That truth should be silent I had almost forgot.
Antony and Cleopatra,  Act 1, Scene 2

Unsilent Truth
July 7, 2017


You’ve consented to everything, right?


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On Independence Day, we Americans celebrate our independence from the British Empire. Our forebears took exception to what they were pleased to call "taxation without representation." They had not minded being "represented" by the British troops during the French and Indian War, but being defended from the French armies and their savage (terrorist?) allies without getting to vote for it was one thing; paying for it later was another. Their displeasure came to a head when a contingent of British troops — whose leaders had had a bellyful of violent tax protests — attempted to take possession of some weaponry the Americans had set aside for a rainy day.

We shall return to this business of representation after a lengthy digression.

There is more to the Trump travel ban than is being reported. The fact is that even tourism is becoming harder and harder for Muslims who wish to visit the United States, and it's not just Muslims from the six countries with which the United States is more or less at war.

The five former Soviet republics of Central Asia are Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. They are Muslim countries in the sense that the majority population are Muslim. But there are Catholic churches, Orthodox churches, and even Protestant churches to be found there, all enjoying a degree of religious freedom not found in, let us say, Israel. They have mixed-Asian populations, along with Russians. In all of the countries, most of the people speak Russian along with whatever Asian languages they may have. Koreans, Chinese, and Indians also live there in large numbers. Many of the doctors in the better facilities are Jews, and many of them are women, serving the Muslim women who do not go to male doctors if they can avoid it.

These countries are not copies of one another. Each has its own native language and customs. And enmities. (Uzbekistan, for example, has a long-running border dispute with Kyrgyzstan in the southwest corner where the city of Osh is. And the minority Kyrgyz population in Kazakhstan complain of a certain amount of what we would call discrimination. They call it hostility.) But they have many things in common. When the Soviet Union dissolved, these countries were taken over primarily by old-line Communists. Their successors still run things — more or less — to varying degrees of stability. (Kyrgyzstan experiences a largely unbloody revolution about every five years.)

On the one hand, they are old-fashioned: public displays of affection — especially between mixed-race couples — are discouraged, sometimes by ad hoc violence. Businesses close for the major Muslim holidays, of which there are more than you might suppose. And the residents — even the non-Muslim residents — hold to some odd Gypsy-like superstitions that are not a part of Islam as such. Bride kidnappings are not unheard of, though sometimes they are consensual and a cover for simple elopement. Divorced women occupy a diminished social role and are something of an embarrassment to their families. Family ties are much stronger than Westerners are accustomed to, though there is one familiar feature: a kind of natural enmity exists between a mother-in-law and her daughter-in-law.

In addition to bits and pieces of civil repression, there is the kind of economic repression that one would expect from any government with a Communist history. Watchful finance police keep an eye on the bank accounts of the non-elite prosperous. Amazon.com cannot deliver to some of these countries. And retirement ages are enforced by law.

On the other hand, there is widespread secularization. Women can (as suggested) divorce their husbands, sometimes even winning custody of the children, and both married and single women can walk about freely unaccompanied in public. They can (and do) wear sleeveless blouses and shorts or tight jeans in parks and other public places. White women (mostly Russian) who are alone are safer — even among Muslim men — than the white women of Sweden or Germany. Hijabs, burkas, niqabs, and dupattas are not unheard of, but are not common. Miss Universe contests and other beauty pageants are held, and the clothing worn by the contestants is indistinguishable from that of European and other degenerate cultures.

Kyrgyzstan's Issyk-Kul is the tenth-largest lake in the world and a major vacation spot. Although some of the women may wear "beach dresses," many will sunbathe and swim in bikinis. Rock music (including heavy metal and rap) can be heard in public places. Nearly everyone seems to have a smart phone, and abortion is legal. Many brides are not virgins on their wedding night. (I say much of this not by way of praise, but merely by way of showing that it is American decadence, not Wahhabi Islam, that has penetrated Central Asia and is destroying the traditional cultures there.)

The countries were dreadfully poor under the Soviet yoke, but since 1990, they have enjoyed a prosperity familiar to Westerners. Astana, the new capital of Kazakhstan, is quite modern, and is called "Europe in Asia." Its hospitals and other medical facilities are highly regarded. By some accounts, Kazakhstan is even undergoing a certain amount of liberalization in its government. (In this connection, see articles by Javier M. Piedra at Asia Times.) The countries' emerging prosperity is the result of trade with China. As might be expected, trade is a mixture of free and cartelized. Kazakhstan, for example, controls Kyrgyzstan's Internet access and has threatened to downgrade its speed and reliability if any efforts are made to build independent Internet service.

The Central Asian Muslim countries do not have a terrorist problem. Well, they have some terrorist problems. Uighurs will now and then drive a truck into a Chinese embassy, but jihadist terrorism and general carrying-on does not occur. The old Bolsheviks who run these countries have only a tenuous devotion to civil liberties, and they have made it clear that if the jihadists come into their countries, they will just kill them. No trials. No sympathetic press. No cries of freedom of religion. Just a couple of quick bullets and it's off to the houris hopeful jihadists go.

Sometimes, one of the young men of a family, in order to relieve his family's poverty, will go West to join ISIS or some other outfit that offers a sign-up bonus, which he will then send back home. Other than that, the average Asian of these countries has almost no connection with terrorism.

And it is important for Americans to understand: these Muslims are Asian. They are not Persians, and they are not Middle Easterners. Saudi Arabia limits severely their travel to Mecca for the Hajj.

My purpose in recounting all this is to give the reader a sense of Islam different from that of the Arabic and African countries that were specifically targeted by the travel ban, and whence come the bombers, killers, and rapists who have invaded Europe and the United States. Nevertheless, a citizen of the Muslim countries that are not at war with the United States will find himself faced with certain, shall we say "challenges," if he wishes to travel to this country. American policy appears not to be very nuanced in this respect; one may almost say it is binary: you are either Muslim or you are not, and if Muslim, under preemptive suspicion.

The prospective visitor will go to the U.S. embassy to apply for a visa, and he will learn that the United States is interested in much more about him than seems necessary in the ordinary course of getting a visa. The embassy, of course, does not really care about any of it; the staff will merely forward the data to one of our 14 or 17 security agencies (or however many there are — I'm not sure Americans are allowed to know how many there are). He will be asked about former employment and education. And he will be required to supply the passwords and user IDs to his e-mail accounts, Skype, Viber, and other social-media accounts. Presumably, the relevant security agency will use this material merely to run it against whatever software they have that looks for words such as "jihad," "kill," "bomb," and "Allah akbar." And since their software is probably more sophisticated than that, there's no telling what else they will be looking for. The ordinary American is certainly not allowed to know that.

You may believe that "people who hide things have things to hide," and so have little sympathy for the graduate from a cooking university in Dushanbe who wants to come see the Statue of Liberty (more precisely "Liberty Enlightening the World") and the Jefferson Memorial, but who is reluctant to let strangers read all of his SMS messages. But try to imagine yourself planning a visit to St. Petersburg to see the Hermitage and being asked by the Russian embassy to supply the passwords to all your accounts.

And of course, when he attempts to return to his homeland, the TSA will subject him to racial profiling and extreme and invasive searches at the airport, for he is not actually a member of any of the protected classes of Muslims who have advocacy groups working for them here.

It is clear that the current administration (and almost certainly the one that preceded it) is deliberately discouraging all peaceful tourism on the part of Muslims. Judge of that what you will. It is not my purpose here to address your opinion or to voice mine. My purpose is merely to alert you to the fact that U.S. government policies that affect the entire world are little known by the American public who, according to their political philosophy, have consented to them.

And now that you are aware of these distant policies, ask yourself: How much more have you consented to? Embassy employees and security personnel — did you consent for them to represent you by demanding that desperate girls trying to come to this country to work as au pairs hand over their correspondence with their cousins, boyfriends, girlfriends, and grannies? Do they represent you?

When NATO troops move to the eastern border of Poland for "exercises" (as they are doing), are their commanders representing you? Did you consent for them to represent you? Did you consent to be represented by the people who sent them there? When Democrats in Congress call for war against someone (and they will), or when Republicans call for it (and they will), are they representing you? Is that you calling for war?

Even a little bit of exploring the foreign press may shock you. With any luck, it will lead you to question what it means to be "represented" by our Washington masters, and perhaps to wonder just when you found time to consent to their policies. Ω

July 7, 2017

Published in 2017 by WTM Enterprises.

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