Friday, June 19, 2009

fear and loathing in the land of the free

Funny you should mention fear of torture in Iran. When I email my Bangladeshi friends and relatives in America, they are terrified if I make any reference to rigged elections in Bangladesh, or electoral violence in Bangladesh, or any aspect of US foreign policy that has anything to do with Bangladesh. And, of course, I must NEVER say anything about extraordinary rendition, Gitmo, etc, and I never do; but I can't help talking about US foreign policy here, on my soil, in my land....
They are terrified that somebody is reading their e-mails, so they beg me not to write about these things, even though I am only writing about events in Bangladesh. I have to confine myself to subjects like appendectomies and caching the cold from my students....

As for controlled elections, well, that's a well-trodden subject nowadays, so I won't bring it up. A recent historian, David Reynolds, has observed that the US electoral system is so tightly controlled that no outsider can ever possibly hope to win. Like Ralph Nader, perhaps.

My friends are afraid, at the least, of losing their jobs, their careers, their bread and butter; and, at the worst, losing sleep for nights without end, and waterboarding….If I lived in such a state, I would be scared dead too.

It's no use saying that these people's fears are unfounded: after all, the US government hasn't (yet) drawned and quartered anyone for criticising their foreign policy.

But that misses the point: their terror is perfectly real – largely because they have Muslim names.

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