Reality of the Burning Sand
January 14, 2003
By Dennis Rahkonen
Remember the Ray Stevens hit from the '60s, Ahab the Arab?
I doubt there's ever been an American pop-culture offering
that's so atrociously stereotyped an entire "other" people,
unless it's Please, Mr. Custer, by one-hit wonder Larry Verne
from a few years earlier. Both "novelty" tunes got their jollies
through thoroughly derisive ridicule.
The great, historic defense against genocide at the Little
Big Horn was treated as a laughing matter, and Stevens' Ahab
- supposedly typifying Muslims around the world - was a camel-jockey
sheik with "rubies and diamonds just a-dripping off of him,
and a ring on every finger of his hand".
Of course, this abject Aunt Jemimafication of minorities
or foreigners wasn't anything unique at the time, and still
persists today. Trent Lott virtually turned his tainted carcass
inside out trying to wiggle away from the fiasco his thoughtless
accommodation with discriminatory wickedness only recently
And the flip side of our Polish-joke outlook regarding those
different from our WASP selves is a wildly glorified portrayal
of The American, exemplified by Toby Keith's The Red, White
and Blue, a music video I personally can't watch without completely
cringing over what we've pathetically become. Furthermore,
it's via an officially sanctioned, media-fed extension of
popularly pervasive prejudice within U.S. majority ranks that
we now stand on the brink of a catastrophic war with Iraq.
Ahab and Osama have morphed in our propagandistically manipulated,
collective mind to become Saddam, who's not dripping fabulous
jewels, but pure venom, plus biological and chemical weapons
of mass destruction.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the Apocalypse.
The UN sent inspectors to Iraq to verify the ballyhooed threat
so profusely alleged by oil-lusters Bush and Cheney, and -
after more than a month of aggressively looking - just what
have they found?
What will we do if the ultimate UN conclusion is that no
evidence can be unearthed to substantiate Washington's bugbear
portrayal of Baghdad as the worst danger to humanity since
Berlin's mad machinations in Nazi days?
Will Dubya then go on TV, look us straight in the eyes with
that goofy, "Who, me?" mug, and tell us our kids will have
to die in a bloody war, regardless, because we have it on
his unproven assurance that there actually ARE such weapons
out there, hidden in... Ahab's tent?
That's plainly insufficient basis for turning large quantities
of recent U.S. high school graduates into perforated and burnt
corpses inside returning body bags. Not to mention all those
Iraqi civilians whose name isn't Saddam who'd be blown away
as our bombers hideously transformed Iraq's cities into new
What goes around comes around. As ye reap so shall ye sow.
Our myths and biases are on a definite collision course with
reality. We've consistently trivialized or demonized others
for long decades, and the short truth is that we're soon about
to experience some exceedingly painful payback. I'm not talking
about minor come-uppance, either. The hits to our national
standing, in global impact, will be staggering.
If we don't get our heads on straight quickly, and get reactionary
warmongers under sane control, we'll take a steep dive toward
the footnotes of history where the reasons for once-great
"empires" going to pale insignificance can sadly be located.
Because no nation, however mighty in military power, can
withstand the other person's (world's) truth forever.
Dennis Rahkonen, from Superior, WI, has been writing progressive
commentary and verse for various outlets since the '60s. He
can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.