Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Terrorism on the March as Arnold Hails Bush

(From Pacific News Service)


EDITOR’S NOTE: While his television shows Arnold Schwarzenegger revving up the crowd at the GOP convention, PNS contributor Andrew Gauldin finds the headlines scrolling across his computer monitor from around the world tell a different story. Gauldin is a freelance writer living in Oakland, Calif.


California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger made me laugh. But as Republicans paraded their more moderate big guns before America, on the national stage of their convention, headlines across my computer screen took me to Russia, Israel and Iraq. Images of bloodshed fueled by revenge and desperation ruined my morning tea.

After nearly six months of relative peace in the Middle East, a suicide bomber struck in the city of Beersheba. The Hamas group claimed responsibility for the attack in revenge for the killing of their leaders earlier this year. This incident, I felt, would spark the next wave of violence in that longstanding conflict.

A click of the mouse took me to Moscow, where a female suicide bomber had blown herself up near a Metro station filled with commuters. Less than a week earlier two jetliners were apparently bombed out of the skies above Russia.

I turned my computer off and walked towards my local coffee shop, hoping the morning air would relieve the knots forming in my stomach. At the shop, I overheard a man asking another man about the 12 Nepalese workers shot in the back in Iraq. I walked away without ordering my regular chai tea with soy milk. The tea usually calmed my nerves and centered me, but the morning news was giving me acute indigestion.

It wasn’t until later, when Mister Universe took the stage at the GOP convention, that my sour day was soothed by lightly sweet comedy. A small smile formed on my face as our governor tickled the crowd with an Oscar-worthy performance and used one of his movie titles, “True Lies,” to depict the Democratic convention. I was actually amused as Schwarzenegger used the Letterman format of “You know you are a Republican when...” I found myself laughing as the phrase "Don’t be an economic girlie man" sailed through the airwaves in his Austrian accent.

But then the governor said, "If you play by the rules you can achieve anything" and your nationality, religion, ethnicity doesn’t matter. I smiled. I chuckled when he explained the genesis of his Republicanism. He said that after arriving in the country in 1968, he heard a Nixon speech and that made him want to be a Republican. I thought, what if he had heard a Black Panther, a Black Liberationist or a SNCC activist before they were silenced?

But the real humor that changed my ill feelings from the bombings came when I thought of what could await Schwarzenegger when he returned to California. What if the legislature gave undocumented immigrants the option to obtain a driver's license? How funny would it be to watch Mister Universe go against this bill while glorifying what the country has done for him as an immigrant. What Hollywood reference would he use against other immigrants seeking his same vision of the American dream?

In New York, the governor cracked the old line "I'll be back," but it did not work for me. I was trying to make sense of a violent world. I thought about the families in Israel, Russia and Nepal, who wouldn’t be able to laugh at any joke.

Our governor stated that America is the great idea that inspires the world. I agree, but I think how America has inspired the world is quite different from what he had in mind. Certainly, America isn’t responsible for all that is bad or good in the world, but it isn’t ridiculous to assume that our actions have inspired some people to take extreme actions against us.

I hope and pray that suicide bombers never hit our shores again, but I fear that our approach to global conflict will only increase our vulnerability at home. As I turned the television off and was left with my own thoughts, I wondered how I could act more effectively here in East Oakland, Calif. where I live, to address in some small way the violence that is spreading around the globe city by city.

Real global warming is not environmental, but the loss of humanity in people who act without hope. Be it East Oakland or Iraq, there has to be something that can be done to stop the destruction of innocent lives, families and communities.

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