Last week when republican Rep. Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania compared the mandate that insurance companies cover contraception with no co-pay to the attacks on Pearl Harbor and September 11, 2001 I mocked him and the idiots who nodded approvingly mercilessly. I’ve had about all the deep-fried bigotry I can stand and I’m not ignoring them any longer because I tried that, and they didn’t go away. I have read my history and I have been paying attention for a long time. I know what real attacks on religious freedom look like, and I always have. That’s why I have no patience for the hyperbole of nitwits and jackasses who try to paint Christians as some sort of “persecuted” class in this country.
Real religious persecution happened twice yesterday. If anyone wants to mark a day on their calendar to acknowledge and mourn attacks on religious liberty they should skip over August 1 and go right for August 5. That is the day that six worshipers killed in a Milwaukee Sikh temple and also the day that a mosque in Joplin, Missouri was burned to the ground in the middle of the night. That same mosque was the site of an arson attack on July 4. That crime remains unsolved and it looks like the perpetrator or perpetrators went back and finished the job.
The religious bigotry in this nation has reached epidemic proportions. Right-wing evangelical Christians use their faith as a cudgel to condemn, vilify and demonize not just other faiths, but other Christians who don’t believe the same way they do. Especially the ones who go around acting like that dirty effin’ hippie Jesus Christ told them to…you know, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.
The anti-Muslim bigotry has troubled me since September 12th, 2001. That is the day I answered the phone in a public health clinic that served a large immigrant population of Islamic Somali refugees and was told by a gravelly voice on the other end of the line that I should have my throat slit for being a traitor to my country and delivering competent, quality healthcare to non-Christian immigrants. “And you’ll get it, too, Bitch. Maybe it’ll be a white person who puts you down for being a traitor, but it will probably be one of them ‘Mooslum n*ggers’ you love so much. You make me sick. I could kill you myself you miserable America-hating cunt.” That call was the first, but certainly not the last that was in that vein. We vacated the place several times in the following weeks because we took all of the bomb threats that were called in seriously.
I was mortified a few days later when I learned that a Sikh gas station owner in Arizona had been murdered because a so-called “patriot” thought he was a Muslim and gunned him down in cold blood, but I still thought — naively it turned out — that sanity would be restored shortly, once the initial shock of what had happened wore off and the realization that it’s a tiny fraction of not just American Muslims but Muslims everywhere who held extremist views. That belief was bolstered when then-President Bush declared that we were not at war with Islam, we were at war against terrorists.
But I was wrong about that. Not just wrong, but more wrong than I have been about anything, ever. The last eleven years have driven that point home over and over again. Every time a mosque has been vandalized, an immigrant has been attacked, a school child has been called a terrorist…I really woke up when a planned community center in an abandoned Burlington Coat Factory in lower Manhattan was mischaracterized as the “Ground Zero Mosque.” I was horrified by Congressmen and other politicians who made proclamations that no new mosques should be built in this country and that feeling of being horrified was intensified by Rep. Peter King’s anti-Jihadist, well, for the lack of a better word, Jihad. Especially when one stops to consider his open support of the IRA, a true terrorist organization that targeted not just the English they viewed as occupiers but Irish Protestants as well (who, let’s be fair, are far from innocent of ethnic hatred and had much blood on their hands from killing Irish Catholics in the name of their religion).
I am horrified that in this country, a nation that is built on a foundation of religious liberty that we have not, in the 400 years since the Pilgrims landed having fled persecution, we have embraced the intolerance and hatred they were fleeing.
Today, as I absorb the events of yesterday, I weep for my country every bit as much as I did eleven years ago, when another group of extremists who followed a bastardized version of another religion hijacked four planes and flew them into the twin towers of the Word Trade Center and the Pentagon. Because the hatred and bigotry are threatening to succeed in destroying this country from the inside, and playing right into the hands of the terrorists who failed to do it from the outside.