Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Wrongs of the Right: Religious Hatred In The Heartland

Sometimes, being an educator is like being an anthropologist.  You get to know many people, learn about their lives, their foibles, hopes, dreams, and yes sadly their biases and prejudices.  And when you are an educator in the Bible Belt, the biases and prejudices can be really pronounced.   It never ceases to amaze me to listen to what seems to be otherwise normal folk transcend into the kinds of people I thought were relegated to history or only populating the madrassas of rural Pakistan.  Well, they are not in any madrassa.  They are here in the US, home schooling their children, brainwashing them with their version of the angry skygod, and instilling in them the kind of hatred that we claim to oppose in others.

The so-called "ground zero mosque" issue has stripped the right in this country of its Bush era fig leaf of merely wanting to bomb and occupy Muslims to save them for democracy.  They can no longer make that claim.  My students are at least blunt in stating what they really think (with ready voice given to those who believe all Muslims are representative of those responsible for wrecking our planes into our buildings nine years ago).  It can be hard dealing with them on occasion, if only because I want to allow them to express their views without any censorship or fear thereof (which I am an absolutist on in classroom settings), while at the same time regulating them to stick to facts, and playing devil's advocate to keep them honest--only to be left mourning over how young adults could be filled with such ignorance and who made them that way before they entered my class (such as referring to our President as "Nation of Islam," calling Muslims "the terrorists" and, depressingly enough, illegal immigrants from Mexico "the Islamic terrorists" [which I guess now means since I was raised Catholic would make me an Islamist, as well]).  

I decided one day to show my students the portrayal of their white immigrant ancestors in the Know Nothing press in the mid-to-late 19th century, but for whatever reason it never seemed to occur to most of them the connections between the portrayal of early Irish and Scots-Irish immigrants in the 19th century and Mexicans and Muslims today.  And that is the toughest part, not being able to connect and get the students to see our common humanity.

What is even more disheartening is to see where these misguided people take their ques from.  While it is easy to beat up on white Southerners, because they remain the most open in their views on race and religion in this country, one has to be cautious in negatively judging an entire region (there is just as much racism in the North and in every other part of this country and world).  There is nothing region specific about the campaign of religious and racial hatred of non-white/non-Christian peoples in this country that has taken place over the past few years (and especially since the election of a black man to the White House [the event that has triggered this consciousness in many whites in the US]).  Regrettably, this  booboisie manufacturization from Rupert Murdoch's New York Post and Fox "news" decided to make their presence known in New York City earlier today.  If anyone has any illusions about what the Tea Party Express looks like, here they are in all their bigoted glory.  Think of this the next time someone from the right attacks the NAACP for being "racist" against whites.

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