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January 19, 2017

On my commute, I volley back and forth between Ann Coulter and dark, loud, melodramatic music; unable and unwilling to process only her casual, hateful, condescending bullshit. I genuinely miss the thoughtful, intelligent, and empathetic listening experiences that I typically choose for my commute.

When listening to Ann Coulter, I keep in mind an episode of the podcast, Invisibilia, called “Flip the Script”. The episode tells several stories that are prime examples of “Noncomplementary Behavior” – the strange things that happen when violence is met with hospitality, when insecurity is met with frankness, and when anger is met with kindness.

In one story from 2012, the police in a Denmark town deal with an unexpected surge of home-grown Islamic Terrorism in an unexpected way. A worrying number of local Arab youths have snuck off to Syria to join ISIS: parents of the missing children are distressed and police officers are unsure of what to do. On one hand, you have all these cases of missing children; on the other, you have the threat (real or not) of Terrorism and violence perpetrated by these children.

What is very familiar here is the macro-level picture: Muslims in a Western country run to Syria to become “Terrorists”. It’s a now-classic, politically-conservative, Islamophobia-fueled nightmare. When Ann Coulter thinks, “Muslims,” this is what she pictures, among other horrible things.

What is not familiar (or at least not familiar enough) is the micro-level picture: daily, sometimes micro-/sometimes macro-aggressive acts of racism and discrimination against Arabs, by non-Arabs. In one case, an Arab man is pulled over nine times in a single day; in another, after engaging in a debate about the nature of Islam, a very obviously decent Arab student is accused of being capable of bombing the high school.

To follow the thread of that student’s experience: shortly after being accused of possibly planning an extreme act of violence and subsequently formally investigated on the basis of that accusation, his mother dies. His world is upended by tragedy, and in his suffering, he thinks:”[…]all this shit happens, everything has gone wrong because of an unjustice [sic] system: racism[…] So, I thought, ‘They call me Terrorist : I will give them a Terrorist.'”

He begins associating with other angry Arab youth in his community – together, they consume the ideas of radical Islam. Eventually, he and others flee to Syria.

So here’s a shitty flow chart (because I don’t have time to make a pretty one):

Muslims experience Islamophobia (violent, verbal, or otherwise) >>> Muslims Suffer, Deeply >>> A minority (this is important) of those Muslims react with Complementary Behavior; some run off to Syria and join a radical movement; some make violent plans at home >>> Radical Violence

For this post, I am choosing to pay most attention to the first and last steps of this shitty flow chart because they (potentially) involve me personally. I think enough attention has been paid to the last step (thanks, Ann), so I’ll focus on the first.

If I express Islamophobia, I inadvertently cause violence – it may not be immediate; my hatred may be like a raindrop in the reservoir of violence; but it contributes nonetheless; and billions of these acts of Islamophobia fuel the growing problem of “Terrorism”; it is a hatred fueled by our own hatred.

I believe that we, the non-Arabs of the Western World, should hold ourselves responsible for this epidemic of violence. Maybe the responsibility doesn’t lie with us alone, but it certainly lies with us at least. I hold myself accountable for this violence; and even more, I hold voices like Ann Coulter accountable for this violence. Hers is a thinly-cloaked rhetoric of violence: a terrorism of thought and of words. As for radical violence: let’s not call it “Terrorism”; let’s call it “Complementary Behavior”. It is the mirror image of our own hatred.

But holding ourselves accountable for the current state of radical violence can’t be the only solution. For the police officers of that Denmark town, the (albeit odd) solution to their problem of home-grown Islamic Terrorism was Noncomplementary Behavior. They decided to fight “radicalism with love” by setting up a program that included a peaceful re-entry into their community for the errant children along with a mentorship – no prosecution. I won’t ruin the ending of the story for you, and I encourage you to listen to the episode; but what I’ve gathered from it, and what I won’t stop thinking when I listen to words like those of Ann Coulter, is that we won’t find peace until we see all of the causal threads of these stories – most importantly, the causal threads leading back to ourselves.

In Soylent news, I added a serving of organic cacao powder to one of my meals today – it was good, but difficult to blend without an actual blender. I’m also pretty sure that I’m more sensitive to everyone else’s breath – garlic is a problem.

Milky and woke,


P.S. Metrics, She Wrote