Its been an up-and-down weekend, both in my own life (I was meant to spend the weekend at a family wedding in Vermont, but thanks to a trifecta of flight cancellations, spent a good chunk of it in the airport without actually getting anywhere, bah humbug) and in Lebanon’s. We cheered the removal of all the party posters and flags that started the weekend – cheered, and wished that we were there to see the removal (and the change in street feeling) first hand.
And this morning the cheers stopped when I sleepily turned on my laptop to read the news over breakfast.
At first I didn’t quite believe it. I saw “Deadly blast rocks Lebanese city” on the BBC news site and thought: there’s something wrong with the BBC today. Its broadcasting old news – this bombing happened in August.
But it didn’t. I’m so sorry for the people of Tripoli, who already face the challenges of deep poverty and political powerlessness. And I am terribly sorry for the Army, whose soldiers and commanders do not need these terrorist attacks when they are trying to build a strong institution for all Lebanese to be proud of.
This weekend also brought a funny Iowa connection to my Lebanon experience. When I clicked on the “Letters to the Editor” section of Saturday’s Daily Star, I found one that mentioned a familiar newspaper:
I love that someone with such a typically Scandinavian name (which is more typical of Minnesotans than Iowans, but there is a lot of overlap) can read a Lebanese paper, thanks to the Internet.
Mr. Johnson’s letter prompted me to return to the Des Moines Register‘s own website, where I found a few more reader responses to the paper’s decision to include copies of Obsession in its Sunday issue.
This letter appeared just yesterday – a happy sign that the debate continues:
We received a copy of a right-wing terror propaganda DVD bundled into our Sept. 14 Sunday Register, “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West.” I checked out the distributor, the Clarion Fund, and found that it is a New York-based group, an outfit that claims a 501c(3) nonprofit status despite an article recently on its Web site, since removed, that backed Republican presidential candidate John McCain.
We wondered when the scare tactics of the 2004 campaign would return. To coincide with Sept. 11, 28 million copies of the 60-minute film went out bundled with the ads in 70 newspapers in 14 swing states, including Iowa. First shown on Fox News during the 2006 mid-term elections and on college campuses, the production shows a long series of unsubstantiated experts equating radical Muslim movements with the German Nazis.
Despite two mild verbal disclaimers that not all Muslims are radical, there were two printed and verbal “quotes” about Muslim radicals planning to eventually occupy the White House. This is a not-so-subtle tie-in to the ideas behind the hate e-mail frequently passed along over the Internet this past year depicting Barack Obama as a Muslim, along with other supposedly despicable traits.
I would have thought the Register knew better than to pass along such drivel.
– Joann Estle, Washington
(It appeared with another letter, whose writer had a very different opinion. Gerald Haas of Alba wrote: The DVD included in the Register Sept. 14 provides insight into radical Islam that is lacking in the mainstream media. It is to our peril that we do not understand the threat before us. Thank you for providing this. I disagree with Mr. Haas wholeheartedly, but I appreciate his decision to write a professional letter that does not describe all Muslims as terrorists, backwards, or children of Satan, as some of the reader comments have done.)
This letter appeared in last Friday’s paper:
The wisdom of Jesus should guide us when he says, “Fear not! Do not be afraid.”
It is when we are afraid that we make irrational and tragic decisions such as the war in Iraq. The DVD recently distributed inside the Register, “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West,” seeks to foment fear and cause us to make electoral decisions based on that fear.
The Clarion Fund, which financed the DVD, seems to be a reincarnation of the Swift Boat hate, fear and lies campaign.
Equating Islam with radicalism is no more rational than equating Christianity with torture because some of its adherents have engaged in those practices.
– Cora Bartemes, Urbandale
Bartemes’ letter has been up long enough to have attracted reader comments – almost 60 when I last checked. Some are thoughtful comments by people wrestling with their feelings about ‘others’ in the world, and some are, er, not.
I’ll spare you the truly bigoted anti-Islam and anti-Christianity barbs and just give you a sample of the goofier comments:
From a reader who obviously appreciated neither the DVD nor Bartemes’ invocation of Christ: Religion is a distraction to really enjoying life. Plus I didn’t waste my 75 cents on this crappy paper.
From another reader who would have liked a free copy, “crappy” or no: I guess the hate group who put it out is cheap. I didn’t get it in my paper, just 70 miles out of Des Moines.
And from one reader to another, in a charming display of mature conversation: I suggest you adjust your meds.
I laughed when I read that comment, but today I am also thinking of the people of Tripoli (as well as the people of Damascus), and hoping that they find comfort despite the brutality of this weekend’s bombs.