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Putting trash in its place: Student says refuse hate (e-)mail

by Katrina Outland

 

I received an e-mail the other day, one of those forwards that we’re all familiar with. Usually I ignore or delete these rants by anonymous authors, but this one upset me to the point that I had to respond, and I would now like to forward it beyond the jumble of cyberspace.

 

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The author of the e-mail argued, first, that while the United States is responsible for aiding many countries in the world, these countries are often ungrateful and even hostile, and that aid money could be used for paying off America’s own national debt or offering more services to American citizens.

 

Specifically, the article began by stating the United States should stop sending aid to Turkey instead of offering $30 billion more, as it did recently, to a noncooperative government. The same basic statements were made about the United Nations, Europe, and Africa, saying, “Start naming the nations that have their hands out begging for their ‘entitlement’ and . . . then revile us.” Instead, the author suggested the United States should use this aid money to pay for college tuitions, eliminate income tax, fix highways, repay the national debt, and rebuild the World Trade Center.

 

While I agree with the author’s general idea about more appropriate uses for our tax dollars, I take strong exception to his tone and spiteful, unfounded accusations against other peoples.

The author said that Africa “can’t comprehend civilization,” that the United Nations should move to France, and that Africa and Europe, including Turkey, are “ungrateful tribes.” This ranting article— unsupported by any hard argumentative reasoning–-then suddenly launched into a vicious attack on Islam: Turkey is not only ungrateful for U.S. aid, but it is three-fourths Muslim and therefore guilty, apparently by association, of nine Muslim acts of terrorism against the United States. The e-mail ended with a call to boycott the Muslim stamp issued by the U.S. Postal Service, insinuating that any American who does otherwise is unpatriotic.

I would like to address the biases of this e-mail and apparently the biases of the “well-meaning” people who forwarded it to me and to others who are, perhaps, like me, tired of listening to empty flurries of rage.

First of all, the many Africans I have met are not only civilized, but they come from a wide range of fascinating cultures and languages and are some of the most polite, caring, and humane people I know. To refuse to acknowledge the diversity and positive aspects of Africa, or any continent, is only to reveal one’s ignorance and bias.

Second, Islam is an ancient and beautiful religion that has given rise to mystic poets, the inspirational Qu’ran (which has many similarities to the Bible), and centuries and millions of devoted, peaceful worshipers. The people who were responsible for the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the bombing of Pan-Am 103, and the USS Cole and other displays of violence are not true followers of Islam, despite their claims to be. Nor would any true Muslim support their actions, as they defy the basic teachings of Islam and Mohammed.

Slinging insults and voicing hatred does not bring an end to violence, it only increases it. Can we judge the entire religion of Christianity based upon the actions of the few corrupt cardinals of the Inquisition? Catholicism on the basis of a few pederast priests? Protestantism on the accomplishments of the Ku Klux Klan? No. All of these incidents, as well as the terrorist acts of recent years, are instances of wise words (whether of Christ or Mohammed) either being ignored or distorted by a few ignorant people filled with fear and hatred.

Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa, said in his inaugural speech that: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that frightens us.” He gave this speech, celebrating the enlightenment of forgiveness, after being imprisoned for 20 years in a 5-foot by 8-foot cell.

Are we really going to allow ourselves to be pulled down in the pettiness of fear and blame? Do we know our own light? Our own darkness? We are better than such mindless ranting. We are not mudslingers and hate mongers.

I, for one, must ask that I not be sent any more poorly written or poorly researched rants aimed towards fueling hatred. Refusing to boycott the Muslim stamps does not make me unpatriotic. On the contrary, I am patriotic precisely because I will fight to keep America from sinking into the thick tar of ignorance and racial hatred.

America is the land where all people are supposed to be welcomed, accepted, or at least allowed to live in peace. I will not contribute to anything that separates connections between people based solely on religion, or race, or gender, or anything else. We all have the greater capability to create rather than to destroy. Everyone’s good intentions would be better focused towards cultivating love and understanding with the people around us than with tossing blame at some indefinite and generalized foe.

I will close with another quote from Mandela: “As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

 

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