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John McCain bombs it
US. Politicians need to be sent a unequivocal message that there is no place for pathological comments like that in our public discourse. Period.


April 21, 2007

If John McCain is not held accountable for his indescribably callous remarks about bombing Iran, it will represent the most high profile failure of the Iranian-American community to date. 

The American threshold for tolerating political incompetence must be legendary at this point. As a citizenry, it often seems the majority of Americans are mind-bogglingly apathetic or textbook masochists. We reelected a president that questions both evolution and global warming, and has no plans to do anything useful about either. His vice-President is an oil tycoon who shoots people in the chest. His attorney general habitually bends, if not breaks, the law. His secretary of State does nothing more than use $3 words (care to impugn my dignity, anyone?) to cover the fact that she does nothing and has no clue as to what to do. It’s not enough that the current President has never spelled out his policies in a vocabulary requiring higher than a 10th grade reading level. It’s not enough that we have had to undergo 6 years of a foreign policy directed by a bunch of amoral, murderous crooks. It’s also not enough that we are unwillingly footing the enormous bill for the mass murder of tens of thousands of Iraqis and the killing and maiming of many young Americans serving in the military while the President’s former business associates rake in record profits.

Apparently after 6 years of George W. Bush, there is still room to be a war-hungry, red-blooded moron in American politics. Actually, some Americans can’t get enough of them. John McCain visited South Carolina on Thursday on the campaign trail. When one of South Carolina’s finest asked a question about “sendin an airmail (that means bomb in local speak) to Tay-ron”, McCain all but took out the pointy white hat and his matchbook to set the cross on fire.

“You know that song, Bomb Iran? Bomb, Bomb, bomb... ”

The genteel Southern audience politely clapped and tittered their appreciation for the senator’s musical talents. To some extent, we have already witnessed the anatomy of spinning a political faux pas. "The senator was adding levity to the discussion and the crowd reacted with laughter," campaign spokesman Kevin McLaughlin said. "He went on to discuss the seriousness of issue." I already know the self-hating Iranians will momentarily jerk their heads up from under the sand to rush to the defense of John McCain and accuse his detractors of ‘overreacting’ of ‘not being grateful for living in America’. From the mouth of the Arizonian himself, he “was joking and critics ought to get a life and get over it.”

Here are the stakes: McCain messed up royally and now he wants a free pass. Iranians already have to contend with several decades of stereotypes that depict them as being hostage takers, terrorists, fundamentalists, members of the ‘Axis of Evil’, a nation hell-bent on getting nuclear weapons, etc. This ‘joke’ represents a new frontier in the systematic dehumanization of Iranians by American politicians. If John McCain is not held accountable for his indescribably callous remarks, it will represent the most high profile failure of the Iranian-American community to date. Forget about the fictitious Persians in the racist movie “300”; this is the real thing. This is what people should be in an uproar over. This is a politician who is running for the next President of the United States, who is making dropping bombs on Iran the punchline of his jokes.

Note to John McCain: it’s not funny to make jokes about indiscriminately killing people. I don’t appreciate my family members being the object of your homicidal ridicule anymore than the grieving people of Virginia Tech would either.

And I dare John McCain, or anyone else, to hide behind a ‘you have to relax’ or lame “free speech” argument to justify this -- our speech in this country may be free, but the consequences of making such a joke are not. Do you hear anyone making any Holocaust jokes on the campaign trail lately when they talk about the deterioration of the Middle East peace process? Do Iranians have a hard time seeing a good joke? I don’t think so, and here is a good litmus test of the appropriateness of this ‘joke’. Switch “Iran” with “Israel” in John McCain’s little ditty and you would see the well-organized Jewish-American community demand an apology and force his resignation and lifelong exile from American politics in 24 hours.

Make similarly disparaging remarks about African Americans, and that community takes equally swift action. Look at what happened to Don Imus a few weeks ago -- he was making a “joke” too, one overtly racist and sexist. Imus’s joke was also one that apologists also said was being overblown by critics and not a big deal. The African American community was aided for once by the mass media and also by African American journalists that pushed the issue (such the well-respected Gwen Ifill of The News Hour with Jim Lehrer). They mobilized rapidly and helped topple the long time racist shock jock from the airwaves despite his insincere and irrelevant apology. The blueprint is there for Iranians too-we just have to do it. We have numbers, we have money, and we have journalists (even though Rudy Bakhtiar works for Fox).

McCain has not, as of yet, apologized for his comments about Iran. He is too arrogant (and dimwitted) to have the foresight to admit his little remark was cruel and absolutely inappropriate. Even if he does apologize, I don’t think I will be able to take it seriously, let alone accept it. McCain has climbed the political ranks by pimping his war experiences and background for votes and national exposure. His political bread and butter is being a war hero who routinely “supports the troops”, as though that coats him in this unassailable shield.

This conflict has exacted too large a human toll to keep such credentials above reproach. For the record, my close childhood friend was killed in Iraq. I didn’t want him to die -- and he would be alive if this illegitimate war for oil never happened that he and most of the other current Presidential candidates supported. You don’t support the troops or win elections by saber-rattling and making jokes based on indiscriminate killing. You don’t convince anyone that you will be the best person to head this country after two terms of absolute political and diplomatic ineptitude, even if you are running for President in the US. Politicians need to be sent a unequivocal message that there is no place for pathological comments like that in our public discourse. Period. Let’s get started with John McCain. I just donated $25 to that airs a commercial showing footage of McCain singing his Iran policy. I am also emailing this to John McCain, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama, Rudy Giuliani, and Mitt Romney. Anyone who cares about this issue should do something to help fight against this kind of cruelty and indecency. Comment

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Roozbeh Shirazi



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