Suddenly and purposefully it seems, the self-serving homage I had constructed to myself (in my head) vanished. I sat and stared at the empty screen and pondered how to fill it with a thousand or more words about my profound disappointment with far too many of my fellow Americans.
For more than a few days I have been perplexed by how little so many Americans appear to know about the exceptionalism of our Democracy that makes them special among the world population. I have been striving to understand how huge numbers of my countrymen in this land of the free and home of the brave cannot free themselves from hate and discrimination, or find the necessary courage to pull themselves out of the abysmal abyss of fear. I have been listening to people make horribly divisive comments without a shred of cohesive rationale to support their words or their views in an effort to encourage or coerce others to join their unjust cause. Somehow, someway, somewhere, something’s rotten and you can smell it, and it’s offensive.
Freedom isn’t free and never has been. The cost of the freedom we enjoy in the United States has been paid by generations of Americans willing to sacrifice their safety and security in support and defense of freedom. Enemies of freedom have drawn upon the blood of fear to sustain their efforts to drain the blood of freedom from society’s veins. These enemies have fallen and failed to overcome the principles of freedom; have failed to counter the knowledge that all men are created equal and that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Brave souls have stepped up to ensure freedom is victorious on the occasion of every enemy attack and I count myself complicit in some and thankful for all of these triumphs. Still, I am saddened that the number of courageous souls can at times be counted on one hand while the tally of cowards can require the removal of one’s shoes. The concept that we function as a nation of individuals in support of the indivisible goals of freedom and equality is alien to far too many natives right now.
We have problems in America. We have disagreements. We have real differences of opinion which serve to guide our collective conscience, but what we do not have—and cannot allow—is a difference in facts. With respect to the theme of this paper, the fact is that both the letter and the spirit of the U.S. Constitution and our laws clearly forbid discrimination of any individual based on their religion. This fact is being obfuscated by a large group of Americans, some of whom have the unfortunate benefit of bully pulpits and huge microphones. The fact is that we have too much fear in the hearts and minds of our population.
I understand fear. I have known fear. I have been influenced by fear. Most importantly, I have overcome fear and strive not to be guided by its dark influence. Society has been rocked back on its heels by the rapid pace of change of social norms. Generational discourse has been generalized to the point that the words progressive and progress share roots, yet precious little meaning. Abortion is considered by many to be anathema to life, even if to save the life of the mother. People kill people or guns kill people or people with guns kill people. A Christian shooter/killer is crazy but a Muslim shooter/killer is a terrorist…unless the Muslim kills a Muslim, then they’re a hero. The chance one has of being a victim of terrorism is infinitely small, yet many are convinced that they’re the next victim and the attack will happen soon. All of this and more is fear. Powerful, palpable, pervasive fear.
Fear is many things, including vulnerable. Fear can be diminished, but it requires effort to reduce it to a usable, controllable amount. Fear can be crushed by an equal or greater force of courage. Fear is divisive, even among a celebrated indivisible population.
I listened in astonishment as a Christian Minister explained how to block the Muslim path to heaven. I listened in disbelief as Presidential candidates willfully injected discourse, intolerance and discrimination into the minds of fearful followers. I listened to World Leaders denounce Donald Trump’s words and actions. I listened in disbelief and dismay as the news anchors reported on the latest political polls. Support for Mr. Trump has increased by many percentage points. I’m not particularly religious, but in support of those Americans who are, and in support of the many freedoms we cherish, I need to say one thing.
God help us. Please.