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Perhaps you have heard the story of Maher Arar. If you haven’t, here it is in a nutshell: Mr. Arar, a citizen and resident of Canada was grabbed up – basically kidnapped by the U.S. Government – in 2002 during a family vacation stopover at JFK Airport, and illegally sent off to be imprisoned and tortured in the Middle East for over a year. The notorious Syrian prison where Arar was held and brutally tortured for over 10 months is known as “The Grave”. Arar’s arrest was made based on false information, and Arar was given no opportunity to consult with a lawyer – told by our government that he had no rights whatsoever because he is not a U.S. citizen.
Since being returned to Canada in 2003, the Canadian government has cleared Arar of any wrongdoing, made a formal apology to him, admitted its complicity in Arar’s wrongful detainment, and awarded him over $10 million dollars. The U.S. Government has yet to admit its illegal actions, or even take Arar off the terrorist watchlist – which he should have never been on in the first place – even though the Canadian Government officially requested Arar be removed from this list in January 2007. Arar’s case against the U.S Government continues.
I’m writing about Mr. Arar because I am moved by the story of his suffering and survival, and disturbed by how little I’ve heard about Arar in mainstream media. And I am inspired by the ongoing efforts in pursuit of justice by Mr. Arar and his wife, Monia Mazigh. Were it not for the intense campaign of Mazigh to have Arar freed, he might still be imprisoned.
I first heard Mr. Arar’s story in 2006, and was reminded of Mr. Arar again when he was interviewed on Fresh Air recently. You can listen to the show here:
Canadian Citizen Imprisoned by U.S. Speaks Out
There have been a number of other excellent stories on NPR about Mr. Arar as well, which you can find and listen to by searching their website. You can find more info about Arar’s case on his website, as well as in an extensive Wikipedia entry on Extraordinary Rendition.
This is just one of many stories of illegal, unconstitutional actions taken by the current U.S. administration, and as citizens, I believe we all bear some responsibility for our government’s actions. So I sent this letter to Mr. Arar in October 2007, when members of the U.S. Congress also apologized to him, as he appeared before them to testify about his experiences:
Dear Mr. Arar,
I heard your story on several NPR programs in October of 2006, and was very moved hearing of the ordeal you and your family have endured. During an interview, you were asked about whether an apology from the US Government would help. As a citizen of the United States, I would like to apologize to you, knowing that an apology from this particular government will probably never be forthcoming. Though I am proud of my country, I am deeply ashamed of this government and its many inhumane and destructive actions. This government, which myself and many others believe was not legitimately elected, neither speaks nor acts on my behalf. And many, many of us are working to ensure that the people who did this to you will be removed from power. It is a challenge, but hopefully one which can be accomplished sooner rather than later.
In the meantime, I work for peace, most especially with my friends of many faiths in an interfaith peace group, where we work to educate each other and the public at large about the beauty of each of our religions, and the many common values we share. We work to support each other, and in particular to change the perception that Islam endorses violence and that Muslims are dangerous and should be feared.
What happened to you, I believe, is a direct result of the scapegoating and fear-mongering being used by this government to further its political goals. I pray that such injustice will pass away from our world, and that no one will ever have to go through something like this again.
I started writing this message in 2006 but never completed it. Then the other day I heard that you had testified before Congress recently, and remembered that I had not completed and sent this message to you. I hope that the apologies you received from members of Congress provided you with some small measure of comfort. I know nothing can erase the wrong that has been done to you and your family, or make up for your suffering.
I wish you peace and healing, and thank you for all you are doing to bring attention to these issues.
Peace and Love,
PS I am sending this via e-mail because I wanted to send this apology to you with my personal contact info, so you would know it is coming from a real person and US citizen.
* Flute Fusion * from The Silver Nightingale
“Do not be preoccupied with killing the dinosaur. Rather, invent the gazelle.” – E.F. Schumaker
I am posting this information because this is a story everyone, especially everyone in the United States, should know, and because I greatly respect and support Maher Arar and Monia Mazigh’s persistent work – in the face of tremendous resistance from the current U.S. Government – to make sure that what happened to them does not happen to others.
“My heart is moved by all I cannot save:
So much has been destroyed –
I cast my lot with those who, age after age,
Perversely, with no extraordinary power,
Reconstitute the world.”
– Adrienne Rich
RNC, Part 1: Be Careful What You Wish For
There are some spiritual and psychological schools of thought which suggest that what we wish for others is what we ourselves will manifest. This could even be considered the basis of The Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. So doing good unto others is ultimately enlightened self interest. And vice versa.
This came to mind as I watched the Republicans virtually cancel the first night of their National Convention, to avoid looking like a bunch of uncaring partiers should Hurricane Gustav turn out to do a lot of damage. And I could not help but remember a couple weeks earlier when Stuart Shepard of James Dobson’s Focus on the Family asked people to pray for “rain of Biblical proportions” the night of Sen. Obama’s big speech in an open air stadium. As it turned out, the weather for that event could not have been better if Hollywood itself had produced it.
But the Grand Old Partiers faced not one, but two major hurricanes happening during their convention, with more queuing up right behind. And with Gustav blowing right by New Orleans, this guaranteed pundits would be talking about Katrina a lot throughout several 24-hour news cycles… not to mention whether global warming is causing stronger, more devastating hurricanes.
I’m sure many of those at the RNC making pleas for donations to hurricane relief were very sincere in their concern, yet I found it impossible to view the curtailing of the first day’s convention program without a great deal of cynicism. Sorry y’all, nothing you do now is going to make up for what happened to New Orleans. If you really want to make amends, help rebuild New Orleans, restore the coastal wetlands that used to protect the Crescent City, and make the levees that are supposed to protect the city as strong as they should have been BEFORE Katrina was ever heard of – and no, the job is NOT done. Not even close. (Want to help? Visit my Help New Orleans Musicians pages.)
And what’s that? Hurricane Ike got huge again and is bearing down on Texas? Adopted home of Mr. Bush, not to mention quite a few evangelical groups, oil barons and a passel of Christians? I wonder if we’ll be hearing Pastor John Hagee of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio (isn’t that in Texas?) saying afterwards that Hurricane Ike was God’s punishment for all those folks, like he did after Katrina. After all, Hurricane Ike showed up and headed straight for Texas right on the heels of Pres. Eisenhower’s granddaughter Susan speaking at the DNC, and very publicly leaving the Republican Party – that couldn’t be a coincidence, could it?!
Having been through a number of hurricanes myself, I would never, ever wish that experience on anyone, not even my worst enemy. And one would hope that anyone who called themselves a Christian wouldn’t either. After all, wasn’t it Jesus who said: “Love your enemy”? I don’t want to jump to any premature conclusions, but it seems to me that some Christians aren’t practicing that precept quite as thoroughly as others. So I’m not saying the folks in Texas deserve to be walloped by Ike. I’m just saying: Be careful what you wish for. Or pray for.
Some commentators have concluded that all this shows that God supports Obama for President. But I say unto those praying for God to smite the Democrats: God has nothing to do with it. You brought this on yourself.
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RNC, Part 2: Best RNC Coverage
The Daily Show, intercutting Fred Thompson’s convention speech with Foghorn Leghorn, and Joe Lieberman’s with Droopy Dog. The resemblances are uncanny! Whoever came up with this totally rocks!
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RNC, Part 3: I was astonished to hear Heart’s “Barracuda” being played during the end-of-convention aerial balloon bombardment – for two reasons:
1. I knew Heart would never, ever give permission for this bunch to use their music.
2. The lyrics accompanying shots of the candidates and their voluminous families were not exactly flattering, and I couldn’t figure out why this music was even being used – didn’t anyone listen to the song before choosing it? In fact I found a lot of the music played during the RNC to be rather mystifying.
I immediately went to my computer and discovered that Palin’s sports nickname was Barracuda. And that Ann and Nancy Wilson had, before the convention, issued a cease and desist order to the Republicans to stop using their song – and after the RNC continued to use it, they released the following statement:
“Sarah Palin’s views and values in NO WAY represent us as American women. We ask that our song ‘Barracuda’ no longer be used to promote her image. The song ‘Barracuda’ was written in the late 70s as a scathing rant against the soulless, corporate nature of the music business, particularly for women. (The ‘barracuda’ represented the business.) While Heart did not and would not authorize the use of their song at the RNC, there’s irony in Republican strategists’ choice to make use of it there.”
and a few other choice words….
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RNC, Part 4: Oh, and one more thing: Hurricane Gustav provided just the excuse Bush and Cheney needed to stay away from the RNC. So Bush addressed the convention from the White House, making a clearly partisan political speech in support of a campaign candidate. Isn’t it against the law to use the White House for political campaigning? I’m not hearing any commentators talk about this, but I’m sure I saw something about it on The West Wing.
I’m excited to announce that I have a new article titled “How To Be Creative” in the September 2008 issue of Natural Awakenings – Broward County, South Florida edition. The theme this month is Creativity, and there are lots of other interesting articles in this issue as well. You can read the print version, available at numerous healthy locations around South Florida, as well as the online version here: Natural Awakenings – where you’ll also hear one of my original flute compositions – “Oriental Expression” – from my CD Sarabande – Solo Flute Meditations, accompanying the beautiful painting of a flautist on the magazine’s cover.
If you’re wondering who that is in the snapshot accompanying the article, it’s my big sister Eleanor and myself getting creative!