FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Curse of the Muslim Seed

by JOHN GRANT

“Taft is a fathead.” (Theodore Roosevelt, 1912)

The anti-gay blog QueerHunt has just launched an expose that General David Petraeus is gay and has a secret Arab boyfriend he periodically meets in a Dubai hotel. The young man goes by the code name ‘awrence, an apparent reference to how T. E. Lawrence was known by his beloved Arab boys.

Just imagine the legs this will get in the blogosphere.

But wait. There is no blog called QueerHunt (that I know of) and I just batted out the lead paragraph above on my keyboard. I totally made it up. But in this freaky world we live in, it’s now a meme out there for any nutcase with a blog to run with.

My apologies to General Petraeus for abusing him to make a point, but there’s really no difference between this hypothetical scenario and the absurdity that 18% of Americans and 31% of Republicans think President Barack Obama is a Muslim.

You have a supposedly educated man like Franklin Graham suggesting Islam is passed via a man’s semen from one generation to another. Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell was asked on “Meet The Press” if he thought Obama was a Muslim, and, with a flick of his snake tongue, he said, “I take him at his word” that he is a Christian.

Truth seems to be no protection from the virulent nature of this stuff.

The fact the President’s middle name is Hussein may lead some people to assume he’s Muslim. But, hey, by the same token, Petraeus is a Greek name, and we know about those Greeks and how they liked to drop the soap in their ancient tiled bathhouses. The Greeks even had a centaur named Petraeus, a guy who had the head of a man and the fully-equipped hind quarters of a horse.

Give that some rope in the mental space and see where it can go.

The silly season in American politics

There is nothing new or novel about this kind of politics. American history is full of it. The human mind always seems to prefer a compelling fiction that reinforces its prejudices over a boring fact that challenges them.

In 1828, John Quincy Adams was smeared for being a “dandy” and having a “foreign wife.” She was British. He was accused of pimping his wife’s maid to a Russian when he had been an ambassador there. His opponent, Andrew Jackson was called a drunk and a bigamist; his wife was called “fat” and a “whore” guilty of “open and notorious lewdness.”

In 1856, slurs suggested bachelor James Buchanan was a homosexual. He was also accused of having failed in an attempt to hang himself, which, the story went, caused his head to tilt to the left, which it did. Andrew Jackson called him “Miss Nancy,” a name that stuck through his career.

The greatest example of turning circumstance into opportunity for slander may have been in the 1912 election when ex-President and then Progressive Party candidate Theodore Roosevelt was shot in the chest by a raving maniac while giving a speech in Milwaukee.

Roosevelt picked himself up and, to gasps from the audience, returned to the podium. He pulled his bloody speech from his chest pocket (it had apparently slowed the bullet down) and delivered his speech, ad-libbing added remarks blaming his loathsome opponents for trying to kill him.

George Smathers ran for Congress in Florida in the fifties and told crowds his opponent Claude Pepper was “practicing nepotism with his niece,” who worked for her uncle’s campaign.

Franklin Roosevelt may have summed up the business of smearing with this how-to formula, referring to opponent Wendell Wilkie’s mistress, saying, “We can’t have any of our principal speakers refer to it, but the people way down the line can get it out. …They can use the raw material. She’s an extremely attractive little tart.”

The life has gone out of this nastiness today. Everything now is based on avoiding “the slip” from the controlled image. Everything is about acting and not screwing up.

Xenophobia and American exceptionalism

So why do 18% of Americans and 31% of Republicans polled believe the cockamamie notion that Obama is a Muslim?

The answer may lie in the nature of the slurs that tend to get legs in dirty politics. There usually is some degree of truth in them, as there is a larger degree of fear or submerged hatred.

John Quincy Adams’ wife was “foreign-born,” and Claude Pepper was “practicing nepotism with his niece.” In the latter case, Smather’s genius was in manipulating the audience’s ignorance and fear of the incest taboo.

Jackson’s wife had indeed been married before and there was some legal glitch in the divorce that caused the Jacksons to undergo a second wedding ceremony. Thus, the bigamy charge. The woman who Jackson loved dearly was apparently not a skinny woman. As for Taft being a “fathead,” his head was indeed as “fat” as his famously huge ass.

James Buchanan was a life-long bachelor whose head tilted to the left because of some congenital disease. Tough guy Jackson was apparently repulsed by the sickly “Miss Nancy.”

So what reality is the Obama-is-a-Muslim slur rooted in?

Franklin’s Graham’s notion about the Muslim “seed” would seem to give it all away, by pointing an implicit finger at the fact the “seed” that conceived President Obama was from the dark continent of Africa and that the human source of that “seed” was indeed a Muslim, a current national boogieman. You can almost hear the Tarzan movie drums.

In the deep recesses of the national psyche, the delicacies of the US Constitution and citizenship laws don’t carry much weight. We’re talking primal, here. And if you doubt elections work on this level, ask Lee Atwater and Karl Rove. What matters is the heft of ideas in America’s history and how they can be manipulated deep in the minds of Americans.

In that realm it’s hard to ignore the fact that, national patriotic myth aside, two of the most powerful mass psychological forces in American history have been western expansion and the enslavement of Africans — and that institution’s less-than-stellar aftermath.

Racism is a fundamental fuel for developing hatred of the enemy in wars; it was ever-present against the Japanese in the South Pacific, the Vietnamese and many others. On an abstract level, the twins of American Destiny and Exceptionalism have fueled and, then, justified incredible horrors in our history.

Whether we like it or not – and some do like it – this dark motivational impulse is deeply involved in the anti-Muslim hatred we see more and more of in America. That it rises in intensity as the war in Afghanistan becomes more controversial should surprise no one. It is central in the arrogant attitude that we have the right—some say the duty — to tell people in Afghanistan and Pakistan what they can and cannot do.

For those facile at manipulating these deep symbols, linking our half-African President to the “enemy” in the war on Islam is a real coup.

A “Muslim” President on the horns of a dilemma

The question is why doesn’t President Obama fight back?

The coding in the Obama-is-a-Muslim charge is tricky. On one hand, it is rooted in racism, specifically a fear of Africans and African-Americans – that dark foreign “seed.” While on the other hand, it’s saturated with xenophobia and the post-911 hatred of Islam.

Obama certainly has the stand-up chops to come out swinging against the Muslim slur against him. With a straight face, he could mourn how the “seed” that spawned Franklin Graham had been friendly to previous Christian Presidents. So how did Franklin veer so far from the DNA in his father’s “seed”? Then, on “Meet The Press,” he could say, “I love the people of Kentucky so much I’ll take Mitch McConnell at his word that he’s not the hind quarter of an entry in this year’s Kentucky Derby.”

His problem seems to be, to directly respond to those gleefully propagating the absurd slur would mean ultimately engaging the entire complex of racist and xenophobic fears underneath the slur. This would make life difficult for him, since he would, by natural extension, end up having to oppose the very post-9/11 stigmatization of Islam that sustains the Bush War On Terror he has fully assumed as his own.

So, he’s vague and “Clintonian” about it all. First, he supports the Manhattan Sufi cultural center – then he sounds as if he’s not so sure. He says he plans to withdraw troops from Afghanistan in July 2011, then he passively sits by as his commanding general tells everybody that’s not going to happen.

Making the Pentagon position even clearer, the retiring commandant of the Marine Corp just told reporters at a Pentagon briefing that the July 2011 withdrawal plan was a cynical sop to the American public weary over the war. He was actually quite positive on the feign, since a small, token withdrawal, “in terms of the enemy’s psyche,” would be a positive military move when the enemy realizes our military is going to be “still there hammering them” for years to come.

If Obama assertively used his bully pulpit to turn the egregiously un-just and superficially asinine slurs to his African descent and his father’s Muslim “seed” into a teachable moment, he would quickly find himself on a short and slippery slope to serious opposition to what many see as a massive, Pentagon-driven secret war against Muslim elements around the world.

Better to lay low in the Oval Office and let Biden handle Afghanistan.

JOHN GRANT is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, the new independent, collectively-owned, journalist-run online newspaper. For the rest of his work, and that of colleagues Dave Lindorff, Linn Washington and Charles Young, please go to: http://www.thiscantbehappening.net

JOHN GRANT is a member of ThisCantBeHappening!, the new independent, uncompromised, five-time Project Censored Award-winning online alternative newspaper. 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

February 22, 2017
Mike Whitney
Liberals Beware: Lie Down With Dogs, Get Up With Fleas
John Grant
On Killers and Bullshitters*
Peter Linebaugh
Catherine Despard, Abolitionist
Patrick Cockburn
The Bitter Battle for Mosul
Ted Rall
Sue the Bastards? It’s Harder Than You Think
Yoav Litvin
The Emergence of the Just Jew
Kim Scipes
Strategic Thinking and Organizing Resistance
Norman Pollack
Mar-a-Lago, Ideological Refuge: Berchtesgaden, II
Fred Donner
Nixon and the Chennault Affair: From Vietnam to Watergate
Carl Kandutsch
Podesta vs. Trump
Ike Nahem
To the Memory of Malcolm X: Fifty Years After His Assassination
Jesse Jackson
Trump’s Tough Talk Won’t Fix Chicago
Paul Donnelly
Betsy DeVos and the War on Public Education
Ebony Slaughter-Johnson
The End of an Alliance for Police Reform
Richard Lawless
Wall Street Demanded the Nuclear Option and the Congress Delivered
Liaquat Ali Khan
Yes, Real Donald Trump is a Muslim!
Ryan LaMothe
“Fire” and Free Speech
February 21, 2017
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Finance as Warfare: the IMF Lent to Greece Knowing It Could Never Pay Back Debt
CJ Hopkins
Goose-stepping Our Way Toward Pink Revolution
John Wight
Firestarter: the Unwelcome Return of Tony Blair
Roger Harris
Lenin Wins: Pink Tide Surges in Ecuador…For Now
Shepherd Bliss
Japanese American Internment Remembered, as Trump Rounds Up Immigrants
Boris Kagarlitsky
Trump and the Contradictions of Capitalism
Robert Fisk
The Perils of Trump Addiction
Deepak Tripathi
Theresa May: Walking the Kingdom Down a Dark Alley
Sarah Anderson
To Save Main Street, Tax Wall Street
Howard Lisnoff
Those Who Plan and Enjoy Murder
Franklin Lamb
The Life and Death Struggle of the Children of Syria
Binoy Kampmark
A Tale of Two Realities: Trump and Israel
Kim C. Domenico
Body and Soul: Becoming Men & Women in a Post-Gender Age
Mel Gurtov
Trump, Europe, and Chaos
Stephen Cooper
Steinbeck’s Road Map For Resisting Donald Trump
February 20, 2017
Bruce E. Levine
Humiliation Porn: Trump’s Gift to His Faithful…and Now the Blowback
Melvin Goodman
“Wag the Dog,” Revisited
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima: a Lurking Global Catastrophe?
David Smith-Ferri
Resistance and Resolve in Russia: Memorial HRC
Kenneth Surin
Global India?
Norman Pollack
Fascistization Crashing Down: Driving the Cleaver into Social Welfare
Patrick Cockburn
Trump v. the Media: a Fight to the Death
Susan Babbitt
Shooting Arrows at Heaven: Why is There Debate About Battle Imagery in Health?
Matt Peppe
New York Times Openly Promotes Formal Apartheid Regime By Israel
David Swanson
Understanding Robert E. Lee Supporters
Michael Brenner
The Narcissism of Donald Trump
Martin Billheimer
Capital of Pain
Thomas Knapp
Florida’s Shenanigans Make a Great Case for (Re-)Separation of Ballot and State
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail