In 2016 Ahmad Amiri was granted a special immigrant visa and moved to the United States with his wife and children. Amiri had worked for seven years as a translator for U.S. forces in Afghanistan and although we are often perfectly capable of denying visas to people like him in part out of the abject cruelty and racism and indifference to human life inherent in American empire and in part because our wars in the Middle East have been going on for so many years there’s a huge backlog of applicants in this case the system worked as it was supposed to and he and his family were brought to safety where they established a new life in Texas the most American of states.
You might call his story some version of the American Dream if you believe in that sort of thing but Amiri soon learned about the American Nightmare when he was shot four times while working as a security guard in Dallas in December.
As a result of the shooting Amiri has lost movement below the neck all of which is terrible enough on its own but the injury has also left his wife who does not speak English unable to support their three young children one of which has a severe disability. They applied to have his parents come from Afghanistan to help take care of the children but the government which is to say the people who represent you and I which is to say you and I denied them the opportunity three times. No you said. They cannot come I said. Why would we do that? I do not really have a good answer for that.
“I feel betrayed for the work he has done, and now they don’t want to return the same,” his wife said through a translator in March. “I’m asking them to please. I need it. I need the help.”
Eventually according to CBS in Dallas the story came to the attention of Texas congressman Colin Allred who appealed to the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan to arrange for the parents to come which is very nice of him and they went ahead and granted them three whole months and then they have to fuck off back to Afghanistan.
If you’d like to donate some money to help their family you can do so here at the GoFundMe they’ve set up and all of that put together is Hell World bingo.
Sometimes when you mildly criticize the bloodthirsty American empire people will say shit to you like they’ll go Why don’t you leave if it’s so bad and I dream about that a lot. Everyone probably has a country or two they think about moving to their whole lives maybe starting over or at least being able to see different parts of the world but the vast majority of us don’t and then someday it’s too late.
Sometimes I think maybe staying here is the penance we all deserve. Or maybe America died a long time ago and we’re all living in Hell suffering for the totality of our collective sins?
One last piece of business about the what have you from last week is here if you want to listen to me struggle not to say piss on NPR really hard for twenty minutes.
I was thinking about Hell this morning on account of its Easter and trying to remember what it was like to be told about all of the Jesus shit when I was young.
I read something recently about a guy who had become an atheist but one of the hardest parts about it wasn’t relinquishing the idea of Heaven he said it was coming to grips with the idea that there is no Hell and therefore there will never be any punishment for the powerful. The war profiteers and the war criminals and the rapaciously wealthy who set into motion tragedies like Amiri’s and then conspire to deny people like him any sort of help after they’re done with him will never get what is coming to them and that is hard to grasp.
I used to think when I was a little boy being taught about the lake of fire that the existence of eternal punishment was the scariest thing imaginable but now that I think it doesn’t exist it’s its own kind of existential nightmare.
Right around the time that Amiri’s parents were being denied a visa to come look at their paralyzed son due to the president doesn’t like Muslims there was an event in Midland, Texas hosted by the Midland County Republican Women called The Fall of Europe - Unbridled Immigration. From a description of the event:
Turn off the fake news and check out what is really happening in Minnesota, Michigan, and even in TEXAS! There are places in the United States with NO GO ZONES that are unsafe for non-Muslims. Jews and Christians have been forced out of beloved areas. Halal food is being served in public schools. There are stories that New York City now has their own Muslim Patrol Cars to make sure things are staying Shari’a compliant.
At the event Katie Hopkins the famous British white supremacist who called for a “final solution” for Muslims and Austrian fascist Elizabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff who has been convicted of hate speech whipped the good Texas Christians into a fury about the scourge of Islamic immigrants in their respective countries.
We know about this because a segment on the event was presented uncritically and without any context by KOSA-TV in a clip that has since been widely shared in disgust which you can watch here.
“Many in the audience were surprised with their personal accounts of how Muslim immigration is impacting them and changing the landscape of their country,” the reporter said introducing the piece which also included a one on one with Hopkins who lied about a bunch of shit and even managed to squeeze in a transphobic story on top of all the stuff about Islam.
London has been “completely overrun by migrants that didn’t come from that place,” Hopkins said. A man was arrested for Islamaphobia for preaching the Christian Bible there she added which sounds very real.
“Some community members say the event was thought-provoking,” the reporter said before cutting to an attendee.
“We’ve known for a while that Europe is in trouble and I think they’re beyond lifeboats unfortunately,” he said. “Obviously Islam is very stealthily trying to take over every country it can possibly take over. And it’s part of their religion to do so. So I don’t blame them for doing it, I blame us for not defending ourselves,” he said.
People have been skewering the reporter on Twitter and rightfully so because it was a vile piece indeed but I also have a kind of empathy for her. She seems to have graduated from college as recently as a year or two ago and I don’t know what they pay twenty three year old TV reporters in Midland, Texas but I know it can’t be good and I don’t know what all sorts of lies she has been fed her entire short ass life about Muslims from people older than her that should know better but I also know it can’t be good. Maybe she’ll use this opportunity to change and reflect on the nature of propaganda and hatred that is baked into the American ideal or maybe which is probably more likely she’ll harden and descend further into the abyss and then quickly climb the ranks of our nationalist news market. If you had to bet on one which would it be?
There is a joke that Americans like to tell about Muslims which is the one about about the seventy two virgins they are meant to receive as reward in the afterlife but I wonder if you asked most Americans if there is such a thing as Hell in the Quran if they would know the answer? There is and it’s called Jahannam and it sounds about as shitty as the Christian one:
In Jahannam “its wretched inhabitants sigh and wail, their scorched skins are constantly exchanged for new ones so that they can taste the torment anew. They drink festering water and though death appears on all sides they cannot die,” and shit like that. At least based on my meager understanding of it it seems like after you’re burned alive for a while you have the opportunity to get out after time served which seems fair to me all things considered.
Another thing that has stuck with me from my Catholic upbringing is that forgiveness is possible but you have to actually earn it.
One way rich people have always tried to earn forgiveness throughout the entire history of organized religion is by paying off the Church as a sort of workaround which is part of what is happening in the aftermath of the fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral. Over $1 billion has been raised to repair the landmark whose burning I honestly don’t feel particularly moved about in one direction or the other but I can understand why someone else might feel a certain type of way.
Much of that money has come from some of the wealthiest people in France and around the world and maybe some of them are hoping they’re putting a down payment on the cover charge to get into Heaven and maybe some of them are just doing the usual thing which is spending money to put themselves in a position to amass more power. Maybe it’s both. Probably it’s both.
This thread explains the dance pretty well. Rich people hate taxes but they love to give money away to charities or causes of their choosing it says.
There are numerous reasons for that Time’s Anand Giridharadas explains. In part it may be because the donations are tax deductible, but more than that is that “donations, especially well-publicized ones, buy you reputational benefits that in effect also defray the cost.”
By that he means “If you're rich and powerful, you may have various interests that make you dependent on decisions by public actors, and various things you want to avoid (antitrust rules, regulations). So having a moral glow, being seen as a good guy, pays.”
He goes on a bit before coming to this:
“We haven't yet talked about the biggest differentiator for many of the plutocrats I have reported on. The biggest differentiator is control. The problem with taxes is that you wire them in, and they go into a big pile with everyone else's, and they go where they go. This offends many plutocrats in a few distinct ways. One, they just like controlling things, deciding things. That's often how they make and keep their money. They are, or think they are, good at it. They want to do that same deciding here. But with taxes, they can't.”
“Even if you pay a lot of taxes, your money isn't special when it takes the form of taxes. More of it doesn't buy you more esteem, more discretion, more of a say in how the money is spent. But when you donate, that can get you a board seat, an advisory role, the right to decide.”
Rich people in other words think they know best what to do with their money. Giving it to the rest of us to decide is essentially wasting it because we might use it on frivolous things like providing people with health care. We might take all the rich people’s money and say as a hypothetical that an immigrant to the United States who finally achieves his dream of bringing his family here to the richest country in the world only to become yet another victim of the American death orgy of gun violence should not have to beg for money from strangers on the internet so that he can receive the treatment he needs. We might set up a system to ensure that his family doesn’t starve because of what has happened to him.
We haven’t yet done such a thing. I like to think some day we might but it doesn’t look promising. At the very least we should start figuring out how to ask for forgiveness just in case.