Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Racism, Intolerance and Prejudice - Alive and Thriving

Last week I received one of those emails sent from one group of people to another that end up finding their way all around the globe. This one was in regard to a postage stamp the USPS is purportedly going to introduce. It had a Muslim symbol and the word “Greeting” at the bottom. The email ranted and raved in huge red letters – saying this stamp must not be allowed. It said that Muslims had killed thousands of Americans and to ‘honor’ them in any way would be to denigrate the loss of the many lives. It called on every recipient of the email to boycott the stamp, to show their hatred of Muslims.

Normally I’d just delete this sort of email, but this one made me very angry. Why should I hate all Muslims? Were ALL Muslims responsible for the terrorist attacks listed in this email? Could it be possible that there were some Muslims living their lives, raising their families and trying to survive on this planet just as me? Could it be there are Muslims, living in Western countries, who are trying to exist peacefully, yet are faced with generalized hatred of this sort daily? I questioned my ethics. I questioned my silence on this matter. Sure, it would be easy to simply delete the email and forget about it…cause no waves. But something in me made me hit the ‘reply-all’ button and voice my opinion:

“I don't believe ALL Muslims were responsible for the attacks mentioned - just as I don't believe all Americans were responsible for the war atrocities committed by certain U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, or that all Americans were responsible for the genocide of Native Americans in their own country, or that all Germans were responsible for the death camps, or that all Cambodians were responsible for the genocide there, etc. etc. Before we paint a race with one brush, we need to remember we are all citizens of the planet Earth, first and foremost. Some of these 'citizens' do evil things, some do good things, or simply trying to live their lives honorably, raise their families and be good neighbors. This sort of email is how we promote prejudicial thinking and cause even more terrorism and evil in the name of some warped sense of revenge.”

Well, the list my view of the email went to was far-flung and many – and I knew no one on it except the person who sent it to me. Opening a can of worms is an understatement. The next day my inbox was filled with emails regarding my stand on this matter. Some were in total agreement, but many accused me of a lack of patriotism, blindness, stupidity and other things not mentionable here. I was shocked and horrified. One particularly vitreous fellow – who had MD after his name – told me I was all of the above, and I should ‘remove my head from my ass.’ Another wrote to say he was glad someone said something. He said he’s worked at a Mexican mission for years, and the prejudice against Mexicans is appalling …but no one who hasn’t been there understands the conditions they live in.

I responded to the medical doctor’s rude and insulting email by saying I noticed he didn’t address any of the atrocities committed by the U.S. and Western countries. His reply? “The United States of America is one of the most moral countries on this planet.”

Well, that’s his opinion. My question is: What about the attempted genocide of Native Americans? What about the centuries of abuse and torture meted out to Black Americans? What about the rounding up of Japanese Americans during the war to be placed in camps? What about the bombings of innocent civilians in the Middle East? The list goes on and on.

I am a U.S. citizen and proud of it. I’m not, however, proud of everything the various U.S. governments throughout the years have done. I also don’t agree with a great many things that other governments or radical sects around the world do, or have done. But to blame an entire country and all its citizenry – to blame a race – is and always will be bigotry and prejudice.

Some of the emails I received asked me: “What would you do if your daughter came home and said she wanted to marry a Muslim?” Is this not reminiscent of the old question: “What would you do if your daughter wanted to marry a Negro?” or “What if your son wanted to marry an non-Catholic?”

Prejudice and intolerance is alive and thriving. It is evil – and evil breeds evil. The terrorist activities in the world are abhorrent, but let’s place blame squarely where it should be placed: On the perpetrators - NOT the race and NOT the country we believe these people are from. It’s time the silent masses of citizens in this world spoke out for peace and unity and a belief that we are all made from flesh and blood and all intrinsically the same. I’ve heard people say the horror that occurred on 9/11 helped to unify the world against terrorism. Did it? Or has it, instead, driven a greater wedge between East and West? Is this not exactly what terrorists want to do? The bigots and racists who are rife in every country are overriding the silent majority of fair-thinkers who wish only for peace on this planet. Please don’t promote racism by forwarding prejudicial emails. Speak out against them and become active in healing our planet.

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