We're all international now.

From international to local. From political to poetical.

I may have mentioned that I am a political scientist by profession. That does not mean that I am a politician, but one who studies and explores political dynamics. As an American government instructor, I have always urged my students to take what is going on in the world and look for what it reflects for us locally, here; whether it may mean personally or in terms of local politics. 

We know that it is an election year and international politics is heavily reflected in campaigning strategies. Why? Well, because the president represents us abroad. Where as, local (whether state, national, or local) politics is determined by our more easily accessible representatives. So, now that I have drawn up the basics, what is going on in the world, and what does it mean for us locally? 

Recently, a lot has been going on. Yes, I know, an obvious statement. But I wasn't sure how else to state it. I will be writing this post on the "Clash of Civilizations" thesis as postulated by Samuel Huntington. Essentially, he argues that civilizations will clash, spurring heightened tensions. One incident is that of the killing of Ambassador Christopher Stevens, amongst others, in Benghazi, Libya. I will not go into detail about the events, because you could easily check out CNN, BBC, NPR, AlJazeera and a bunch of other news networks. 

What happened? Was this event a confirmation of the "Clash of Civilizations" thesis? 

There are few things to consider, before jumping right off the diving board and into the deep end.

1) When exploring the realities of the world, us in America, we live an extremely different lifestyle. One that is, for the most part, secure, comfortable, and a bit more luxorious than other nations. We think we know what is going on in the world because of the news, but viewing on a news networking is not the same as living in those conditions. 

2) Much of the protest and the anti-American rhetoric is coming from countries that are undergoing extreme transitions. Libya just emerged out of a violent revolution. Egypt, a more moderate revolution. But ultimately, these are all countries that experienced a history of oppression, first through the colonial enterprise and then by their own dictators. 

3) In America, we see Freedom of Speech as an individualistic right. This has its own implications. Abroad, basic rights can be easily a group or nation right. Therefore, in order to sustain a balance, Freedom of Speech is acceptable in so far as it protects the group. Is this concept so unbelievable in America? No, not really. I mean, according to the famous Schenck v. US case, Justice Holmes argued that Freedom of Speech can be restricted in order to protect the group from unnecessary, such as "shouting fire in a crowded theater" may lead to dangerous chaos. 

3.5) Therefore, this film serves as a provocateur, inciting a reaction similar to that in which Justice Holmes had stated in 1919. I will not justify the reactions that people all over the world had. No, murder and violence are unforgivable. However, I will also add that such a film sought to provoke and incite conflict... It was not merely an act of Free Speech, it, without a doubt, was a meant to stimulate anger. 

4) Had no one reacted to this film, it would have had no hits on youtube. No recognition at all. In fact, I had never heard of this film until after the murder of Ambassador Christopher Stevens. It would have been a mere blimp on a radar, in which was written off as a mistake. 

5) Binaries suck. Yes, binaries suck. What does that mean? The world view of us vs. them. Good vs. Bad. Victory vs. Failure. Action vs. Inaction. All of the above. For us, as Americans who live safely far from any line of fire, we tend to revert to these binaries. But this is problematic. The world is not clear cut, black and white. It is not a matter of yes and no. But a combination of all these things and everything in between. Yes, I sound cliche. But we need to understand the dynamics and reality of everything in between. 

I have a lot more to say... but I am going to bridge the gap between international conflicts and local issues. For the most part, Americans (my self included) are a loving people. We are warm, caring, and hopeful. We breath life into our worlds, despite the long hours at work and the constant drive to move forward. 

To be told, "Go back to your country" or be accused of being a terrorist.... that is heart breaking. As a Muslim woman in America, it hurts. As an instructor on American Government  and a researcher in American politics, to be told that I am un-American, well that is a slap across the face. Essentially, I am being told the my whole life has been a lie. 

But what is amazing, is the power of the arts. This film, incited conflict.... it raised tensions internationally as well as locally. But the arts, well they have a power to sooth, to calm, to relax, to ease, to love. Yesterday, I went to an open mic at the Coffee Bean in Royal Oak... ready to perform a political poem. But the rest of the performers, they sang songs of hope, forgiveness, an eagerness to look to a better world. One woman in particular, she played a native America flute that was so enchanting, so ethereal, that any feeling of sadness about the condition of hate in the world, was released... and replaced with optimism, trust, and longing for internal peace. 

So, what is this post about. It is a call, for all local artists to put a piece together, and share it somewhere. Whether it is on this website or at an open mic. Yesterday, I ended up performing a poem about turning hopes and dreams into reality. The audience/participants were so moved that they asked me to become a regular, despite the distance I had to drive. 

This post is to request that our bloggers, readers, commentators, and artists breath in a feeling of hope, love, security, and contentment in our locals. To come together and ease any tensions. To seek out the truth within themselves and share a piece of themselves to thir loved ones. 

I am asking anyone who reads this... to Just Be. 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Brad Jensen September 22, 2012 at 03:29 PM
I think that there are many who would say that the September 11th attacks, the attacks in Libya, etc. have more to do with local politics in the Middle East than to do with whatever people in the US do. There will always be plenty of incidents for islamists to get upset about (do a Google search for "Burning the Koran" to see many examples). The question is why did they chose now and this video, especially when many people who are protesting have never seen it? It is being used to inflame the population - but by whom and for what purpose?
reem abou September 22, 2012 at 04:09 PM
I agree. I think the murders had nothing to do with the film. They were planned acts of hatred and violence, which I undoubtedly condemn. However, the protest by the masses (both the peaceful and non) , I believe, are in response of the film. People can be moved to responses without critically investigating the implications. Yes, it is unlikely that the people viewed the film, but people can be manipulated into escalated tensions, which is problematic. I hope a gealthy dialogue can be nurtured, without escalated tensions and conflict. In response to you question Bryan, I encourage my students to look beyond what is being said and discover the assumptions and impulses. Your assessment and connection of the events is exactly the kind of discussion I seek for my students. Different connections, perspectives, implications, and contexts to understanding issues. My approach has always been to nurture a discussion, not to direct it. Thank you for posting that video!! It was beautiful!!
reem abou September 22, 2012 at 04:11 PM
Healthy dialogue* Sorry, I was typing through my phone.
Bryan Bentley September 22, 2012 at 05:15 PM
Reem, In the end, I think it is a case of those searching for power. If those searching for that power can use this movie to enflame and excite their base supporters, then they have a bigger stake. Vladimir Putin whipped up anti American sentiment in Russia during the elections, and it worked for him quite well. I think you can make a case that this is in some ways the same kind of strategy, but with very different scenarios. While Putin was a national figure, Imams want their power base as well. it's just on a smaller scale. Not sure if I made my point clearly, but I tried... As far as your teaching style, I think it is a refreshing thing to know that there are teachers that nurture discussion, as opposed to directing it. Kudos to you for that. :)
Bryan Bentley September 22, 2012 at 05:35 PM
I believe that the Obama Administration is linking Ambassador Stevens death with the movie because if it wasn't a "spontaneous" attack based on the movie, it would reveal security weaknesses 50 days before the election, at a time when Obama was touting his foreign policy. It would also make his fundraising trip to Las Vegas the day after a planned terrorist attack look unpresidential. To put it bluntly, it suits his political narrative better to blame a movie, as opposed to have it look like the United States was asleep at the wheel on the 11th anniversary of 9/11. ...


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