Cal Does it Again (unfortunately)

July 11, 2010

Cal Thomas is almost always misguided, hateful, prejudiced, ignorant, mean-spirited, and  many other things that make for bad journalism, so I’m not sure why I’m ever surprised when I read an article by him that leaves me temporarily tongue-tied and shell-shocked by the sheer audacity of the garbage found within, but this recent op-ed piece of his really takes the cake. You can read the entire thing here.

His complaint this time concerns a statement made by President Obama’s appointed NASA Administrator Charles Bolden saying that “perhaps the foremost mission” of his job “is improving relations with the Muslim world.” That is a bit of a head-scratcher at face value, but if you watch the full clip (you can view Bolden being interviewed on Aljazeera here), you’ll see that whereas Thomas (and every other conservative pundit jumping on this story as if it’s the holy grail) asserts that this is NASA’s primary goal under Obama, it sounds more like this is Bolden’s job within NASA, one of 3 primary goals. Critics of this statement have complained that “making Muslims feel good about past achievements in math and science,” is preposterous; Bolden does mention that acknowledging the vast accomplishments in those fields by Muslims is part of what he is doing. Those that see no reason for this acknowledgement likely have no awareness of the “1001 Inventions” exhibition that is opening around the world this year (check out more about it here). In building better relationships between the West and the Muslim world it is only fair and far past time that these accomplishments are acknowledged. Arrogance and colonization hid widespread knowledge of the wellspring of intellectual growth that occurred in the Muslim world while the rest of the world slipped into the “Dark Ages” until very recently. Yet it’s still understandable why many wonder what this has to do with NASA; Bolden goes on in the video clip to discuss the efforts to involve as many different nations and cultures as possible in joint-scientific development; the International Space Programs should be, you know, International. Thomas has a right to argue the point that none of this bridge-building needs to be in a NASA job description, though. Thomas is bemoaning what he sees to be a slipping US space program and he’s crying out for millions of dollars to go pumping into it without acknowledging there’s good debate on both sides as to whether that’s a good idea anyway, but that’s also beside the point.

What is troubling about Cal’s diatribe is the sheer arrogance and ignorance that oozes out of his every word. Sure he can argue that bridge-building isn’t a job for NASA, but is fanning the flames of prejudice and attempting to burn bridges between communities a worthy job description for Cal? Interesting for me was that I was in the middle of reading Edward Said’s (originally 1981 but revised in 1997) work “Covering Islam: How the Media and the Experts Control How the West Sees the Rest of the World,” when I stumbled on Cal’s piece Friday. Said recounts horrendous reporting of the Muslim world which objectified, stereotyped, and made sweeping, monolithic and unreasonable claims on the “Muslim world” in the book; I was thinking that in many ways the press was making progress past that when Cal made me eat my words as he ignorantly made age-old mistakes.

“Female genital mutilation, Beheadings, Stoning of alleged adulterers, Honor killings, Terrorism,” and “Death sentences to religious converts,” is the list of “accomplishments” Cal credits Muslims with making lately, as if the culture, politics, extremists, ideologues, criminals and other maladies are not even present as root-causes to any of these and as if all of these things can be credited to Islam. It’s rude, wrong, and ignorant to say such a thing–Cal’s a devout evangelical and it would offend him to hear a Muslim list “priests molesting children, radicals bombing abortion clinics, Serbs ethnically cleansing the Muslims in Bosnia, televangelists having torrid affairs and ripping off tithers” as a list of Christian “accomplishments.” There is no blanket Christendom nor is there a blanket Islam or “Muslim world,” there are many nations with Muslims and many with Christians and all differ based on culture, politics, and economics. Cal pulls no punches and goes on to condemn Japan as well, writing that all they’ve given us is Sushi and the Cherry tree, and of course he invokes Hitler, trying to emotionally draw parallels that we stopped him and must now stop all Muslim leaders. He blasts Europe, recounting how we “bailed them out twice before.” He writes that there’s no need to apologize for our past because we haven’t really done that much wrong. Yet it all comes down to a diatribe against Obama–for reaching out to the Muslim world, and most of all for allegedly tearing down the America Cal loves so much and trying to rebuild it into something else, something Cal believes no one else wants and so Cal is confident Obama will learn this the hard way in November. Maybe so; but if the America Cal wants to keep and recreate is one full of arrogance and unearned superiority over the rest of the world, there are many Americans who hopefully want no part of that America either. If Obama is seriously succeeding in tearing down a hate-filled America and replacing it with something better, then he’s doing more than I was aware of–Cal must see something I don’t.

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2 Responses to “Cal Does it Again (unfortunately)”

  1. dwhamby1 said

    Your photo reminds me of the bad guy in those movies who sits with his cat and smiles as he takes over the world! Interesting piece!

    • Jonelle said

      Charles and I were equally appalled and stated so in a “readers write” letter to our local paper. Hatred of Muslims seems to be in vogue these days. Good people need to take a stand against the vitriol and hatred being spread through bigoted ignorance.

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