As anyone paying attention will know, the election of Donald J. Trump to the U.S. Presidency has roused the political left to an extraordinary degree. The most recent hot-button issue, at least until Trump announces his pick for the Supreme Court this evening, has been his executive order to ban travelers to the United States from Syria and pause (for 120 days) travelers from six other majority Muslim countries, including Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Iran, Sudan, and Yemen. The order seems to target travelers from those countries seen as most problematic from the perspective of the U.S. government (e.g. civil wars, high levels of terrorism or Islamic extremism, Iran’s quarrels with the U.S., etc…).
Regardless of what partisans say on either side of the political isle, it’s a complex issue that needs serious consideration. Indeed, many are still debating the meaning and extent of the order.
I only have a few thoughts that I would like to lay out here, and realize this is by no means exhaustive analysis as far more has been written about the topic by others. Continue reading →
In the summer of 2016, during an academic exchange tripthat took me to the West Bank and Israel, I traveled with a small group of other academics affiliated with various universities. All of them had impressive backgrounds in their various disciplines and some of them were well traveled in the Middle East.
One of them was Dr. Jacek Lubecki, currently Associate Professor of Political Science and Director of the Center for International Studies at Georgia Southern University, and former Coordinator of International and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (2005 to 2012). During the course of our travels I became friends with Jacek, who obviously has a wealth of experiences due to extensive international travels. Because of his education, background, sense of humor, and warm personality, Jacek is also a great conversationalist, particularly during long trips from one region to another in the back of a cramped shuttle bus or (as I was fortunate to learn first hand) when sipping a beer in a smoke filled bar in Ramallah in the West Bank.
While Jacek has a lot of experience traveling and meeting with political leaders in the Middle East and elsewhere, I came to find out that the primary focus of his research is actually Eastern Europe, with an emphasis on Poland where he was born and raised, and its relationship to Russia, which obviously has had considerable influence in the region and is often a source of concern for Eastern European states. Continue reading →
For a long time, perhaps since shortly after World War II, it has become relatively common to label ones ideological or political opponents as “Hitler.” In U.S. political discourse in the 21st century, such a tactic has become particularly pronounced. All U.S. Presidents during this period, for example, have been called or compared to Hitler. Continue reading →
Much news has been made recently about recently released statistics by the Chicago Police Department, which shows that the United States’ third largest city had 762 homicides in 2016. The numbers are stunning, but even more so for one who had been actively following U.S. efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, which have consumed much of the nation’s focus for the last 15 years (since September 11, 2001).
I could not help but think of how homicide rates in Chicago might compare with U.S. combat related deaths in the nation’s two major recent (and seemingly ongoing) wars.
Above Image: A crowd of Black Muslims applaud during Elijah Muhammad’s annual Saviors’ Day message in Chicago in 1974.
In respond to my recently posting a story on Facebook about an ISIS supporter in Phoenix (apparently an African-American male who had converted to Islam) who was searching for a midnight mass he could attack over Christmas, a friend asked me the following question.
“Is there a concern that black Americans, who feel marginalized in society, will be a segment of the population ISIS may try to manipulate and recruit? The Nation of Islam is still very active in the US, estimates of around 20,000 or more followers. And while I can distinguish between the Nation and ISIS, I am concerned that in our current political and social climate more African American males will be led to believe they are not valued in Western society. We have the case you have posted here, I think there was a potential plot in Miami a few months ago. I just worry if we do not address the appeal of ISIS to a disenfranchised group of vulnerable Americans, we may see more and more cases of this.”
There are many issues to consider here and I admit plainly that I am no expert on the Nation of Islam, how it indoctrinates its adherents, and the impact of black militancy or black nationalism ideology in the production of terrorists. As a result, let me address some of these points in more general terms and then tentatively theorize a bit about the details.
Above Image: Trevisani’s depiction (c. 1722) of the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist.
*What follows is a brief selection from my dissertation that otherwise looked at warrior manliness and crusading. This is taken from an chapter that considered early Christian views of sexuality and how those views later influenced the way medieval clerics judged Christian warriors on the same topic. Moreover, I’ve had students from Protestant or secular backgrounds (or sometimes even Catholic or Orthodox backgrounds) curious about the Christian roots of the modern practice of celibacy among Catholic priests or Orthodox monks and bishops, and so I typically provide some of this information as a starting point for their further exploration of the issue.
In contrast to Roman societal norms of the time (with the exception of some philosophical groups like the Stoics), which in part defined masculinity by sexual aggression and playing the active, rather than passive, role during sexual activity, early Christians rejected such popular markers of masculine identity by pointing to Jesus as having never married and having remained continent throughout his life.That Jesus was both celibate (unmarried) and abstinent is not surprising in light of the Jewish influenced environment from which he is believed to have emerged. Near the Dead Sea, large communities of abstinent ascetic males are known to have preached repentance to nearby cities in a way similar to their better known contemporary, John the Baptist. While Jesus never preached the abolition of marriage, his followers often interpreted his view of the married life as a hindrance to the highest levels of spiritual commitment, as he called on his followers to abandon their families to follow him.
Many are only now starting to become aware of Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis, as his selection as Secretary of Defense (pending approval of a waiver of the National Security Act of 1947) has piqued the interest of anyone paying attention to the news. Yet Marines have been broadly aware of him for many years as Mattis served in the Marine Corps from 1969 to 2013. Indeed, Mattis has developed an almost cult like following among many Marines, particularly among those who served under him in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
For years now, I have seen my Marine friends posting comments Mattis on social media and hearing all sorts of stories about Mattis’ bravado. I recall once having lunch a few years ago with an old Marine friend, Christopher LaVigne, with whom I had recently reconnected. I recall that at one point in our conversation, Chris, a big 6 foot 3-inch-tall former Marine Staff Sgt. who has worked as a trucker for the last 20 years, started talking about Mattis, and quoting him, even pulling up quotations on his smart phone to show to me. I recall thinking how if a former Marine, twenty years removed from the Marine Corps, saw Mattis in such affectionate terms, it suggested a lot about the impact Mattis had on the psyche of the Marine Corps more broadly, as his legend has only grown in recent years since his retirement. Continue reading →