I am embarrassed. And disappointed. The last year and a half I’ve been watching much of what has been going on in this country from afar. I was mortified by the health care debate, and saddened by the woefully inadequate outcome. Health care is still attached to employment, and for some reason people are content judging those who do not have health care as deficient, as somehow unworthy of the benefit if they do not have a full-time job. I see people who have been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to have a job that provides health care actually believe that they alone deserve those benefits, and those without do not. Not having health care is a punishment for ‘not working hard enough.’ If you have health insurance, you are a good person in a worthy job. If you don’t, it is your fault. You are a bad person and thus not worthy of assistance from others.
I am not willing to accept that compassion for others no longer factors into how we interact with our fellow humans. I do not believe that most rich people got there solely by working hard and pulling themselves up by their bootstraps; they had help, whether they are willing to admit it or not. They had a connection through a parent or friend, or happened to be born into an environment that nurtured their growth. Even those salt of the earth folks who begrudge others access to health care because it is too much government assistance gladly take large farm subsidies, and are happy to have the police show up if they call 911. I do not subscribe to the idea that any one person can succeed all on his or her own, and I also do not believe that some deity rewards some people and punishes others based on some perceived work ethic. Many people work very hard and don’t succeed; others pick a good stock and end up rich. I do not believe life is fair, but I also do not accept the use of that platitude as a way to justify unfair and cruel actions. It may be true that life is not fair, but that does not mean we as a country should be actively engaged in acting in as unfair a way as possible.
The issue of health care hit close to home to me, as previous posts describe, but that is not what motivates me to write today. What spurrs me on is the disgusting Islamiphobia that is bubbling up throughout the country, as evidenced by the opposition to the Islamic Center in Lower Manhattan and the proposed Koran burning on September 11.
I posted Mayor Bloomberg’s response to the debate on the Islamic Center, and it is the most eloquent statement I have heard. In spite of all the severe problems with the US constitution and the inequalities present at the founding of the nation (slavery, lack of vote for women), there were some things the framers got right. They did not found the country on Christian principles, and they chose to specifically allow in the Bill of Rights for both freedom of speech and freedom of and from religion. Those who claim to so love the constitution and the framers seem to be unable to grasp this reality.
Some who have discussed the issue of the Manhattan Islamic Center have said that they think the builder has a right to develop it where it is proposed, but that he probably should not. I disagree. I think he has a right, and I think if that’s the real estate that is available within the group’s budget, then build it there. What is missing in this discussion is the fact, the reality that the people who flew the planes on September 11 2001 were not accurately representing the Muslim faith any more than Scott Roeder was accurately representing the Christian faith when he killed Dr. Tiller. Just because people claim they subscribe to a religion and are acting in support of that claim does not mean they are actually representing that religion.
The ‘faith’ of the September 11 terrorists may be what they used as their excuse to murder people, but it is not an accurate representation of the religion. Muslims did not kill nearly 3,000 people that day; assholes with no moral compasses did. That they happened to be Muslim, and believed they were acting in furtherance of their version of that religion does not mean they, the nineteen “men” who destroyed thousands of lives, somehow get the honor of being the poster boys of their religion. That’s not how it works, and it is not what they deserve.
I am especially disgusted by the Republicans who suddenly care about NYC. I know that September 11 has always been exploited by the GOP, but I find it extraordinary that the same people who spend each day telling me I am not American because I live in a big city on one of the coasts and think gay people should be able to get married suddenly cares about what happens in that city. Either people from New York – including those who support the religious freedoms of all people – are Americans, or they aren’t. If you are not going to take their opinions seriously on other issues, then butt out of this local land use decision. Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, I’m talking to you. And Newt, as I believe Jon Stewart and others have pointed out better than I can, your statement about Saudi Arabia not allowing churches is beyond ironic. We used to be different from such nations because we allowed religious freedom – ostensibly, at least. Now there isn’t even a pretense; either you’re Christian or you apparently don’t deserve the same rights.
This leads me to the proposed Koran burning on September 11. Book burning is an action taken by people who are afraid that their own belief systems cannot stand up to scrutiny. They hide behind these acts of aggression, Burning books is disgusting and childish. It is the action of those who either know they cannot win an argument on facts, or are too lazy to attempt to do so. I certainly recognize their right to act in whatever manner they choose, but I remain gobsmacked that there are people who would choose to act in this way. As I write this I am trying to find some way to not be filled with such anger towards these people, but I am at a loss.
I am embarrassed. And disappointed.