Saturday, 2 February 2008

my first ever post

after a couple of years of thinking about it, i've finally set up my own blog, and here is my first post.
it's a bit of a scary step to have my thoughts put down in writing, and out there for the world to see, and in a pretty permanent way. i know millions of people are doing it, but will still take a little while for me to get used to.

anyway, first of all, why i chose the name stargazer. it's mostly because my name (anjum) is persian and means stars. (i used to say that i was just a heavenly body, but unfortunately that is no longer true. childbearing will do that to you!) it's also because i think it's important to spend time in your life just thinking, daydreaming if you will. it's that kind of activity that leads to brilliant or quirky ideas, that helps people to develop a vision, or to solve problems. one of the benefits of gazing at the stars is that it reminds us of how spectularly small this planet is, and how spectacularly small each one of us is in relation to it. a microscopic dot on a microscopic dot, as douglas adams wrote (ok, not a great philosopher, but the phrase stays in my mind). for egotistical beings (as most humans are), it's a great way to keep things in perspective. and finally, looking at the stars is a way of focusing on the beauty of our universe, our planet and our own lives. at times when so much is ugly, it's a good way to remember that not everything is bad.

this is not to say that my posts will be full of enlightenment, although i wish it were so. i am of course limited by my own capabilities and by the life i lead, which tends to be pretty busy. nonetheless, i hope you'll find something of value.

on to more practical things. just read an article (sorry, i can't do those link thingies properly). it's about mr obama going all out to convince voters that he is not a muslim terrorist in disguise, planning to destroy america. he feels the need to do this because of emails and stuff on the internet making all sorts of claims about him. so, to counter this, he has chosen to aggressively display his christian credentials - you can see the details in the article.

what he doesn't do, as far as i can see, is ever say "even if i were a muslim, that doesn't make me a terrorist, or a person who is bad for america if elected". he never takes the trouble to affirm that muslims are mostly good citizens, who have plenty to contribute. by countering the claims that he, for example, was sworn in on the quran by stating firmly that he was sworn in on the bible, he embeds the notion that being sworn in on the quran is bad or somehow wrong. what i would like to hear him say is "actually, i was sworn in on the bible, but if i was sworn in on the quran, so what? it wouldn't make me less american than anyone else."

ok, maybe i'm being naive. the guy wants to be elected, and needs to say what the voters want to hear. and they currently want to hear that he's a committed christian, muslims being personae non grata in america. but then he also says that he won't just say anything to get elected. being from a minority that has been discriminated against for centuries in america, one would hope that he would stand up for other minorities. i'd like to hear him talk about the positive values that he gained from his father & step-father, and how they helped shape who he is. instead, you get the sense that he is a little ashamed of his past and would rather de-emphasise it.

i must say that i haven't followed his campaign closely, i haven't read what he says widely, so there may be occasions where he does take the trouble to do this. who knows. but at this stage, he fails to inspire me.


Karlo said...

Good on you anjum, i haven't met you but have heard of you thru the grapevine (all good of course). I like your blog - insightful and am a sucker for star metaphors.
Best wishes with it.

As an aside, I agree with you about Obama but comprimising on convictions and principles to appeal to the 'mainstream' of america must be even more soul destroying territory than doing it for 'mainstream' nz - i am just heartened that someone like hom would even want the job.

Allan said...

Americans will never allow a black Presidentcy. If such a thing was to happen, it would only be a matter of time before some good ol' boy assassinated the President.

Kay said...

As another activist slightly interested in US politics I have sought out Obama's own words on religion. Much of what we hear from the media seems to be a partial story only. I post here (apologies for length) an extract from a longer interview Obama made with quotes from his book.

Obama’s grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama, for whom the senator was given his middle name, Hussein, was fiercely devoted to Islam, according to an account in “Dreams.” The grandfather, who died in 1979, was described by his widow when Obama visited Kenya in the late 1980s.

“What your grandfather respected was strength. Discipline,” Obama quoted his grandmother as telling him. “This is also why he rejected the Christian religion, I think.

“For a brief time, he converted, and even changed his name to Johnson. But he could not understand such ideas as mercy towards your enemies, or that this man Jesus could wash away a man’s sins.

“To your grandfather, this was foolish sentiment, something to comfort women,” she added. “And so he converted to Islam — he thought its practices conformed more closely to his beliefs.”

When Obama was 2 years old, his parents divorced and his father moved away from the family’s home in Hawaii. Four years later, his mother married an Indonesian man, Lolo Soetoro, who moved his new wife and stepson to Jakarta.

“During the five years that we would live with my stepfather in Indonesia, I was sent first to a neighborhood Catholic school and then to a predominately Muslim school,” Obama wrote in “Audacity.” “In our household, the Bible, the Koran, and the Bhagavad Gita sat on the shelf.”

Obama’s stepfather was a practicing Muslim.

“Lolo followed a brand of Islam that could make room for the remnants of more ancient animist and Hindu faiths,” Obama recalled. “He explained that a man took on the powers of whatever he ate: One day soon, he promised, he would bring home a piece of tiger meat for us to share.”

“It was to Lolo that I turned to for guidance and instruction,” Obama recalled. “He introduced me as his son.”

Although Obama wrote of “puzzling out the meaning of the muezzin’s call to evening prayer,” he was not raised as a Muslim, according to the senator’s office. Nor was he raised as a Christian by his mother, a white American named Ann Dunham who was deeply skeptical of religion.

“Her memories of the Christians who populated her youth were not fond ones,” Obama wrote. “For my mother, organized religion too often dressed up closed-mindedness in the garb of piety, cruelty and oppression in the cloak of righteousness.”

As a result, he said, “I was not raised in a religious household.”

Later in life, however, he was drawn to the writings of an influential American Muslim who served as the spokesman for the militant Nation of Islam.

“Malcolm X’s autobiography seemed to offer something different,” Obama wrote. “His repeated acts of self-creation spoke to me; the blunt poetry of his words, his unadorned insistence on respect, promised a new and uncompromising order, martial in its discipline, forged through sheer force of will.”

He added: “Malcolm’s discovery toward the end of his life, that some whites might live beside him as brothers in Islam, seemed to offer some hope of eventual reconciliation.”

While working as a community organizer for a group of churches in Chicago, Obama was repeatedly asked to join Christian congregations, but begged off.

“I remained a reluctant skeptic, doubtful of my own motives, wary of expedient conversion, having too many quarrels with God to accept a salvation too easily won,” he wrote.

But after much soul searching, he eventually was baptized at Trinity United Church of Christ.

“It came about as a choice and not an epiphany; the questions I had did not magically disappear,” he explained. “But kneeling beneath that cross on the South Side of Chicago, I felt God’s spirit beckoning me. I submitted myself to His will, and dedicated myself to discovering His truth.”

Obama’s family connections to Islam would endure, however. For example, his brother Roy opted for Islam over Christianity, as Obama recounted when describing his 1992 wedding.

“The person who made me proudest of all,” Obama wrote, “was Roy. Actually, now we call him Abongo, his Luo name, for two years ago he decided to reassert his African heritage. He converted to Islam, and has sworn off pork and tobacco and alcohol.”

Meanwhile, Obama remained sharply critical of what he called “the religious absolutism of the Christian right.”

In “Audacity,” the senator wrote that such believers insist “not only that Christianity is America’s dominant faith, but that a particular, fundamentalist brand of that faith should drive public policy, overriding any alternative source of understanding, whether the writings of liberal theologians, the findings of the National Academy of Sciences, or the words of Thomas Jefferson.”

As for the Democratic Party, Obama observed that “a core segment of our constituency remains stubbornly secular in orientation, and fears — rightly, no doubt — that the agenda of an assertively Christian nation may not make room for them or their life choices.”

Although the overwhelming majority of Americans describe themselves as Christians, Obama does not believe that any one religion should define the United States.

“We are no longer just a Christian nation,” he argues in “Audacity,” which was published last year. “We are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers.”

Obama calls the Iraq war “a botched and ill-advised U.S. military incursion into a Muslim country.” He is also protective of civil rights for Muslims in the U.S.

“In the wake of 9/11, my meetings with Arab and Pakistani Americans … have a more urgent quality, for the stories of detentions and FBI questioning and hard stares from neighbors have shaken their sense of security and belonging,” he laments. “I will stand with them should the political winds shift in an ugly direction.”

Sen. Barack Hussein Obama

Post by Kay

Jacksonz said...

anjum wrote :
"a microscopic dot on a microscopic dot, as douglas adams wrote (ok, not a great philosopher, ..."

Ah, but he was a great philosopher. Like his comment about the sentient puddle :
"imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, 'This is an interesting world I find myself in, an interesting hole I find myself in, fits me rather neatly, doesn't it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!' This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, it's still frantically hanging on to the notion that everything's going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise. I think this may be something we need to be on the watch out for."
(From Wikiquote

Stephen Parkes said...

Hi Anjum. I too have just started a blog recently. Nice to have a go at such things, huh?

Anyway, you wrote: "you get the sense that he is a little ashamed of his past and would rather de-emphasise it."

I don't entirely agree, at least with the first part. He is in a difficult position - as commentator suggests it's possible the US just isn't ready for a black president. I was talking with some American acquaintances recently and they think he has no show of winning, because there are just too many 'middle Americans' whom could not abide a black leading their country. So I think he needs to be cut a little slack on this sort of thing. I don't think he's ashamed of his past, but he doesn't, during an election, want to emphasis aspects of his past and private life that may play into the hands of those that would focus on and overstate them for easy political gain.

I prefer his understandable "de-emphasis" to Hillary's rebranding herself a down home beer-swilling boar shooting hog-tying good ol' girl. I half expect her to start finishing her speeches with "Yee-Ha!"

Good luck with your blog.


stargazer said...

thanx steve

tried to take a look at your blog but couldn't get it to work.

re obama: i'd have preferred him to take the criticism head-on and call it what it is - bigotry. he's quite capable of doing it. his thoughtful speech on the errant pastor (wright?) showed that he is.

never mind, the campaign seems to have moved way beyond that now.

Steve said...

The link to my blog should hopefully work this time, otherwise here's the url: