Middle East studies in the News
Taking Everything on Blind Faith [incl. Rashid Khalidi]
by Wesley Pruden
This election will be remembered as the campaign that ignited a religious revival. Never have so many atheists, skeptics, agnostics, secularists, heretics, freethinkers and rationalists hit the sawdust trail to imbibe so much on blind faith, and to make it their religion. Eat your heart out, Billy Graham.
The Hyde Park messiah's flock makes up a weird and unlikely congregation, ranging from the true believers on the left yearning for the Kool-Aid moment to mainstream white voters eager to shut their eyes, spin around twice, cross their hearts and hope to die, squeeze a rabbit's hind foot, throw the ivories over a shoulder, and audaciously hope for the best.
The most disappointed may be the Kool-Aid fans, who expect to be out of Iraq by Friday noon. Or the most disappointed may be the voters seduced from the mainstream, including the recovering conservatives who have persuaded themselves that the senator from Nairobi (or Jakarta or Honolulu or Chicago) doesn't really believe all that stuff he says about raising taxes, redistributing the wealth, apologizing to Europe and becoming good buddies with the radical Muslims eager to kill us and decapitate the culture and values of the West. They're convinced that once in the White House the messiah will cut loose the friends, mentors and allies he has collected over his 46 years and govern like the closet Ronald Reagan they know he really is. Such is true faith in the supernatural.
Nobody will be more disappointed than those who follow Mr. Obama because he's of a darker (barely) hue than the presidents on the paper money. The whites in the coalition of the credulous are counting on President Obama to put the politics of racial resentment behind us for good, to bring in the era of mellow feelings. He wants to give the world a Coke.
Blacks in the coalition expect to wake up Wednesday morning to find the sticky residue of slavery, segregation and discrimination to have been magically washed into the sea of forgetfulness. When it doesn't quite happen, the disappointment will become despair; Barack Obama as winner will be more disappointing than Barack Obama as loser.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson, stopped by a reporter last week in Evian, where he was taking the French waters, was asked whether an Obama victory would "close the chapter of black grievances linked to memories of slavery," and the Rev paused for a long time, no doubt seeing a vision of the lucrative race-hustling industry slipping away, and finally replied: "No, that chapter won't be closed."
The Rev does not speak for Mr. Obama, but the record is clear that he accurately reflects the hopes, fears and expectations of millions of black voters who tell the pollsters they're faithful to the messiah of Hyde Park. Their anger will be total when white voters who fully expect an Obama presidency to "close the chapter on black grievances" tell the still-aggrieved blacks to "sit down and shut up, what else could you want?" (This is how the elites think of the rest of us.)
Bitterness will be the portion of everyone, with the election results making a toxic sour mash of the politics of resentment. Mr. Obama can write about this in his third memoir, entitled "The Audacity of Hype."
Jewish voters, who polls show are breaking for Mr. Obama with only slightly less enthusiasm than black voters, are likely to take the hardest fall.
Jonathan Rosenblum, an Israeli author and columnist, asks in the Jerusalem Post, "Who says Jews are smart?" Arab-Americans, he notes, support Barack Obama in overwhelming numbers, and so do American Jews.
"One of these two groups," he says, "either does not care much about the Arab-Israeli conflict and/or is stupid. My money is on the Jews."
This is harsh, but the Israelis are entitled to their frustration. Some American Jews even argue that Israel's survival depends on retreating to its 1967 borders, lost to the Arabs when Israel didn't have the grace to lose a war imposed on them. (They couldn't have found anyone to surrender to, anyway.)
Now, Israel faces the nuclear threat in Iran. Mr. Obama thinks he can tame Mahmoud Ahmadinejad by making him a buddy, and would sanction Iran only if a couple of other buddies, China and Russia, join him. He's counting on these buddies to renounce who they are, just as millions of American voters expect him once in office to renounce who he is.
His old buddies in Hyde Park - the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, William Ayers, Louis Farrakhan, Rashid Khalidi and others - are sure he's one of them. But not to worry. Laissez les bons temps rouler! (We must be ready with our French.) Let the good times roll.
Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Times.Note: Articles listed under "Middle East studies in the News" provide information on current developments concerning Middle East studies on North American campuses. These reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch and do not necessarily correspond to Campus Watch's critique.
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