Tuesday, December 15, 2015

A Study in Contrasts

The message from conservative politicians, fundamentalist religious leaders and right wing media is that the world is on fire and we face an existential threat from radical Islam. When it comes to Republican presidential candidates:
Donald J. Trump, who is leading polls in the Republican presidential primary race, has called for Muslims to be blocked from entering the United States. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, another Republican candidate, has said he plans to introduce legislation barring Syrian Muslim refugees from entering the United States, and Jeb Bush, a Republican rival, has suggested that the authorities allow only Syrian Christians into the country.
As a result of all that fear mongering, we are seeing a surge in the number of hate crimes and threats against Muslim Americans.

Meanwhile, today President Obama spoke at the naturalization service for 31 new Americans who hail from 25 different countries at the National Archives on the 224th anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights. He made his position clear.

At about the 9:00 minute mark, he addresses the fact that as Americans we haven't always lived up to our ideals. As examples, he talks about slavery, the "no Irish need apply" signs that sprung up in NYC a century ago, the fact that Catholics were targeted and their loyalty questioned, the persecution of Chinese immigrants and the Japanese internment camps of WWII. He summed it up this way:
We succumbed to fear. We betrayed not only our fellow Americans, but our deepest values. It's happened before...On days like today, we need to resolve never to repeat mistakes like that again. We must resolve to always speak out against hatred and bigotry in all its forms...whether taunts against the child of an immigrant farm worker or threats against a Muslim shopkeeper.

We are Americans. Standing up for each other is what the values enshrined in the documents in this room compel us to do...especially when it's hard, especially when it's not convenient. That's when it counts. That's when it matters. Not when things are easy. But when things are hard...Being part of a democratic government is hard...it is a challenge. It's supposed to be. There's no respite from our ideals. All of us are called to live up to our expectations for ourselves, not just when it's convenient, but when it's inconvenient...when it's tough, when we're afraid.
The White House has also hosted the following meetings over the last few days:

*  Senior White House advisors met with about a dozen Muslim leaders to hear from the community about the impact of the anti-Muslim hate and violence and what the federal government can do.

* A similar meeting was held with Sikh leaders.

* A meeting is planned on Thursday for various faith and civil society leaders to discuss ways to promote religious pluralism.

Finally, Democratic members of Congress are getting involved as well. Greg Sargent reported today that DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chair Keith Ellison sent a joint letter out to lawmakers from both parties suggesting that they invite a Muslim-American constituent to attend the State of the Union address in January.

That is about as stark a contrast between the two parties as you are going to find - not a trace of tweedle-dee and tweedle-dum.

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