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Roger Cohen has a well-thought out, balanced Op-Ed in the NYT today.  He discusses the context of  the “Harvest of Anger” being reaped right now: the discontent that rises out of deepening economic inequality, the souring of the American Promise, the easy pickin’s for anyone with an agenda to sell (Here’s looking at you, Rev. Jones). It’s the sanest response to the misdirected rhetoric today, published in a major newspaper.

But this is not about Roger Cohen or his Op-Ed. This is about Dr. Bob in the Bronx, the guy who wrote the third comment from the top. Quoted in full below:

I really don’t want to read another comparison between Christian nuns building a convent near Auschwitz. There is no parallel here whatsoever. The collapse of the WTC towers was horrible but not on the scale of the extermination of a people. Auschwitz truly is hallowed ground. Two blocks from the WTC is not hallowed ground. With bars and Burger Kings and seedy buildings like the Burlington Coat Building it is part of the neighborhood that abuts hallowed group. It was disappointing to read that the ADL would not support the mosque and cultural center and equally disappointing to read that Mr. Cohen has to resort to such tired arguments. Would a church or synagogue in that location even raise an eyebrow? I think not. Let’s move on to more important things and revel in the typical, wonderful diversity that a proper mosque in that neighborhood would signify. This is New York. The greatest city in the world. Let’s prove that we deserve that accolade.

The American Promise might be soured, but it is still potent. Personally, the United States holds a certain hope for me. Not because of the realities it delivers– which are lacking for those born here as well as those who arrive from elsewhere and make this land their own– but because of the independent, individual voices here that still speak out against bigotry and manipulation of their own volition. The people and groups who do not buy into every story they are fed. The people who do not judge any one religion, appearance, race or color by the crimes of a few.

Where I come from, communal/religious riots and anger happen often enough. To the point where Bollywood makes movies about them, which you have to admit is pretty mainstream. I’m used to seeing that harvest of anger being sown, reaped and threshed because in India, like so many countries around the world, political rhetoric instead of informed voter choice decides who gets the power.

It is my one hope that people here in the United States do not go down that road.

If you’d like to discuss/hear more about this and other related peace & security issues, check out this great event happening at the Jewish Community Center in Washington D.C. tomorrow and show up with a friend.

PS: Dr. Bob in the Bronx, if you read this please do get in touch. We want to give you a hug.

Peace is something that mankind has strived for since our ancestors left the swamps and began to build civilizations. It is what prompted pilgrims to leave Europe in hopes for a new start and huddled masses to chance everything for something better. It is the creed of our United Nations and it is a value in the lives of every American. But the question is how do we find the road to peace? Is it the UN? Is it through our Government? Is it in academia, the Peace Corps, churches, special panels, or non-profits? The road to peace is simpler than we think; it is You and I, who believe that peace comes when individuals gather for a greater cause than themselves.  We believe that peace is something that is a right to all. You and I know (and do not merely believe) that life is so dear and peace so sweet as to be purchased at chains of slavery to others. Peace is something that must be given and must be able to live on its own – and that is where we come in. Individuals are the key to the road to peace.

The road to peace is long and at times it seems difficult, but it is the drive of individuals pushing forward, that the cause is greater than their self.  There are American civilians in Afghanistan working at the International School of Kabul, www.iskafghan.org , working to help give a better education to the future of that country and through that education, build peace.  I have the honor of friendship with one of the people there who has shared with me the following:

“I enjoy my work well enough and God proves Himself faithful time and time again. Really to watch God love these people who have known nothing but war and death for generations is incredible and humbling. Some of our students lost families to assassination. The pain in their eyes is so terrible yet they come to school because there is peace and the freedom to find joy. It’s such a privilege to witness God’s unwavering love through pain and tears. The horribleness that we do seldom see seems insignificant to what we see every day….hope for Afghanistan.”

I have also had the privilege to know a friend that attends a church from Massachusetts who adopted a town in South America to build a school and a better future for its people.  It is here that the road to peace is built, through the work of individual people. Read the rest of this entry »

This post continues the conversation in response to my post “Offshore Oil Drilling, Energy Independence, and America’s Security” from April 7th, 2010.

Now let’s set the record straight. While it may be true that Canada and Mexico are the top exporters of oil to the US (when it is broken down by nation), these nations are insignificant when it comes to regions and the greater oil market. Canada and Mexico together are insignificant to the oil market because they do not affect the price of the oil market. This market is what affects our own economy and threatens the security of our nation, creating unwanted entanglements that flow deeper than most realize.

The reality is that the oil market is like any other market in an economy – it fluctuates. But this market is controlled by an exclusive group of nations mainly in the Middle East – the ones who have the most oil – known as OPEC. Neither Canada nor Mexico are card-carrying members, by the way.

Now here is the important thing: in 1945 FDR makes an agreement with Saudi Arabia to secure energy reserves for future interests. From that point on, America has had a vested interest in the Middle East.

Read the rest of this entry »


It had started off simple enough.

Two weeks ago, still relatively new in my position as a Northeast Regional Coordinator with AIDemocracy, I spent a few hours trawling through Social Edge and twitter. With an eye on global development and security, my goal was to discover what was being done already in the non-profit world, who was doing it best and who among these folk were the most open to collaboration.

I made a number of new friends: the people at Acumen Fund, Water Charity (not to be confused with charity:water), Be Unreasonable, Sangam India, CORD and Open Society Institute were fantastic right off the bat– They were engaging, interested and human. It was like a Utopian first day at school.

In the context of my new job and projects I had in mind, I needed to know what was being done in terms of technology support for non-profit outreach and education services. One name that came up regularly was Ken Banks, founder of Kiwanja.net

I had heard of Kiwanja in passing before, but didn’t know much about it’s main project FrontlineSMS, otherwise known as \o/ (Which, btw, is a design based on this fantastic visual here).

I wasn’t sure what to expect. Before this Saturday, I had no idea who Ken Banks is as a person, and was as wary as a product of post-post-colonialism can be of anybody who does “non-profit work” in “Africa”. I was afraid I might run into yet another individual who’s working to “save Africa” just because that’s what Bono, the UN and everyone else is talking about right now.

[And if this is something that bothers you, Aid Watch has a great post on the issue here.]

I sent an email to Ken, one of those self-introduction/basic outline of project/can we chat sometime emails. You must remember that I moonlight as a writer: after all my experiences writing lit mag queries, I was prepared to face rejection or silence.

Read the rest of this entry »

A guest post by Patrick Cox, Global Peace & Security Advocate, University of Dallas, TX

When I had inquired into participating in my university’s International Day Festival, I discovered from the Office of International Student Services that I might very well be the only Persian on our small, private liberal arts university campus. I have yet to come across anyone else from a Persian background, so I guess my university has half of a Persian. Located near the Dallas Cowboys’ Texas Stadium in the suburb of Irving, the University of Dallas is a far cry from the consciously cosmopolitan atmosphere that I had been accustomed to at Boston University in my undergraduate years.

Held every spring in the center of campus, the International Day Festival is a meeting of cultures and a chance for members of the university community to explore other countries and their cultures and ethnic foods. This year, the Festival boasted booths with student representatives from Thailand, Latin America, Africa, India, the Arab World, and more, and it happened to fall on the day before Norouz, the Persian New Year. So, on March 19th, I packed my car with books on Iran, my laptop, an Iranian flag, Persian sweets, handcrafts, artwork, and other eye-catchers for the booth and headed to campus.

Read the rest of this entry »

Guest post from Karen Jernigan:

The situation in Israel/Palestine today has become a mainstream media target.  With Hillary Clinton’s recent visit to Gaza and the announcement of new U.S. policy to give $900m in Gaza reconstruction aid verses the $300m to Israel, America is watching and waiting to see how this policy shift may help to promote President Obama’s commitment to fair representation and multilateralism.

At The University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Affairs, a film screening and discussion of the American Media Foundation’s feature, “Peace, Propaganda and the Promised Land,” led to a debate of the current administration’s dealings with regard to the recent Gaza incursion.  It has been obvious that American media has sought to protect U.S. ally, Israel, in covering the situation from a pro-Israeli stance.  In the film, Noam Chomsky and other notable scholars and media representatives relay the issues of linguistics and choice clips that our media utilizes to capture and frame the situation in Israel/Palestine.  Here at DU, professors Nader Hashemi and Mary Morris agreed on the fact that there is not a strong Arab representation in America or in Palestine for the Palestinians.  This allows for American media to convey the situation as they have.  Additionally, this film was produced in 2004, Israel is our nation’s strongest ally, and since 2004, mainstream news networks have sought to communicate a much more fair documentation of the conflict.

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