Aletho News


Violent Intolerance – U.S. Style

By Robert Fantina | Aletho News | February 10, 2015

There is an old cliché that says if one is not concerned about current conditions in the world, one is not paying attention. While this writer generally attempts to avoid tired clichés, this one certainly seems applicable today.

There sometimes comes a time when white is seen as black, and black as white, and much of society accepts this unquestioningly. One thinks of the fabled emperor, parading down the street in clothes that only intelligent people could see, when he was, in fact, naked. Yet those around him, wanting to appear intelligent, fawned all over him, proclaiming the beauty of his non-existent clothes.

Today, the extreme right wing has millions of followers who have been convinced that all Muslims are terrorists, intent on destroying the United States and killing all Christians. This group also believes that the growing acceptance of marriage equality will bring down the wrath of an angry, intolerant God upon society. They cling to the twisted, inexplicable belief that government-provided health care is an unspeakable evil. These and other bizarre and dangerous beliefs are accepted without question when proclaimed by entertainment shows masquerading as news programs, or by sobbing televangelists demanding money to save America.

Can we possibly step back and take a critical look at just these few issues, to try, probably with little success, to understand why they cause so much anger and hostility?

  • Islam and terrorism. A nation with a long tradition of prejudice, subtle or blatant, against anyone who is not white, seems to find it difficult to break out of that outdated stereotype. People who have grown up seeing mainly whites in their neighborhoods, schools and churches, without exposure to anyone who might speak a different language or have differing religious traditions, can be fearful of the unknown. Certainly when one is taught from childhood that the ‘American Way’, whatever that is, is superior to everything else, anyone who strays from the narrow traditions of that concept must be inferior, and probably dangerous.And what is shown on the news? Stories of people who adhere to some twisted offshoot of Islam, and use that philosophy to commit crimes, are sensationalized. The killing of several people at the offices of the magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris spawned international pseudo-solidarity with the victims, creating a brand new hashtag for all the world to enjoy. Yet on the same day that that tragedy occurred, at least 50 Muslims, including children as young as 18 months and adults as old as seventy, were slaughtered by so-called Christian militias in the Central African Republic, yet most news stations didn’t see any reason to report on that incident. After all, that happened in Africa, a mostly black nation, so one expects them to go around killing each other. No news there; just more dead black Muslims. Perhaps, just perhaps, if the people who are so fearful of anyone who wears a hijab or a kufeyah were to actually meet a Muslim, and spend a few hours with him or her, perhaps over dinner, they might begin to question what they hear on FOX news. If they were to see such people dropping their children off at school, doing yard work at their home, grocery shopping in the very same store that caters to the local white population, there might begin to be a glimmer of a belief that they are not so different after all, and that that hijab or kufeyah actually represents a religious belief or cultural tradition, and is not in fact hiding a bomb.
  • Marriage equality. The reactions to this among the right-wing are so extreme that volumes could be written attempting to counteract them. However, this writer will attempt to summarize these ideas with a few salient points. First, same-sex marriage has been legal in Canada, where this writer now resides, for years. Amazing as it may seem, life goes on. People go to work and school, have children, grow up, retire, travel, shop and do all the things that people in nations where same-sex marriage is not legal do. Canada has elections, elected officials meet to debate and pass laws, and the fact that marriage equality is the law of the land doesn’t impact any of those activities. No one is forced to marry anyone they don’t want to marry; no church is forced to perform a wedding ceremony if it violates their doctrines.Secondly, since most Christians focus on the New Testament, which records the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, where this angry, vengeful God comes from is a mystery to this writer. As a Christian familiar with both the Old and New Testaments, he is certainly aware of the angry God depicted in the Old Testament. Yet we are told that, with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, all things became new. And nowhere did Jesus Christ condemn any sinner with the exception of the hypocrites (rightwing ministers and newscasters, please take note). He embraced society’s outcasts, and invited everyone to come unto him. As mentioned, this writer is quite familiar with scripture, and he knows of no situation in which Jesus Christ threatened to send plagues if a nation approved same-sex marriage.
  • Health care. Will it bore the reader if this writer brings up this topic yet again? Have we not all grown tired of it? There does not seem to be any logical reason for the peculiar belief that health care is a bad thing. Nor is there any evidence to support the concept that there is only so much health care out there, and if more people get it, some of those who already have it will somehow have less.

But, one might say, isn’t this unnecessary and intrusive government involvement in the personal lives of individuals? Well, no, it isn’t. Since the death panels that Sarah Palin was so concerned about, and that some members of the right wing continue to warn of, don’t now and never did exist, and since personal health care decisions are still left up to the individual and his/her physician, there is nothing intrusive here. However, while we are on the topic of intrusive government involvement in the personal lives of individuals, how does regulating the use of birth control not qualify? Also, is not governing who one can and cannot marry somewhat intrusive?

In 1960, Senator John Kennedy of Massachusetts, a Roman Catholic was the Democratic nominee for president. His religion was controversial, but he was elected. In 1984, New York Representative Geraldine Ferraro was the unsuccessful Democratic vice-presidential nominee, the first woman to run for that office for a major party. In 2006, Keith Ellison became the first Muslim elected to the House of Representatives. In 2008, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, an African-American won the presidential election, despite his race. In 2012, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, a Mormon, was the unsuccessful standard-bearer for the Republican Party.

For four of the five people mentioned above, there was much talk about how historic their candidacy was, how the nation had obviously evolved and thrown off early prejudices, since it was able to elect a Catholic and an African-American, and nominate a woman and a Mormon. Yet Mr. Ellison’s election was not heralded with the same lofty words, especially when he chose to take the oath of office with his hand on a copy of the Qur’an rather than the Bible. Conservative columnist Dennis Prager, who took great umbrage, said this: “America, not Keith Ellison, decides what book a Congressman takes his oath on.” No, Mr. Prager, that choice is left to the individual taking the oath of office. And Representative Virgil Goode (R-VA) had this dark warning to issue, saying that Mr. Ellison’s use of the Qur’an was a threat to “… the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America… [and] if American citizens don’t wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Qur’an.” So it seems that those prejudices weren’t jettisoned quite as successfully as one might like to think. Right wing comments following the 2012 presidential election also reflect this fact. FOX News demi-god Bill O’Reilly proclaimed in despair that “It’s not a traditional American anymore”. The racist ‘tweets’ that filled the Internet following the election also clearly demonstrate that racism is alive and well in the U.S.

So here we are in 2015. The anger, hostility and violence that were perpetrated against African Americans fifty years ago have now been directed towards Muslims. Right wing commentators decry the fact that Muslims have equal rights, proclaiming that the Constitution was meant for Christians only. A new movie, glorifying a serial killer whose victims were mostly Muslim, is a box-office smash. The U.S. government continues to support and finance apartheid Israel, allowing the further savage victimization of its mostly Muslim victims.

While we shake our heads in awe and disgust that U.S. citizens a generation ago were lynching African-Americans for sport, with crowds watching gleefully, future generations will question our current actions. Scenes of Israelis picnicking while watching the slaughter of Palestinians in 2014 will be hung beside photos of angry whites screaming at young black girls walking into newly-integrated schools in the U.S. south in the early 1960s, both indicating the racism and barbarism of an earlier, primitive age. Yet this is the age we are living in, and the one we have some control over. It is beyond time to act, to fight the ignorance that breeds violence, and the strident voices that fan the deadly flames of intolerance. This is not work for someone else to do; there is, unfortunately, no one else to do it.

February 10, 2015 - Posted by | Islamophobia | ,

1 Comment »

  1. Avery good description of the high level of ignorance remaining on the Earth. Thank you for making the effort to overcome and end such unfortunate insanity.


    Comment by Jerry "Peacemaker" | February 11, 2015 | Reply

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