Saturday, August 14, 2010

Intolerance and Obama's "Freedom of Religion" Comments

I took a short look around the internet at responses to U.S. President Obama's comments in support of the controversial Cordoba House project in New York. All I can say is - fucking ugly. It's amazing that a conservative Democrat who has maintained 90% of Bush era policies is considered the number one threat to the United States. And yet he's being called everything from "evil" to the "Sharia Law President." The racism and religious bigotry behind many of the responses is so painfully obvious. The general ignorance displayed about the state of the nation, and how it got be this way, is even more painful.

What I find so fascinating is that President Obama's comments, while referring to "non-believers" and Hindus a few times, fall almost completely within the tradition of viewing the U.S. solely in Judeo-Christian terms. And yet for some Americans (mostly of the white, Christian variety), it's as if the wrong form of apocalypse is coming, and they are about to be exterminated.

Here are just a few of the thousands of comments attached to one article I found while opening my e-mail this morning.

"The Mayor of NYC and Obama and all those who agree with them with be cursed of God according to the bible."

"Obama is a disgusting traitor and should be treated as such!!!!"

"America was founded on Christian principals, not principals of the Karan - Islamic Faith, which deems woman as second class, no rights for woman, woman must practice shame by covering up in public, anyone who does not support the Karan is an infidel, including you. America must not allow a religion practice beliefs of hatred...its a big difference. These people are hiding behind the "freedom of religion" to destroy you, your way of life and your country."

"After hearing about his decision, I really was not surprised. Our so called president is the biggest enemy our country has. He continues to make decisions based on his own personal beliefs, and up bringing. It makes me wonder if he is a true born citizen of the United States. I am not and have never been a supporter of Obama Hussein. I know it is hard to trust any politician, but it is sad when true citizens have to second guess every single word that comes out of our leaders mouth. We live in a great country, still the best in the world, unfortunately I believe it is being destroyed from the inside by our very own President. I greatly feel sorrow for the families and those lost or hurt in the 9/11 tragedy."

I struggle to have empathy for these people. They are my neighbors, fellow country-mates. Hell, some of them are even members of my extended family. I struggle to understand the flavor of their outrageous fear and horrible hatred, even though I know how easily intense fear and hatred can distort my own views. Most of all, I think I have a hard time maintaining some level of equanimity in the face of what I believe is complete destructive madness.

It's one thing to disagree with the Cordoba House project. The funding of any huge building project, especially when it's linked to a religious institution, can bring up some red flags. However, it's quite another to make statements like those above, and yet here in the U.S., they are commonplace.

All of this is a place of practice for me. Seeing the intolerance I have for those who have such fierce intolerance, I know I have work to do. Notice I said "intolerance for those who" and not "intolerance for intolerance." There is a difference. It's important to not slide into easy relativism in order to placate people spreading hate and oppressing others. But at the same time, if I reject others wholesale for hating group X or Y, then I'm just doing what they do, and so the wheel of samsara turns.


Anonymous said...

I love how a lot of the Obama haters have no knowledge of the English language and mangle it! They say it's a Christian nation and English should be the official language but they don't know the language!!!LOL

Algernon said...

The bigotry that is present in these comments, and lurking below the surface in various pseudo-intellectual arguments for being "sensitive" by denying American muslims their First Amendment right to build a place of worship on private property, is one thing. Inside, I may be shaking my head a bit, but that doesn't rattle me.

What does rattle me, I admit, is when the bigotry and demagoguery win the day. And it appears that might happen in this case. I have a more difficult time with that part of it. There are certain positive things I want to believe about my country, and as I put those notions down over and over again, there is such sadness in my heart.

Nathan said...

The longer this debate goes on, the more miserable is seems. Democrats, Republicans, whatever - it seems like a lot of people want to use this project as a football for spreading hate, fear, and propaganda.