Friday, August 20, 2010

on the same bus now

If there are words there I am going to read them. I can't help myself. So I caught a headline from the execrable Washington Times this morning. The woman seated in front of me on the bus was highlighting an article headed, "Muslims, not Americans, Intolerant."
Being a tolerant American, I suppressed the urge to scream.
I wondered if the woman reading was using her red pen to underline points she agreed with, new pieces of information, or the logical fallacies that the piece surely contained beginning with its headline.
Oh, sure, I could be leaping to conclusions about the content. I wasn't rude enough -- or close enough -- to read the body type over her shoulder. I suppose it is possible that the article was merely reporting an opinion survey in which non-American Muslims and non-Muslim Americans were asked, "are you tolerant? and the Americans claimed more tolerance. Possible. I suppose.
But given that the on-line version of the Times today carries three opinion pieces opposing the proposed Islamic community center two blocks from the Trade Center site it seems likely that the article in print was one of those. Perhaps it was the piece that says President Obama is "a cultural Muslim who is promoting an anti-American, pro-Islamic agenda" -- whatever that means. Maybe it was the piece that concludes, "if the mosque is built, the terrorists win." Or maybe it was the one written by Ted Nugent. Ted Nugent? Really? Nugent calls Muslims, "voodoo nut jobs" practicing "voodoo religion." Ever the tolerant American, Nugent does allow that "Not all Muslims are religious whacks who deserve a bullet."
What can one say about Mr. Nugent? Ignorance and hate with a nice backbeat?
On the other hand, the only difference between his vile drivel and the other two is that he doesn't hold anything back. After all, this is a guy who recorded, "Out of Control."
It's clear who, in the opinions of Nugent and his fellow travelers at the Times, should be in control: white, American, Christians.
Letting go of the controlling power of politeness, Nugent has given voice to what so many opponents of the community center don't quite say, but what the headline writer captured perfectly: Muslims are not Americans.
I'm sure that would come as quite a surprise to the four to six million Muslims who are Americans, but why let the facts get in the way of an intolerant screed?
It may even have come as a surprise to my fellow travelers on the bus, where I could look beyond the Asian-American woman who was reading the paper to a Latina woman with her three young children, an African-American woman who appeared to be on her way to work, a snappily dressed young man who looked vaguely Indian, a young African-American man, and two other Caucasians. One of them, a young woman, was wearing a head scarf which, on this 90+ degree day seemed more likely to be a religious statement than a fashion one.
I don't know which ones of us were the tolerant Americans and which the intolerant Muslims. It's just so hard to tell these days when we're all riding the same bus.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Getting Over Ourselves

I have been on the road most of the last six weeks. Interestingly enough, I've managed to be out of internet range most of that time. Six weeks of mostly off line time gets one quickly in touch with one's connectivity addictions.
How long can you go without checking e-mail? Facebook? Your favorite web sites or blogs?
How long can you go without coffee? Chocolate?
I didn't suffer any shakes, but I was certainly well aware of a desire to "check in."
I was also well aware that my checking in or not had little, if any, impact on anyone else. The world will get along just fine without me.
The first step on the road to letting go of our own idolatries probably lies in recognizing that, for most of us, the most important idol is the one who looks back at us from the mirror ... and then in acknowledging that even that one is not essential to the rest of the world.
None of that is to say that we are not important to our families and communities, and that a very few of us are even important beyond those contexts. But none of us is essential. The world will go on without us. It got on just fine before us, and it will keep on just fine long after we're gone.
Coincidentally, perhaps, at a gathering this evening discussing some verses from Luke 6, we concluded that perhaps one of the lesser known of Jesus' beatitudes was, "blessed are those who get over themselves ...." We didn't quite come up with the second part, "for they shall ...."
As for me, I've not gotten over my six weeks in the non-wired wilderness and shall return to the indispensable blogging!
Here are a few pictures from the sojourn.