My grandmother used to say, “Well, I’m gonna do somethin’ even if it IS wrong.” That’s a philosophy I’ve tried to live sometimes. I think it’s a good motivator if you’re letting fear hold you back. It’s a way to verbally shrug off fear. But doing something wrong because fear actually is pushing you into it? No.
Shockingly, that’s what Newt Gingrich is proposing right now. Doing something so very wrong because he and many others are afraid. Terrified, in fact. A “test” of a segment of Americans to see if they are, I don’t know, “Americany” enough, might be the most unconstitutional thing that’s been proposed in my lifetime, although the competition is stiff. It reminds me of the Witch Tests, but without the imagination.
I wish I were a good satirist so I could propose, seemingly sincerely, we test all white men with an eye to deportation. I would drop names like Adam Lanza, James Holmes, Eric Rudolf, Ted Bundy, Dylan Roof, Timothy McVeigh, Jim Jones, Ted Kaczynski, the quartet of Blanton, Cash, Chambliss and Cherry, James Earl Ray, Lee Harvey Oswald just to name some off the top of my head. I would call attention to each one’s manifesto, written or de facto, be it a private war on all women, or African-American men, women, and children, or people practicing a different religion, or the U.S. government, or “Hollywood,” or whomever. These are some of the white soldiers who killed for the side of terror. But to propose we put all white men to some kind of test is as ridiculous and offensive as proposing we put all the practitioners of Islam to some kind of test.
Fear and anger. Fear and anger. Fear and anger. I’ve had enough of both.
I was taught that to overcome your fear of something, learn all you can about it. I won’t embarrass myself here by telling you all the various things I have educated myself about in order to feel less afraid of them. It’s a pretty funny list, but I’m not in a funny mood right now.
I personally think we should all learn more about one another, especially when our differences appear to make us so uncomfortable. I think non-muslims should learn more about Islam — just not from people who are afraid of it, or who need us to be afraid of it so they can manipulate us by using that fear. You know who I mean — the people who want us to see only the pictures of the terrorists who claim to be muslims, but not pictures of the many muslim victims of terrorism; the people who quote only the violent or “scary parts” in the Quran, but don’t want us to see the community outreach and good works of our muslim neighbors. And, by the way, have you read the Bible? The violence in the Bible — some of it done to man by God — is pretty damn scary. Let’s learn about Islam from people who practice it peacefully. Or (and I know education is not in vogue right now, so do forgive) read a scholarly book or treatise on the subject, like Karen Armstrong’s A History of God: The 4000 Year Old Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Anyway, people need to quit equating Islam with ISIS. That’s like equating white Christianity with the KKK. It is. It so is.
We should be more afraid of our own fear than we are of each other, I think. FDR was onto something. I know I sure fear “nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror.” Have we forgotten the role of fear and anger in post-WWI Europe? Yes, I think we have. Just like we’ve forgotten our Orwell. Just like we’ve forgotten the role of “Christianity” in devastating violence (see the Crusades, or missions to obliterate indigenous cultures using religion). Just like we’ve forgotten our better angels. Just like so many of us Christians have forgotten how we are supposed to treat the strangers in our land, how we are supposed to respond to evil, and how we are supposed to love even our enemies. Not only do we not love our enemies, we love hating our enemies, and we love it so much that we blindly manufacture more enemies even where there are none.
As for anger, I have plenty, but I am learning to direct it at concepts and not people. The killing of innocent people makes me angry, but I don’t direct my anger at a whole religion, culture, race, or even gender because that’s how the killer is identified. That’s like cutting off your hand to treat a hangnail. I direct my anger at stupidity and ignorance and hate and bigotry. I direct my anger at horrible ideas, like killing innocent people as some kind of answer to some kind of problem.
I’m also pretty angry at the idea of an American litmus test.
Should we do nothing in the face of terrorism? Absolutely not. Doing nothing is not an answer either. But let’s not do something this wrong. Please.