AP photo of Governor Sarah Palin by Kichiro Sato
The mindless mantra of knuckle-dragging, fear-based rhetorical idiocy from the McCain presidential camp sank to an even lower level today with Governor Sarah Palin's assertion that "there is yet another radical professor from the neighborhood who spent a lot of time with Barack Obama."
The "radical" scholar in question is Professor Rashid Khalidi, who is the Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University. Professor Khalidi is the author of seven books and dozens of academic articles on the Middle East, and is a frequent commentator on national and international news programs.
Oh - and he has a funny-sounding name, the kind of suspicious Arabic name that sends shivers down the spines of Neanderthalic xenophobes like Governor Sarah Palin.
Over the past three weeks I have observed the McCain campaign descend into an ever-deeper chasm of malicious fear-mongering, and what respect I once had for John McCain has evaporated. Yet today's episode into the realm of doltish elocution shocked even me, a jaded and cynical observer of American politics who has witnessed many a brutal political campaign.
But at what point will thinking people stand up and denounce these asinine, divisive, and McCarthy-esque tactics? Are we so afraid of repercussions that we will sit idly by and permit this sort of know-nothing thuggery to go unanswered? Professor Rashid is an American citizen, a person born in the state of New York, and a respected scholar. Yet because he has the audacity to speak his mind about the Palestinian people, he is somehow a dangerous radical?
Of course, given that this is a campaign that utilizes Joe the Plumber as a foreign policy expert, nothing should surprise me any longer.
By the way, here are some facts Governor Palin should know about me, should she wish to continue in her list-making of possible terrorists and radicals. I put the dangerous-sounding words in boldface to assist those who are on the lookout for dangerous radicals:
1. I once had a childhood friend named Mohammed, a Lebanese kid in my neighborhood who was a practicing Muslim.
2. Every evening during Ramadan my neighbors, who are practicing Muslims, bring my family the food that they prepared for the twilight feast. And - get this - I enjoyed every meal cooked by these practicing Muslims.
3. I own copies of the Qu'ran (English and Arabic). Of course, I cannot read enough Arabic to save my own life, but one of these days I will tackle this language.
4. I own dozens of books on the history and politics of the Middle East.
5. I have taught world history, devoting entire lectures to discussions about the Muslim world, and I am teaching a course this fall on the history of the Middle East. And check this out: I often draw historical parallels between the concept of jihad and the Crusades, a sure sign that I am filling the heads of the next generation of with radical ideas about the nexus of religion and violence.
6. Coincidentally, I will be appearing on the Al Jazeera network this weekend, discussing the American election with their news correspondents. Al Jazeera is based in the Arabic-speaking nation of Qatar, which probably has a few radical Muslims. Truth be told: I might have turned down the gig were it not for the fact that today's attack on American citizens of Middle Eastern ethnicity so nauseated me that I felt compelled to present to the world an American face that was not spouting calculated ignorance (Buckeye Cablevision channel 220 carries Al Jazeera English, and I will be on some time between 12 noon and five o'clock, should you be bored and surfing cable).
So, with all of these mounting pieces of suspicious evidence, I nominate myself to this emerging list of "dangerous radicals" who "pal around with" people with Arabic names and who have a fondness for tabbouli and hummus. I suggest that Governor Palin immediately contact every federal agency to keep an eye on "dangerous radicals" like me, lest we join up with such security threats as Professor Rashid Khalidi and start - I dunno - doin' weird stuff, you betcha.
Silliness aside: I am an independent voter who has pulled the lever for a number of Republican candidates in the past, and I even donated money to local Republican politicians in the 1990s. These moronic attacks only serve to drive me even further away from the GOP, a party that once seemed to speak for me.
Not any more.