Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Me and Nie and a Correction

****I made a few mistakes in this post, namely describing the attack on the Muslim woman as being from her husband when actually the attack came from a man whom she had rejected when he proposed to marry her. I also called her an Arab when she is Persian -- I wasn't aware of the difference (my own grandfather was a Christian Syrian). Here's the definition of both: The Arabs, though themselves not homogenous, are a Semitic people, whereas the Persians are Indo-Iranian, their language belonging to the Indo-European language family. In short, they are historically, culturally, linguistically and ethnically separate populations who happen to share a home in the Middle East. (from Wiki answers). Thank you, Chris, for straightening me out!
Despite my inaccuracies, my opinion remains the same.

I've followed the story of Stephanie Nielson, the Mormon blogger horribly burned and disfigured in a plane crash several years ago. I've marveled with the rest of the blogging planet at her resilience, beauty and grace and admired her devotion to her family and husband. While her writing isn't particularly inspiring, the photos she posts of her beautiful children and the home she's created are fascinating in their seeming perfection, and above all her strength in recovery and honesty about its difficulty are at the very least, moving, and awe-inspiring otherwise. I think pretty harshly about the Mormon religion and its constructs, but I admire Stephanie's faith in something larger than herself and can only wonder, from a distance, on how she does it. 

When I opened up her blog, though, last night and saw the photo of her in the arms of Glen Beck, I practically fell out of my chair. I'll be blunt: I find Glen Beck to be a repulsive sycophant who has done as much as anyone to promote the image of our country as a bunch of ignorant charlatans. I watched the video that Stephanie posted and not only fell out of my chair but lay there on the floor, beating my head against it. Basically, Beck tells Stephanie's story -- and it's a moving one if you don't know it already -- and brings attention to a recent 20/20 episode that featured Stephanie and her family. He underlines Stephanie's Christian faith in God. He highlights a segment of an interview with Stephanie where she tearfully explains how difficult it is for her to be mocked or stared at in public by children and adults but how she forgives those people. This is all good -- I know that I learn from the strength of others, and I struggle myself with my feelings toward those who stare out and speak rudely of Sophie when we are in public. I am often humbled by Stephanie's grace in the face of far bigger problems.

But then Beck does his thing. He tells the story of a PERSIAN woman who has also been horribly disfigured and blinded as the result of acid burns inflicted on her by her husband. In the country where this has happened, the perpetrator is to be punished in the same manner as his crime, and guess what? Beck condemns the horribly disfigured woman as a vengeful, evil person because she wants her husband burned in the same way as she has been. Well, he doesn't actually condemn her as much as he condescendingly shakes his head and contorts his face, suggesting these Muslims are crazy, evil people now, aren't they? I looked closely for his tell-tale tears, but I didn't see any. To tell you the truth, it was the longest I'd ever listened to the guy. Now, if you've been reading my blog for any amount of time or know me, you know that I'm NOT an eye for an eye kind of person. Although my mouth is as big as the Grand Canyon, I generally tilt toward pacifism, and I certainly don't support the barbaric practices of backward countries. So I'm not going to defend this poor woman's motivations. But Stephanie Nielsen and this Muslim woman have only the terrible scars in common and literally nothing else. I believe that Beck has used Stephanie to help his flagging popularity and he's done so with customary repulsive tactics.

Why am I writing all of this? Partly because it incenses me and partly because I find it fascinating. I think it's gloriously human to be drawn to and strengthened by stories of people overcoming great obstacles and even tragedy, but I think it's uniquely American to turn these stories into fodder for the commercial machine. It makes me sick that Glen Beck has done so.


  1. I've followed Stefanie's blog since just after her accident. In fact, I went back and read most of her old posts as I was fascinated by her love of family and life. I, too, was flabbergasted when I saw her with Glen Beck. Of course, his "turning of a tale" was to be expected! I suppose his ratings are down.


  2. Excellent post. Beck repulses me.

  3. I'm with you on every last word of this post. I follow Stephanie but am behind -- now I'm torn, do I go and see for myself or take your word for it?

  4. i was repulsed by her comment about backing Mitt Romney for the GOP nomination in order to "help America get its dignity back". just how, exactly, has its dignity fallen? i didn't understand that at all, other than in the context of Mitt being a mormon and thus worthy of mormon backing regardless of his views--which, as i understand it, are not altogether strictly conservative.


    i find her story moving and her honesty amazing and refreshing, too.

    i skipped the glenn beck thing because while i don't know much about him, what i do know makes me not want to learn anymore.

  5. I heard about the Iranian woman on the radio last night, burned with acid by the man whose marriage proposal she refused. I don't agree at all with her, I don't believe in eye for an eye, although I do believe he needs to be punished and made to make amends for what he did.

    I don't know who Glen Beck is but he sounds like a schmuck.

  6. I have never seen him, I hope I never will. I know who Nie is from comments on some other blogs but I don't read hers and never had. So...
    I am a citizen of an undignified country who can only hope a Republican - examples of whom can be seen daily in the only bipartisan exercise they do, cheating on their wives - is going to give me back the dignity my country somehow lost, as in leaving behind somewhere and forgot to retrieve it. A Democratic plot, I tell you. Who else but a Democrat would lose the country's dignity by starting two undeclared wars and lied to the people with weapons of mass deception?

    "An eye for an eye and pretty soon the whole world would be blind" said the wise man from India, all I can say is that to me proper punishment for the man who burnt that woman's face would be to keep him in a room alone with only a photo of her disfigured face to look at. There is an old saying that goes more or less like this:

    In the sin is the penance.

  7. I love that you continued to follow her despite your disagreement with some of her fundamental beliefs and I applaud your ability to watch the entire Beck-isode even though I suspect you could taste your own vomit in your mouth while you did.

    It is because of this that you are credible and have earned the right to say what you believe. I find it despicable that Glen Beck (like so many others) can only find it within him to sympathize with the stories of those whose beliefs match his own.

  8. I agree 100% with your sentiments about the Beck Media Machine. He is a user.

  9. It's funny. I've been to Nienie's blog before and yes, I find her unbelievably grace-filled but somehow, I cannot go there and to be quite blunt, it is her religion. She is one of the people I would love to shout at and say, "It's NOT GOD who has gotten you through your horrible times. It is YOU and your family. YOU are the grace, YOU are the courage!"
    And now- Glenn Beck?
    You have got to be kidding me.

  10. If some fucker threw acid in my face, I'd be fine with lighting him on fire with a flamethrower and feeding his charred remains to my dog. But that's just me.

  11. I have also been inspired by Nie and the way her faith in God (not the religion, but the way she lives her love for God and man) has sustained her and encouraged her. As soon as she starts on politics, I move along. But to be honest, I do that with most blogs - conservative, liberal or moderate. Why? Because I don't read blogs for political enlightenment.

    I grew up in a conservative home; my grandparents were liberals. Listening to political arguments between my elders, since childhood, turned me away from such arguments. It exhausts me as few other things do. My dear father, who I adore, still enjoys engaging in political debate. I do not, though I support the rights of others to do so.

  12. I've been reading Stephanie's blog for a while and even though I knew I would never agree with her political point of view, I found her blog inspiring because of her courage and faith. But so, so, disappointed to see that post today. :(

  13. I have never heard of Beck or Nie. I had not heard about this (particular) woman that was burned with acid until today.
    What I see as the major difference is Stephanie was burned in an accident and the Arab woman was burned at the hands of another human being. Yes, both could make a person angry and very bitter. And yes, we are given a choice on whether or not to forgive. But in Stephanie's case there is no justice to be served. It was just a terrible accident. As you know, I am a Quaker and we are pacifists. But being a pacifist does not mean that justice should not be served. Acid on his face? Well maybe. Would it stop this atrocity from happening? Likely not.

    Anyway, I am getting away from your point. As a Canadian (and I will tread lightly here) we sometimes do get the impression that Americans think they are the best country that ever was and ever will be. I guess it is a matter of opinion but we need to stop looking at boarders. Period. If every country has something to prove then we going to keep going the destructive way we are already headed. In my opinion, we need to stop this craziness and love each other as fellow humans. I love my country, I do! But I don't love it more than my love for us as fellow beings just trying to get by on this planet.
    You are right, there are people out there that promote the people of America to be ignorant charlatans. How that must drive you mad! I have been blogging for over seven years now and know the opposite to be true. I have met humble and peaceful people that love their home (and they should!) but are tired of the image caused by a certain few.
    So, what can we do about it? Keep blogging. Keep sharing your truth. I in turn read it and learn the real truth. And on it goes.

    Great post!

  14. I think I am fascinated that this big old world feels like a small town because of technology sometimes.

    I read Stephanie's blog for some time, but in truth, aside from the first post accident and recovery posts, don't feel that I ever take anything away or have anything to offer... regardless of her story . But it's her blog. And her life.

    I am only familiar enough with Glen Beck to know that I would never waste my time listening or watching him.

    And I think I am no longer surprised by anything any more. I don't know if I'm cynical. But I just feel so rattled time and again. To the point that sometimes I think maybe it's me.

  15. I read Nie and do admire her carrying on with such grace in light of the physical and mental anguish the accident caused her. Sometimes, I so don't understand her though. Here politics are very different than mine as is her religion. But what really gets me is that after suffering terribly becaue she engaged in an activity that while fun is just amazingly risky (small plane with amateur pilot at wheel), she pays no attention to other needless risk that her children engage in: bike riding without helmets, multi-child backyard trampoline jumping. I want to scream at her "My god, you played the risks and lost once, do you really want to do that again."

    But that being said, I admire her determination to find and create beauty and peace in her life

  16. I don't watch much television, so I'm afraid I have no idea who Beck is, but I assume he is one of the many television personalities who are entertainers masquerading as journalists. It's all about ratings, these days.

    I disagree in theory about the punishment exacted on the man you desribed, but cannot really make a judgement on the values and systems that have evolved in their culture. There are some who would say the US is barbaric because many of our states stlll inflict capital punishment on convicted criminals. It's all relative, I think.

  17. E, this post struck me ironic for two reasons, I grandfather also was a Christian Syrian -funny eh? And also, because I too follow Stephanie Nielson's blog avidly and I too almost fell out of my chair when I saw her on Glenn Becks arm. However, isn't that what always made America unique and tolerant. I love her blog not only because of her bravery, but because of her heart. I choose to not pass judgment on her religion or her politics but to value her grace. x

  18. I've heard of Ms. Nielson's story, but never started reading, mostly because I tend to migrate in the special needs (real life) or lite & funny circles (distractions), and never had a chance to click over. That said, I would imagine the opportunity to present your case to a national stage might be tempting. But whatever your message or political leaning, to go to that buffoon just turns your message into a cartoon bubble. I don’t mind discussing conservative politics – the pros/cons of school vouchers or some such – but he’s a carnival barker. Side note: Jon Stewart’s send off to Beck was his BEST.SHOW.EVER. Stewart is a beacon of light & sanity in a dark world (I stole that line from somewhere, can’t recall where).

  19. Did you see the video of the Glenn Beck show when he was pretending to vomit at the idea of seeing Meghan McCain naked in a skin cancer awareness PSA? Apparently, a number of celebrities show their skin in support of skin cancer, and I guess Beck thought Meghan was too overweight. It was DISGUSTING! I couldn't even watch it, it made me sick. Apparently, Cindy McCain is LIVID, and WRATHFUL. I hope she brings him down.

  20. Fodder: "inferior or readily made material meant to meet a high demand" .... It's the demand for that stuff GB is supplying that scares me. He's handing out prejudice on a silver platter and calling it holy.

  21. What bugged me the most is that she was "honored" by what Beck did. Really? That he used her?

  22. You're so freaking smart.

    And I just went to Nie's blog.. the "Bring America's dignity back" comment is still there.

    And I didn't before, but I now think that Nie is an ass hole.

  23. Usually enjoy this blog, but I actually don't have much of a problem with Glenn Beck. Tho he is a showman. Not really a fan of that sensationalism. Never got the sense that he is prejudicial, mean, or spiteful. Not like making a snap judgment and calling someone a vile name because of political views, anyway. I think we all can be better than that.
    My family came from oppression, and I grew up hearing about the people in the old country still being shot for having the "wrong" views. It wasn't just economic opportunity that brought us all here to America. So to me, it is far more upsetting to hear people wanting shut down others' voices.

  24. Kate J -- Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment. I'm not sure my judgement of Glen Beck was a "snap one," as you've accused me of -- or at least implied. And I don't think I called him prejudicial, mean or spiteful although I did say he was a sycophant and I wouldn't trust his motives even the tiniest iota. It's my opinion that he completely used Stephanie Nielsen, and in doing so he also managed to drag out one of his more tiresome tirades -- against Muslims. As for the rest of your comment about being "shot" for one's views, well, there is no place in my post that says that. I think Beck's voice is a heinous one, but I certainly respect his right to use it. I don't think he's in any danger, either, of having it suppressed -- in fact, I think it's only in America that such profound mediocrity is not only extolled but compensated to a grotesque degree.




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