Friday, January 30, 2015

The Company We Keep

It is said that we are defined by the company we keep. Which is not universally true. Look at me, for example. I hang around a bunch of weirdos but I'm certainly not a-

Never mind. 

As I was saying, the concept of being identified by other parties we associate with, if not universally true is consistently true enough to be considered seriously, even if isn't a fair association. If I were to say "I am a Christian" (which is part of the stats on the back of the Topps limited edition Dave-El bubble gum card), there might be a visceral reaction on your part. You might think, "Dave-El is against gay marriage." And you would be wrong  but the more hard core conservatives who identify as Christian put out so much heart that it burns away everything else associated with Christianity. 

If I tell you I'm a free market capitalist, am I to be lumped in with the greedy bastards who dismiss the poor? "Screw you, poor people!" the mega wealthy shout from their gold plated yachts. First of all, I am not rich like that or like anything for that matter. But if I were very, very rich, I wouldn't say "Screw you, poor people" from my gold plated yacht. No, I would say it from my impregnable mountain fortress made entirely of diamonds. OK, maybe toss in a few emeralds 'cause I wouldn't want to seem pretentious. So, yes, I would be a greedy bastard. 

The point is sometimes we are inaccurately judged by the company we keep and other times we're dead center of the crowd, reflecting the attributes, good or ill, of those around us. 

What got me thinking about this was President Obama's recent trip to Saudi Arabia. The Saudis have been more or less fairly strong allies of the United State in a very tumultuous region of the world. So Obama popping in to pay his respects to the family of the recently deceased King Abdullah was a decent thing to do.  

Michelle Obama was also with the President and immediately we are reminded how different the Saudis are from us. There's the First Lady who by her very existence and every action is in total defiance to how women are treated and expected to behave in Saudi Arabia. Michelle is out there in the open, wearing PANTS and NOTHING covering her head while Saudi women are not allowed to be seen in such a state in public. They are also not permitted to drive or hold public office know what? Think about whatever your wife, girlfriend, sister, daughter did today and chances are a Saudi woman would've been in violation of Saudi law at some point in the day, probably before lunch time. 

Now I'm not dissing on Obama. (This is not Fox News.) After all, George W Bush was so close to the Saudi royal family that he held hands with the then Crown Prince (now King) of Saudi Arabia, Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud* while walking on his Crawford ranch admiring the sagebrush. OK, flowers. (Kinda makes this ickier, don't it?

*Side note: Does he have to be called by his full name all the time? I mean, that would be a real bitch in an emergency. "Look out, Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud! You're about-" *SLAM!* "-to be hit by a bus....ouch." 

Pick a President who didn't keep the Saudis on their speed dial. (OK, Carter didn't but they didn't have speed dial back then so shut up.) Sometimes relations between the US and Saudi Arabia have been strained. But for the most part, Saudi Arabia is seen as pro-Western and an ally of the United States

And who can blame us for wanting to stay in good with Saudi Arabia and its royal family. The stability of Saudi Arabia in the volatile Middle East is way more valuable to the United States than the ocean of oil the Saudi's rest upon.  

And yet...

This is a country that controls its citizens in an iron grip. Particularly the treatment of women is reprehensible and cast in sharp relief compared to the United States and other countries in the Western World where more women are shattering more barriers to accomplish more than women have ever accomplished before. 

And Saudi Arabia, subjugator of women, considers the United States a friend. And we are more than willing to reciprocate. 

What does this say about the United States, bastion of freedom and liberty, when this is the company we keep? 


Tomorrow: the return of Doctor Who stuff! Yay! 

Until then, be good to one another.

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