By: Dani Langevin, Valley Patriot Lesbian Columnist – September, 2010
What is patriotism today? From what I can see it is fear, bigotry and ignorance. This came to my attention when someone on Face book, in a discussion about the Muslim Mosque possibly being erected at the 9/11 site, said, “Can anyone imagine AMERICANS defending a Nazi Hitler headquarters in downtown DC during WWII because ‘Not all Germans are Nazis’!”
To compare a place of worship to the central workings of a regime that wanted to take over the world and exterminate any one they viewed as a threat to their perfect race is unconscionable.
There are so many Americans paranoid of Muslims because of the acts of terrorists who hide behind the Muslim religion that they are losing sight of reality. There are an estimated 2 million Muslims in America. It is the second largest religion in the world. If all Muslims were terrorists, they would have conquered the world decades ago simply by sheer numbers. Muslims are not the enemy of America, terrorists are. Remember Timothy McVeigh? He was a terrorist. And what was he? Oh, yes, a white, American man. Even the colonists (white Americans) were terrorists. They refused to pay taxes, boycotted their mother country’s goods, threw millions of dollars of tea into the sea and attacked their own army. And yet we owe it to those terrorists to lay the foundation for the very country we all love and live in today.
Before that there were the puritans, who left England to escape religious persecution. They came here and brought an onslaught of other immigrants looking for the same thing along with wealth and land. And what did they do when they got here? They slaughtered the Native Americans who had been here for thousands of years. Perhaps the Native Americans should have had stronger immigration laws and better racial profiling to prevent European terrorists from coming into their country and annihilating their people. If they had, maybe our president would be Dances With Wolves or Kills On Sight.
America was built on embracing diversity. We pride ourselves on that fact. Have we lost sight of the inscription on the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled, masses . . .” Should we add on, “As long as they’re not Muslim or even Mexican”?
Fear and bigotry are born out of ignorance and it’s very easy to induce all of those things into the masses under the guise of patriotism. Hermann Goering, Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda himself said, “All you have to do is tell the people they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger.” The Nazi’s were experts at that. They chose an enemy, spread fear in order to create political loyalty and made it clear that if you were a German and did not support the cause or the war, you were not a patriot. It worked like a charm resulting in mass murder.
But that’s not America, right? Need I remind you of the Japanese-American internment camps during WWII? In February 1942, President Roosevelt signed the Executive order to round up over 120,000 American citizens who were of Japanese descent and place them into ‘internment camps’ with deplorable conditions. No trials were held, none of these people, half of whom were children, had ever exhibited any anti-American activities, yet they were called a threat to national security and basically imprisoned for years. This embarrassing stain on American history came out of fear, ignorance and bigotry all wrapped up in an American flag called patriotism.
The internment of Japanese- Americans was coupled with McCarthyism. During the cold war Americans were so fearful of the spread of Communism that our government created a modern day witch hunt. In June of 1940, Congress passed the Alien Registration Act making it a law that all residents over 14 years old had to divulge their occupation and political affiliations. A list of 100’s of U.S. citizens with possible communist connections was compiled. They were rounded up and questioned. If they chose to exercise the 1st Amendment because it was their right to do so, the courts said that they could not and they were jailed without a trial. Even the KKK backed these actions up in a telegram stating, “Every true American, and that includes every Klansman, is behind you and your committee in its efforts, to turn the country back to the honest, freedom-loving, God-fearing American to whom it belongs.” Wow!
Now, we are targeting Muslims and associating their entire population with terrorism. We are using the same language to justify our actions as we have throughout history, “They are a threat to national security, unpatriotic behavior, vehicles to overthrow the government, members of left-wing groups, conspiracy, un-American,” and so on. I do not want fear to govern my patriotism or my life. That would mean that the real terrorists have won.
A Muslim is not just a Muslim. How many Americans have actually spoken with a Muslim and gotten to know them as a living, breathing human being? Why are they defined by their religious affiliation only? It would not be fair to allow one aspect of a person to define all of who and what they are. For instance, I am an American, a woman, wife, lesbian, ex-Catholic, teacher, sister, aunt, writer, nature lover and Unitarian. Which one defines me? Which one do you fear the most?