Apparently I’m an extremist, or, at least my political views have now been dubbed “extreme.” I didn’t realize that it was extreme to believe in upholding the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution, or that it was extreme to feel that those who preach the sort of hatred and intolerance that lead to violence are as culpable as those who commit violent acts. In our house, my extreme belief is called parenting. If our eldest daughter, a master manipulator, goads her brother into losing his temper and hitting her, they both lose privileges.
Let me back up a moment. The kerfluffle began with a link I posted to my Facebook page of an NPR clip on President Obama’s support of the proposed mosque in lower Manhattan. I tagged the link with a comment that it was “About freaking time!” I added that I am “tired of politicians kowtowing to a handful of pundits whose only claim toward representing average Americans is their ability to yell the loudest. It is time that we looked at our differences in this country through something other than the lens of fear. The terrorists who struck on 9/11 have no more in common with the majority of Muslims than [insert favorite far-right pundit here] has in common with me.” Then, I may have gone slightly off the rails. After posting the link, I posted a comment that read, “Yes, I did just call [pundit of choice] a terrorist.”
This statement, coupled with my take on the mosque which was the direct opposite of his view, upset an old acquaintance of mine. He commented (I paraphrase) that equating a political blowhard with those who murder thousands of civilians is “ludicrous” and “untenable.” Is he right? Of course. My tongue was ever so slightly in my cheek when I posted the original comment. But, his remark gave me pause. Suddenly, my comment didn’t look quite so ridiculous. It isn’t popular to say, and I say this with respect and compassion for those whose lives and loves have been lost due to terrorist violence, and with a great deal of fear for how my words will be interpreted, but anti-American sentiment and the ensuing violence did not arise from a vacuum.
For all of America’s ideals of tolerance, inclusion, and freedom, we have an equally dark history of intolerance, oppression, and imperialism. Underlying much of the dialogue between right and left today is the ugly subtext of an unspoken belief that personal freedoms belong more to white, heterosexual Christians than to others, and that with these qualifications of race, creed, and orientation comes some sort of moral superiority. Pundits who espouse blatant homophobia, racism, or religious intolerance, who go so far as to use personal insults and racial epithets on-air are dismissed as out-of-touch whereas, an ill-chosen word from someone advocating equality for all demands, and too often receives, instant apology and retraction.
No more. My line is here. No one has to agree with me. No one has to like what I say. But, I have a right to my beliefs and to state what I believe to be true. I preach to my children that “the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to stand by and do nothing.” I believe that there is a tide of evil that threatens to swamp the world if we are not careful. So here it is, this is what I believe:
I believe that those who murder innocents are wicked and cowardly. I believe that those who hide behind a pulpit, microphone, or title and use their positions to inflame the fears and prejudices of others are on a par with murderers – they may not pull the trigger or detonate the explosive, but they have lit a fuse that will erupt. I believe that every single person on the planet has the right to equal nutrition, sanitation, housing, education, and health care. I believe that given equal opportunities, each individual is responsible for his or her choices and the use of those opportunities.
I believe that government exists at the pleasure of the people and that it is the right and duty of the people to question government. I believe that every consenting adult has the right to marry any other consenting adult. I believe that every person has the right to worship the God of his or her choosing where and when he or she feels necessary. I believe that no one has the right to tell another person that his or her form of worship is wrong.
I believe that children are gifts and that they should be brought into the world with complete commitment and desire and that only the parents are qualified to decide what constitutes that commitment or desire. I believe that the root of all evil is fear. And I believe that actions and words speak equally loudly and that we should wield both with equal care.
I also believe that none of my words will change the mind of anyone who did not already agree with me, and that these remarks will be dismissed as extreme or as nonsense by those who disagree. So be it. That is the great and ultimate truth. We each have the right, in our own minds at least, to be correct.