Wednesday, October 22, 2008

No Riverbend in a Year

Riverbend, the author of the blog Baghdad Burning, has not posted for one year. When she last posted, she had only two more months on her visa in Syria:

By the time we had reentered the Syrian border and were headed back to the cab ready to take us into Kameshli, I had resigned myself to the fact that we were refugees. I read about refugees on the Internet daily… in the newspapers… hear about them on TV. I hear about the estimated 1.5 million plus Iraqi refugees in Syria and shake my head, never really considering myself or my family as one of them. After all, refugees are people who sleep in tents and have no potable water or plumbing, right? Refugees carry their belongings in bags instead of suitcases and they don’t have cell phones or Internet access, right? Grasping my passport in my hand like my life depended on it, with two extra months in Syria stamped inside, it hit me how wrong I was. We were all refugees. I was suddenly a number. No matter how wealthy or educated or comfortable, a refugee is a refugee. A refugee is someone who isn’t really welcome in any country- including their own... especially their own.

We live in an apartment building where two other Iraqis are renting. The people in the floor above us are a Christian family from northern Iraq who got chased out of their village by Peshmerga and the family on our floor is a Kurdish family who lost their home in Baghdad to militias and were waiting for immigration to Sweden or Switzerland or some such European refugee haven.

The first evening we arrived, exhausted, dragging suitcases behind us, morale a little bit bruised, the Kurdish family sent over their representative – a 9 year old boy missing two front teeth, holding a lopsided cake, “We’re Abu Mohammed’s house- across from you- mama says if you need anything, just ask- this is our number. Abu Dalia’s family live upstairs, this is their number. We’re all Iraqi too... Welcome to the building.”

I cried that night because for the first time in a long time, so far away from home, I felt the unity that had been stolen from us in 2003.

For me, everything that Movement Conservatism has done wrong can be read in Riverbend's blog. Her careful chronicle of how the normalcy of everyday life melted away is the story of the corrosive effect Bush and his backers have had on the world directly for eight years and in varying levels of intensity since Reagan.

Anyone who praises Reagan and the movement he led is praising what has happened to Riverbend, her family, her friends, her country. There is no wall between the domestic and foreign policy of these people. The collapse of Wall Street and the burning of Baghdad are of a piece, joined by a Darwinian world view that there are hunters and prey, the strong and the weak, the winners who are deserving and the losers who deserve nothing. The prisons of California, an industry the Republicans proudly comapre to Pat Brown's university system, are the siblings of Abu Ghraib. The drowning of New Orleans is the mirror of Baghdad in flames. Devastation to the innocent by-standers who could not flee in time, a gold mine for the contractors who arrived like vultures to strip the carcasses to the bone.

"... I'll meet you 'round the bend my friend, where hearts can heal and souls can mend..."

Anglachel

9 comments:

Anglachel said...

Posting test comment. Blogger changed the commenting mechanism.

Becki Jayne said...

My heart goes out to Riverbend and the millions of Iraqis whose lives have been so violently disrupted and traumatized.

The collapse of Wall Street and the burning of Baghdad are of a piece, joined by a Darwinian world view that there are hunters and prey, the strong and the weak, the winners who are deserving and the losers who deserve nothing....

Reminds me of Altemeyer's ground-breaking studies on authoritarian aggression. Quoting from John Dean's book, Conservatives Without Conscience...

Altemeyer discovered that the aggression of right-wingers seems to be not merely instrumental---that is, expressed for political purpose----but engaged in for the pure pleasure of it [which torture, Abu Ghraib, Katrina clearly illustrates].... But on a more pedestrian level, he found it difficult for most right-wingers to talk about any subject about which they felt strongly without attacking others. This heightened level of aggressiveness has a number of psychological roots. Right-wing authoritarians, as we have seen, are motivated by their fear of a dangerous world, whereas social dominators have a ever-present desire to dominate. The factor that makes right-wingers faster to attack others, and that seems to keep them living in an "attack mode," is their remarkable self-righteousness. They are so sure they are not only right, but holy and pure, that they are bursting with indignation and a desire to smite down their enemies...

...if they could see themselves as others do, which they are seldom able to, they might gain perspective on their conduct. Their blinders, however, help make them who they are.


As Altemeyer's studies have shown, this fear-driven, dangerous world view is highly concentrated among right-wingers. And they are clueless about their destructive behavior making them unreliable as standard-bearers or leaders. In short, they are predatory but unaware that they are.

I have a theory how authoritarian aggressiveness, virulent conservativism, comes into being but it's complicated and best explained in a dissertation or book. Acclaimed psychiatrist Alice Miller has delved into the subject (narcissistic disorders and more) but not framed in political terms. I highly recommend her books, Thou Shalt Not Be Aware and Banished Knowledge...heck, all her books are superb and enlightening.

lakelobos said...

Darwinism is inherently nondeterministic, i.e. we don't know a priori who survives and who doesn't. Republicans are deterministic Darwinists. That is, the winner are known (the rich, the well connected, the properly born, the close to the table) and so are the losers (the others). That, of course, is an oxymoron; there is no deterministic Darwinism.

The Republican world is simple and simplistic. "I win, you lose." That's about it. Even Nixon with his EPA was better than the current gang.

A word about Arabs. Arabs are not better and not worse than American, Brits or French. In the US, this fact is not accepted. Here, Arabs are dangerous, wild, fanatically religious and tend to be terrorists. We don't count their dead, we don't assess the damage we cause to them.

This attitude is extended to all Muslims. We bomb Pakistan and Afghanistan at will and disregard their casualties.

Refugees? Why even care about them? they are not French.

Briar said...

I am deeply concerned about Rivberbend. Her silence fills me with dread for her. I am also struck by the contrast between her fame as a blogger and that of Salaam Pax. Riverbend was unequivocably against the invasion and unequivocably honest in her chronicling of the disastrous effects for Iraqis. Pax was for the invasion and equivocal in his response to its consequences. Riverbend's subsequent marginalisation in the liberal western press and Pax's lionising points to bias and partiality which makes all accounts we normally read suspect. The total lack of interest in her fate exhibited by our supposedly free and fair media reinforces this impression. Oh, and she is a woman. Not, I suspect, irrelevant to this lack of interest at all.

shoba said...

Anglachel - Your analysis captures beautifully the symmetry in the working of the system both in and out of the US -- The prison system is one of the hidden horrors of this country. It's considered a big joke that sexual abuse is a tacit part of a jail sentence. How do we begin to confront and turn this giant? this beast

Shainzona said...

"For me, everything that Movement Conservatism has done wrong can be read in Riverbend's blog. Her careful chronicle of how the normalcy of everyday life melted away is the story of the corrosive effect Bush and his backers have had on the world directly for eight years and in varying levels of intensity since Reagan."

Eight years is an eternity. A year is also a very very long time. (My thoughts are with Riverbend...please get in touch with someone!!!)

A year ago, who would have thought that we would now be on the cusp of electing one of two total idiots as POTUS? (Shaking head.)

However, I found out today that when I vote HRC via a write-in in Arizona it will not automatically be counted for Obama.

"Thank you, God for this great blessing." I can actually vote my heart and soul.

To Riverbend, the US and the world, I echo Anglachel: "... I'll meet you 'round the bend my friend, where hearts can heal and souls can mend..."

daily democrat said...

on Losers

When I first moved to England in the 80's, I was amazed to discover how the English venerated "the loser" even more than the winner, very much contrary to the American practice of worshiping only outright winners.

In Britain, the winner was admired, you could say, but the loser was loved. Frank Bruno, for example, became a hero for a time, for LOSING to Mike Tyson. Following Bruno's losses to Tyson in 1989 and again in 1986, Bruno was a very popular figure in advertisements, frequently alluding to his Tyson loss, which it seemed was the selling point.

In Britain, a "loser" who has valiantly tried to something and lost is viewed as more likeable and somehow morally better than a (usually) smug winner. By the same logic, winners had better have humility. Beckham “wearing a dress” is an example of how English winners endeavour to make light of their prowess and ability by "taking the piss" out of themselves.

I suppose that the English frequently like the loser because this sort of loser is still a winner in the sense of being a contender. "I could’ a been a contenda!" says Marlon Brando in the 1954 film On the Waterfront, and I suppose he means that he could have been 'in the fight'. In our time, Hillary Clinton has revived the idea of a "loser" who is still a hero-contender (and still beloved).

on Reaganomics
The trouble with our US society these days is definitely a (bad) hangover from Reaganomics. Nothing to like with Reagan's political philosophy, I agree with you entirely, Anglachel.

Reagan's formula was so very simple: If the free-market operates properly, there will be no losers. Some will have more than others, yes, but overall, everyone will have more if the competitive system is allowed to operate with very little regulation.

Now, after 30 years of experimentation with this idea (yes, even under Clinton and Blair), it seems that those of us who argued against Reaganism were right (not that we feel good about being right, in this case)...that a de-regulated free market system is just as likely to lead to all losers as all winners. Now everyone is pointing fingers at everyone else, and thinking, that person must be a personal loser because they haven't won under this "everyone a winner" system.

The phrase "sub-prime mortgage crisis" gives me the chills. The widespread, uncritical repetition of this phrase as if it were some sort of truth...when, if you look into the details (as I have in regards to the university system in Texas and its treatment of women) the all-winners society policies started having a negative effect at least by the mid-1980’s.

prowlerzee said...

I looked up her blog just recently and was sad to see no new entries.

She lost her home and her entire way of life. Maybe she's just too depressed to continue writing.

It infuriates me when people try to say we're in Iraq to make things better for women. We made things worse for women, both in Afghanistan and in Iraq. I've seen this crap on CNN, pretending we're eking out improvements for women overseas.

PRACTICUM SPRING 2008 said...

Riverbend...wherever you and your family are...you are in my thoughts..may you have some small peace during this holy season...God bless you