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What We Say

by Sudhama Ranganathan Sunday, Sep. 16, 2012 at 3:01 AM
uconnharassment@gmail.com

It's shocking to see the protests in North Africa and that are spreading throughout the region and the Middle East in response to the film that was made by a small group of people living here in America. There are films made every day in America that have all manner of messages. There are movies that have made fun of or directly insulted any number of religions. Christianity has without a doubt bore the brunt of these films with movies going to all kinds of lengths to make fun of both the religion and Jesus Christ. Judaism no doubt comes in second. Check the record. Agree with the content or not, we are used to having media in our midst that is offensive, if not to ourselves, then to somebody.

Smiley face

That is pretty much par for the course in terms of living in a nation that prides itself on freedom of speech. We hold to that right dearly, and most of us would fight to the death for the upkeep of that right. It's something we treasure as a nation. Though we have seen violence against other nations embassy's, etc, growing out of material certain adherents of the Muslim faith found offensive that originated from those respective nations, we have never seen it to this degree against ours over a single book, movie, song or the like.

When this happened, President Obama and Secretary of State both made reference to American values and not allowing them to be stamped out or held by the actions of people reacting out of violence. And after all, what the people did that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens, through a highly coordinated act impossible for some rag tag group of ordinary people, was to force innocent people to pay for their feelings regarding the actions of a few others. Ambassador Stevens had never seen the movie in question, nor had the vast majority of the American populace for that matter.

In fact, YouTube has taken the clips of and trailers of the movie down following the violence. Nonetheless, it is part of the American creed to allow freedom of speech. It's the same freedom of speech we defended and spoke up for, when Libyans, Egyptians, Tunisians and many more took to the streets to gain freedom from oppressive regimes during the Arab Spring. We defended that freedom of speech and of assembly in our hearts as Americans and most of us stood with all of them from the beginning.

We see freedom of speech here at home, and it covers those that would offend entire groups of people so they can have their right to express their opinions on their groups, whether by referring to one from the group as an example of the whole, or just outright referring to a whole group. I grew up on hip hop music, and it has always been about expressing oneself, whether others agree with what you say or not. I love the culture and music and would not be who I am without it having been in my life early on, still today and will always be.

Sometimes, rappers have even said things meant to express dislike of entire groups of people. For example, rapper Rick Ross was engaged in a war of words (beef) with the famous rapper 50 Cent. The famous rapper, Eminem, is associated with 50 Cent and so Ross decided to express his negative feelings about Eminem when throwing out aspersions about 50 Cent in one video. He chose to express his views with regards to Eminem's race and called Eminem a “honkey.” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=IAQs3eht22Q about 2:55 into the clip)

The word essentially put forth his views of the fact that he apparently or obviously has a negative view of white people, as Eminem had never stepped into the fray and obviously could not respond. Had Eminem said anything remotely racist, it no doubt would have meant his being essentially disowned by most if not all of the Hip Hop community. But, as unfair as it was for Ross to insult Eminem's race and by proxy all white men and women, nobody called him on it. Nobody spoke up for Eminem or white listeners of Hip Hop and said, “that's wrong.”

Likewise, another rapper, Action Bronson, said in an interview that he doesn't eat bagged salad greens, and when asked why he asserted his belief that Mexicans that picked the greens purposely used unsanitary hygiene practices with the greens because all Mexicans are angry and anti-American. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Maz8clo6Pcc about 7:10 into the clip) Even though I know that to be untrue, and in fact the opposite to be true, from having worked alongside migrant workers myself in the field from the likes of Mexico, Ecuador, Guatemala, Puerto Rico and elsewhere, again, he had that right as an American to assert that right. He chose to express his view on a whole group of people and perhaps even the larger group (Hispanics) when he felt like it. As with Ross nobody called him on it and spoke up for Mexicans saying it was wrong, and just as with Ross's view of whites Bronson's view spoke to all Mexicans including those that liked Hip Hop and his music.

You can Google both rappers and search on YouTube. There you will find people they have done songs with. In the case of the movie against Muslims obviously the slain ambassador could not have known, as most Americans did not, about the movie and its content. If it isn't sponsored by Pepsi or Coke or a major studio, most of us just haven't heard of it. You have to understand, there is just too much content out there for us to be aware of it all.

It would be the same with an anti-American video put out by some unknown group of people. Most Muslims in Libya, Egypt, Tunisia or elsewhere, just would not have heard of it. It's like that. It is different from the rappers like Ross and Bronson, wherein the Ross incident was very well known and extensively written about and commented on within the Hip Hop community. The Bronson incident was less known, but still out there. Rappers hang out with other rappers & singers, drink, socialize and talk honestly. There is no way the views expressed so boldly and openly about whites with regards to Ross and Mexicans/ Hispanics with regards to Bronson have not been expressed previously n the presence certain of those they hung out/ partied with.

It was repugnant when certain people began sending racist emails about President Obama denigrating all African Americans. Those people were shunned by mainstream politicians and should have been. Good for the people from their parties (the GOP actually) that spoke up and said that was wrong. It should be just as important to speak up against any racists and racism whether against black men/ women, white men/women, Hispanic men/ women etc. It is the same for religions and, though we honor the right of people to say what they please, we denounce and reject just as fervently people like those in the video, or the pastor that wanted to burn books or Glenn Beck that view Islam as a bad religion and wish to provoke Muslims. However, unlike Ross, whose anti-white videos have been seen and has been given a pass by many, though not all, Hip Hop and R&B stars as their being okay with his racist views or Bronson, Americans in general cannot be blamed for the views of a few.

Certainly, if the government employees working in North Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia or anywhere else that deal with Muslim populations had seen these, they would have been denouncing and decrying them from the get go. Ross is a racist, but he is one racist. Bronson is a racist, but he is one racist. People that choose to associate themselves with them, giving them free passes for their racism make individual choices also supporting that racism. But those are individuals and choices made by individuals. All Americans did not make that video. Taxpayer money did not support that video, certainly not knowingly if so. All Americans cannot be blamed for the contents of that video very few of us have even seen and none of us even knew about, until it became an issue in Libya, Egypt and elsewhere.

Just as the people that sent racist statements in emails about President Obama were racists and those that associated with them made choices to be racist as individuals, as with those that associated with Ross and Bronson, they made individual choices to express themselves and their own personal racist views.

It's true America has not always been consistently on the side of freedom and liberty with regards to the region where the riots currently occur. Secretary Hillary Clinton in 2009 made a “comment en route to China that promoting human rights 'can't interfere' with the pursuit of security and economic goals, and her unqualified praise of Mubarak when asked about human rights issues during her last trip to Egypt.” (http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2009/05/13/mubarak-test) That was just as the protests during the Arab Spring in Egypt started.

In Libya Bush Jr. sold arms to Gadhafi and, “In the months before Libyans revolted and President Barack Obama told leader Moammar Gadhafi to go, the U.S. government was moving to do business with his regime on an increasing scale by quietly approving a $77 million dollar deal to deliver at least 50 refurbished armored troop carriers to the dictator's military.” Also, “The Gadhafi regime's desire to upgrade its troop carriers was so intense that a Libyan official told U.S. diplomats in Tripoli in 2009 that the dictator's sons, Khamis and Saif, both were demanding swift action. Khamis, a commander whose army brigade reportedly attacked the opposition-held town of Zawiya with armored units and pickup trucks, expressed a "personal interest" in modernizing the armored transports, according to a December 2009 diplomatic message disclosed by WikiLeaks, the whistleblower website.” (http://www.aolnews.com/2011/03/07/libya-army-transport-deal-frozen-after-us-approval/?icid=maing%7Cmain5%7Cdl1%7Csec1_lnk2%7C48756)

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Obama did not support protesters in Bahrain or Yemen looking for the same things because of bases there and Saudi interests. (http://spiltinc.co.uk/2012/04/10/bahrain-the-forgotten-arab-spring/) President Obama also sat by empty, while elected officials of both parties including his own used violence and thuggery to stop people looking for change in the same way here in America. The Occupy Wall Street movement of young people looking for change was infiltrated; tear gassed, pepper sprayed, beaten with batons, shot with rubber bullets and Mayor Mike Bloomberg's people even told newly released prisoners in NYC to go to the Occupy Camp to get shelter and food. These were the very same tactics used in the Middle East by corrupt dictators Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Obama decried during the Arab Spring.

Although it's true, we in America need a changed political system and new additional parties for representation also, and that racist speech goes unchecked from all people of all races, most of us, the vast majority of us, did not know about this movie and would certainly not have approved if we had. Free speech will almost always hurt someone's feelings be they conservative, liberal, in-between or otherwise affiliated. We have free speech in our nation and have protections on it, not because of the speech that is popular, but more to protect the rights of those that may have unpopular views or opinions like Bronson's views on Hispanics and Ross's views on whites, just as with Sheriff Joe Arapaio's view's on being proud to be associated with the KKK. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFTUQ71Aq0o)

We do not condone hate speech against Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, members of the Native American Church or Muslims. But, there is freedom to express ones views in this country no matter how disgusting. You cannot blame us all for the disgusting speech of a few. You can blame members of our government for foreign policy or cowardice regarding it, but you cannot blame them or all Americans for that movie currently being derided. As individuals we just didn't have the association to know of, or have any influence to support or reject it's content.

To read about my inspiration for this article go to www.lawsuitagainstuconn.com.

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