Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Our Gal Reports From White House Violent Extremist Conference


 (Editor’s Note: Once in a while I like to turn this blog over to a young, aspiring writer. Today Alice Paradee, a California private college sophomore, reports on her attendance at the White House’s “violent extremist” conference in Washington.)

  

By A. Paradee

 I attended all discussion panels put on by the White House and State Department. Sessions were as diverse as Violent Extremists in the Oil & Gas Industries to Violent Extremist Police Officers, which focused on the case of Christopher Dorner, a fired cop who declared “asymmetrical” war on the Los Angeles Police Department in 2013. I’ve got to say, however, that I really liked the session, attended by school kids, called, Violent Extremists in the Kindergarten: Finger-painting, Slapping and Biting in the Classroom.

President Obama gave a speech at the beginning of the conference and said, “Through presentations, panel discussions, and small group interactions, participants will build on local, state, and federal government; community; and international efforts to better understand, identify, and prevent the cycle of radicalization to violence at home in the United States and abroad.” The President also attended sessions and was nice enough to answer questions from participants.

Here’s a couple questions he fielded at the Kindergarten Violence discussion.

President Obama: “I’ll call on the young man in the plaid Parochial School uniform.”

“Mr. President Obama, this is my Catholic School uniform.”

The President: “Son, I don’t want to bring religion into this conference discussion. Now what is your question?”

“My name is Mark and a bully at my parochial school named Luke takes my milk money. Is he a violent extremist?”

The President: “Oh, and one of the first order, Mark. I know from experience about extremist bullies. At my Madrassa there was this bully named Atta-Atta Etcetera and he would take my lunch money. . . .”

Mark: “What’s a Ma, Madrassa?”

The President: “A Muslim school, but . . . .”

Mark: “. . . You went to a Muslim school?”

The President: “Yes, but . . . .”

Mark: “Are you a Muslim?”

The President: “Young man, that question has been sufficiently answered by my friends in the media.”

Mark: “Okay, Mr. President . . . You were telling me about Atta-Atta taking your nickels for milk. . . .”

The President: “Yes. Now I won’t call Atta-Atta a Muslim extremist, that would be, well, just extremely wrong. But your bully Luke and my bully Atta-Atta are examples of playground extremists.”

Mark: “What can I do about my bully?”

The President: “Well, unlike me, you cannot call in a drone. (Laughter in the room.) What you need in this instance is a coalition. A group of students, teachers and administrators to sit and talk about this problem. Hold a conference, in other words.”

Mark: “What if they’re unwilling to attack the problem?”

The President: “What problem? I’ll take another question. The woman in the hijab.”

“President Obama. My name is Anisha . . . .”

The President: “. . . Oh, yes, the ‘deep thinker.’”

Anisha: “Thank you, sir. I want to know why you won’t call Islamic terrorists, Islamic terrorists?”

The President: “As I have said fifty seven thousand, two hundred and ten times previously, it is because there is nothing Islamic about these terrorists. They are violent extremists. That makes it fifty seven thousand, two hundred and eleven. Let’s not get caught up in this Islamophobia of Fox News.”

Anisha: “How can I be Islamophobic? I’m Muslim. I call these savages who cut people’s heads off Islamic terrorists. I am willing to, as a Muslim. You’re not a Muslim and you are unwilling to. It makes no sense to me. I do this because these terrorists are also Islamic. Obviously only a few Muslims are Islamic extremists, but we should still call them what they are. If a man who lives in New York murders another, do we call him a New Yorker or a murderer?”

The President: “You are a clever one, Anisha, but calling them Islamic is like calling the leader of the Inquisition, Tomas de Torquemada, a Catholic.”

Anisha: “He was Catholic, sir.”

The President: “Don’t get on your high horse, with me.”

***

I also attended the session titled, Extremists in Congress: The Threat of the Tea Party and other Teabaggers. (A personal note: House Speaker John Boehner attended, and he looks just as orange in person as he does on TV.) After President Obama announced he was giving a presidential freedom medal to Lois Lerner, the IRS official who allegedly sicced revenuers on the Tea Party, he took questions.

The President: “Over here, the young man in the yarmulke.”

“Mr. President my name is Sidney and I was frankly saddened when I heard your spokesman say the Islamic terrorist in Paris who killed people in the Jewish market chose his target at random. How can you say such a thing?”

The President: “There is no evidence of it, and you know I was a law professor. There is insufficient evidence that he selected this Paris market by any means other than by randomness.”

Sidney: “But, Mr. President, the store is named HyperCacher!”

The President: “So what? It could have been Safeway.”

Sidney: “HyperCacher means Super Kosher, you know like in kosher food for Jews.”

The President: “Hey, I know people in New York City who shop at Jewish delis and they aren’t Jewish.”

Sidney: “Still, sir, with all due respect, it was Super Kosher. Do you honestly believe he would have shot up a store named the Mecca Market?”

The President: “Extremists in the Middle East kill Muslims, too. Just the other day 21 Egyptians were beheaded.”

Sidney: “They were Coptic Christians, Mr. President.”

The President: “Oh, my staff just called them Egyptians. Let’s turn to another questioner. Up here in the front. You – the man dressed like a Republican.”

“Mr. President, Sir, I want to continue on the point of your reluctance to call a spade a spade.”

The President: “Why inject race into this?”

“Mr. President, I didn’t – you did. You and your Attorney General Mr. Holder do that a lot! Besides, the English expression to ‘call a spade, a spade’ comes from classical antiquity’s phrase to ‘call a fig, a fig’ and had nothing to do with race. It was later changed to ‘call a spade a spade,’ referring to a gardening tool and not, I might add, to a deck of playing cards. The phrase has been used race-neutrally by such authors as Dickens and W. Somerset Maugham. It has no ethnicity to it. It means, Mr. President, to tell it like it is.”

The President: “I don’t need a professorial lecture from you. What’s your question?”

“Why won’t you call Islamic terrorists, Islamic terrorists? They are Islamic, like the young woman said at the last panel discussion, and terrorists. What do you call the Muslim gunman who killed those people in Denmark the other day?”

The President: “He was born in Denmark. That makes him a Danish extremist. Do I have to sign an executive order to get you people to understand the concept?”

***

The session on Violent Extremists Who Bomb Government Buildings got sparse attendance, and there was a complete retelling of the 1996 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City by Timothy McVeigh that killed 168 people, which, it was pointed out, is still the worst case of domestic terrorism in the United States. The session also focused on the Ku Klux Klan and Southern church bombings.

President Obama: “So as we have seen, all faiths have their violent extremists, and many, many, many of them have been homegrown in the United States of America. And let us not forget the Inquisition. For the next question I’ll call on the mother, holding the little cherub.”

“President Obama, I am a devout Christian and mother of four children, and this is my daughter, little Mary. The Islamic terrorist group called ISIS is using the Internet to recruit young minds, and as many as a thousand a month are heading to the Middle East to wage jihad and behead people, just like they do in the video games they play. What can we do about this?”

The President: “Finally, a good question and I have a good answer. I have thought this one through in the Oval Office with my closest advisors. . . . We need to raise the minimum wage. ISIS gets millions in oil money and extortion money and pays its young violent extremists well. We must stay competitive in the global economy. A higher minimum wage will keep our youngsters at home. I have time for one more. Yes, you, to my left. By the way, haven’t I seen you on You Tube? Yes, you’re the lady who collects skins of rattlesnakes in Arizona, aren’t you?”

“Yes, Mr. President, all reptiles shed their skins. It’s called ecdysis. My specialty is the rattlesnake.”

The President: “Anything so venomous gives me the willies. (Shy laughter in the room.) I’d rather just stay away, and let the thing slither off where it wants. What is your name and what is your question?”

“I’m called Valerie the Rattlesnake Lady, and I watched a video of a Jordanian bomber pilot being burned alive by ISIS. Did you see that?”

The President: “To be honest, I averted my eyes.”

Valerie: “Mr. President, I was looking at the program for this conference and I like the titles, like Violent Extremism in George Bush’s Texas; Violent Extremism in the Bible Belt; and Violent Extremism on Wheat Farms in the Pacific Northwest. But I don’t see anything about the violence on our urban streets, such as Chicago, where blacks shoot and murder thousands of blacks. Isn’t that violent extremism, too?”

The President: “Valerie, Valerie, Valerie. This is the second time today somebody has thrust race into this conference. This black-on-black thing is a rightwing canard, and frankly, racist. You don’t hear Jesse Jackson and my buddy Al Sharpton talking about this, do you? The blacks you refer to, well, they are simply squabbling over turf. Whites did it in the Old West; you’ve heard of range wars, haven’t you?”

Valerie: “But, Mr. President, isn’t ISIS fighting over turf?”

The President: “I want to thank everyone for attending today. I have got to go to my last session, Violent Extremism in Rural America’s Work Place.”

***

The discussion group on Workplace Violence was very well attended, indeed, and the President introduced several of his Staff that were there and he thanked them for the conference, which he called “the greatest conference on violent extremism ever held in the modern era.” He also said it only proves that “the meeting is mightier than the sword.” I personally didn’t like the phrase, but I noticed the President wasn’t using a teleprompter at the time, and I figured it was just him talking off the top of his head. Several rural work place violence cases were gone over in minute detail, including one where a Muslim who had photos of Osama bin Laden on his Facebook page had cut off the head of a fellow worker, a woman, ISIS-style at a food factory in Oklahoma. Afterwards President Obama opened it to a few questions. (He made a quip about a golf tee time, which brought chuckles, mostly from his staff.)

“Mr. President, my name is George, and as you can see by my uniform I am a member of the United States military, and proud of it. I know there has been a lot talk here today, but isn’t it time we go over there and kick some ISIS butt?” (Heavy applause followed.)

The President: “It’s lowly corporal, right?”

George: “Yes, sir, and at your command, sir.”

The President: “We have a vast coalition doing that, already. The other day I watched a pick-up truck being blown up by a laser-guided bomb. It’s really cool, there’s this big video screen in the Oval Office. I mean the explosions are really big. We’re kicking serious butt right now, Corporal George. We’ll destroy ISIS one pick-up at a time.”

George: “How many do they have, sir?”

The President: “I haven’t the foggiest. . . . Let me take another question. The man in the lab coat, up front here.”

“President Obama, my name is Dr. Smith, as in Medical Doctor – none of that Ph.D. crap.”

The President: “. . . Or, Juris Doctor, I imagine.”

Dr. Smith, M.D.: “Right. My question is this: During the panel discussion you kept referring to the case of Army psychiatrist, Dr. Nidal Hasan, who killed 13 people at Fort Hood in August 2013, as workplace violence.”

The President: “Because that’s what it was!”

Dr. Smith, M.D.: “Sir, I mean no disrespect whatsoever, but even Dr. Hasan admits he was waging jihad.”

The President: “He murdered co-workers. Not on a battlefield. It was workplace violence. Period.” (President looks at his watch.)

Dr. Smith, M.D.: “Okay, whatever. But if Dr. Nidal isn’t an Islamic terrorist, what do you call him?”

The President: “A violent and extreme psychiatrist.”

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