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
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.”