Once again onto my national affairs soapbox…
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I wrote about our country in the wake of the Charleston shootings last summer. What I said then still applies after this past week’s murderous rampage in Orlando. I would encourage you to read, or re-read what I wrote last year.
Hatred of people simply because they are different from us has no place in modern American society. Politicians and preachers who attempt to divide us for their own personal gain need to be summarily rejected.
On the surface, Sunday’s rampage was about a radical Muslim attacking gays. The issue is a lot more complex than that.
Hatred for others is all to frequently fanned by religious leaders looking to build a following. It starts with broad pronouncements that the exclusive path to salvation / paradise is through one specific denomination. It then continues with demonizing anyone who doesn’t agree. Non-members of the group are often singled out for condemnation by cherry picking passages from the religion’s holy texts. What we get are Sunnis and Shia branches of Islam that hate each others guts as well as divisions between various Christian denominations like Catholics and Protestants. All too often, these divisions become violent, like in the “troubles” in Northern Ireland.
The problem becomes particularly acute when a government picks an “official” state religion and politics and religion become one and the same. Our founding fathers were wise to insist that the US never have an official state religion.
In my opinion, the Saudi monarchy signed a deal with the Devil when they agreed to fund the Wahhabi religious movement and make it their state religion in exchange for remaining in power. Using the money we’ve paid over the decades for oil, the Saudi monarchy has reportedly funded 90% of the expenses of the entire Wahhabi cult world wide. (For more information, check out this article.) This would be roughly comparable to the US government providing massive funding to the Westboro (Independent) Baptist Church so that it could establish schools to spread it’s intolerant, radical, hate-filled, world view in all 50 states and around the world.
Wacko fundamentalists are not unique to the Muslim faith. We have plenty of these type of folks in the christian community. The pastor of Sacramento’s Verity Baptist Church (another “independent” Baptist church) hit the news this week, but he is not alone, nor unique. I’m sure many of you have seen the local street preacher who holds up a sign stating that sinners, including homosexuals and Catholics are all going to Hell. For most Christians, our wacko fundamentalists like that crazy uncle at family reunions. We listed quietly, smile, and then distance ourselves from them until the next family reunion. The critical difference is that we don’t allow their rants to poison our view of our neighbors.
Muslim leaders need to daily challenge the fundamentalists that have created the conditions that have made “terrorist” and “Islamic terrorist” synonyms in the minds of the rest of the world. That is something that has to come from within Islam. We can’t do it for them.
America is a better place because of our diversity. Different ethnic groups have, in their turn, come to America and contributed their heritage to America while assimilating into our culture. Irish Catholics, Scots, Germans, French, Spanish, Jews, and yes, even Mexicans and Muslims, have all come here seeking a better life. My next door neighbors are Muslim. The vast majority of us, regardless of our faith or heritage, are simply trying to make a living and provide for our families the best way we know how. Rounding up all the Muslims and putting them in internment camps pending deportation would be an incredibly bad idea.
There are some pragmatic steps we can take to prevent the next mass shooting:
- We can insist that everyone turn down the volume. Politicians and preachers who try to pit us one against another need to be roundly rejected. Both the Charleston and Orlando shooters were fed a lot of intolerance and hatred before they went postal. Don’t vote for the politicians who demonize minority groups and change churches, if necessary to get away from similar garbage being spewed from the pulpit.
- Change the radio or TV channel if you catch the talking head trying to push your emotional buttons and stir up anger at some group or individual. The same thing goes on facebook or the web. Just because it is on the Internet does not make it true.
- We can insist that our political leaders enact reasonable gun control measures. That doesn’t mean confiscating all the guns. It DOES mean making it harder for a homicidal psychopath like the Orlando shooter to walk into a gun store and walk out armed to the teeth. The more we learn about the Orlando shooter, the clearer it becomes that there were warning flags all over the place, dating back at least 15 years. This guy should NEVER have been allowed to purchase anything more dangerous than a butter knife.
- Get our gun loving friends on board with tightening things up. There is likely no hope for the guys who think that their AR-15 is going to protect them when the black helicopters swoop in, but the delusional aside, the vast majority of gun owners are sane, responsible people who are just as horrified as everyone else when some psychopath goes on a rampage. We need laws that will make it harder for the mentally disturbed and those on the no-fly list because they are considered a terrorist threat to purchase guns. When enough NRA members demand change, the NRA will agree to sensible changes to our current laws.
- Here’s a thought: Convince the media to refuse to give the name or show the picture of the next homicidal maniac that comes along. The Orlando shooter got all sorts of publicity. He doesn’t deserve it or anything else. He is simply a loser who deserves to be forgotten. Concentrate our attention on the victims.
- We can get serious about becoming completely energy independent. The Saudi monarchy is pretty much screwed because of what they have done in funding the Wahhabi cult and the only way we can avoid paying for both sides of the war on terror is to completely cut off the funding tap to the Saudis and other countries that promote hatred of western civilization as a core tenant of their state religion. We need to cut off the flow of dollars that are allowing Saudis to export their hate filled version of Islam and we need to do it now.
- We can encourage Muslims in the US to continue to seek to achieve the American dream. Integrating them into our American culture like we have every other group that has come to America over the centuries will reduce the danger from lone wolf domestic terrorists far more than isolating them and giving credence to the radicals’ claim that we are at war with Islam. We are not at war with Islam. We are at war with an extremist ideology that is the antithesis of the American Dream and everything that America stands for.
As I wrote a year ago, we are better than this. The real change that we need is a change in what we allow to grow in our hearts. When I think about what happened in Orlando, the words of a song from my youth come to mind:
When wilt thou save the people?
Oh God of mercy, when?
The people, Lord the people,
Not thrones and crowns, but men!
Flow’rs of thy heart, o God, are they;
Let them not pass, like weeds, away,
Their heritage a sunless day.
God save the people.
It is time to take back our country from the prophets of hate that fill our airwaves. They are simply “Searching for souls and fools to forsake them…”
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