Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Sikhs, Muslims and America's Greatest Values

I TRY TO BE CALM. BUT THE MASSACRE in Oak Creek, Wisconsin this week makes me sick. I'm sick of the Wade Michael Pages of this world. I'm sick of the haters. I'm sick of people who lean in that direction but hide intolerance behind the Bible, the U. S. Constitution, the American flag, or all three.

It's sad and twisted, really. Page was a member of several white-supremacist bands, including one called Definite Hate. In a song called "Welcome to the South," the lyrics focused on the coming "race war" and wondered:

"What has happened to America/That was once so white and free?"

I'm sick of killers and their silent allies. I'm sick of those who intentionally or unintentionally stir up intolerant fools.

Here in Cincinnati, you might start with Bill Cunningham, the host of a radio talk show on WLW. He's not a true hater. He's no Wade Michael Page. Still, like many of the loudest voices on the right today, he's careless, and his language is dangerous. When a caller agrees, Cunningham usually replies, "You're a great American." The implication is that those "others" out there, who don't think the same way, are not. In four years, for example, Mr. Cunningham has never missed an opportunity to call the president by his full name:  "Barack Hussein Obama."

Why? What's Cunningham's point? It's simple. It's a veiled appeal to bigotry, to the worst in listeners, not their best. It's not like the "good old days," when you could spew toxic hate in public and call human beings "niggers," and no one was shocked. That doesn't mean it doesn't smell the same. "Hussein." Why not say it straight?

Tell listeners they have to vote against President Obama, first, second and third, because he's a Muslim.

Cunningham isn't guilty of Neo-Nazi thinking. But he leans ever so subtly in the same direction--he's dealing in dehumanization--and that has never been what makes America great. Bigotry isn't one of the cherished ideals set forth in the Declaration of Independence. Those on the right might prefer to believe they alone love our country and honor the Founding Fathers. Those of us on the left realize that the Founding Fathers made sure to list all Americans' rights, not just because they feared government, but because they knew human beings have always needed to be protected from one another.

Sadly, Page isn't the first deluded "patriot" to go after Sikhs. Only days after the 9/11 attacks, a man named Frank Roque drove up to a gas station in Mesa, Arizona and shot the owner, who wore a turban and beard. Roque told police that he had wanted to kill "a Muslim" and tried to wrap his unreasoning hate in red, white and blue, saying, “I am an American.” According to his birth certificate, that might have been true. But his victim, Balbir Singh Sodhi, was a Sikh, a reform branch of the Hindu faith.

No Sikhs were in involved in the 9/11 attacks.

Still, on the right, there seems to be no concern about fostering delusional thinking. How scared are patriotic fools? In a recent poll, 30% of Republicans said that President Obama is a Muslim and the numbers among conservative Republicans were worse, at 34%. And how does fear mongering play out? Not long ago a conservative fellow told me all Muslims are terrorists. I tried to explain why he was wrong but he was a fan of Rush Limbaugh and had a case of the "Sarah Palin's." Palin probably isn't a true hater, either; but she still loves to play up the "us" vs. "them" theme. If you're out there on the right today, like Palin, you believe you are a good American, a "real American" as she put it at campaign stops all over the country in 2008. Then you warn the audience that Obama pals around with terrorists and listeners believe what you say.

Is President Obama a Muslim? No. He is not.

And let's be clear about something else. You can be conservative and make sense. You can oppose Mr. Obama's efforts at health care reform. You might fairly disagree with his stance on gay marriage or what we need to do about Iran. But you are one chock-a-block fool if you think he reads the Qu'ran for spiritual guidance.

Worse yet, it is inherently un-American to assume that if he did he would be disqualified from running this country.

Let's try to do a little public service and set a few confused right-wing thinkers straight. In 2010 there were 2.6 million Muslims living in the United States, most citizens, protected by the same U. S. Constitution people like Rush and Sean Hannity say they revere. If the fear mongers were right, those Muslims would be blowing themselves (and the rest of us) up, left and right, and at Little League games. Yet, they don't. The shooter in Wisconsin wasn't carrying a Qu'ran. The shooter in Aurora, Colorado who murdered all those people in the theater wasn't wearing a turban and beard.

Sikhs aren't Muslims and President Obama isn't, either. If you know your First Amendment, though, it wouldn't matter if he was. Not all Muslims are terrorists. Some few happen to be; and they're sick haters, too.

That's why we have law enforcement. To protect all Americans, from dangerous individuals, from rapists and murderers and Neo-Nazis and fanatics in planes.

THERE'S A REASON YOU SEE THAT LIBERALS ARE LIBERALS. It's not because we don't love America. It's because we love what American has always meant and still means. We know that Catholics were once feared, when waves of Irish immigrants began coming to these shores. Liberals who know their history remember that "Know Nothing" politicians stirred up hate and fear towards those who were "different" even before the Civil War.

Liberals know know that the Irish made our nation better in the end. In fact, it's some kind of sad irony that the cop who nearly died trying to save the Sikhs in Oak Creek was named Patrick Murphy.
A good "Mick," you might say.

In the end, like sensible conservatives, sensible liberals often fear big government, only in different ways. A liberal is more likely to remember that other people are often the gravest threat to individual freedoms and rights. A liberal remembers that 110,000 Japanese-Americans were locked up in 1942, after other people, who happened to look like them, flew other planes in an attack on Pearl Harbor. A liberal remembers that when hate and fear and intolerance swept our nation seven decades ago thousands of U. S. citizens ended up in internment camps.

A liberal remembers when women--half the U. S. population--were considered inferior, too delicate for sports. A liberal watches the Olympics and is proud of what U. S. women accomplish today. A liberal sees Sanya Richards-Ross, born in Jamaica, who moved here when she was 12, win gold for Team USA and remembers when colleges down south, like the University of Texas, from which she graduated, didn't want dark-skinned students enrolled. A liberal knows Megan Rapinoe, a star on the U. S. women's soccer is gay and still gets excited when her two goals against Canada propel our team into the gold medal game. A liberal sees Danell Leyva, born in Cuba, whose parents defected and came to the United States when he was young, on the men's gymnastics team and is proud of what this country has always meant. Hope for humanity.

Not just some white humanity. Not just straight humanity, or male humanity, or conservative humanity


1 comment:

  1. Calling a man by his given name is bigotry? Quite a stretch Mr. Viall. And though we, lefties and righties, often lump anyone who disagrees with us about social issues into a catch-all grouping, if we are to rescue this nation, the truth needs to be discussed openly. Free of name calling and demeaning language. A few things come to mind.
    The constant beratement of the Tea Party. Men and women of all ethnicities who revere the US Constitution that have decided to take a long overdue stand against the status quo on the right. While we fight to overthrow those who have abused their authority and send persons who more closely resemble our ideals of individual liberty and state sovereignty, those who oppose our ideals lie about us and our intent. You yourself often infer to the Tea Party as murderous gun-toting gay bashing child haters. It isn't even close to the truth.
    Taxes. Though the top 20% of income earners pay nearly 80% of all federal taxes collected, the president, and many on the "left" are constantly talking about "fair share". In a country partly built upon the idea of equality under the law, how is it "fair" that any citizen pay a higher or lower rate than his or her neighbor? Does not the man who earns 20,000 per year get to drive on the same roads, be protected by the same police and fire departments, attend the same public schools, borrow from the same libraries as the man who makes 320,000?
    Homosexual marriage. Speaking for myself and, I know I am being presumptuous here, the Tea Party, I do not hate or wish to oppress homosexuals. Yet I also find it rather arrogant and selfish that only by altering the 6000 year old accepted meaning of marriage will the homosexual lobby be satisfied. I fully support the creation of Civil Unions to legally and spiritually recognize the committment made between two homosexual individuals. Why is it that mores and traditions that have stood the test of time be sacrificed at the alter of appeasement? I have spoken of this with a few of my homosexual friends and found that personally, they would PREFER a union designed specifically for their sexual orientation.
    As for Obama, he often gives speeches in front of a golden ceremonial Islamic curtain. He believes the Muslim call to prayer is the most beautiful sound he has heard. He has proposed that Israel return to it's pre-67 borders, and has members of the Muslim Brotherhood (a known financial supporter of Islamic extremist groups) in his inner circle. He was born by Marxists, raised and mentored by communists, launched his political career in the home of a convicted terroist, and has appointed a plethora of Marxist/socialists to powerful positions within his administration. How is it that you, and others, cannot connect the dots? I say this rhetorically, because, as evidenced in this edition, you fail to mention that it was FDR, the patron saint of liberal progressives, who interned Japanese Americans. Had it been Nixon, or any other "righty", you damn well would have mentioned it.
    I remember when Jimmy the Greek connected the dots as to why black Americans excelled at a higher per capita rate in sports than whites. He stated the obvious. That it was due to the centuries of interbreeding the smartest, strongest, fastest slaves. He was expelled from participation in his chosen field for speaking the truth.
    Only when we can speak the truth, without dishonest reprisal, will things begin to change.
    If not now, when? If not us, who?

    Your Randian friend,