Thursday, August 26, 2010

Bigotry Alive and Well in the Home of the Brave

America is definitely no estranged peddler when it comes to the likes of bigotry, persecution and racism. It has been present since the first Europeans stepped off their boats and onto this promised land. Most of the immigrants to this country, and let us not forget that the vast majority of our population has immigrants somewhere in their family history, were people fleeing persecution of one kind or another if not precisely religious in nature. I am not very sure how this comes to be that because someone themselves is second generation or beyond they feel they have more rights than people just arriving in basically the exact way that their ancestors did before them. Take the Nativist movement mainly in New England in the 1840's to the mid 1850's known as the 'Know Nothing Party'. These bigots not unlike those of today had various and heavy batches of fear and hatred directed against German and Irish Catholic immigrants. These bigots feared that the Pope would be controlling the waves of immigrants through Bishops that were hand selected by the Pope himself. These fears may have been assuaged some over time but did rear their ugly head when the first possibly electable Catholic, John F. Kennedy, was chasing the reigns of the presidency. People at that time were still afraid that the Pope would be in direct control of Kennedy. In 1960 Kennedy had to even address these unwarranted fears and publicly stated, "I am not the Catholic candidate for President. I am the Democratic Party's candidate for President who also happens to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my Church on public matters — and the Church does not speak for me."

I didn't mean for this to become a defense of Catholicism, because there are some Catholic Church elements that I have to disagree with ie. condom usage, homosexuality, celibacy etc., but just wanted to illustrate a direct line of bigotry that now has shifted onto yet another minority group; Muslims. It's as if the bully of the playground (being the definite and tangible part of a majority group) needed yet again someone or something to rail against because their lives are shitty at home. I guess that may be more understandable during this recession but it still evades my mind why people would bully a minority group as opposed to directing their anger and energy, I don't know, maybe at the people, businesses, Wall Street faux gurus and Republican representatives that brought us into this recession. Let us also not forget that one of the United Sates' most infamous hate groups, the KKK, not only was renowned for the lynching of Blacks but was in addition anti-Catholic as well.

Here's a little more on the bigotry link of our Land of the Free. Let's travel back for a second to the Colony of Virginia in 1642. When in that year they passed a law that banned Catholics from settling in the colony. The Massachusetts Bay Colony enacted a similar law a few years later and found some of its resident Puritans murdering Jesuits. Don't forget that it was the Puritans who fled religious persecution on The Mayflower only to get to the new world where some of that group took up the flag of bigotry and persecuted others sometimes in murderous fashion.

Here is the 1st Amendment to the US Constitution.

Amendment 1 - Freedom of Religion, Press, Expression. Ratified 12/15/1791.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Ok, now let's look at this Islamic center that might be built in New York City that everyone is up in arms over. Some people are saying that even though it is within the rights of the Muslims that wish to build the center that they shouldn't because it needlessly will offend too many people. First of all, get over it. That excuse is being used by many other cities and towns across America to try to prevent the construction of Mosques in their townships. Seriously if a religious group can't build a place to peaceably assemble and worship in one place there is really nothing that people wouldn't say to stop the mosques from being built anywhere. In fact they would then have a new precedent. Everyone would point to the halting of construction of the Islamic Center in New York as viable reason to not allow other constructions.

I have been hearing some Republicon pundits as well as large figures in the conservative movement ie. Newt Gingrich that have been changing the slant of their bigotry with the espousing that Islam is not a religion but rather a philosophy and so therefore, I guess in their twisted reality, is ok to perpetrate their slanderous and hateful prejudice against. Calling Islam not a religion is probably akin to calling Christianity a philosophy. I would suggest that maybe we reduce ALL religions to philosophies but alas that won't happen so how can we reduce any of them. Islam is based basically on many of the exact elements that Christianity is. Both built off of a Jewish foundation. Some people are saying that Sharia would take the place of US law and therefore come to control all Muslims. First off there is such a myriad of beliefs and reverence to Sharia Law that it can only be looked at as similar to the immensity of varying viewpoints and the implementation of the beliefs by various Christian denominations. No single any faith or person has everything right. Never.

Why would the construction of the Islamic Center be a victory for Islamic Fundamentalists? Even if the same exact people who brought us the devastation on 9/11 were the same people trying to build the center, I would say let them. There is no greater victory over insane religious or political fervor than by just persevering through their crap as respectful and tolerant members of a free society. How will it seriously look to Muslims around the world as well as to Islamic Fundamentalists if in this, the Land of the Free, we behave like and are as non-tolerant as how some of the Right-Wing conservative pundits claim all Muslims to be. This above and beyond would send the wrong message. Not only to our enemies, real and imagined but also to ourselves and the next generations of humans everywhere. What we need to do is to have more open discussions between faiths and philosophies as well as more adherence to the word of law.

- Josh Hinck -

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