Each Monday, your Crap Archivist brings you the finest in forgotten and bewildering crap culled from basements, thrift stores, estate sales and flea markets around Los Angeles.

Let's Visit the Middle East

Author: John C. Caldwell

Date: 1966

Publisher:John Day Company, New York

Discovered at: The Sonshine Shop, 1981 S. Vermont

Representative Quotes:

“A dictionary tells us that an Arab is 'a Semite of the race which from earliest known times has lived in the Arabian peninsula.' It is interesting that the Jews are Semites, too, and yet the Arabs generally hate them.” (pages 25 – 26).

“Given time and help to solve their many problems, the nations of the Middle East may once again contribute much to civilization.” (page 94).

You know those white-folks who believe that a) America is the strongest and greatest country that ever Jesus saw fit to found, and b) that America will be destroyed immediately and forever if its mall foodcourts get just one more schwarma stand?

To such ignorance and paranoia, this dashed-off schoolbook just might be the fertile crescent.

Author John C. Caldwell doesn't openly hate Arabs, of course. Instead, he just points out again and again how unreasonable, backwards and monolithic they are, sometimes sounding a little sad about it . . . especially after all the west has done for them.

At times he blames the region's turmoil on “meddling” Communists, but usually he implies it's simply in the character of the people. Here's how he depicts the faithful:

“One of the problems in the Middle East is that Arab people dislike the Jewish state of Israel.”

“Strict Moslems may not drink alcoholic beverages or eat pork; they believe in plural marriages.”

He isn't interested in drawing distinctions:

“There are several sects or branches of Mohammedanism, but we might say that believers in this religion 'stick together' and are strict in their beliefs. All who are not Moslems are called infidels.”

It's a sneak peek of the papers in the George W. Bush Presidential Library!

Caldwell is certainly no relativist:

“Altogether there were eight Crusades, including the Children's Crusades in which 50,000 European children were killed, lost, or captured by the Moslems.”

Wait, “lost” by the Moslems? In addition to dastardliness that warranted crusading against, Caldwell's Mohammadans also were terrible babysitters?

Caldwell doesn't mind contradicting himself.

Page 71, on Saudi women:

“Women are always veiled when outside their homes and, in accordance with the Koran, have no rights.”

Then, on 72:

“The people of Saudi Arabia have no voting rights; indeed, they actually have no rights of any kind.”

Then, on 74:

“Women, who at one time had no rights at all, are beginning to take part in public affairs. Girls are now even encouraged to go to school; and any student, boy or girl, who can win a place in a foreign university receives full expenses and a living allowance to be educated abroad.”

In fact, Caldwell claims that Saudi Arabia provides free education and medical care for all its citizens and that the oil money is so good that “many Bedouins are becoming so prosperous they are trading in their camels for jeeps and trucks.”

But Caldwell being Caldwell, that comes just two pages after:

“One out of every three Saudis lives in a tent; only one out of twenty has enough education to write his name.”

It's been said before, but it's still true: the Middle East is a land of contrasts.

According to the stamp inside the front cover, this book remained in a Los Angeles school library until 1984. Also, you might be interested to know that the same Mid-City thrift store where I scored this also has cheap-ass Arm & Hammer kitty litter: $6 for 30 pounds!

Better still, I got an E.T. mug!

(This cat ain't too good for thrift-store litter.)

Shocking Detail:

Caldwell finds Arabs irrational, and he often rhapsodizes about Israel, so this was surprising:

“The problem of Israel and her neighbors may take years to solve. It would be wrong to put all of the blame on the Arabs. Both sides are at fault, and there are many people, including Jews who are not in favor of Israel . . . Zionism frightens the Arabs, and the more Jews there are in Israel, the more chance there is of trouble.”

So, to Caldwell, the “trouble” is Arabs' fault for being scared of Israel, and it's Israel's fault for scaring those Arabs. At last, geopolitics has its own version of “If she didn't want it, why was she dressed like that?”

This blames everyone and lets everyone off the hook. By this logic:

  • Porn addiction is Americans' fault for enjoying porn, and porn's fault for being so very enjoyable.

  • High illiteracy rates are the fault of people not liking to read ,and reading's fault for having too many words.

  • High school drop-outs are high schools' fault for sucking, and life outside's fault for sucking slightly less.


“Iraq may still be the bright spot in the Middle East. The people have a saying that now there are three great rivers — the Tigris, the Euphrates, and oil. Perhaps Iraq can continue to make the rivers work for the good of all the people.”

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