You are hereTom Dispatch: Tomgram: James Carroll, Where Did All the Fatwas Go?

Tom Dispatch: Tomgram: James Carroll, Where Did All the Fatwas Go?

March 8, 2011- A week or so ago, a friend of mine noticed a poster taped to a wall inside the rotunda of the Wisconsin State Capitol building, where American demonstrators were camped out.  It showed a lone demonstrator walking toward a line of helmeted Egyptian police, holding high a protest sign.  Under the photo, a caption said simply: “Walk like an Egyptian.”

If you want to know something new about our American world, just think about that.  No further explanation was needed.  Across this country Americans undoubtedly understood just what that meant and what it represented: an unbelievably brave explosion of desire for freedom in the Arab world.  If that caption had said, “Walk like a Tunisian (or Bahraini, Algerian, Iranian, Iraqi, Omani, Libyan, etc.),” few would have found that strange either.  It’s already as normal here as mom and apple pie.  And yet, had you predicted that this was coming as 2010 ended, you would have been laughed out of the American living room by experts, among others, who assured you that Arabs were incapable of such acts, that their religion prevented it, and that “walk like an Egyptian” was nothing more than a 1986 hit by the Bangles about the bizarre way Egyptians of old moved.

Sometimes the tectonic plates of our cultural world shift radically and we hardly know it’s happened.  This seems to be such a moment and today one of my favorite columnists, James Carroll of the Boston Globe, considers just that shift.  In the disastrous early years of the George W. Bush era, Carroll put the rest of the mainstream media and the punditocracy to shame.  As a weekly columnist, he was perhaps the first media figure to notice -- and warn against -- a presidential "slip of the tongue" just after the assaults of 9/11, when President Bush referred to his new Global War on Terror as a "crusade." He was possibly the first mainstream columnist to warn against the consequences of launching a war on Afghanistan in response to those attacks.  In September 2003, he was possibly the first to pronounce the Iraq War "lost" in print.

He’s still ahead of the game.  As he so strikingly summed up events in the Middle East in his column last week, “The revolutions in the Arab streets, whatever their individual outcomes, have already overturned the dominant assumption of global geopolitics -- that hundreds of millions of impoverished people will uncomplainingly accept their assignment to the antechamber of hell.” Tomorrow, his newest book, Jerusalem, Jerusalem: How the Ancient City Ignited Our Modern World, is officially published.  It is a stunning reconsideration of much of Western (even American) as well as Middle Eastern history.  It offers a new way of looking at the origins and development of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, of the Christopher Columbus story, of the history of printing, and of so much else, including the moment in 1973 when the Middle East nearly went nuclear.  There is no way to sum it up, except to indicate that the bestselling author of Constantine’s Sword has done it again.  Here’s my advice: buy this book. It will change the way you see our world.

FULL STORY HERE: (lots more + audio)


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