9.14.2012

Back at it in Gaziantep

So I thought my first blog after vacation was going to be a beautiful travelogue to you all where I wold re-live my awesome summer on the road in Turkey and Greece as I recount my experiences. Here is the unexpected result...

Last night I plopped down on my lawn chair on my deck after my first week back at work which, by the way, was awesome! Along with a new year comes a new contract and new job responsibilities including teaching in the faculty and teacher training! I feel very good about where this year is headed and my decision to remain in 'quaint' Gaziantep. I mean, after all, I am in the Cradle of Civilization (which I never forget and always remind you guys)- which is like an extended historical orgasm of sorts for any respectable archaeologist... Nuff said.

Feeling smug indeed I was. Crack open the (first) beer and turn on the computer. Twitterverse explodes with accounts of the US Embassy in Tunis on fire, as well as the International American School next door. I have friends/acquaintances that work/worked at both places. My entire night took on a different direction than first intended- except for the beer that is.

I feel compelled to discuss this, or at least think it out myself and write my thoughts. It's been an intense week in this part of the world. I honestly don't even know where to start, but I suspect that any of you that follow my blog know exactly what is up in the world as well as what's inside my mind...

Fast-forward rewind back to Tuesday night in Bengazi, Libya. US Ambassador Chris Stevens and other local and foreign staff perish in a fire from smoke inhalation due to an organized insurgent attack, or as others think from an angry mob attack that escalated due to a little known film, obscure really until now that is, that mocks Islam and their prophet. This film in question was made by an elusive person who has claimed to be both Israeli-American and now appears to be an Egyptian Coptic Christian. Along with this comes a few aliases as well. Whatever, the guy is a douchebag- freedom of speech rights to hide behind notwithstanding...

An even larger douchebag is this infamous Florida pastor who made news in 2010 for wanting to burn the Koran publicly. His congregation did succeed in doing it (the act) later in the year, and got a few Americans in Afghanistan killed in the process. Everybody wants to be a superstar in America...

So this douche is back in the news again in this debacle. He is found to be promoting this film- that never made it to theatres, or the dusty shelves of the dinosaur known as DVD shops. It went straight to... wait for it... YouTube- of course.

Somehow the entire thing goes viral last week, and ensuing rioting blankets cities across the MENA and Middle East. Now I don't really want to delve too deep into this, but peeps are getting killed over this. Yes there are freedom of speech rights in America, and yes this film (I viewed the 13-minute short) is a disgrace. In m opinion it was made solely to incite hate against Muslims. Senseless. And what a bunch of coward to hide behind freedom of speech. Is is freedom of speech when you make a movie with a cast and then after production dub over lines and insert religious ridicule and offense? These filmmakers, etc., have deceived their cast, as well as put their lives in danger.

Countless harm has been done here over this 'freedom of expression.' Many more will die because of this episode. This is obvious just by turning on our computers the past few days. In my view, the pastor should be tried for treason. He is an enemy of the state. He is a Christian terrorist. The filmmakers/producers have now managed to get an American Ambassador and some of his staff killed- regardless of if it is directly from this movie, or unrelated orchestrated armed insurgents. There is a thing known as copycats, and when something big happens, like this, cancer explodes. Cancer is exploding everywhere right now.

So okay, as 'free' Americans we can express ourselves without fear of punishment (can we?), but where religion is involved, any religion, it just smacks bad judgment. Freedom of speech rights do not extend worldwide and yes people react violently too. Insulting one's religion is a fine line to tread and all bets are off in this department as evidenced by not only this past week's events, but the worldwide deadly speedball of politics/economics/religion. Overdose is most always the result of a lethal speedball... Folks we have reached overdose.

So how do WE, people of all nations/religions, cure this cancer?

I am reminded of my time in Egypt last year. I traveled there with an Iranian colleague of mine. People asked us the requisite question, "Where are you from?" As we both would respond, many would then say, "How can an American and an Iranian be friends? Your countries hate each other." They did not ask us mockingly. They were genuinely curious. You know, people are people. Governments are governments. People differ from government entities too.

Recently the creators of South Park helped develop a Broadway musical hit, "The Book of Mormon."

http://www.bookofmormonbroadway.com/home.php

 Now, it likely met some negative responses, but I don't recall reading about any religious altercations. If there was/is then I'm sure someone will send me the link.

Additionally, on facebook I follow a page that's a comic and entitled something like "coffee with Jesus". It is simple, light-hearted and funny and usually centered around some philosophical conversation between a dude and Jesus while drinking coffee. Now, to me this is harmless but perhaps not to everybody. Religious tolerance/intolerance- this is the thing, to me. Everybody has different ideas about what is what; acceptable, righteous, blasphemous, harmless etc.- even within the same religious sect. All this going on in the world today- how will it all be solved when it comes down to religions? We all have different ideas about our own as well as other religions. Politics makes it incredibly difficult to develop a care-all for this.

My night continued as if in a drug-induced frenzy. I couldn't shoot myself up with enough news reports of the rioting spreading across the above-mentioned region. As well many universities in America were shut down due to called in bomb threats over this. The cancerous tumor was spreading; to the German embassy in Sudan, to an American embassy in India, to Yemen, to Egypt, etc. And to Tunis... this hits me hard. Very hard.

Anyway, my head hurts now and it's time for some coffee and to wake up properly. Right now I'm feeling world weary. I feel honored my circle of friends/family includes people from all faiths, as well as the faithless.

Peace to all