"Happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction . . . requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support."
George Washington, Letter to the Jewish Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island
It’s the Muslims’ fault. They’re spoiling everything for the rest of us. That’s because they are bringing out the worst in us and it turns out there is a lot of worst for them to bring out.
It all came to mind when Juan Williams was fired by National Public Radio for saying on the Bill O’Reilly show on Fox News that if he gets on an airplane and sees people dressed in Muslim garb “I get worried. I get nervous.” I know lots of people who get nervous when they get on airplanes but it has nothing to do with what other people are wearing. It has to do with their own fear of flying. (Mr. Williams did go on to point out that he was not disparaging all Muslims and to disparage all Muslims for the actions of a few was like eschewing all Christians because of Timothy McVeigh.) Mr. Williams’ sartorial comments prompted an even dumber response. A more-than-ten year employee of National Public Radio, he got a phone call from his supervisor, Ellen Weiss, who said that his comments had been inappropriate and that he was being fired. She is a busy person and told him there was no reason to sit down face to face with him since nothing he could say would change the corporate mind. She did not know (although going to see the movie Up in the Air would have informed her) that when firing people, common courtesy suggests meeting with them in person even though nothing they will say will change the corporate mind. Those are not the only examples of how the Muslim presence in the country has brought out the worst in many of its denizens. There are more.
Consider the proposed construction of a mosque in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. In that town the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro is attempting to build new facilities to accommodate its expanding congregation. According to the Los Angeles Times it wants to build a 10,000 square foot center that would include a school, gym, pool and a house of worship. There would also be a pavilion and cemetery. The good citizens of Murfreesboro, putting their worst instincts on display for all to see, oppose the construction for, among other reasons, that “Islam is not a valid religion but instead a political cause to force the U.S. to adopt Muslim laws.” In order to add an exclamation point to the opponents’ arguments, in August some of the construction equipment at the site was set on fire and signs were posted in the area saying, “not welcome.” The approach of opponents to the Center may well resonate with African Americans who can remember only too well how their presence brought out the very worst in white citizens in many parts of the country. And then, as now, the worst was not only brought out in the ordinary citizen. It was brought out in religious leaders, defenders of minorities, public servants and those aspiring to be public servants as well. For examples we need only examine the reaction to the proposed Islamic Community Center near Ground Zero in New York City.
Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission came out against the project. The Anti-Defamation League that in theory is opposed to the worst in people said building the Center “in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain-unnecessarily-and that is not right.” In a Twitter, Sarah Palin who might or might not like to be the next president, said that the proposed Center which she erroneously calls a mosque, stabs hearts (thus apparently releasing the malignancy in those hearts although she didn’t say that) and the Center’s proponents should not proceed with their plans.
Newt Gingrich, who, too, might like to be president some day soon, takes advantage of lots of opportunities, like divorcing his wives, to put his worst side on display. He compared those proposing the Islamic Center, whom he referred to as “radical Islamists,” to “Nazis.” He also said “There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia.” Rudy Giuliani, one-time New York City Mayor, confirming my thesis, pointed out that it is the Muslims’ fault that many Americans are behaving badly. He said the people [Muslims] wanting to build the center are “creating more division, more anger, more hatred” correctly putting the blame on them for bringing out the worst in us.
Muslims are, of course, not alone in bringing out the worst in us. Elections do so as well. That is a subject for another day.
CHRISTOPHER BRAUCHLI is an attorney living in Boulder, Colorado. He can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.