Saturday, September 11, 2010

9/11 and Hate American Style: Have we no sense of decency?

If July 4 is the American holiday of freedom and independence, 9/11 is rapidly becoming the calendar date for hate and bigotry in the United States.

As we remember 9/11, numerous events are converging in this country. There are the demands by Tea Party activists, members of the Republican Party, and assorted so- called Christians and nativists to prevent Muslims from building a community near Ground Zero. Claims are it is too close. Is too close four blocks, one mile, one state, or not in the United States?

From the sounds of the lunatic minister in Gainsville, Florida, who wanted to declare 9/11 national burn a Koran day, building anywhere in the Christian, God-loving red, white and blue America seems to close.

Then there are those who opposed immigrants and support the punitive Arizona law. There are those who oppose gay marriage. There are those who rallied with Glen Beck asking that we remain a Christian nation and those–including Beck–who question Obama’s faith and patriotism and implicitly his race, and then there are all of those who think the war on terrorism is the 21st Century version of the Crusades.

Hate seems to be everywhere and it is embarrassing. I thought this country was better than that. I thought the Statue of Liberty represented better. As someone who takes pride in a family that came through Ellis Island, I thought it represented better than that. I thought our Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Declaration of Independence stood for something better than that.

Unfortunately, the ugly side of American politics is out again. The side that burned witches at Salem, enslaved the blacks, beat gays at Stonewall, fried the Rosenbergs, and blacklisted many fine Americans during the 50s; all that is back. 9/11 now seems to be the symbol and date for hatred and bigotry in America.

I feel sorry for Obama, he is doing the right thing denouncing those who wish to persecute Islams. But he seems to be alone. Other major Democrats seem silent, perhaps fearing for their jobs in November. Republicans such as Palin, Bachmann, and others in the leadership are not speaking out, instead ranging from silently to overtly egging on this bigotry.

Moreover, the more Obama denounces the bigots, the more he enrages them, convincing them that he is one of them, whomever it is. America seems to be turning into what we despise. We say we fight for freedom against oppression but now we seem as guilty as those whom we oppose. Where is our moral leadership, our sense of decency?

Charles “Chuck” Colson of Watergate fame, now a Christian leader, got it right in an ad in the NY Times the other day: “Burning the Koran does not elevate the Bible.” How is hate and persecution consistent with any Christianity except for that practiced by the Grand Inquisitor and the Spanish Inquisition? To be Christian, as far as I know means more than that.

Raised Catholic during Vatican II the message I learned was one directly from Jesus and the Sermon on the Mount. It was a Christianity of equality and forgiveness, of social justice, and compassion. Where is that spirit now among those who claim to be Christian? The Jesus I learned about would have said that a Christian nation is one that welcomes all, respects all, and treats us all according to the Golden Rule.

Blaming it all on Islam reminds of another movement. They blamed it all on the Jews. Now I know some will say I am being alarmist or doing an injustice to the Holocaust and what Jews faced under Hitler. Ok, without making that parallel, the recent events remind me of a great Monty Python routine where John Cleese portrays a Hitler-like figure who blames all social problems on the bicycle riders! Sound foolish? Of course it does and so do those who are turning 9/11 into a national day of hate.

The McCarthy era ended when Joseph Welch said to the senator: “Have you no sense of decency?” I ask the same and hope that as a nation we have the decency to turn on the bigots.

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