If you receive dozens of poisonous emails each week, as I do, from well meaning people who are intent on bashing certain ethnic groups, then perhaps you also feel: “enough already”! Additionally, it is not just the volume of this hate stuff that so easily floats around the Internet, it also disturbs me that so much of it is misinformed, scurrilous, and/or downright false.
The two groups now in the crosshairs of this activity are Hispanics and Muslims. Each deserves some mitigating, but slightly different, discussion.
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Since I live in California in the winters, Hispanics are highly prominent in both population, and comment, among folks out here. At this point, it is fair to mention we do have problems that that are in dire need of solutions. Yes, the borders are porous, and there are other issues widely and hotly discussed in today’s political climate. It is not my objective to solve them – it is an attempt to put things in prospective, and tone down the rhetoric, and deal with FACTS, not these absurd urban legends about those Hispanics who came earlier, and immigrants yet to come. That is the ONLY way a well-reasoned solution can come about.
There are a variety of false and mean-spirited anti-immigrant messages now on the Internet. Most complain about the supposed free ride Hispanic immigrants get in America…the horrendous costs to the taxpayers…the loss of American jobs…and the cause of most crime in our communities. Such messages are a mish-mash of fact, fiction, and plain prejudice. To get any traction on a solution, we need FACTS – not hyperbole. It is always too easy to play off fear and anxiety. And, we must also realize that among this group, there are well meaning, family oriented good people who should be evaluated apart from those who are not desirable. But, the messages and discussion I see and hear tend to lump all Hispanics into a single undesirable class.
Part of this is a common but fallacious point of logic, which we all learned in Logic 101:
Juan is Hispanic
Illegals are Hispanic
Therefore Juan is an illegal.
This fallacy (untruth) known as a syllogism – is flawed logic; and reflecting on that before we judge Juan would be a good idea. Additionally, I have now stopped using the word “illegal” and started using the words “documented” and “undocumented”. Again, it is an effort to tone down the rhetoric in an effort to come up with a fair, humane, economically sound solution for our country. I further believe this approach is best for all Americans as we traverse a heated and sometimes angry presidential campaign, in which the candidates are already trying to outdo each other in turning up the heat on this issue. It is up to us, as citizens, to point the candidates in a more productive direction with patience, tolerance, and reason.
In a similar, but even more vitriolic vein, I get some really mean (and usually distorted or false) stuff about Muslims. I can understand this hatred, though I cannot agree with it. There is no denying certain Islamic fundamentalists are a danger to our country, and have already caused great harm. Protecting ourselves from this radical group is essential and warranted. My complaint is, the criticisms I hear are way over the top, and tend to paint ALL Muslims with the same brush. If we have learned anything about unmitigated prejudice in our lives – whether it be Hitler or the Ku Klux Klan – it is that such views are unwarranted, unfair, and even dangerous.
There are over a billion Muslims in the world. Oddly, most do not live in the Middle East, home to Al Queda et al. Pakistan, Indonesia, Turkey, and many other areas in the world contain the majority – yet we rarely hear about or even consider them in our discussion of the Islam. As I have mentioned to several of my associates in this regard, “surely among the billion Muslims there are at least a few good ones, aren’t there”? Sadly, I am sometimes met with silence.
Perhaps the bashing of Muslims has been the most bizarre of all groups in recent years, because it is so easy to arouse dislike for them after 9/11. Most of the scurrilous claims making their way around the internet are not worthy of repeating, and they tend to get morphed into greater distortion and hatred as they are passed from computer to computer. But at least one message has to be noted. That is the rumor that Barack Obama is a radical Muslim who will not utter the Pledge of Allegiance! Thoroughly discredited, and pointedly untrue, this message persistently makes its rounds on the Internet week after week.
There are numerous reasons why bashing Hispanics and Muslims in America are bad – aside from the fact that it is WRONG. First, it is obviously unfair to members of those groups who are people of goodwill, peace, and integrity. Secondly, it poisons our society, as all prejudice and bigotry ultimately does. Thirdly, it does not push accommodation, dialog, and understanding forward…indeed it exacerbates the many legitimate problems that are in search of a solution. But most importantly, it goes back to the old adage – intolerance is OK, as long as it is not my ox that is being gored. Which brings me to one of the most famous quotes on this subject, and one that we should all note and heed. It is from Pastor Martin Niemoeller’s as he was imprisoned by the Nazis:
“First they came for the Jews, but I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for the Communists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for me, and no one was left to speak out for me.”
The bottom line: there is no place in our society for the disparagement of any group… and it is up to each of us to speak out, and end it now.