Move Over Fukuyama: Another Academic Annoys Dani California

I disagree with this op-ed by Bernard Lewis, a professor at Princeton University. The piece, sensationalistically titled "Was Osama Right?" begins by implying that the US response to the Arab world is passive, or even wimpy:

"If you did anything to annoy the Russians, punishment would be swift and dire. If you said or did anything against the Americans, not only would there be no punishment; there might even be some possibility of reward, as the usual anxious procession of diplomats and politicians, journalists and scholars and miscellaneous others came with their usual pleading inquiries: "What have we done to offend you? What can we do to put it right?"

I would say simultaneously occupying Iraq and Afghanistan can be called a lot of bad things, but implying wimpiness? Further, Lewis ignores the idea that Arab countries, who are both threatened by US hegemony as well as capitalism, may just actually relate (or at least they could relate more, relative to US capitalism) to Soviet socialism. For example, several Arab countries have had their own socialist movements. Even though theocracy and religious fundamentalism can clash with the secular slant of socialism, I would guess that Arab governments and citizens can nonetheless identify with socialism's sense of community and obligation to something larger than yourself, whether that be God, the proletariat, or a governing entity.

I'm annoyed that Lewis, who has written extensively on the Middle East, has yet to understand basic, elementary things about Middle Eastern culture. That is what happens when you haven't had hands on professional experience in your field since the second World War, I suppose. It is frightening that someone with so little experience in that region is so well-heeded by the Bush administration.

I certainly don't mean to slam academia and I'm not a university hater. But as someone who has a love for teaching and would love to be a professor someday, I strongly feel that professors have an obligation to their students to back up their opinions with first-hand experience. And if they don't have any of that, then maybe they should stick to the textbook lesson plan, or at least start their opinions with some sort of disclaimer.

The two academics I've slammed in this blog (
see my Fukuyama post) have both been neo-conservatives, but I really don't think the liberal side is much better. I'll never forget sitting in my Middle East Politics class at Berkeley, as our guest lecturer from the University of Haifa told us that Israelis are inherently violent and aggressive people. I can't describe how it felt to sit in that class, wholeheartedly putting my learning experience in the hands of my professors, only to get that in return.


Scoobie in DC

It's been absolutely fabulous to have little sis here with me. Here's Scoobie's take on her first day in DC: seeing the Capitol (in her words, "a beacon of democracy"), her love affair with honest Abe, getting hit on by a security guard and more:

Hi All,
just wanted to let you know that I got to DC perfectly intact. Dani is doing great, her apartment is the coolest place I have ever been and we are having an awesome time!

...Washington DC is a beautiful and lively city with a culture of its own. I feel so lucky that I got to go through it alone today and see so many interesting things. I woke up late (I am on Cali time) and met Dans and her coworker for lunch. Then the sightseeing began. I LOVE sightseeing. I went to the national archives where I saw the constitution, magna carta, declaration of independence, emancipation proclamation, etc, etc and watched a video about how the archives protect our democracy because they give everyone access to government documents so we can hold the government accountable. the proof that made the holocaust case where survivors and their heirs were given their money from Swiss bank accounts was found in the archives, they actually had Swiss bank records and lists of jewish names! There was also an exhibit on presidential education ("from schoolhouse to white house" very corny). but I saw a love letter from barbara bush to george HW accepting his invitation to a college dance. It was cute. I saw nixon's violin, clinton's high school portrait, and JFK's report card. It was all very funny.

Then I went to a sculpture garden and down to the Mall. I was so exhausted at that point from the heat and all the walking, that I got a hagen daz bar and sat under a shady tree for a good while. I "haal'd" big time. (by the way, I have pictures of everything--even that!!!). I went to a gorgeous botanical garden and took pictures of the most beautiful and exotic orchids I have ever seen and almost got arrested when the security guard had to ask me to leave 3 times because they were closing. Then he hit on me. That finally got me out of there.

After that, I hiked up capital hill. Up close, the capital building is amazingly gorgeous and majestic. I thought about all the laws and history that were made at that spot. I love US history. nerdy, I know).

Then I trekked to the metro to meet Dani for dinner. We went to a cute bistro with one of her friends, sat outside because the weather is fabulous now and had margaritas. yum. We rested for a while, then took a night tour of the monuments. Around the monuments, there are lots of pools and lights which make everything look very romantic (oooh ahhh)... I am so fascinated by Abraham Lincoln, from both the historical and psychological perspective. He was a cool dude and I was excited to see the monument dedicating to honoring him. We also saw the vietnam and WWII memorials and the washington monument which is ENORMOUS....

I am so sticky (DC was built on a swamp, you know) so I have to shower up and get to bed. This was only day 1. I love being a tourist.


Yay Negs!

Check out this KQED Forum feature on Iranian Alternative Culture, created and produced by my very own Negar! I'm so proud of my girl!


It is Not Necessary

It is not necessary to whistle

To be alone,To live in the dark.

Out in the crowd, under the wide sky,

We remember our separate selves,

The intimate self, the naked self,

The only self who knows how the nails

Who knows how his own silence is made

And his own poor words.

There is a public Pedro,

Seen in the light, an adequate Bernice,

But inside,

Underneath age and clothing,

We still don't have a name,

We are quite different.

Eyes don't close only in order to sleep,

But so as not to see the same sky.

We soon grow tired,

And as if they were sounding the bell

To call us to school,

We return to the hidden flower,

To the bone, the half-hidden root,

And there we suddenly are,

We are the pure, forgotten self,

The true being

Within the four walls of our singular

Between the two points of living and dying.

~Pablo Neruda