Caleb Powell – Writing & Photos

Can Muslims Live with Trump in the USA?

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On Muslims and Trump, from the Express Tribune Blogs:  Seattle is the most liberal city in arguably the most liberal state in America. And folks here are in a state of rage and catatonic shock – they’ve refused to attend school and marched through downtown blocking traffic, as one of their leaders, Jamila Prayapal, announced,

“We will have to fight for social justice as never before.”

…Many conservatives aren’t “racist, xenophobic bigots”, and to treat them so is not only wrong but harmful. If we believe in the aphorism that it takes “two to fight”, we liberals must engage. The winners won’t change, the losers must….For liberals, if we wish to return to our values, we must disassociate ourselves from the authoritarian elements of the “social justice” movement, the calls for censorship, witch hunts, safe spaces, and the groupthink that’s taking over media and our universities. If we can, then the Alt-Right and White Nationalists will be the last bigots standing….more


Written by Caleb Powell

December 18, 2016 at 8:14 am

How Media Inadvertently Helped Trump

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On April 6, 1994, a missile shot down an airplane carrying Hutu leaders Juvenal Habyarimana and Cyprian Ntayamira in Rwanda, unleashing the ethnic majority Hutus against the minority Tutsis on a campaign of mass murder. As the atrocity spread, the world debated the nuances of the word ‘genocide’. Three months and at least half a million deaths later proved that, yes, it was genocide. Semantics matter. During the 2016 US election, mainstream media’s refusal to correctly identify bigotry, while perhaps not as egregious as mislabelling ethnic cleansing, has contributed to Donald Trump’s victory. Semantics matter.

Trump’s detractors, and count me as one, remain perplexed. We can’t blame the Republicans, they won. We may ponder hypothetical scenarios: what if Gary Johnson had run a stronger campaign and pulled votes from Trump? Or Jill Stein simply ceased to exist? But this does not explain how the media alienated voters.

Consider Roxane Gay’s post-election analysis in The New York Times:…(more)

Written by Caleb Powell

November 25, 2016 at 8:15 am

How Do Americans View Eidul Azha?

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This year, a controversy surrounded the arrival of Eidul Azha, the second most important holiday in Islam, involving the holiday’s date, as the Express Tribune reported: American Muslims on edge as Eidul Azha looks set to fall on September 11th.

Muslims abroad, especially in the United States, faced the prospect that celebration would coincide with a day of mourning of those killed at the World Trade Centres. As a result, some Muslim leaders prepared for tension between their community and anti-Muslim bigots. In the New York Times, Linda Sarsour, executive director of the Arab American Association of New York, said…(continue)


Written by Caleb Powell

September 24, 2016 at 9:09 am

Posted in Express Tribune, Islam

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The Elissa Washuta Interview

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Elissa washuta

Caleb Powell: You cite Maggie Nelson’s, book, The Argonauts, as influential. How so?

Elissa Washuta: There’s a passage where Nelson reflects on Alice Munro’s short story “Wild Swans.” Nelson writes, “Munro lays it all out: how the force of one’s adolescent curiosity and incipient lust often must war with the need to protect oneself from disgusting and wicked violators, how pleasure can coexist with awful degradation without meaning the degradation was justified or a species of wish fulfillment; how it feels to be both accomplice and victim; and how such ambivalence can live on in an adult sexual life.”

Besides admiring her prose, I really identify because I was trying to show that my first experience was complicated. After I was raped I continued seeing the perpetrator. I was terrified and repulsed, and I constructed a story as a response to rape. There wasn’t pleasure, but there was self-delusion that created a deep ambivalence…continue

Written by Caleb Powell

May 9, 2016 at 1:26 pm

PEN World Voices: Should We Boycott Israeli Writers?

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Andrew Solomon

On April 5, 2016, Andrew Solomon, president of PEN America, sent a letter to over 4,000 members asking for comments regarding a call to boycott “two Israeli writers who are taking part in this year’s PEN World Voices Festival.”

Solomon noted PEN’s position, “put forth in 2007…is opposed to cultural boycotts.” World Voices Festival Director Jakab Orsos and Chairman Colm Toibin reiterated this by responding that “PEN and PWVF must always fall on the side of maximum protections for free expressions.” Who would suggest otherwise?

Ethan and Omar: Two PEN members of the Adalah – NY:  New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel. Not surprisingly, many signatories supported religious chauvinism when they protested last year’s award given by PEN to Charlie Hebdo.

E & O make two mistakes. The first concerns their view of Israel-Palestine, but this should be open to debate; the second, though, is their egregious “Campaign.” Boycotts, when just, have merit; when misguided they become soft censorship. Outside of, say, inciting violence (The murder of Ahmadi Asad Shah in the U.K. relates to how Khatme Nabuwwat instructs followers to kill Ahmadiyya), all speech must be allowed. But fascists by nature need censorship to promote their ideas and suppress opposition, for their ideas cannot disseminate otherwise. (They claim they would support Israeli writers, but not under Israeli sponsorship, which is equivocation.)

That Ethan and Omar wish to boycott the only state in the Middle East where Jews can live free from prejudice, women have equal rights, and homosexuals live openly, suggests duplicity. How can they explain that Israel had 200,000 Arab citizens in 1948 and the present day population is 1.8 million while the Arab states’ Jewish populations have, without exception, dwindled? In Saudi Arabia and Yemen there are no remaining Jews. At the same time these two “fascist lites” ignore Palestinian government responsibility for the miserable situation of the Palestinian people:  corruption, refusal to renounce violence, and call for the destruction of Israel. When you ascribe moral inferiority to Israel, without applying your standard to yourself or other nations, you are not only anti-Semitic but a hypocrite.

The error of E & O’s position on Israel is reflected by their subversively fascist view of speech. To E & O, I quote the biographer Evelyn Beatrice Hall’s (who wrote under the pseudonym S. G. Tallentyre) interpretation of Voltaire’s ideal:  “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Thus we will listen to your views and attempt to counter with superior arguments. You should allow others the same opportunity.

Written by Caleb Powell

April 26, 2016 at 10:25 am

Melissa Chen: Free Speech Destroys Islamic Extremism

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Melissa Chen on Blasphemy

Free Speech:  The right to speak without censorship or restraint except for libel, slander, or inciting violence. Also, to speak w/o government interference.

Expanding Limits:  The present cultural climate of “Psychotic PC” has extended limits on speech to include the criticism of ideas or political views. Hyper-sensitivity to “racism/Islamophobia/homophobia/sexism” has created Neo-McCarthyites aka Social Justice Warriors who believe “My bigotry is justified, yours ain’t.” These fascists must be stopped. To inhibit free speech, as Melissa Chen notes above, is to repress the means that destroys evil ideas.

The Significance:  Donald Trump and Zakir Naik may speak without censorship or restraint, and we will respond with  better ideas. Those who bolster their counterargument with a demand that we limit speech are not only regressive, but lack the strength of their convictions. They are insecure in their ability to debate.

Progress:  Superior ideas win without the need of force of censorship. From ancient days through the Age of Englightenment and beyond, bad ideas needed protection to survive:  Patriarchy, Kleptocratic Regimes/Communism, fundamental Christianity, and slavery were replaced with women’s rights, socio-capitalistic democracy, secularism, and Emancipation.

Three books that incite misogyny/homophobia/and religious supremacism:  If the trilogy of holy books from Judaism/Christianity/Islam went under the same scrutiny that the Radical PC  supporters and Social Justice Warriors demand, these would be the first three books to go.

Moderation:  When religions moderate for the benefit of all, it is because of free speech. As philosophies, religions have much to offer, as ultimate truths they are flimsy. Only free speech can transform ideology in a progressive manner, and thus to want a tolerant and benevolent world is to champion speech.

Related:  These Bangladeshi bloggers were murdered by Islamist extremists. Here are some of their writings

Written by Caleb Powell

April 24, 2016 at 8:53 am

Saving Baby Asha

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Baby Asha

And thousands among billions may seem like very few, but the great expansive power of the focus on the individual stories in individual lives is that now all souls seem important, worth our compassion and understanding.” – Patrick Madden, Sublime Physick

My take, at the Express Tribune, on an individual story: “To morph a cliché attributed to Joseph Stalin – individual tragedy moves us; millions of tragedies become statistics. This signifies either that humanity cares nothing about humanity, or that we cannot process mass atrocity…more



Written by Caleb Powell

March 9, 2016 at 11:31 am

Why the US should welcome Syrian refugees without prejudice

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Syrian Refugees

I wrote about Syrian refugees at The Express Tribune Blogs. Friends who are/were refugees/immigrants, like Ali A. Rizvi & Faisal Saeed Al Mutar, support secularism and diversity. Their voices add to the cultures of Canada and the United States. To assume that 10,000 Syrians are unable to criticize religion, and will blindly follow fundamentalist ideology, is ridiculous. Most will take advantage of their new freedoms.

Here’s my take, Why the US should welcome Syrian refugees without prejudice:

“A meme circulating the internet these days goes,

“Before you condemn Syrian refugees, make sure you never said ‘All Lives Matter’.”

The irony is clear. The fate of Syrian refugees fleeing the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has been put in limbo in the aftermath of the November 13th terrorist attacks in Paris, as seen by an increase in the US of anti-refugee rhetoric…(more)”

Also, other blogs at ET worth reading by and :
Why Muslims should empathise with Islamophobia
#ParisAttacks: Blaming the refugees for the attacks on France is like blaming the victim for escaping the abuser





Written by Caleb Powell

November 27, 2015 at 3:23 am

Massachusetts Independent Film Festival to Show I Think You’re Totally Wrong: A Quarrel

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Massachusetts Indy Film Festival – I Think You’re Totally Wrong:  A Quarrel will play at MIFF at the Brattle Theater in Cambridge, Mass., Aug. 28 at 7 p.m. 

Interview:  James Franco’s ‘Totally Wrong’ Proves Opposites Do Attract

“Even if you hate writing, you’re going to love James Franco, David Shields, and Caleb Powell’s I Think You’re Totally Wrong.” Charles Mudede, The Stranger

“This notion of investigation offers an alternative to confession. Its goal isn’t sympathy or forgiveness. Life is not personal. Life is evidence. It’s fodder for argument. To put the “I” to work this way invites a different intimacy—not voyeuristic communion but collaborative inquiry, author and reader facing the same questions from inside their inevitably messy lives.” – Leslie Jamison, The Atlantic

“Outrageously entertaining . . . a warm, funny, and charming book that questions not only what it means to live for art, but what it means to live.”—Saul Austerlitz, Boston Globe 

“The two longtime pals disagree on marriage, religion, sex, politics, happiness, film—and everything else—with passion, insight, and panache.”—Lisa Shea, Elle Magazine  

 “Start reading I Think You’re Totally Wrong, then try to stop; I dare you. It screws with your head in a way you can’t shake off, and it’s moving—weirdly moving. It ruined my work day. I loved it. Shields is opening up new ways to be a writer.”—Walter Kirn, author, Up in the Air

Previous Shows:

May 2015 – Vancouver, DOXA Documentary Film Festival
May 2015 – Seattle, Three screenings, Hugo House
July 2015 – Portland, Reed College, private screening, Tin House Writers’ Worskhop
July 2015 – Paris, private screening, Cambridge Writers’ Workshop

Future showings:

August 2015 – Cambridge, Massachusetts Independent Film Festival
October 2015 – Chagrin Falls, Ohio, Chagrin Documentary Film Festival

GMOs/Vaccines, Good! Conspiracy Theories, Bad!

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Conspiracy? Beliefs in Big Foot or that NASA faked the moon landing seem relatively innocuous, but ignorance should never be celebrated. At best, ridiculous theories waste time, at worst, they create egregious social disruption. These include claims that the U.S. government instigated the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre, that the Israeli Mossad created Daesh, or that Jews caused 9/11. From The Guardian:

“…that 4,000 notified-by-Israel Jews didn’t turn up for work in the World Trade Center on 9/11 (a fallacy: 9.25% of people who died in the Twin Towers were Jewish, roughly the Jewish population of New York City) are, for many people, facts.”

Harmful ideas derive from good intent, positions against vaccinations an example. At The Daily Beast:

“Anti-vaxxers failing to vaccinate their kids is having a catastrophic effect on the herd immunity everyone relies on to keep preventable illness at bay.”

Bad ideas magnify. In Pakistan and Afghanistan paranoia partners with evil. The Wall Street Journal:

“The Afghan Taliban announced Monday a ban on polio vaccinations in a southern Afghan province.”

And Al Jazeera:

“The (vaccination) campaign faces…threats against polio vaccination teams issued by armed religious groups such as the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and its allies. Such groups allege the vaccine is part of a plot to sterilise or infect children.”

The result? Murder:  National Geographic: “During the past two years, Taliban militants have killed 63 health workers and members of the security forces assigned to protect them.”

In the West anti-vaxxers aren’t the Taliban, but they share a common thread of ignorance. Now, responsible media counters with information, and most anti-vaxxers earn ridicule. Laws mandating vaccinations to attend public school, see California, are being implemented and popular. This trend, hopefully, will continue. A similar dynamic exists in the GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) debate.

GMOs:  Like anti-vaxxers, anti-GMOers distrust corporations. Their argument selects facts. For example, how big agriculture exploits, Monsanto the main culprit. But the conclusions suffer from dyslexia. Separate the excess of Monsanto from the science. Regulations must regard evidence that shows that GMOs create healthier and more abundant food. PhD Neil deGrasse Tyson offers this:

(GMOs) wield an awesome power to improve food in every way that matters to humans: yields, appearance, vitamin content, sweetness, resistance to insects, resistance to weather extremes, and so forth.”

Forbes dissects the paranoia: “’Monsanto teams up with Congress to shred the Constitution,’ shrieked one Huffington Post headline.”

1101000731_400GMOs, properly implemented, benefit humanity. After a year of investigative journalism William Saletan, at Slate, shows how “Golden Rice,” a crop that provides beta-carotene for Vitamin A deficient children in the developing world, has saved thousands of lives.

Conspiracies that blame Jews for every evil, or that suggest the U.S. government seeks to take its citizens’ weapons using a plot that involves massacring school children, should invite scorn. Misinterpretations of facts that counter developing technology and science should receive the same. In the future anti-GMOers will look as foolish as Jenny McCarthy and the anti-Vaxxers look today. If we regulate GMOs, we should focus on the science. Anti-GMO conspiracy theories must not influence politics. Let’s use this technology for the good.

Written by Caleb Powell

August 20, 2015 at 6:52 am