Saturday, August 21, 2010



Fallout of Hate Is Spreading Across America from 9/11 Site

One thing is clear: the feverish discourse about Muslims’ role in American society is not about the proposal to build an Islamic community center a couple of blocks from the World Trade Center site. Park 51, as it’s being called, merely let an ugly genie out of the bottle. The dark stain of Islamophobia had spread far and wide long before the controversy erupted.

In May, a man walked into the Jacksonville Islamic Center in Northeast Florida during evening prayers and detonated a pipebomb. Fortunately, there were no injuries. (If the man had been Muslim and the House of worship a Christian church, the incident would have garnered wall-to-wall coverage, but while the story got plenty of local press it was ignored by CBS News, Fox, CNN and MSNBC.)

It was the most serious of a series of incidents in which mosques far from the supposedly hallowed earth of Ground Zero have been targeted. A mosque in Miami, Florida, was sprayed with gunfire last year. Mosques have been vandalized or set aflame in Brownstown, Michigan; Nashville, Tennessee; Arlington, Texas (where the mosque was first vandalized and then later targeted by arsonists); Taylor, South Carolina; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Eugene, Oregon; Cape Girardeau, Missouri; Tempe, Arizona; and in both Northern and Southern California. A mosque in a suburb of Chicago has been vandalized four times in recent years.


My level of disgust on this has been slowly rising.

For starters, I was beginning to think that we had managed to get past the vile anti-Muslim sentiment that reared its ugly head in the weeks and months after 9/11. I guess I was wrong. This whole Ground Zero/mosque controversy, created by right-wing bloggers, and then dutifully amplified into the corporate media by "respectable" mainstream conservative pundits, is nothing but straight-up racism, xenophobia, and old fashioned religious intolerance, the likes of which this country was founded in order to eliminate. That is, if you oppose the construction of this Islamic cultural center a couple of blocks away from where the WTC once stood, you're not a very good American. But don't worry too much about it because you're in good company: no less than Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, and former Democratic Party Chairman "liberal" Howard Dean have joined the ranks of anti-first amendment asshole Americans in condemning Park 51.

All that's bad enough.

But this wave of Islamophobia from coast to coast is just too much. I've read a few essays here and there this past week speculating that Republican loss of power combined with the unbearable knowledge that a black man occupies the Oval Office is driving the right wing to previously unthinkable rhetoric and action, and I agree with such an analysis. But it is also becoming increasingly clear to me that there's just something sick about American culture, more generally speaking. I mean, I guess I've known this for years: Michael Moore, in his documentary Bowling for Columbine talks about America's culture of fear, a sort of residual effect born of centuries of hysteria over possible slave uprisings and Indian attacks--indeed, writer
Susan Faludi, in her book The Terror Dream, directly connects post 9/11 fear mongering to eighteenth and nineteenth century anti-Indian narratives.

But you don't need Michael Moore and Susan Faludi to know this. Just look at your general knowledge of US history. Remember the
Japanese internment camps during WWII. Rember the horrid McCarthyism of the late forties and early fifties. Remember the anti-German hysteria of WWI, well dramatized in the film based on John Steinbeck's East of Eden:

This isn't new. This is simply the latest manifestation of who we are as Americans. This country's culture has a dark and disgusting underside, one which we've never confronted, one which is bound to keep coming back again and again.

I'm afraid this is how we will behave long after I'm just a name on a tombstone.