Saturday, September 11, 2010

Inarticulate Babbling About Bigotry

As this ninth anniversary of September 11, 02001 approached, I spent a lot of time listening to "news" programming on the Sirius while I drove around for work. I have been deeply upset about the overt bigotry that's been dominating the discourse over the last several weeks. This past week, it occurred to me that it's been over a quarter of a year since I posted anything to my blog. That, in itself is a shame. In light of the mood that's overtaken the country, it seems especially a shame that my most recent post was about having participated in Everybody Draw Mohammed Day.

Don't get me wrong. I am proud to have participated in Everybody Draw Mohammed Day. I think it was a meaningful event, and I think that it was, at least in my case [and, frankly, in its origins], a properly directed protest. Its aim had something to do with saying "intolerance is not welcome", "bullying is not acceptable", "threats against freedom of expression are unacceptable".

The problem, in this case, is that my participation in Everybody Draw Mohammed Day might be misconstrued as me being on the wrong side of the sickening Islamophobia that seems to be sweeping the nation.

Shortly after the event, I sought out internet postings showing drawings that were produced by other participants. I didn't spend much time at it, as I was disgusted by most of the first images I found. Far from being drawn in the spirit of protest against extremism, the drawings I found were examples of extremism. Far from being either respectful, helpful, or respectable; the drawings I found were made with clear intent to be disrespectful, hurtful, and [shamefully] undeserving of respect. I would post links to some of these images, but frankly I don't want to be part of exposing a larger audience to that sort of filth. I'm not even going to describe what I saw, because it was largely an affront to human creative endeavor.

Still, I will not disavow or renounce my participation.

I am, to this day, proud of my participation and I am proud of the drawings I produced on that day. And it turns out that participation in Everybody Draw Mohammed Day rekindled in me my love for charcoal drawing. Because I drew Mohammed, I realised that charcoal drawing is important to me and that I want to do it more. So after years of not doing something that I love, I have taken up my old hobby, which brings me some joy.

I hope that my Mohammed drawings were seen as being respectful. They were not intended to offend anyone's reasonable sense of decency. The only offense that was intended was an offense towards extremism, intolerance, and hatred.

Now, I don't pretend that there's anything I can say here that's going to change anyone's mind about recent "news" events. I know I am not an "opinion leader". I am not charismatic. I am not compelling or especially eloquent. Still, I think it's important to voice my opinions. Not because I can singlehandedly sway the discourse, but rather because my voice may add to a chorus that might [with enough voices] sway the zeitgeist.

Back in May, I was unable to imagine that just a few short months later I'd be living in an America where not only is bigotry widespread [this may always have been the case] but where it is socially tolerated, allowed to be boldly expressed without the majority standing up and saying "that's unacceptable".

I am thinking here of two specific issues that have been dominating the discourse recently. First is this business about the "Ground Zero Mosque", which is not a mosque and is not at Ground Zero. Ultimately, the whole kerfuffle amounts to one thing and one thing only: bigotry against Islam/Muslims. We hear all sorts of people yammering about the various ways they're choosing to couch the discussion in ways that seem like it's not about bigotry.

There's the absurd "where's the money coming from?" angle. Absolutely irrelevant! Nobody, and certainly nobody with a national television audience, is investigating the financing of anybody's Evangelical Christian church (or megachurch), although the nutjob apocalypse-boosterism that is built into that whole movement is every bit as radical and dangerous as the nutjob jihadism that is a [small, if vocal] part of the Islamic world. The differences worth pointing out here are (1) the nutjob apocalypse-boosterism has influence over a very significant and rapidly growing percentage of America's elected offices (which makes it significantly more of a threat to our way of life inside the borders of this nation) and (2) the nutjob apocalypse-boosterism finds its home under the socially acceptable umbrella of "Christianity", which gives it much more leeway for radicalism without scrutiny than is afforded to Islam.

There's also the "we're not bigots, we just think there should be understanding for the sensitivities of the 9/11 victims' families" angle. Again, absurd. If the families are bigoted, OK. Let them be bigoted. But don't come to their defense as if the bigotry isn't bigotry just because they happen to be victims. It is easy to draw a theoretical parallel to a majority-white community in which somebody has been a victim of a crime committed by a black person. Or, for that matter, a majority-black community in which somebody has been a victim of a crime committed by a white person. If this crime should act as a trigger for racism in some segment of the community, would any sensible person be standing up in support of that racism? Would any sensible person be saying "it's perfectly reasonable and absolutely acceptable to project your feelings towards the criminal onto his/her entire race" and "we need to take sensitivity for your racism into account in determining whether it's acceptable to build a church in this community that will draw its membership primarily from members of that minority race"? I don't think so. And I really hope not.

The second issue I've been thinking about is this idiot pastor who threatened to burn a bunch of Korans. This is a bit of a trickier issue, isn't it? It's a free speech issue, isn't it? How can I be all in favor of Everybody Draw Mohammed Day while being opposed to this Koran burning idea? It's hard to put my finger on it exactly. I think it's something like this: The difference is between on the one hand [Everybody Draw Mohammed Day] saying "you can't impose your religion on me" and on the other hand [Koran burning] saying "your religion is unwelcome here in my country". Yeah, I think that's a fair way of stating the difference.

I will not allow you to tell me, because you believe in some particular superstition, how I am and how I am not allowed to act. But I also will not tell you that you are not my countryman, my neighbor, my equal just because you choose to live your life in accordance with your particular superstition.

This country, at its best, is a country that is founded on the idea that you are allowed to believe in whatever superstitious nonsense you choose, but that you do not have the right to impose that superstitious nonsense on anyone who does not believe it. "Freedom of religion" is the phrase we use to sum that idea up. And it's one of the core principles of this nation. The Koran burning that the nutjob pastor was proposing was antithetical to that. It was based on hatred, intolerance, and bigotry. And it was all about bullying and trying to restrict freedom of religion. And we need to do what we can to ensure that his attitude is not allowed to become mainstream.

Maybe we can build a respectable zeitgeist.

1 comment:

  1. Booyakasha! Big ups yerself! Well stated oh charismatic one,