Yankees!

    Watch towers, barbed wire and gunner positions will make it more palatable for Americans to perfect the art of sitting it out in the stripes during the next two centuries. They will be sentenced to 200 years inside the American stripes for pulling off their enormous offenses worldwide. The sentence is warranted by the extraordinary dimensions of their crimes.

    It‘s time for retribution, not reflection, and the very act of deportation, however violent, will be seen by the non-American world-population as purely defensive. No more bombing of other countries Americans cannot pronounce and cannot find on a map! The stripes will be the geo-political punishment for dozens of wars of aggression, global espionage at universities and for causing the world financial system to collapse under the American Ponzi-debt. This debt was built up by decades of American addiction to debt, of no-money-down home-loans and shopping on credit-cards only. Americans borrow from Peter to pay Paul; they borrow from China to pay the interest on their loans from Japan and Korea and Russia!

    Along the roughly 4.000 mile border with Canada, 155 million Americans or half of the U.S. population will need only a 3.5-mile wide stripe to live with a population density of 4.270 Americans per square kilometer, comparable to the Palestinian population density in the Gaza Strip! Along the 2.200 miles of the
    Mexican border a less than 7-mile wide stripe will be sufficient for the other half of the Americans at an equal population density.

    Revenge is never a straight line and therefore the stripe’s barriers will be made of huge metal plates and concrete walls with barbed wire on top. Thousands of U.N. border guards from Afghanistan, Algeria, China, Cuba, Gaza, Haiti, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen will be deployed along the entire stretch of the borders.

    The world loves America so much that everyone will be happy to see two stripped down Americas. The humanitarian situation in the two American stripes inside tent cities with no running water, no sewers or electricity and not enough to eat for the coming ten generations will be exactly as it should be. Human Rights Watch will certainly negotiate on American behalf that neither Canada nor Mexico will fire too many white phosphorus hate-fireworks into the densely populated American stripes and turn them into ashtrays.

    Overt displays of misplaced patriotism with the old gory American flag will not be tolerated and might be avenged by torturous waterboarding, because the country is no longer theirs. Only flags wrapped around XX-Tall dunce hats of a new design with two stars for the two American stripes will be permitted! As a symbol the two-star flag represents lost sovereignty of the Americans run off their former country – not unlike American Indians who were concentrated at gunpoint into reservations in the awful history of America!

    Have you heard? Everyone’s favorite duo of America-stripes has gotten new names! Giving way to America’s love for acronyms, ugly U.S.A. has been stripped down and re-initialized into N.A.S.T.Y.-A.S.S.: “Northern American Stripe Territory” and “American Southern Stripe”. The new America – the can’t-do nation!

    In my what-if story of a world seeking justice, a shove to history has been made, bringing an end to pro-American propaganda from every movie screen: A preventive regime change for the U.S., a new drawn map, a new designed flag and a new name for America! Let’s be a bit recession-tightfisted and make the Americans re-use the evil lyrics of their old national anthem. Why? Because the ’star-spangled banner’ is all about bombs and war and bloodshed – values commonly associated with Americans!

    No more revisionist interpretations of American history necessary! That‘s the end of American history as the world has known it – built on a foundation of native American gravestones! No more violent demonstrations with burning U.S. flags and signs reading “Death to America!” Two-star dunce hats and T-shirts with N.A.S.T.Y.-A.S.S. America imprints will be the new fashion manifestation at demonstrations around the globe, bringing disgrace and shame to the ass-lickers in America!

    And what will happen to the worldwide victims of American aggression and Ponzi-debt? The U.N. will declare to seize power in America, exert its claim to rule America and will entitle the victims to claim ownership of America. The victims are promised by the U.N. to live happily forever on their free land for the taking – in the apartments, houses and backyards of the expelled Americans!

    The new owners of America will also build new settlements on hilltops with million dollar views – inside the American stripes of course! The new
    stripe-settlers are entitled by the U.N. to 80% of the drinking water in the A.S.S., the arid American Southern Stripe – the remaining 20% water shall trickle down to the Stripe-Americans! Americans take notice: criticizing the expanding settlements into the American stripes will not be helpful at all if the expelled Stripe-Americans fantasize about a peace process with the new owners of America!

    Every journey begins with the first step! It’s going to be a long march through poverty and misery into the sorrow of the American-Stripes, comparable to Mao Tse Tung’s long march into the caves of Northern China in the 1940s! But let’s come back to Iran and Palestine and America’s unsurpassed prejudice and its foul spittle spraying the air with white phosphorous hate!

    I am trained in the analysis of arcane satellite images! I am an Enemy of the State! I have been a long-term illegal alien on American soil! I am an investigative citizen-journalist with an accidental C.I.A. background! I am pulling a chair up to a global debate!

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