11/06/2008

The More Things Change....

...the more they stay the same.

As I was still basking in the glow of Obama's historic win, as I was still savoring his beautiful words during his victory speech, as I was still reeling from the shock that truly the world could change and we could all embrace our better angels and reject the hatred and divisions of the past....

My sister from rural South Carolina sends me an email.

Well, actually two emails in a row. The first is one about how an "NBC Poll" shows 80% of American's believe in God. Well, that's not exactly true. The poll wasn't NBC and it didn't ask "Do you believe in God?" It asked "Do you believe the phrase 'Under God' should be removed from the pledge of allegiance and money?" The choices were: "Yes, I believe it violates separation of church and state." or "No, I feel it has historical and traditional significance and should remain." Most people said they didn't mind for historical reasons and did not mention their personal "belief in God".

That one wasn't too bad, other than being the usual sloppy email fact gathering. But the second one brought home to me just how backwards so much of this country remains.

It was forwarded from one "Christian" person to another before ending up in my sister's box. She forwarded it to me and dozens of others including my cousin who once told me I was a "Godless Sodomite" before returning to putting little flowers and Christian platitudes on her latest "prayer list".

The email contained an admonition to boycott the "Muslim Christmas Stamp" and to run to your nearest post office and "protest loudly". It then proceeded to list all the murders done by "Muslims" and announce they didn't even believe in Jesus Christ and shouldn't have a stamp!

Let's look at this analytically since I can't look at things any other way. First, it's not a Christmas stamp. It has been available for a number of years and is in honor of the Islamic holiday Eid which is in September, not December. It has nothing to do with "Christmas". Without this email my sister would never have seen one since the post office tends to put specialty stamps in places where there is interest in the subject. Thus, her city with zero Islamic population would probably never receive a single one. Since she obviously does not know nor correspond with anyone who follows Islam then she wouldn't get one accidentally attached to a letter.

Next point, Muslims do believe in Jesus Christ. They revere him as a prophet. He is not a Messiah to them and he is not some mythological figure who can fly and walk on water. He is an important teacher in their faith. Before the radical era of Islam, which, incidentally was helped along by Western colonialism and imperialism, Muslims regarded Jews and Christians as their friends and fellow "People of the Book".

Finally, certainly radical Islamists have done some horrible things. But does that absolve Christians of the horrible things they've done? Their hands are far from clean and their memories are fatally short.

Did she consider how "Christians" are entitled to their stamps despite the killings they have done? Did she think about how "Christians" keep her brother from being able to have financial and civil security through their endless anti-gay work? Did she think of "Christians" inspiring their young followers to violence against LGBT people in the name of "God"? No, she did not.

To hear the "Christians" who send these things tell it, they are the only ones who've ever contributed to the world. Before my sister sent this did she pause to consider that there are Muslims who serve in our armed forces keeping her safe? Did she consider that Arab-Americans have given their lives in defense of our nation?

How about Arthur Abodeely who flew with the Burma Brigade in World War II knocking out Japanese supply lines by flying deep into enemy territory?

Did she consider Michael A. Monsoor an Arab-American Navy Seal killed in combat keeping her safe in 2006? Did she even think of his Congressional Medal of Honor for Bravery?

No, she did not. That would entail her world view becoming complicated. When those factors are taken into consideration with a healthy dose of self-reflection the world is no longer the black and white of a two year old's conscience. It becomes a technicolor place full of paradoxes.

So, I am reminded that as far as so many in this country have gone there is still a long way to go for the rest. We woke up yesterday to a new day and a new world. In their world it's just business as usual and machinery hate, division, and religious intolerance continues to sputter away.

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