I asked Ibrahim what was involved in converting to Islam, and he said to convert to Islam and become a Muslim I needed to pronounce these words with a voice I can hear and with conviction and understanding its meaning: I testify, “La elaha ella Allah, Muhammad rasoolu Allah.” (These Arabic words (called Shahada or the testimony) mean “There is no true god (deity) but God (Allah), and Muhammad is the messenger (Prophet) of God.”)
So I closed the door to my office, and while at my desk I spoke the words with conviction and with my heart, and I converted to Islam.
Although my conversion to Islam was genuine, I did not have much time to savor it. Within a few days I received an email from my supervisor at ECSU that not only would I lose my health insurance but there was no position for me in the fall. I immediately replied asking for a clarification, but I got no response. In short, I was unemployed come the end of the summer term. Of course, I was very upset, but three other faculty members in my department had also received this cryptic email from the department chair with no further explanations. I decided I would not work for a university again and sent resumes to every community college in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia. Although I loathed the idea of teaching high school, I was completely at the mercy of the economy and had to do whatever to financially survive. The metaphor I kept imagining was of an airplane in a death spiral while the pilot desperately tried to right it.
My financial collapse seemed unstoppable. Since no one was calling me for interviews, I began looking, somewhat frantically, into other fields and considered getting out of teaching for good. I thought about getting my real estate license, but I found out there were over 400 real estate agents in Pasquotank County. 400 real estate agents just in this county? I didn’t see how I could make a living at this. Also, the housing bubble burst at about this time, so the whole economy was in a death spiral. I did manage to get an interview at a local high school, Northwestern High School, but because I had worked as a high school teacher years ago, before I came to ECSU, and had not gotten my teaching certificate, I was, therefore, ineligible to work at the K-12 level.
During this difficult time, I did send a few emails to Ibrahim, telling him of my professional woes. To my surprise, he wrote me back one time and offered me $3,000 dollars to help out. The generosity of his offer made step back a bit and think about how, once again, I had let practical matters, secular material considerations, consume my mind, and I had left little room for any other perspectives. I considered Ibrahim’s offer, but I was not financially destitute yet, so I thanked him for his gracious offer and told him I was certain there were other Muslims who needed the money more than I did.
Then, out of the blue, I got a call from Robeson Community College for an interview. I had almost forgotten I had sent them a resume months ago. So I went to the interview, gave a mini-lesson on persuasive writing, and then was offered a second interview with the president and vice-president of RCC. I did not think I was going to be offered the position since I fumbled a few questions during the second interview. I also received a letter at this time from Indiana University of Pennsylvania informing me that I was accepted into the PhD program there, but I did not think I had enough money to pack everything up and move back to Pennsylvania. Then, just before the fall term was to begin at most schools across the country, I got a call on a Sunday afternoon from the vice-president of RCC. I was offered a job that enabled me to begin paying on my college loans again and actually live on what I got paid.
I was saved.
Declaration of War on Switzerland
For the last 500 years nearly every two-bit despot, dictator, noble, aristocrat, and Wall Street scammer has had a Swiss bank account. (Even Lorenzo the Magnificent had Swiss bank accounts – or branches of the Medici bank in Geneva). Swiss banks have created financial stability over the centuries but not political stability over the last half a millennia. Switzerland was the last refuge of the Russian nobility just before Tsarist Russia collapsed. Switzerland was the last refuge for many of Hitler’s henchmen (including some of the Hitler youth) or those Nazis who realized the Third Reich was doomed and needed a place to stash their gold. Fulgencio Batista of Cuba had Swiss bank accounts when he was driven from power by Fidel Castro, and probably every Wall Street hedge funder and Ponzi schemer, who realizes once the jig is up, has Swiss bank accounts and pensively contemplates the day when he must flee and spend the rest of his life drinking wine and watching the quacking ducks on Lake Geneva.
In short, Swiss banks are a sanctuary for the world’s greatest thieves, murders, robbers, and deceivers – if they can get to that peaceful, democratic, serene Switzerland before the duped peasants in their respective countries can catch them. Switzerland is now one of the richest countries in the world with its magnificent Alpine vistas, world renowned ski resorts, and quacking ducks (never forget the quacking ducks!) because Switzerland has fleeced every nation on the planet.
Certainly, the Clintons (who have peddled - and continue to peddle - influence more aggressively than a heroin dealer peddling heroin on a street corner of the most impoverished neighborhood in the world) have multiple Swiss bank accounts. Donald Trump (who paid zero federal taxes in 1982 when your average bus driver pays 15% of his wages in federal taxes) has Swiss bank accounts. Certainly, the Bushes and the Cheneys and nearly all of the putrefied filth from Washington and Wall Street have Swiss bank accounts because this is understood as the structure of our modern existence. Every plutocrat knows when they come for him with pitchforks that he can catch a flight, a train, or a boat to Switzerland and enjoy his final years watching the waves gently lapping the shores of Lake Geneva – knowing he got away with it. (And, of course, the ducks – don’t forget the ducks!)
Swiss banks are the true houses of worship in our modern world – more than any cathedral, mosque, or temple, and they are the refuge where the fleecers (America is being fleeced by the double W: Washington and Wall Street!) electronically transfer their riches believing that 500 years of Swiss banking and those high, snowy Alpine mountains will protect them when they are forced out of our country. However, the Clintons, the Bushes, the Trumps, and the Cheneys won’t be as lucky as the Russian nobility. For the jig is up for Switzerland, and those high Alps that have protected the Swiss from invading armies for the last half a millennia will not protect them from modern drone strikes and smart missiles. And when war is finally declared on Switzerland, the plundered resources from the last 500 years will finally be restored to all the people of the globe.
To Act or not to Act (Part 2)
So I packed everything up and moved to Lumberton, North Carolina. It is always exciting to move to a new place with high hopes for the future, but there were a few things that gave me pause. My wife really did not want to go. She actually started crying one time as the evening came on while we were moving because she had made friends in Elizabeth City. Moreover, Elizabeth City is only about one hour from the Outer Banks, and we both very much enjoyed taking day-trips to the beach during the summer. There are also lots of beautiful inland waterways surrounding Elizabeth City, and we would take long walks along the Pasquotank River, the Chowan River, and along the Albemarle Sound. (I had also known another English teacher while we lived in Charlotte, North Carolina, and he had told me that he had once been offered a job at Robeson Community College, but his wife had objected.)
“We’re not movin’ to Lumberton!” He told me she had said.
I also read online that Robeson County was the poorest county in the entire United States – a dubious distinction to say the least. But I needed a job! What choice did I have but to move? Nevertheless, it galled me once again that I was being pushed around. Would I ever act or would I forever react? Would I forever live with my head just one inch above the economic water line? I also wondered how much of a Muslim I really was. My conversion was genuine, but did it really make any difference?
I decided, despite misgivings, I would make the best of Lumberton, stridently avoid inner-departmental factions (since the side I always ended up on always seemed to lose) and work really hard. So I threw everything I had at my work, and everything went splendidly well – for a while. I got good end-of-the-year evaluations even though Robeson Community College had a strange way of evaluating faculty. They would only evaluate faculty based on two classes, one in the fall, one in the spring. Plus, the evaluation was based exclusively on student evaluations. None of the summer classes were evaluated at all, and, at that time, none of the online courses were evaluated.
For three years everything went fine. I did notice some of the faculty members were extremely upset about their evaluations. A guy named Mike in my department vehemently hated our department chair, and I could never quite understand why. A biology teacher named Brad also despised the administration because of his evaluation the previous year. But I wasn’t going to join any factions. I stridently avoided getting involved in faculty/administration squabbles – thinking this would protect me.
“I do my job, and then I go home,” I said to a tennis buddy of mine one day when we were talking about work between sets.
So I went to the end-of-the-third-year evaluation with my chair. Believe it or not, I thought I might get the teacher of the year award from the college. I was handed the evaluation based on student opinion from two classes when I had taught eleven classes during the academic year. I glanced quickly through it and saw at the end I was to be placed on an action plan.
“What?” I said befuddled. “I’m on probation?!”
“You fell short on your evaluations.” My department chair said – smiling sweetly.
Somewhat dazed, I looked down at the charts again. When all the numbers for the students’ questions were added up, (questions like does your instructor come to class on time? and is your instructor helpful?) I pulled an 83.8%. The magic number was 85%.
“I’m 1.2 points short, and I’m going to be put on probation for the entire next academic year?!”
“It’s an action plan,” she said – smiling sweetly.
“When did I ever not do what I was asked to do? Did I not take extra classes whenever I was asked? Do I not teach summer classes? Did I not teach more classes than anyone else in the department last year?”
“You had to get an 85% on your evaluation. What would I tell Sheila if I did not put you on an action plan?”
Sheila was the school’s dean. I now knew why I never became a mathematician and why I never liked mathematicians. Does the math tell the whole story? I wanted to say, but didn’t. I was sort of in another world by now, and I wanted to get out of my department chair’s office as quickly as possible, so I signed the evaluation and stormed out.
I slogged back to my cubicle. Instantly, I had a morale problem. Instantly, I understood why Brad and Mike always looked like they hated working here. Instantly, I started looking for work elsewhere. Instantly and strangely, I began to think about Islam and could not shake the feeling that I had somehow betrayed it. They were there for me, but I had done absolutely nothing for them.
I shook these bizarre thoughts of Islam down and focused on the task at hand – getting out of RCC and getting a job elsewhere. I looked at a few community colleges online, but I had, about a month earlier, bought a house – the bourgeois American dream. Of course, I did not own it yet; I put a mortgage down on it. So now I was stuck with it, and I would have to sell it if I got another job. I tried to focus on the employment page for the Albemarle Community College website when suddenly an overwhelming anger – more like rage – percolated in my guts. I imagined myself hurling my laptop at my department chair’s head, and then I felt like I could not control myself, and I was actually going to do it. I pushed back my chair and stepped back from my desk, blinking spasmodically. At the time, I thought it was wise to leave early for the day. Later on, though, I wondered if my rage for anything would ever come to the surface. Would the spark ever land on the lake that had been filling with gasoline since Pennsylvania? Would I forever react and never act?
When I lived in Elizabeth City, on the back porch where I lived was a huge spider web. It was made by a common spider in North Carolina called a wood spider. Usually, wood spiders can create a web that can be as big as two feet long and over a foot wide, and in the remoter places along Simons River, or the Pasquotank River almost every tree would have one or two of these big webs in its branches. These webs were quite beautiful as they shimmered in the morning light with thousands of dew droplets clinging to the silvery filaments. However, the web on my porch was much bigger than most. It was about three feet long and two feet wide. During that last summer in Elizabeth City, I would scrutinize the web almost every day while sipping my morning coffee, and I realized this particular web was a magnificent work of art. The wood spider would crouch at the edge of his creation – waiting menacingly. He was also bigger than most of the other wood spiders I had seen, and he had a yellow body and long black legs.
One morning, somewhat audaciously, I poked the intricate silvery strands of the web right in the middle with my fingers. As I drew back, the whole web stuck to my hand. Swiftly, the wood spider started toward me along one of the filaments, and I yanked back very quickly. The sticky web snapped back, and the little beast at the corner ventured no further toward me.
“Easy there, Mister Picasso,” I said with a slight chuckle.
I could now see, though, just how big this spider was. (I’d like to tell you he was the size of a small cat, but, of course, this would be an exaggeration – LOL!) Nevertheless, he was the biggest spider I had ever seen!
Toward the end of that summer, I would go out just to see what the wood spider had caught during the night. It appeared as if nothing could fly through that web. Bugs, beetles, bees, gnats, flies, even a two-inch moth, could not break free of that intricately woven web. As I scrutinized the fibers more closely, I saw some strands were thicker than others and appeared to hold the entire structure together. These diagonal filaments were more rigged than the finer strands. Also, many of the more flexible filaments, I noticed, would be reconfigured almost every night to make the web more effective at catching anything that tried to fly through it. Over time, some of the finer strands became thicker, more prominent, while other sections toward the bottom of the web seemed to be almost neglected.
One day, as I was watching a buzzing, hapless horsefly being slowly wrapped in silvery strands, it occurred to me that this magnificently spun web was a quintessential metaphor for how thought control works. Every time the state (or IT, as I prefer to think of it) sees a thought that can possibly threaten it or fly through a hole in its intricate web, it quickly reconstructs that section to make certain nothing can ever get past it. Like the web, propaganda is slightly different every day, to meet new challenges. Even the meanings of words and language are changed slightly over time to make the web more effective. Could anything get past it? The totality of the web represented political correctness. (Political correctness is oppression legitimized through propaganda.) Into the minds of everyone in the society the propaganda is spun, and if anyone tries (with great temerity) to fly through the shimmering rectangular spaces, he’ll end up like that hapless horsefly.
The thickest strands were what held the entire artifice together. They were the ideas that had to be controlled the most – or outright destroyed. One of the thickest fibers was becoming quite prominent in the mid-section of the web toward the end of that summer. It ran in a vertical zigzag line through the entire web from the top to the bottom. And then it dawned on me (this was after I had converted) this filament was for Islam!
On my last day in Elizabeth City, I ripped down the spider web on my porch and considered crushing the beast at the corner with my bare hands. But I decided to do so would be a waste of energy – at least at this time.
To Act or not to Act (Part 3)
The next year at Robeson Community College did not go well.