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    America Is Better Than This

    by | Sep 1, 2010

    Will someone answer this question for me?  What is wrong with being a Muslim?  There are Muslim doctors, lawyers, teachers, policemen and policewomen.  There is a Muslim congressman from the great state of Minnesota named Keith Ellison.  We encounter Muslim Americans in every facet of American life.  They are part of the American tapestry.  When did it become un-American to be a Muslim?

    52% of conservative Americans believe Barack Obama wants to institute Sharia Law.  I’m sure if you also asked those polled what Sharia law is, they couldn’t tell you.  Since it’s associated with Islam and Muslims, it must be terrible– and this president must be in support of it.  Everyday more of his American identity evaporates in the eyes of these people–if it were even there at all.  Why?  Even in the face of substantial proof–evidence that is insurmountable–these people insist on painting the president as some foreign enemy of the state.

    Where is the media culpability in this? Fox News pushes a bitter narrative, asking questions about Obama’s American legitimacy and his faith.  They allow this meme to be explored on a routine basis.  They harbor vicious anti-Muslim views, and foster an unseemly climate of Islamophobia.   Yet one of their major shareholders is a Saudi Prince named Al-Waleed bin Talal– a man who owns a 7 percent share of NewsCorp, parent company of Fox News.  A man who contributes heavily to Islamic groups Fox conservatives believe are terrorist organizations.  A man who in his homeland of Saudi Arabia, rules UNDER Sharia Law. Where is their outrage?

    Shouldn’t Sean Hannity be condemning this bold expansion of the Sharia law in American media?  If right-wingers fear Sharia tentacles tethering themselves to American institutions, why not start with rebelling against the power structure at Fox News?

    These people are not defenders of American justice.  They hide behind euphemistic attacks–which are not only cowardly– they’re craven and treasonous.  They are dishonoring their patriotism, perverting it in order to gain political advantage.

    When Byron York, staunch blue-blood right-wing pundit, indulges in fantastically simplistic reporting, by placing blame directly on the president–he noted that Obama has brought much of this on himself by choosing to play golf or basketball Sunday mornings, rather than attend church–you realize just how cynical and foolish the tone of this debate is.   I did not realize that is what made one a Christian. You must attend church on Sundays. If Americans need this type of affirmation– seeing video clips of the president attending church to answer questions– perhaps they have the wrong questions.    Amazing.  Some of us are choosing to embrace religious radicalism to support our notions of nationalism.  That’s not the America I know.

    These people are cowering in fear.  They are racing to a corner of self-doubt and pity, trying to resist change.  There they are, waving flags of self- pity and anger because of their reticence to accept the wave of change on the precipice.

    This isn’t what this country is about.  It’s not how we were founded.  If Islamist fundamentalists choose to burn bibles and American flags, should we meet their wretchedness and hatred with our own?  No, and that is what makes us better than the enemy.

    This is where we find ourselves.  Struggling to discern who we are as a people and a nation.  We used to have an identity.  We used to stand for something righteous, mighty, and right.  We used to stand proudly for tolerance–at least most forward thinking Americans did.  We used to debate fairly, cogently, and intelligently.  Now we’ve become an empty husk, filling with anger, mistrust, hatred and fear.  Now we disavow our own laws callously in order to marginalize some of our citizens.  We should be better than this.

    America stands for something more because we don’t devalue our idealistic principles, and we don’t deviate from our values.  We set the pace for virtuous action, and let others follow our example.  Our discourse has been hijacked by pretend patriots, who’ve warped constitutional moralities into fluid, politically expedient landmines.  America is better than this.

    ###
    Matthew Wright

    Matthew Wright

    Matthew Wright, originally from Connecticut, is a blogger and budding freelance writer. He is heavily interested in politics and public policy. His aim is to encourage real debate between real people. Real change begins on the grassroots level, not in the media. He attended the University of Hartford in West Hartford,Connecticut, and now makes his home in Atlanta, Georgia. He also makes a mean lasagna.

     

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    • Mark

      Very well said. I leave you with this quote from a favorite historian that I hope will help you make sense of what you describe.

      “The trouble with most people is that they think with their hopes or fears or wishes rather than with their minds.”
      Will Durant

      • http://hannah.smith-family.com/ Monica Smith

        Durant’s quip is humorous. However, it’s probably only a small percentage of the population who are driven by emotion and instinct and don’t put on their “thinking caps.” Their fears are irrational. The reason we should fear fear is exactly because it is not subject to reason.
        The people who are afraid of muslims very likely know about as much about Muslims as muslins. Moreover their antagonisms are as irrational as their exuberances. Which is why conservative “leaders” have had to be concerned about the base becoming exuberant from the get-go. All that folderol about “The One” was, IMHO, simply an effort at inoculating the base.
        I don’t think instinct-driven people are a particularly American phenomenon. Most of the people afflicted by it have ancestors who came from somewhere else.

        • Mark

          Monica, I have always found Durant humorous and informative, but much more so the latter than the former. His books tend to be long and detailed, but never boring. I am fairly certain he was speaking of the entire species, not just Americans. My experience tends to agree with his statement. I’ll grant you an individual’s experience set against an entire society or planet is at best, anecdotal. It may be that you are more optimistic than myself. The behavior described by Matthew isn’t new nor limited to any particular time, place, or people. It is innately human. We fear what we do not understand and find it easier to demonize than learn. There are always exceptions who take the learning route, but they are always exceptions rather than the rule. I take the long term view that the species will survive and thrive until the day it doesn’t, and that we should seek to see the best in everything and everyone rather than those differences we all possess in some form.

    • johnny

      If this were not an election year, the whole ‘muslim’ and ‘mosque’ story would be on page 5 of the second section, below the fold.

      • Ryan Simon

        That’s where it was the NYT and Laura Ingraham reported on it.

    • Alex Kearns

      Well done, Matthew. I am sickened by the great sinkhole of ignorance and intolerance that appears to be forming in this country -- sucking in the naive, uninformed, hate-filled, disgruntled and just plain stupid. What an ignominious and bitter end to the once-admirable Republican party. (Something that is built on the fog of rhetoric and myth cannot survive).

    • http://bigboomtheory.blogspot.com Will Cantrell

      Maybe we are not better than this. Maybe.

      Matthew, I enjoyed your article and am glad you wrote it. Maybe it’s that little cynic that sometimes pops up on my left shoulder, but I think that PERHAPS you expect too much of us. This “ain’t” your fault and it’s not a criticism of you. You simply truly believe in ‘the Dream’ or what I like to call ‘The American Experiment’. The latter is the idea that people from disparate geographical, religious, and ethnic backgrounds can TRULY come together in a united purpose with “…liberty and justice for all.” I have generally believed in success of The Experiment. However, it sure as heck seems that the Experiment works best when it has the catalyst of a good or ‘gung ho’ economy. When ‘our money gets funny’(i.e. tight or even nonexistent) we start ‘looking funny’ at those around us who ‘ain’t like us’. Of course, anybody and everybody can ‘get along’ when economic times are good. So maybe its a question of our character…? Maybe.

      One of the real problems with ‘our collective pursuit of the Dream’ these days is that too many of us Americans have allowed noxious and loud individuals with unfettered access to the airwaves to appeal to —and reinforce—our baser instincts when it comes to tolerance and justice. The loud and noxious individuals to which I refer, of course, seek higher TV ratings and maxim corporate ‘earnings per share’—-not the promulgation of the true American values of which you write. Perhaps another way of saying this is way too many of us are not thinking for ourselves and questioning the real agenda —and bank accounts—-of the loudest and most noxious of the messengers.

      Lastly, on a slightly different tack: I was raised a Catholic (I am still ‘recovering’) and I wonder what would the political atmosphere would be like if the perpetrators of 9/11 had all been Catholic? Or maybe Baptists? Or Methodists?

      Anyway, Matthew, good piece of writing and food for thought. Will

      • http://wrightandleftreport.wordpress.com Matthew Wright

        Thank you Will. I always appreciate your feedback and comments.

      • Jim Fitzgerald

        Well said Will. I have wondered several of the same things -- what you call The Experiement and if the 9/11 guys had been of a Christain religion.

    • Francios Lipton

      How do liberal progressive Democrat leftists expect to build a constiuency among people who disagree with you? By calling them ignorant racist slaves to Fox News? Or declaring heretical the LEGITIMATE questions to be asked about 1) the invidious political practices of institutional Islam 2) the president’s legitimate Muslim background or 3) why the hell a “peace-loving” Hamas apologist Imam wants to build a mosque a couple blocks from Ground Zero — referencing the Cordoba caliphate that is Jihadism’s main political goal to restore by the wanton slaughter apostates and infidels? You’re not going to get people to stop asking questions by calling them ignorant bigots or heretics. And, alas, “facts are stubborn things.” Of course, Matthew, you got it all wrong here.

      Look, Matthew, Barack Hussein Obama said he was Muslim: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XKGdkqfBICw. His daddy was a Muslim. He has an Islamic prophet’s middle name for God’s sake. He has a background being raised overseas in Muslim schools. Nothing wrong with all that, of course. But the guy obviously has a background and people are right to ask questions about it because he is the effing president and commander-in-chief in a time when The West is in a great conflict with radical Islam.

      Where are the hell are the libertine feminists standing up against institutional Islam’s disgusting treatment of women? Where is your liberal activism when it comes to freedom of religion, speech and assembly — a notion forbidden in the Islamic world. All your plaintive yelps of “bigot!” here are solely designed to cower your opposition into emotive submission to gain political control by subterfuge. You don’t actually care about any of the substantive items you profess undergirds your beliefs. The liberal progressive Democrat leftists have been at this sad, sorry little guilt game too long and hopefully your opponents will now stop playing. Especially now that the entire nation has elected a president that is basically a cartoon of liberal progressive Democrat leftism.

      • http://wrightandleftreport.wordpress.com Matthew Wright

        Thank you for your input. I vehemently disagree with you of course, but I welcome your opinion.

      • Billy Howard

        No one denied you the right to ask questions, but the answers are there and you refuse to acknowledge them. You take your mantras and repeat them over and over hoping they will sound like truth when the truth has already been discovered and it does not belong to you. Your thoughts are filled with patriotism but your heart with treason.

      • Jim Fitzgerald

        Lipton,

        You brew your tea a little too strong.

        “why the hell a “peace-loving” Hamas apologist Imam wants to build a mosque a couple blocks from Ground Zero — referencing the Cordoba caliphate that is Jihadism’s main political goal to restore by the wanton slaughter apostates and infidels?”

        The Imam in question was first hired by the Bush Administration to represent the US to the Muslim world in 2007, a policy that continues under the Obama Administration. Maybe Bush and Rice failed to complete adequate background checks on this man but I would have to be downright paranoid about my government to conclude that they hired a Hamas radical to represent this country. See article below:

        “U.S. State Department sending imam of proposed New York mosque to Middle East

        By Matthew Lee

        Thursday, August 12, 2010

        The imam behind controversial plans for a mosque near the site of the Sept. 11 attacks is being sent by the State Department on a religious outreach trip to the Middle East, officials said Tuesday, in a move that drew criticism from conservative lawmakers.

        The department is sponsoring Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf’s visit to Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, where he will discuss Muslim life in America and promote religious tolerance, spokesman P.J. Crowley said. He said that the imam had been on two similar trips and that plans for the upcoming tour predated the mosque controversy.

        “We have a long-term relationship with him,” Crowley told reporters, noting that Rauf had visited Bahrain, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar in 2007 and went to Egypt this January as part of an exchange program run by the State Department’s Bureau of International Information Programs.

        “His work on tolerance and religious diversity is well known, and he brings a moderate perspective to foreign audiences on what it’s like to be a practicing Muslim in the United States,” Crowley said.”

        From a second source:

        Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf “has participated at the Aspen Institute in Muslim-Christian-Jewish working groups looking at ways to promote greater religious tolerance. He has consistently denounced radical Islam and terrorism, and promoted a moderate and tolerant Islam.”

        So Lipton, you are correct in saying that facts are a stubborn thing.

    • Francios Lipton

      What exactly are you disagreeing with? That we should not explore the troubling evils of Islamic political culture? Every single blessed day on this website someone posts about the impending evils white male Christians “clinging to their guns and bibles, waiting to overthrow the government led by a black man…” In reality, that is a very remote threat. Meanwhile, Islamists in this country and others around the world are killing innocent people, hacking off their limbs, gang-raping women, throwing acid in their faces and installing repressive regimes based upon their interpretations of scripture. See guys: THAT STUFF is ACTUALLY happening, while the Klansman “Don’t-Tread-on-Me” uprising you hyperventilate over every single day here is merely a deluded fiction in your tiny, reptilian brains.

      Anytime it occurs to someone to point out a real and definable evil — that is, the scourge of Islamist Jihadist imperialism and repression — you all say, “Move along, nothing to see here….” Why is it “treason” to be troubled by all this? And as for a political platform, it strikes me as remarkably ignorant. I realize asking legitimate questions doesn’t fit into your reflexive, reptilian “You’re a bigot!” political ideology. But eventually, you must account for the world as it actually is, not as you wish it to be. That you pine for the days of a noble struggle against institutional repression is also quite troubling because you seek to restore the oppressors to have something to whine about.

      • Billy Howard

        The vandalizations and harassment of moderate Muslims in our country is as real as the insidious hatred of radical Islamists against us. Our willingness to ignore the very tenants of our country’s founding to attack a religious minority is at best ignorant fear mongering and at worst, an attack against the freedoms our country stands for, in essence, treason. I am not troubled by the questions being asked, I am troubled by the inability to listen to the answers.

        • http://wrightandleftreport.wordpress.com Matthew Wright

          Well said Billy. It seems as if some people have forgotten this. They don’t seem to realize how dangerous these behaviors are. Or, they simply don’t care. I can’t say which is worse.

      • Billy Howard

        The vandalizations and harassment of moderate Muslims in our country is as real as the insidious hatred of radical Islamists against us. Our willingness to ignore the very tenants of our country’s founding to attack a religious minority is at best ignorant fear mongering and at worst, an attack against the freedoms our country stands for, in essence, treason. I am not as troubled by the questions being asked as I am by the inability to listen to the answers.

      • http://wrightandleftreport.wordpress.com Matthew Wright

        Question for you? How many times must one answer a question that is asked ALL of the time? When is the answer sufficient for you? It is pointless to argue with someone who refuses to take answers as face value--especially when their is no evidence to the contrary. You may not like the answers given, but that does not mean your questions were not answered.

    • http://www.jackdejarnette.org Jack deJarnette

      I can’t get my mind around the naive notion of American idealism. We have always had our prejudices and racial, religious, political strife.
      Native Americans, Blacks, Hispanics, Mexicans, Japanese, Jews, Mormons, Communists, and now Muslims have all experienced the pain and suffering generated by ignorance and prejudice. My theory, note I said theory, is that social evolution is a pipe dream. Human beings are as tribal as we have always been. Anyone who varies from the self-defined norms of any group is perceived to be the “enemy”. This idea is as old as human kind. It is why different groups wear different tribal symbols and define boundaries around themselves. It is important to recognize the “other” because the “other” might be the enemy; trying to take, land, resources, identity, or control.

      As an highly educated, intellectually astute person, I despise the very thought of prejudice against any racial, religious or ethnic group. Yet I find that when walking down a dark street at night I see two or more young men gathered on a street corner holding their britches up by the crotch and talking trash, the hair on the back of my neck stands up, my heart beat increases and my breathing rate increases. This of course is the result of an adrenaline rush, which is an unconscious response to a perceived threat. I simply can’t help what is wired into my primitive brain it simply happens. It is certainly pre judgment, prejudice.

      My argument with the liberal mindset that humanity is good comes from living in human skin for 67 years and I can unashamedly acknowledge that I am not particularly good. I have tortured animals, purposely done physical harm to others, rebelled against authority, committed crimes for which I was never caught, hated deeply enough to have killed, and shattered reputations.

      But the truth is that I am just an ordinary, average human being. I have heard confessions over the past thirty years that far over shadow any “evil” that deeds I have done. These from seemingly good people, just like me. People that discovered a higher and better from of living generated by a desire to follow the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, not the tenants of a particular religious denomination.

      • http://bigboomtheory.blogspot.com Will Cantrell

        Jack, I’ve read this note several times now in order to make sure that I was digesting it correctly. (Heck, it’s always possible that I still may not be doing so. I never said that Cantrell was ‘an Albert Einstein’ ….or even his third cousin ‘Herb Einstein’.) It seems though as if you are saying that our human tendency toward prejudice and bigotry is part of our nature as human beings. Sadly, the little cynic in me says that you may right about this. I said as much in my earlier note which said that “Maybe America is NOT better than this”.

        The problem though is that it seems as if you are also saying “Aw, hell it’s all of our human nature to be a prejudiced jerks and bigots. Why even TRY change? Everybody needs to be satisfied with the fact that human nature ain’t never going to change.” This would seem to be an argument for the ‘status quo’. (Hopefully, this is a misinterpretation on my part.)

        If prejudice and bigotry are inherent we should still be making a huge effort to overcome our nature …if only because other people’s HUMAN rights are at stake.

        Lastly, I am not a big believer in labels except maybe on bottles of ketchup. However, reality being what it is, I guess that I would be labeled a liberal. I am an unabashed and proud one, too. I can’t speak for others but MY ‘liberal mindset’ is that everybody has unalienable human rights whether they are “deemed to be” a good-hearted person or not and/or whether they are Muslim, Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, etc.

        • http://www.jackdejarnette.org Jack deJarnette

          Hi Will,
          Thanks for your thoughts. I am saying that I believe we are all born with the potential to choose a path of darkness. Many things are influential in whether we choose to walk on the dark side or the light. Genetic makeup, brain structure, brain chemistry, nurture, exposure to various stimuli all has some influence in our development. None of these things or any combination of them absolutely determines who we are ultimately. We can choose by an act of the will to overcome them.

          Prejudice can be overcome when one understands the basis of it. From my studies I have come to believe that it is rooted in fear and hatred. Some fear, as my example of the young people corner, is intrinsic. Notice I didn’t mention ethnicity or race. Some fear is from what one has been taught or experienced. On the other hand, hatred comes from what one is taught. My Father was from an aristocratic Atlanta family and had been taught that Blacks didn’t have souls. He believed that blacks should be treated humanely, but were made by God to be subservient. As long as Blacks stayed in their “place”, he was fine with them, but if one crossed the line (Daddy’s line) then he thought nothing of punishment, the more severe the better. Others simply hated Blacks because they were taught to. I believe the media is working hard to generate fear and hatred toward Hispanics, by the news reports with which we are bombarded, thus generating an increase in prejudice.

          Some prejudice is intrinsic (tribalism). It can be overcome just by exposure to those of other races and cultures if one’s mind is open.

          Even as a young man, I began to suspect racial prejudice was wrong and my years in the Army caused me to completely reject racial prejudice. My best friend was a Black man from Philadelphia. He was the only one in my company who could play chess or carry on a decent conversation.

          My point in all of this is that while I started down a dark path, a number of influences guided me in a different direction. Becoming a follower of Jesus was the major influence that changed my direction. I want to make it clear that it was not so much a religious institution that brought the change, although a religious institution did awaken me to who he was and what he taught. As I embarked on my own theological studies, I came to realize just how far the modern church has drifted from Jesus’ teachings. When I became a minister, I chose the Methodist denomination because I found it to be very liberating and allowed me the freedom to influence people in a loving, non-judgmental, non-prejudicial direction.

          As to my position on so called liberals, (bad label) sometimes I am sonetimes I am not.

          I probably didn’t influence many, but those that I did, are now influencing others and so it grows, little by little and bit by bit.

          Well, I used a lot of words to say very little, sorry about that.

          Shalom, friend.

    • Cliff Green

      “How do liberal progressive Democrat leftists expect to build a constiuency among people who disagree with you? By calling them ignorant racist slaves to Fox News?”
      Well, yes…

    • Betsey Dahlberg

      Well, this is the group I would like to meet for a beer and a chat. Or some beers and a lot of talk. Heck, we can even drink wine or whiskey. OR water, coffee or tea. Maybe even Kool Aid. But then, I am trying to practice tolerance.

      Along with always having the poor with us, we will also always have the prejudiced and the down-right hateful. My hope and prayer is that with education and exposure to foreign ideas, we will EVENTUALLY progress (note that I do not say “evolve”, don’t want to offend the less scientific minded) into more tolerant creatures. As for now, I am still finding human beings as a group to be greedy, selfish and not particular welcoming to anything the slightest bit out of the normal routine.

      But HOPE lives in every human heart, I think. At least in mine.

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