FOAMING AND GROANING: Now that the backlash is in full swing, Santa Barbara better hide its family jewels. The backlash to which I’m referring is the one directed against anyone who looks vaguely Arab, Muslim, or, for that matter, Puerto Rican. And the family jewels to which I allude are Santa Barbara’s historical, defining architectural style. This look is described in the brochures alternately as “Spanish,” sometimes as “Andalusian.” But whatever tag you give it, the key element activating our collective pineal glands is decidedly “Moorish” in origin. That’s right, Moorish. As is no longer taught in school, the Moors were both Arabs and Muslims, and they invaded Spain way back in the pre-Crusade day. The stereotypically Spanish exclamation “Olé” for example, is an enthusiastic bastardization of “Allah,” the Muslim prophet. By any modern metric — math, astronomy, the disposal of unwanted bodily excretions — the invading Moors were far more “civilized” than their Spanish invadees. Before eventually being forced out, the Moorish occupiers would seek to cram this civilization down the ungrateful throats of the occupied, who, in spite of themselves, still wound up learning a thing or two about Moorish architecture. Hence the Andalusian pipedream that today is Santa Barbara in all its self-intoxicated splendor. No more conspicuous example of this hallucination-as-art can be found than at the corner of Mission and State streets, former home to a blandly utilitarian Mobil gas station and now home to what any idiot could easily confuse for a mosque. But instead the building, silly by even Santa Barbara’s most shameless standards, is home to new 7-Eleven and Subway sandwich shops. If the Backlash Brotherhood ever does make it to Santa Barbara, I would suggest this new edifice should be Stop Number One. The Slurpees, I’m told, are to die for.
I get that people are jumpy. If terrorists — even American-born, American-raised, county bureaucrats living in the Inland Empire — are going to target obscure government office buildings in San Berdoo, who among us can delude ourselves we’re immune from attack?
In this week’s Republican Punch and Judy show, Ted Cruz and Donald Trump went at it tooth and claw, and my heart went out to the relatively sane, measured, and balanced individuals I know who belong to the Republican party. Trump, we are told by Republican pundit Tony Quinn, is inevitable because he speaks to “the racism of nostalgia” so imbedded in older white voters composing the backbone of the GOP. Having become afflicted with a bad case of Trump Fatigue, I found myself perversely cheering on Texas Senator Ted Cruz. Watching the debates, I am reminded the enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend. Had the United States bothered learning this simple lesson when it comes to waging war in the Middle East, none of us would be worrying today about ISIS, Al-Qaeda, or email hoaxes that shut down the entire Los Angeles Unified School District.
Cruz — spiking in some polls — is clearly the shiny new object, but Trump remains the most appallingly original candidate: boldly unapologetic fear, greed, and hate without false humility about any higher powers. Cruz is a more radioactive incarnation of the same old smug, smarmy, faith-based vituperation upon which we’ve already overdosed too many times. But he can definitely dance. When it was suggested the gunman who shot up the Planned Parenthood offices in Colorado Springs qualified as a political terrorist, Cruz insisted the man was a “transgendered leftist activist.” Religiously, Cruz is born-again Christian-Zionist ayatollah who eagerly embraces an end-of-days sharia. To the extent he reads the Bible, it’s all about “smiting.” He was introduced at a recent event by Pastor Kevin Swanson, who, among other things, contends the Bible justifies the execution of homosexuals. Although Cruz would repudiate these remarks, his campaign has been backed to the tune of $15 million by a family of Texas fracking billionaires — the Wilks brothers — who contend homosexuality constitutes not just a sin, but an actual crime. When it comes to ISIS, Cruz has coyly intimated he’d carpet bomb “the bad guys” with nukes. “I don’t know if sand can glow in the dark,” he famously said, “but we’re going to find out.” When asked to elaborate this week, he merely smirked.
Stupidity is hardly restricted to any one party. California Democrat Loretta Sanchez — now running for U.S. Senate against Kamala Harris — is trying to extricate feet from mouth after stating she knows for a fact that 5 to 20 percent of Muslims worldwide would be “willing to use” ISIS-like terrorism to promote the “caliphate.” Given there are 1.6 billion Muslims on the planet, am I to really believe 320 million are ready to cut off my head with a Swiss Army Knife? No wonder I don’t sleep at night.
As we in the United States desperately seek refuge in our Paleo selves, women in Saudi Arabia — for the first time ever! — went to the polls and cast their ballots. To step on somebody else’s line, that qualifies as one small step for women, but one giant leap for mankind. And French voters just rejected a slate of highly accomplished and charismatic xenophobes running for national offices by a margin of 70 percent. Given recent mayhem in Paris — unquestionably ISIS in origin — voters there could be excused if they went the other way. And maybe it’s just coincidental, but Paris happened to be the site where 200 nations signed on the dotted line to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. More to the point, Big Business and the interglobal insurance industry showed up, as well, to show support. Their presence went beyond the usual green-washing; plain and simple, alternate energy means big bucks. It’s all but certain we’ll be arguing over what that line means in the years to come. But we signed it. To do otherwise would have been unthinkable.
Maybe I’ll celebrate by getting a Slurpee at the downtown mosque. I’ll drink it so fast that my head explodes