Friday, August 16, 2019


In the span of twenty-four hours, America was shocked by the occurrence of two mass shootings claimed the lives of 31 people. The first shooting occurred in El Paso, Texas, a town located on the border of the US and Mexico, at a Walmart of all places. The gunman, Patrick Crusius (21), drove the nine-hour journey from his home in Allen, Texas, for the sole purpose of carrying out the massacre. Armed with assault rifles, shooting glasses and ear protectors, he systematically gunned down families and children. By the end of it all, twenty two people were pronounced dead.

Fast forward thirteen hours later and another shooting has occurred in the town of Dayton, Ohio. The second shooting claimed the lives of nine people, including the shooter, Connor Betts (24). To be sure, and already buried underneath the horrific headlines, there was last week’s shooting in Gilroy, California that claimed the lives of three people: two children and an adult, making the statistics even more horrifying with three shootings in the span of one week. And yet nobody mentioned or even talked about the Gilroy shooting. Perhaps because it occurred a week ago? A cynic might have said maybe because not enough lives were lost to warrant enough grief and outrage.

I have spent fourteen out of my twenty nine years of living in the United States. I learned many things about the world and about myself by living in America that I think I would never know had I stay in Indonesia. I became familiar with every different culture under the sun due to America’s diversity and I have received educational opportunities and scholarships beyond my wildest dreams. The United States is still the land of opportunity, the Mecca of scientific advancement, and one of the best places in the world for innovative works. And yet these days such great things about America seemed lost in the midst of the horrendous human tragedies in the form of mass shootings in public places.

I still remember the first mass shooting that I witnessed, the 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech campus and its aftermath. I was still in high school back then, and after the shooting occurred the school’s doors that used to be open during school hours became firmly locked from that point on. After that first shooting, I lived through countless news of mass shootings, the frequency of which increased during the last year alone. And like a person who has been tickled too many times to the point of not being ticklish anymore, now whenever I hear news about another mass shooting all I can do is shrug and sigh tiredly.

Frankly, I have no energy to be outraged anymore after the nth time innocent people are gunned down in a supposedly safe public place, followed by the media arguing about why this tragedy happen and exploiting the tragedy for higher ratings and more clicks online and politicians doing close to nothing, only offering empty platitudes of thoughts and prayers, not trying to put safeguards in place so this tragedy won’t ever repeat itself. Cue the next mass shooting, and we’ll repeat the same thing all over again. And the sad truth is: most Americans’ knee jerk reaction when they read a story about a mass shooting is the same as mine.

With the repeated failure (or more appropriately ‘disinclination’) of lawmakers to enact stronger gun control laws - in direct defiance to what the majority of the American people want and in direct acquiescence to the gun manufacturers’ and gun lobbies’ wishes - mass shootings have become “normalized” in American society. Just a part of the American life, if you will. And that is the scariest part of everything, because something as gruesome and horrific as mass killings should never become the norm, and yet in today’s America it’s starting to become that way. I often think about the Sandy Hook massacre, where twenty six school children ages 6-7 years old were senselessly gunned down by a madman with access to too many guns. In the aftermath of the shooting, Congress couldn’t even pass a basic gun law reform to require universal background check on anyone who wished to purchase a firearm. If the deaths of so many children weren’t enough to catalyze significant reform, then nothing can.

The above lackluster attitude in the US was a far cry from the New Zealand when it saw its first mass shooting on March 15, 2019, that claimed the lives of fifty one peoples. Only a few days later, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the ban of assault rifles in the country. New Zealand might not ever see another mass shooting, but America? Another mass shooting is almost guaranteed. Unless something more than “thoughts and prayers” are offered to the victims and the citizens.

Domestic Terrorism in America

There is always one aspect of these mass shootings that people would spend the most time debating and grappling with: the motive. Most of the time the motive is self-explanatory: frustration, anger, hatred, the desire to sow discord and chaos in the general populace. All of these emotions coupled with the ease of obtaining and purchasing firearms leads to the unique American phenomenon of mass shootings. However, recently the motives of the shooters are even more self-explanatory as these people deemed it necessary to publish a manifesto to elaborate the reasons behind their atrocities: hatred against minorities, those who deemed to be contaminating American society with their presence in the country.

Recent shootings have all included a racial or ethnic component to it. The Tree of Life synagogue shooting was due to the shooter’s false perception that Jewish people were funding the caravan of Central American immigrants who were heading for the US border in search of asylum; the El Paso shooting was because of the perceived threat of ‘invasion’ by Mexican immigrants; the Charleston church shooting was to incite a ‘race war’ between White and Black Americans. White supremacy, the belief that the White race is superior to others and perceiving any other races/ethnic groups as subhuman, belied all these attacks and the fact that these atrocities are occurring more frequently is no coincidence.

Anyone who’s intellectually honest would call these shootings for what it is: An act of domestic terrorism fueled by white supremacist ideology. And its rising frequency is directly correlated with the normalization of anti-immigrant sentiments by none other than the President himself. Combined with the ease of obtaining deadly weapons to enact such murderous rage and the socioeconomic conditions of the current day, it all combined perfectly to create a situation where domestic terrorism perpetrated by white supremacists occur at high frequency in modern day America.

It’s clear as day what is occurring and who’s to blame. And yet the Conservative Right, chief among them the Republican Party, Right Wing pundits, the incumbent administration and GOP lawmakers, are all eager to blame anything else but their constant rhetoric that has been not so subtly demonizing immigrants and the poor and championing American (white) supremacy. In their minds, it’s not the guns that are the problem, but the people who wield them.

These people are afflicted with mental illnesses or played too many violent video games that messed with their heads. Right wing lawmakers and pundits made these arguments conveniently ignoring the fact that these talking points have been debunked by extensive research and ignoring the fact that the majority of mentally ill people are non-violent, stigmatizing mental illness in the same breath. Furthermore if the perpetrator is White, they would go through the extra mile of convincing everyone that this was an isolated incident and not in any way representative of race relations in America. So why this exercise in futility?

The Myth of American exceptionalism
I think the answer to that is twofold. 1): these lawmakers are heavily reliant on money from gun manufacturers and the gun lobby to finance their campaigns. It is in their best interest to never pass any form of gun reform law that could limit sales and consequently affecting these companies’ bottom lines, which will stem cash flow to their campaign funding. Hence, anytime a shooting occur, it is never an issue of accessibility to guns and weak oversight but personal responsibility so there’s nothing the government could do about any of this. So the more they distract and blame the tragedy on other things the better. 2): acknowledging these shootings as a domestic terrorism act committed by white supremacy and right wing extremism would be anathema to the myth of American exceptionalism, the foundation on which American self-identity was build upon, and detrimental to the American brand as the shining beacon of Democracy on Earth.

American exceptionalism purports that America is different from any other countries on Earth. Its existence was ordained by God, or in the words of the Puritan John Winthrop “a shining city on a Hill”. This myth of American exceptionalism -another word for “exceptionalism” is “supremacy”, by the way- is the basis of many policies enacted by the United States government since its independence from British colonial rule. Policies such as the Westward Expansion and the Indian Removal Act systematically remove and dramatically decrease the population of the Indigenous people of the American continent in favor of providing land for White settlers and Colonists.

The Annexation of Texas and the Gadsden Purchase increased the United States’ territory through forceful taking of Mexican lands. Not to mention the 19th century experimentation in Imperialism through which America obtained Hawaii, Puerto Rico, parts of Cuba, American Samoa, Guam, the Virgin Islands and the Philippines. Out of all the territories obtained only the Philippines became an independent country, while the rest, with the exception of Hawaii, remained a US territory to this day, stuck in a limbo where they’re subjected to US law but without having a say on what laws are being made.

Ironically, it is the myth of American exceptionalism that has made it possible for the US to interfere in other country’s internal affairs, toppling democratically elected governments and installing regimes that are friendly to US business interests under the guise of bringing democracy to oppressed people. However, regimes that are supported by the US are almost always brutally oppressive to its own people. Imagine if the Chilean government were to do the same thing the US government did when they supported the rise of Pinochet to power? US interventionism was never seen as a bad thing by the American people, since they have long been inculcated with the myth of American exceptionalism. They truly believe that what their government was doing in their name was done under humanitarian concerns. Which explains why in the wake of 9/11 attack many Americans wondered why they were attacked. “Why do they hate us?” seemed the prevailing thought back in those days. 
Perhaps the most famous example of what American exceptionalism allows was the fact that Americans never had to confront or seriously deal with the legacy of slavery and racism in their country. The Klu Klux Klan flourished in the wake of Emancipation, terrorizing newly freed Blacks and the Jim Crow law was basically part of many Southern states’ laws up until the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed into law. To this day, one can find many statues of Confederate generals that seceded from the Union and fought to keep slavery in many cities and states in the South. It’s also not strange to see Confederate flags flying alongside the American flag. As an analogy this is akin to seeing the Nazi flag or statues of Hitler or Goebbels anywhere in Germany. Yet in America, in 2019, this is a familiar sight.

White supremacy is entrenched in American society. Its existence is undeniable and permeates many aspects of society from the Criminal Justice system, housing access, the educational system to the job market. To deny it is to turn a blind eye to a parasite that lives within a living body. Dormant most of the time but when the immune system weakens, the opportunistic parasite strikes and wreaks havoc in the body, resulting in irreparable damage. To acknowledge it and to take steps to prevent its spread will be tantamount to decreasing the threat this harmful ideology poses, not just for America, but for the world at large.

*) PhD candidate, Dept. of Biological Chemistry, School of Medicine, University of California, Irvine, CA, USA.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019


Innalillahi wa inna ilaihi roji'un. Telah berpulang ke hadirat Allah swt, KH.Maimoen Zubair (mBah Moen), ulama khos Nahdlatul Ulama, dan sesepuh PPP pada hari ini, di Arab Saudi.

Seluruh anak bangsa Indonesia, dan khususnya ummat Islam serta keluarga besar jam'iyyah Nahdlatul Ulama, kehilangan salah seorang Ulama sepuhnya dan pejuang pembela NKRI yang jasa2nya diakui seluruh anak bangsa. Wafatnya almaghfurlah Mbah Moen adalah sebuah kehilangan yang tak terperikan bagi kita semua, namun kita harus juga ikhlas melepas kepergian beliau menghadap sang Pencipta.

Mari kita doakan agar almaghfurlah mendapat karunia dan nikmatNya berupa Jannatul Firdaus. Semoga perjuangan beliau terus mengilhami kita semua. Amin YRA.


Friday, August 2, 2019


By Lily Hikam*)

By now, every one would have read the headlining news of President Trump telling four sitting Democratic congresswomen, best known as "the Squad" to “go back to where they came from”. These congresswomen in question are Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley, four of the most high profile legislators due to their outspokenness and their willingness to tackle issues that other sitting congresspersons would rather stay mum about. Chief among those issues are calling out AIPAC, an Israeli lobbying firm, and its massive influence on the US political discourse, exposing the depth of corruption in the legislative process, and stopping US interventionism abroad.

Another striking thing about the Squad is the fact that none of them are Caucasians. Which is to say that they are all women of color. They were elected in the last midterm elections where a wave of previously underrepresented demographic in the United States’ population voted overwhelmingly for representation from people who most resemble them, changing the face of Congress and Capitol Hill, from one that best represented American population in the 19th century to one that is more representative of the current demographic!.

The POTUS (President of the United States) attack, though vicious and unsubstantiated, is unfortunately not shocking since it’s not the first or even second time that he has ever attacked a woman of color who dared criticize or stand up against him. Other than the the Squad, another congresswoman, Ms. Maxine Waters of California, also an African-American woman, was similarly dubbed as “unhinged” by Mr. Trump.

But what did “The Squad” do to warrant such a treatment? Was the attack just motivated by the color of their skin and their gender?

As mentioned earlier, the Squad has been critical of almost every policy proposed by the Trump Administration. Ilhan Omar, for example, has been critical of Trump’s willingness to turn a blind eye towards the Saudi-led war on Yemen, his vetoes on Congress’ attempts to stop said war and his administration’s attempt at interventionism in Venezuela. Rashida Tlaib, a Palestinian-American, has been championing Palestinian rights and has repeatedly criticized Israel, something unheard of in American political discourse until now.

Moreover, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has made it her mission to fight for Progressive policies, exposing the corruption and the broken political system in which laws and legislations that are drafted are made for the benefit of the campaign donors, not the voters. Ayanna Pressley’s advocacy on behalf of battered and abused women and her support for Planned Parenthood, an organization that has been a thorn in the side of many conservative Christians that overwhelmingly voted for Trump, made her a target of attacks too.

But to only look at who was currently at the helm of the Executive branch is to miss the big picture entirely. The Squad has been consistent in their criticisms of the policies of the United States government, not just policies proposed by the Trump Administration but policies that the Trump Administration carried over from previous presidents.

For example, they are critical of the immigration raids conducted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and has spoken out boldly against the deplorable living conditions of migrants that are being detained at the detention facilities along the border. To be clear, these detention facilities didn’t just spring up from the ground like daisies. They were planned and built long before Trump took office, a legacy of the Obama administration. Another example is their harsh criticism toward White House's multiple vetoes on House resolutions to stop providing arms to Saudi Arabia as they engaged in siege warfare in Yemen, effectively making the United States complicit in war crimes and continuing the tradition of turning a blind eye to human rights violations conducted by US allies.

These women were just exercising their rights to dissent and to criticize their government when one perceives it to be wrong and unjust. They were exercising their first Amendment rights of free speech but they were unfairly smeared and demonized for it, and their “American-ness” called into question because of it. It raises an important question: "Would they have received the same treatment had their skin color were of the right shade, had they look like everyone else whose Americanness were never question but accepted at face value?"

I think not.

Had they fit the undoubtedly antiquated mold of “American”, they would be lauded for standing up to an unjust and inhumane policy, for criticizing their country because they care and wanted to make their country better. But because they are perceived as the “Other”, they are demonized for it and told to go back to where they came from, even though they’re just as American as Apple pie. The chants from the Trump campaign rally crowd telling him to “send her back” is indicative as to how these women are still perceived by some sections of society.

These women aren’t seen as equal citizens with full rights as they are, rather as someone who should just shut up and accept things the way they are and if they don’t like the way things are, they can get out. Yet somehow this same treatment isn’t applied to a certain someone who also criticized their country.

Ironically, on the campaign trail, Donald Trump spent a lot of time criticizing America, calling it a third world country and that the country was “going to hell”. What was even more jarring was that some of Trump’s criticism of America, such as him wanting to end the wars, fix the infrastructure, stop outsourcing of jobs, are the same thing the Squad are currently fighting for. Yet calls for him to go back to where he came from were nowhere to be heard. Maybe criticisms sound better uttered from the mouth of a White man? The fact that he is now attacking these women for doing the same thing he did, just in a more elegant manner, speaks to how big of a hypocrite he really is.

Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.” These words were falsely attributed to Thomas Jefferson, yet the origin of this quote was from the legendary historian, Howard Zinn, spoken when he was asked about his opposition to the Bush Administration’s war on terror and how the government had seemingly labeled all dissenting opinion to be unpatriotic. Criticizing one’s country is not unpatriotic, or Anti-American or even Anti-Indonesian. We criticize and dissent because we want our country to be better, to improve from the status quo and stagnation.

Nobody should be made to feel as if their opinion meant less or have their loyalty and citizenship questioned for having a different opinion. The very nature of democracy allows for different opinions to flourish, to foster discussions and discourses that would steer the country in a better direction.

*) PhD candidate
Cardiogenomics Clinical and Research Program
Department of Biological Chemistry
School of Medicine, the University of California,
Irvine, California, USA.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019


Sejarah perkembangan pondok pesantren (ponpes), khususnya yang berada dalam lingkungan jam'iyyah (organisasi) Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), tak terpisahkan dari dinamika berbangsa dan bernegara di Indonesia. Ketika bangsa kita belum muncul sebagai komunitas politik dan negara-bangsa (nation) bernama Indonesia pun belum dibentuk, perjuangan ponpes dalam ikut mencapai kedua tujuan tsb,  telah ada dan diakui.

Dan ketika bangsa dan NKRI telah terbentuk dan harus menghadapi dan mengalami ujian terhadap eksistensinya, ponpes juga menjadi bagian integral dalam perjuangan tsb.

Pada saat ini ketika NKRI sedang menghadapi ancaman dari maraknya ideologi radikalisme transnasional, seperti Khilafahisme, lagi-lagi ponpes merasa terpanggil untuk berada di bagian paling depan untuk membendung perkembangannya serta menanggulanginya bersama komponen-komponen lain pecinta NKRI.

Pemerintah Presiden Jokowi  (PJ) telah bertindak sangat tepat dengan memutuskan membentuk Badan Pengembangan Ideologi Pancasila (BPIP). Pembentukan lembaga tsb, antara lain, ditujukan untuk keperluan membentengi Republik Indonesia dari ancaman ideologis tsb. Karenanya ponpes secara otomatis harus membantu usaha Pemerintah  yang strategis tsb, dengan segala kemampuan dan sumberdaya yang dimilikinya.

Pada kesempatan Seminar Kebangsaan yang diselenggarakan oleh Ponpes Salafiyah Kholidiyah, Plumpang, Tuban pada 20 Juli yang lalu, saya menyatakan:

"... pondok pesantren harus membantu BPIP memperkuat ideologi Pancasila (melalui kerjasama dengan) kalangan pesantren. Hal ini mengingat bahwa nilai-nilai Pancasila dan semangat NKRI sesungguhnya sudah jauh lebih lama hidup di pesantren."

Sekecil apapun ukurannya dan dimanapun sebuah ponpes di kalangan NU berada, ia pasti memiliki keyakinan sebagai pilar penjaga NKRI, Pancasila, dan UUD 1945. Hal itu merupakan refleksi dari pandangan dunia (life world) ponpes NU yang bisa dirunut sejak lama dan bisa dibuktikan dalam kiprah perjuangan sepanjang sejarah Indonesia. Fakta bahwa para Ulama yang berbasis ponpes adalah juga merupakan bagian utama dari para pendiri (founders) NKRI adalah saksi sejarah yang tak dapat diingkari siapapun.

Ponpes dan Indonesia adalah satu jiwa. Keberadaan dan sinergi antara keduanya adalah manunggal, tak terpisahkan hingga akhir masa. Insya Allah.


Saturday, July 13, 2019


Akhirnya pertemuan antara dua capres 2019 terjadi juga. Dan tidak seperti yang mungkin diperkirakan banyak orang: Di Stasiun MRT Lebak Bulus, Jaksel, dilanjutkan naik MRT, dan berakhir dengan makan siang. Konon setelah itu PS mengucapkan selamat kepada PJ atas kemenangan beliau dalam Pilpres 2019.

Beres? Tergantung dari mana anda melihat dan menganalisa peristiwa penting ini. Buat saya, rakyat Indonesia seharusnya bergembira atau setidaknya lega dengan peristiwa ini. Mungkin belum bisa dianggap rekonsiliasi sudah terjadi,
tetapi saya kira ini sebuah tahap permulaan bagi rekonsiliasi.

Rekonsiliasi, seperti yang saya katakan berkali-kali, haruslah tampak dalam PENGUATAN INSTITUSI-INSTITUSI DEMOKRASI. Rekonsiliasi dalam pemahaman ini sama sekali bukan transaksi atau barter kekuasaan politik. Dan itu artinya keberhasilan rekonsiliasi hanya bisa dilihat dalam proses dan berbagai praktik baik di lembaga legislatif, eksekutif, dan yudikatif.

Namun bagaimanapun juga, pertemuan ini adalah awal yang baik dan perlu dilanjutkan. Para pendukung Pj maupun PS kini bisa konsentrasi menghadapi periode 2019-2024 secara lebih substantif dan produktif bagi kepentingan bangsa dan NKRI

Alhamdulillah. Selamat buat PJ dan PS serta Rakyat Indonesia..!!



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