I have been withholding this post for some time, partly because I dread the vitriol it may create, but mostly because I wanted my anger to subside.
Why angry? It goes back a few months to a news report from Texas about some middle school children who traveled to Austin to visit the state capitol and learn how their government worked. Many of us did this in school; I was privileged to visit Washington, D.C., and also Williamsport, Va, on class trips that helped me understand my country’s history.
Which is what these Texas schoolchildren and their teachers had in mind on their class trip.
Except – the kids were Muslim, all dressed in Western clothes, but with some of the girls wearing hijab (head scarves) according to their religious beliefs. They are just a small portion of the estimated 800,000 Muslims who live in Texas. (Given the general racist nature of that state, their choice of where to live perhaps can be questioned.)
But these kids were U.S. citizens, nonetheless. And they were eager to learn about their country’s government. The scene at the Capitol when they arrived, however, seemed cut from some bizarre movie.
Angry citizens, all white, were protesting their presence. There were hateful signs and plenty of hateful screaming at the kids. I could comment (OK, I will) that these “protesters” looked more like vagrants from the local mobile home park, while the schoolchildren were well dressed and well-behaved – even in the midst of being called terrorists, heathens and far worse.
It makes me both intolerably angry and ashamed that America has people like these protesters.
But it occurred to me that this was just the manifestation of what America has become – a nation of fear. Sure, I know, our big, bad military can kick anyone’s butt and that our soldiers are ready to die for our liberty, but Americans, in general, seem to be living in fear since 9/11.
We’ve allowed many of our liberties to be taken away because of fear. We fear diversity, at least much of the white population does. We fear other countries that can not possibly do us any harm (e.g., Iraq). We fear healthcare for all. We fear vaccinations, which is just plain stupid and dangerous to others. We fear our neighbors if they are not like us. We fear the police (and they apparently also fear us, given all the police killings in the U.S.).
We fear change. We fear globalization. We fear science. We fear a black president. We fear the government. We fear immigrants. And we fear other religions, mostly because we are ignorant of them.
This change started with 9/11 but it seems to have grown steadily in the years since, and ramped up considerably when Barack Obama was elected president. As an example, after his election, gun sales skyrocketed, as did the number of white supremacist and anti-government groups.
Americans really need to get out more, see the world, experience new cultures, become educated about other countries. Kind of like the woman (blonde) who appeared on the TV game show “Are you smarter than a 5th grader?” and didn’t know there was a country named Hungary, and even thought Europe was a country. The 5th grader knew the answer, by the way, which was what country Budapest is the capital of.
As you will see here, I’ve posted about 60 photos I’ve taken since I’ve been living in Indonesia, a country of more than 220 million Muslims, the largest such population in any one country on the planet. The same photos are in the slide show at top as in the mosaic below. These are the people I see every day, and while there is a Christian sprinkled in here and there (and not ashamed to be photographed with a Muslim), they are a pretty good cross-section of what Muslims look like to me.
They are hard-working, even in the face of extreme poverty. They are friendly to foreigners. They are courteous. They are kind. They are generous. And, yes, they are religious.
But they are not terrorists.
Perhaps when a white person is installed as U.S. president in 2016, some of this fear will subside. Maybe. But it is sickening to see America become so fearful and so hateful (the latter more because of religious beliefs than anything else). And I had to speak out.