America is an odd place full of contradictions, imperfections, high ideals, and low morals.
We’ve got Tea Partiers who want to return us to strict constitutional rule, but are unwilling to embrace the parts of the document which they disagree with. Like the parts which provide citizenship to every person born here or guarantee the freedom of Muslims to practice their religion. They claim that they want to keep government out of the lives of citizens, but then they rise up in arms when a particular group of citizens wants to build a place of worship.
What is even more disturbing is a Pew research poll which shows that the number of people who believe that President Obama is a Muslim is going up. This is an internet hoax of the worst sort. It is completely without basis in fact. It persists like so many other urban myths only because some people want to believe it.
All I can wonder is why?
Clearly the bias against Muslims is related to the violent actions of a small group of radicals. But there is something more fundamental going on here. It is the dirty little secret of our “free” society. We are not content to co-exist. We need an enemy to validate our own sense of superiority. There has always been a conservative segment of our society who was eager to restrict the basic rights that we claim to hold dear in an effort to “protect” the rest of us from whomever the current perceived enemy may be.
John Adams passed the Alien and Sedition act because he feared the influence France had on Catholics. We called the American Indians savages and waged a successful genocidal war against them. Jim Crow laws were passed and the KKK formed because of southern fears of an African American backlash to slavery. We put Japanese Americans in concentration camps during WWII because we doubted their loyalty to the United States. During the Fifties, we imprisoned and deported those that we feared were communist sympathizers.
Now the worst thing you can be is a Muslim because Muslims are different and dangerous. So those who have been influenced by the drumbeat of right wingnut conspiracy theories about the President have begun to associate him with being a “secret” Muslim.
Muslims who have lived peacefully in this country for generations are suddenly suspect. Congregations who have been building mosques in this country since 1915 suddenly discover that they are no longer welcome.
Trudy Rubin of the Philadelphia Inquirer wonders “whether Americans still have the self-confidence to stand up for our Constitution’s principles – or whether we’ve become so fearful that we’re eager to junk them.”
Richard Cohen of the Washington Post confronts the notion that recent polls show a majority of American oppose construction of NYC mosque, “So what? Would they have liked Lincoln to have deferred to popular sentiment in the South regarding slavery? Would they have liked Truman to have polled the Army about desegregation?”
He goes on to say, “Minority rights are embedded in our Constitution. It was the perceived lack of them that caused the states to seek some immediate amendments, what we now call the Bill of Rights.”’
This particular sort of popular bigotry is exactly why the founding fathers built these sorts of protections into the fabric of our government.
But more importantly, Jesus also knew that the self-righteousness could justify virtually any cruelty and violence in the supposed service of God. So he gave us very clear instructions on what he expects from us,
“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Matt 5:43-48