Hateful Politics over Peaceful Principles – Ryan Rhoades

I am completely disgusted over the current controversy surrounding the Islamic community center near Ground Zero.

I am even more disgusted by the weak character of all the politicians, Republicans and Democrats alike, who are attempting to capitalize on hateful and unconstitutional rhetoric.

Hateful is implied because there really is no other way of describing the belief that all Muslims or all Christians or all Jews are terrorists.  Unconstitutional is apparent to anyone who has ever read the Constitution or exercised their First Amendment rights.

Yes, this also includes freedom of speech, but when politicians and pundits exercise their freedom of speech to denounce or mischaracterize a person’s freedom of religion, it only results in negative and deadly consequences.

For instance, on Tuesday night a young white male got into a taxicab and engaged in conversation with the cab driver.  Once the 21 year-old discovered that the cabbie, Ahmed Sharif, was a practicing Muslim, he slashed the taxi driver in the throat, arms and hand with a knife.

Fortunately, Sharif is in stable condition.  Unfortunately, he stated that he never felt, “this hopeless and insecure before.”  Sharif immigrated to the United States from Bangladesh 25 years ago and has been driving taxis for over 15 years.

Another unfortunate incident, highlighted Monday on Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report, occurred during protests in New York City near the proposed Muslim center when a large white male obstructed the path of a black male he believed to be Muslim.  As it turns out, the man is not even Muslim, but a construction worker who is currently building the new World Trade Center.  But he happens to be black.

As Colbert put it, “Still, it is pretty insensitive of him to seem Muslim so close to Ground Zero. I mean look at the other black guys in the crowd  – they have the sensitivity to be white.”  [If you haven’t seen the clip, the video shows that the people protesting the center being built are all white]

This whole incident can easily be connected to the fact that nearly 20% of Americans (34% of Republicans) believe that President Obama is a Muslim.  I find it impossible to conclude that this is anything other than blatant racism.

Some of these same Americans also believe that Obama is not an American citizen (the birthers) because of a fake or forced birth certificate.  I cannot recall a time when any of our past white Presidents were ever challenged on this premise.  Related to this is a call by some to repeal the 14th Amendment – which states that anyone born in the United States is a U.S. citizen.  This is a supposed reaction to our immigration policy and all the “brown” people who keep coming over the border to have “anchor babies.”  It’s not difficult to see the connection between all of these events.

Logic defies any explanation other than racism.

Yes, there is a mob mentality that has taken hold of the country, most noticeably among the white, conservative constituency.  While racism at the level of the common citizen is a terrible reality that is widespread – it is even worse that politicians are either condemning the building of the center or avoiding addressing freedom of religion all together.

Cowardly is not the right word; a stronger word – one that betrays the history of the Puritans who fled religious persecution, mocks the exodus of Jews throughout history, ridicules the Civil Rights movement spearheaded by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and alienates the citizens who subscribe to the second largest religion in the world – is necessary to characterize this embarrassing saga.

Forty-seven years after his “I Have a Dream” speech, King’s memory is being tarnished by our supposed ‘public servants’ (aka politicians) who are more worried about the next election cycle or stoking racist fears for political gain than properly educating Americans about dignity, respect and basic human rights.

As Dr. King stated at the beginning of his speech:

When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independents, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.  This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the “unalienable Rights of Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”  It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned.  Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.”

It is up to every American to denounce this hateful ideology that is continuing to tear our nation apart.  So please, take a minute out of your life to appreciate the diversity of our nation.  If you overhear a racist statement or any form of hate speech from someone you know ask them why they said it.  Do not try to start an argument or get ugly, especially if you do not know the person very well.  Dr. King was all about peaceful demonstration and cooperation.  Asking “why” will make people reflect on their own language and behavior.

It may be difficult to practice such restraint when hateful language is used, but engaging in a discussion and explaining the effects of such language goes a long way.  Ask any teacher.

Such a small act can have immediate and durable contributions to the promotion of democracy.  Imagine if half of all Americans went out of their way to commit such a small act.

So this Saturday during King’s “I Have a Dream” speech anniversary, do yourself a favor and read one of his speeches and share it with someone else.  You will be surprised at the outcome and will have contributed to society in a meaningful way.  King’s skills as a minister and charismatic speaker should not overshadow the fact that he had the support of millions of Americans, and could not have done it by himself.

As Mother Teresa said, “Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.”

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2 Responses to Hateful Politics over Peaceful Principles – Ryan Rhoades

  1. K says:

    Thank you so much for this post. I couldn’t agree more.

  2. ryan buckner says:

    coach its because we as a people fear things that we dont understand or dont agree with and as americans we dont agree with the muslim religion being mostly of the christian faith which is an ignorant way of thinking but since we dont agree with them we fear them as a people win it was only individuals who caused the problem making it harder for muslims who are here and who want to be here to make a life for them selvesand unless we stop acting afraid and ignorant things will just keeping getting worse and worse until something really bad happens.

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