Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The War on Muslims

SKEPTIC: It's election season in America, so of course it's time for the GOP to drag out a new boogieman to scare up some votes. This season it appears to be the Muslims' turn to play the villain - which of course doesn't mean that Republicans won't find time to scare white folks about blacks, gays, immigrants, atheists, or those damn socialist-communist-fascist-liberals as well.

PREACHER: Predictions are that liberals are going to lose big in the next election. The reasons are not the scare tactics of the GOP so much as a lot of good folks are just tired of the incompetence of secular liberalism. Secularists have the audacity to claim that theirs is a neutral position in the competition between worldviews. However, theirs is only another worldview among several that are vying for the allegiance of the population. Right now secularists are twisting themselves in knots to not be Islamophobic, and in so doing become Christophobic. 

SKEPTIC: The latest non-story from the right has to do with the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque" - a perfectly accurate description of the proposed project, except for the "ground zero" and the "mosque" parts. An "Islamic Community Center located near ground zero" is what we're talking about - and it's the latest evidence of a particularly virulent strain of Islamophobia that seems to be sweeping the nation. Opponents are trying to close down the project before it ever gets off the ground.

PREACHER: I would not deny the Muslims in this nation the right to build a place of worship. However, building it so close to 9/11 ground zero isn't a very good idea. To build a mosque right near the place where Muslim extremists committed one of the worst hate crimes in recent history is bound to incite bad feelings from the rest of the population. For the sake of tolerance it was a really foolish thing to do. To not offend is a responsibility that Muslims, gays, liberals, and blacks, need to take seriously, too. I would never want to say that they are less capable of that responsibility than the rest of us.

SKEPTIC: So I guess religious freedom in America doesn't apply to Muslims - is that the deal? Sure, they're free to build their little mosques - as long as the location doesn't offend anybody. Is that how it works? By taking the position that it's offensive to build this community center a couple of blocks from ground zero, you're implying that the entire Islamic religion was responsible for 9/11. FOX News has even proclaimed that the project is going to be a "Terrorist Command Center!" But hey, let me know if al Qaeda wants to put up a building in New York City and I'll jump aboard the bandwagon to shut it down.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Islamophobia is breaking out all over. Proposed mosques in other parts of the US are also being opposed by people who truly believe that all Muslims are terrorists - and that our president is some sort of "secret Muslim" out to destroy the country from within.   

PREACHER:  Statistics clearly show that 1 in 5 Americans think that Mr. Obama is a Muslim. A lot more are just not sure what he really is, even though he claims to be a Christian. 

SKEPTIC: There is a hardcore 20% of Americans who, shall we say, are not all that bright (I'm trying to be polite). They're the same 20% that clung to the idea that George Bush was a great president until the day he got booted out of the White House. They probably also believe that the earth is flat and the moon is made of green cheese.

PREACHER: You were trying real hard to be polite, weren't you! That hardcore 20% would probably have a few things to say about your level of intelligence, too. Better to be not so bright and have a few facts not straight, than have your great intellect entangled in inexcusable foolishness.

But in regard to Mr. Obama, hasn't he gone out of his way to reach out to Muslims and Muslim nations? In a speech, didn't he basically give a government endorsement of the mosque at ground zero? Wasn't that an infringement on the principle of "separation of church and state?" Or does that rule only apply to Christian churches?

SKEPTIC: Yes, Obama has "gone out of his way to reach out to Muslims and Muslim nations." It's called "getting along with the rest of the world." Apparently conservatives don't like that concept - they'd rather be at war with the rest of the world. In fact, I think another war between Christians and Muslims is just what many Christians are itching to see happen. And he didn't endorse the project per se - he endorsed the idea of religious freedom and non-discrimination in America, which by the way, has nothing to do with the separation of church and state. But you seem to be dancing around what you really think. Are you saying that these things are evidence that Obama is - or might secretly be - a Muslim?

PREACHER:  I would commend Obama on his efforts to get along with the rest of the world. However, so far, his gestures of good will towards Islamic nations such as Turkey and Iran have not been taken very seriously. The problem is that secularists (and Mr. Obama) fantasize about a world where humans get rid of their differences and live together harmoniously all on their own. Such a world has never existed, doesn't exist now, and never will. Now, Christians and Moslems believe that God (Allah) will someday intervene and bring in an age of peace, but secularists have no such hope.

SKEPTIC: Well, I'll tell you what - secularists would have a lot more hope for an age of peace if the world's religions didn't insist on having perpetual wars. But I really don't understand how you can take a position against religious freedom in America. If you deny it to Muslims, Christians may be the next group to be discriminated against.

PREACHER: This isn't a question of religious freedom, but of tactics used by opposing worldviews. I believe that Mr. Obama is trying to be religiously neutral. Though he tries, he really cannot be neutral. I see him vacillating back and forth. Both Christianity and Islam are evangelistic faiths. They want to increase their followers. By their very nature they bump into each other. Secularism is just another worldview that is vying for influence. 

So the question is not about religious freedom, but is "which one of these opposing worldviews do we want to have as the dominant worldview in our society?" That choice is made by the people and not the government or some self-appointed elite. I don't want Islam to be the dominant worldview in our society. Where it is dominant, freedom of religion and speech don't exist. Punishment for crimes are extremely harsh. Women are treated like animals and you should be concerned that there is no tolerance of sexual deviation. (Just think! The free sex lifestyle you as a secularist love would have to be terminated.)  I don't want secularism to be the dominant worldview either. It has no moral authority, and therefore has no basis for calling anything right or wrong. It is a recipe for moral and legal chaos. I think I will stick with Christianity, thank you.  Christianity is broad enough that it doesn't force its views on others. And I think that the majority of the population in America would agree with me.

SKEPTIC: Okay, I get it now. You don't want Islam or secularists to be the "dominant worldview in our society." So I guess the way to do that is to shut them down and deny them their rights at every opportunity. Apparently, for Christians, religious freedom is a swell concept, as long as we're talking about Christians being on the receiving end of it. Everybody else is clearly out of luck. And for the record, my "free sex lifestyle" has ended. I'm strictly pay-as-you-go now.

PREACHER: You should realize that historically, societies where Islam or secularism have been the starting base and the dominant worldview, religious freedom doesn't exist.  

SKEPTIC: Clearly what's happening in America is that the War on Terror is rapidly morphing into a War on Muslims. It's a vicious and dangerous turn of events, and plays right into the hands of the terrorists, who can go out and proclaim to their potential recruits, "You see, Americans really do hate all Muslims. You must join us in our cause!"

One very clear indication of this morphing is the incident in New York City recently when a taxi driver was stabbed after telling the attacker, a young man named Michael Enright, that he was Muslim. Anti-Muslim violence and attitudes are escalating at a dangerous rate.

PREACHER: Michael Enright is not your typical fundamentalist conservative that would be incited to violence from the Islamophobic influences that he got at his church or from the conservative media. He was a sophisticated honors college student, well-studied in post-modernism, that did volunteer work in Afghanistan with Intersections International, an organization committed to breaking down walls of fear and prejudice. His actions seem quite definitely out of character from what you would expect. 

Why did he do what he did even after being involved in an organization that stands for peace and tolerance? Could it be that during his time in Afghanistan, working alongside the US military, that he developed a deep hatred for Muslims as he saw the carnage there? Add to that the fact that he was apparantly intoxicated when he committed the crime. Wasn't he just living out his version of the moral relativism that he had been taught in secular schools? Do whatever comes naturally and label it OK after the event (except this was definitely not OK). Isn't he just an example of moral relativism gone amuck? 

SKEPTIC: No, he's an example of anti-Muslim hysteria gone amuck. You know, I thought we were fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq to help Muslims to have a better life. How are we supposed to win hearts and minds in those countries when they see the blatant anti-Muslim feelings on display by a large segment of the American people?

PREACHER: Then the Muslims certainly have their public relations work cut out for them. Why aren't they demonstrating to us how nice they are? Why aren't the Mullahs preaching peace in the mosques instead of incitement? Why is the whole country of Saudi Arabia off limits for Christian mission work? Why don't oil rich Moslem countries take care of their own people better? It is traditionally Christian countries (United States, Canada, ...) not Moslem countries that are sending most of the aid to the victims of floods in Pakistan. Like that poor taxi driver there are many Muslims who are decent people who want to get along with Christians and Jews.  However, the message that I get from their world- renowned religious leaders is the United States is the big Satan and Israel is the little Satan. And Allah commands that both be converted to Islam or destroyed. 

I also find it very intriguing that so many secularists are making such a big fuss over trying not to be Islamophobic. Why not also be careful about not being Christophobic.  Become a bridge between the two religious groups instead of criticizing what you don't understand.

SKEPTIC: Well, I'll tell you what. You Christians go ahead and fight it out with all those other religions that you hate so much. We secularists will watch from the bleachers and pick up the pieces when you all are done - if there's anything left to pick up.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

What Was Dr. Laura Thinking?

SKEPTIC: Dr. Laura Schlessinger is a prominent, socially conservative talk-show host who has been doling out advice to women about their relationships for the last 3 decades. She got in big trouble recently when she went nuts and used the n-word 11 times in a 5-minute span (CLICK HERE TO LISTEN) - with many people observing that that was the LEAST offensive part of her rant. It was her whole tone that peeled back the onion and revealed the ugly racism residing in her heart. So she made a big apology, and then surprised everyone by telling Larry King that she was quitting her radio show when her contract expires in December, because she wanted to "get back her free speech rights," which made no sense to anyone (except Sarah Palin, of course, who felt compelled to defend her).

Before we start, maybe we should establish a working definition for racism.

PREACHER: According to my definition of "racist" one needs to believe and promote the idea that different skin color denotes inferiority. Some have in the past even suggested that certain "races" are not as far along on the evolutionary scale and still would be technically animals, hence not too long ago certain humans were actually put on dislay in zoo cages by the leading evolutionists of the day. I don't think Dr. Laura really believes that blacks are inferior, she was just frustrated with how some blacks persist in making themselves victims of the rest of society. Too bad she let out her frustration on that particular caller.

SKEPTIC: I would broaden the definition of racism to include language or behavior that shows disrespect for someone based on their race. Such disrespect could certainly stem from feeling that the person is inferior, but not necessarily so. I think Dr. Laura showed a tremendous amount of disrespect in her approach to the caller. 

So would you like to join Sarah Palin in defending Dr. Laura, or are we both on the same page in thinking that Dr. Laura is a clueless racist who deserves all the criticism she's received?

PREACHER: I don't really feel like defending her, but I wouldn't call her a clueless racist either.  It seems to me that she got herself into a pickle with the caller who was already carrying a chip on her shoulder. Having grown up in a country where my skin color was a novelty, I can identify with the caller. But, I can agree with much of what Dr. Laura said, too. I do think both of them let their emotions go beyond what is cordial. I find it interesting that you either want me to be a racist bigoted conservative or a bleeding heart liberal.  Sorry, I am neither.

SKEPTIC: No, I don't want you to be either a "racist bigoted conservative or a bleeding heart conservative." I was just trying to get a read on where you stood, and now I know.

How on earth do you perceive the caller to have a chip on her shoulder? That's what Dr. Laura accused her of, too, and it's ludicrous. She called to get some advice for a very specific problem - she was offended by what she perceived to be racist behavior on the part of her husband's friends, and she wanted to know how she should deal with it. But the good doctor had no interest in helping her with her problem - she was more interested in showing her ignorance by insisting that the caller was being "hypersensitive." (Oh, you silly black people - a black man is president now, so just shut up and stop your complaining!)

PREACHER: What you say about their interaction is precisely why I wouldn't defend Dr. Laura. I think she put her foot in her mouth big time. She should have been more sensitive to the caller, after all the caller was asking for help with a problem in reference to skin color. If Dr. Laura had spent some time in a place where she was the minority skin color she may have been more sensitive to the caller, but she probably never had that experience.  However, to assume that Dr. Laura is a racist because of her remarks is like trying to read her mind. Her point, well made, is that sometimes blacks have been hypersensitive towards comments made by whites that were never intended as racial slurs. That was the issue that ticked Dr. Laura off.  My answer to the caller would have been: Yes, I understand that it is hard to take.  I have been the minority skin color before and know a little how it feels. Talk about it when you can. Sometimes, though, you just need to ignore it.

In my own experience (about twice) I have felt that a black person had been hypersensitive towards me. As a 13 year old I was punched by a black guy just because I mentioned that another fellow's skin was darker than his. And, my brother and I, as teenagers, had rocks thrown at us by black guys while we were walking down the street. We had pointed to and talked about an interesting looking car on the street and didn't see the black guys behind the car. They felt we were talking about them I guess. These were painful but valuable learning experiences for me.

SKEPTIC: To tell a black person that they're being hypersensitive when they perceive racism is to dismiss their feelings as not important. The problem, of course, is that many people say racist things or engage in racist behavior with absolutely no awareness that it's racist. That's what happened with Dr. Laura. Her whole attitude was racist, from not understanding the difference between a black comic using the n-word and a white radio host using that same word, to her comment that if the caller was hypersensitive, she "shouldn't marry out of her race."

And exactly how is telling the caller to ignore racist comments any kind of solution to the problem? A better answer would be to insist that her husband take his friends aside and tell them to knock it off!

PREACHER: Of course talking with her husband would be an appropriate way of dealing with the problem, while talking directly to his friends may egg them on (ignore is better here). The goal is to not give offense or be offended. Offense leads to offense leads to offense....

SKEPTIC: The problem with Dr. Laura is the opposite of hypersensitivity - she needs to educate herself and learn how to be more sensitive to her own racist attitudes, and maybe become a better person in the process.

PREACHER: Without excusing Dr. Laura, are you saying that the feelings of black people are more important the feelings of those who are not? Dr. Laura expressed her feelings in an inappropriate way, but nonetheless she had them. Who made you her judge? Are you suggesting that you have supernaturally read Dr. Laura's mind and know for a fact that her inappropriate words were motivated by deep seated feelings of racism?  I have black friends and have learned to be on guard around them with my choice of the words, not because I need to hide any racist feelings I have towards them, but because I respect them for who they are and would never want to offend them. I learned that by interacting with them, not by "educating myself" or self-mortification. We live in an imperfect world where the mistakes of the past have left scars that are still festering.  Responsible people regardless of skin color, sex, culture, nationality or religion should be working at not offending and not getting offended, building bridges rather than walls.

SKEPTIC: No, I'm not saying that the feelings of black people are important, but they certainly are more attuned to what constitutes racist behavior.

Who made me Dr. Laura's judge? Well, she did - by putting herself on the public airwaves every day. When you publicly put forth your opinions, the public is entitled to judge those opinions. It's part of the bargain you make when you do a radio show. And I certainly don't need to "supernaturally read her mind" to know that she's a racist. I mean, geez, she practically screamed, "Hey, world, look at me - I'm a big, fat racist!" - which is precisely why her entire radio empire has come crashing down.

But I can certainly agree with you that we should be "building bridges rather than walls." Unfortunately, Dr. Laura hasn't contributed to that goal.

PREACHER:  Very true!