When the President of the United States was vacationing in Hawai’i, the fiftieth state with no particular racial majority and the subject of a remarkable book called “Mapping Human History: Genes, Race, and Our Common Origins” by Steve Olson a former Bush White House staffer, a young London educated Nigerian engineer and an affluent banker’s son by the name of Abdulmutallab was apprehended on a U.S airliner for trying to blow it up in flight. This arrest and the subsequent White House response to it had then become the prologue to the important election to fill the late Ted Kennedy’s senate seat from Massachusetts.
Scott Brown, the Massachusetts senator-elect, an unknown state senator until the Abdulmutallab arrest then catapulted to tie the polls by election-day, on which he won the race quite comfortably taking a hard line position on national security. His ‘waterboarding is okay’ argument had reminded many of Dick Cheney. Albeit an independent, being normally a Republican voter, I had written him off and in fact supported Martha Coakley campaigning from my Maryland home after finding out Scott Brown’s position on torture.
The voters of Massachusetts to whom this election was directed were perhaps convinced of Brown’s candidacy because of the health care bill they did not like, an accurate perception across the country and across party lines. Given the 60 filibuster-proof Democrat senators, most people were feeling helpless in trying to stop the passage of a bill that would end up costing more even though it was attempting to legislate important health care principles. Passing bad bills to do some good and some bad is not new to the United States Congress. Some money always gets wasted before things are improved. So, on balance, even if health care had passed as is it would have been acceptable until the next popular uprising to lower costs, an important point on which Brown won over Coakley given the Massachusetts experience with health care thus far. Late term abortions, which Coakley had supported, were dealt with by the Supreme Court anyway. Such is the nature of democracy.
The quiet, almost subliminal, voter reaction in Massachusetts that got Scott Brown’s hard line politics into Washington, however, is the anxiety of the voters over Abdulmutallab. Had Coakley been running in Hawai’i she would have won and this is what makes Brown’s election worrisome: it means to the majority of the more than 80% white voters in Massachusetts (of the 6 million or so population of the state, assuming the voting age population is in proportion to the state demographics) and mostly to those outside Boston which voted overwhelmingly for Coakley, it was acceptable implicitly to waterboard Abdulmutallab if it was necessary. They had little to worry about health care under the current federal bill. Massachusetts already has what the country could get if the current bill passes. So, the election turned on terrorism and national security and the perception of the White House as being soft on terrorism.
This raises a more troublesome question for those investigating how Abdulmutallab ever got on that plane even after the authorities were alerted by his own father. Is the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) playing politics with national security? Did Republican partisanship in a government department have anything to do with sneaking Abdulmutallab onto that plane to fabricate a national security issue before an important election? After all, mechanisms in place since DHS was formed in 2003 could not have failed with a person already on the government’s watch list remarkably coincidentally before the Massachusetts election?!
Most importantly, the press coverage of the radicalization of Abdulmutallab does not help either. A New York Times article from January 16th had reported that “…where even a family as Westernized as Mr. Abdulmutallab’s has had contact with clerics espousing anti-Western and anti-Israeli ideals” implying that westernization of foreign cultures is somehow an antidote to radicalization. It is important to understand in the United States and in the European Union that modernity can once again reach the Islamic world without it necessarily having to subscribe to the Judeo-Christian theology on which John McCain had campaigned only to lose overwhelmingly to Barack Hussein Obama, a black and white Christian by choice ― both of his parents and his own. After all, the Judeo-Christian world, just as any other faith, neither was nor is holier than thou. Disagreements on policy in a mature democracy must not lead to a reversion to the heuristic of trusting one’s own of those in the majority, especially when the current predicament of the United States is because of one’s own.
European modernity had succeeded Islamic modernity; had not preceded it in history. The number system is Hindu- Arabic. Therefore, it is a gratuitous war for civilization on the part of conservative Republicans, especially since 9/11, excavating the ghost of Winston Churchill. For example, the Taj Mahal was built when the pilgrims in Massachusetts were learning how to tend the land from the American Indians. American and European hubris must be self-contained and some modesty would be in the enlightened self-interest.
The concept of modernity must be abstracted out of its cultural bases if its roots in the enlightenment interpretation of secularism as secular faith (not the neo-liberal godlessness) is to be universally adopted. The ideology of foreign policy of the West since Truman is thoroughly lacking in this. There is nothing wrong with Islamic banking or with secular Islamic societies similar to the mostly de facto secular Christian societies of Europe where democratic European countries still have state religions as in the U.K, unlike, for example, US or India. The United States needs a mindset change if it is to successfully engage the Islamic world. And so do the Republicans in the United States if the country is to not tread down the dangerous path of subliminal fascism which had destroyed every major power in world history.
As a matter of policy, it is time to take seriously the prospect of getting out of the Persian Gulf in a hurry by becoming energy independent to prevent the recurrence of future Abdulmutallabs or the Boston Logan hijackers on the morning of 9/11 or worse, rather than succumbing to the entitlement of the resources of foreigners for the comfort of the rural residents of Massachusetts who catapulted Scott Brown into the United States Senate. If this trend continues in November it does not bode well for the future of the United States. Congresswoman Jane Harman of California who is a member of House Committee on Homeland Security had cautioned quite wisely and presciently that future terrorist incidents could turn the country fascist.
The message to the new President, who today completes one year in office, is to graduate to being a president, from the deliberative and collegial Democrat senator that he was, to get his policies right to get things done that must be done, sooner than later.