Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Doomed to Repeat It

“Let me be a free man, free to travel, free to stop, free to work, free to trade where I choose, free to choose my own teachers, free to follow the religion of my fathers, free to talk, think and act for myself — and I will obey every law or submit to the penalty.”

The above seems reasonable, doesn’t it? Isn’t it logical that someone, anyone, would want to live peacefully and free in the knowledge that the laws which apply to them apply equally to everyone else?

And yet...

The one thing that I’ve heard most often in the past few days in reference to the Muslim cultural center that is not at Ground Zero and isn’t a Mosque, is “It’s not about freedom of religion.”



We’ve done this before, you know?

We’ve done this with smallpox infected blankets and the Triangle Trade and Alien and Sedition Acts. We’ve done this with the Chinese Exclusion Act and Jim Crow and legalized anti-semitism and Red Scares. And lest anyone forget, did it with internment camps.

We set up internment camps within living memory. There are still people alive today who were herded into stables and the like and held there with no cause and no charge, simply because we as American were so weak and frightened as to ignore our own founding principles.

We should be ashamed of ourselves because of these things.

Even more so, we should be ashamed of ourselves for even remotely entertaining the possibility of allowing it to happen again. We interred the Japanese because we, as a nation were so cowardly (yes I said it) that we could not abide by our own laws in the face of a group of citizens who were easy targets.

And we’re doing it again.

Every single time we do this; give in to our fear and our ignorant prejudice and our irrational hate we end up doing something shameful. Eventually realize our gross error and sometimes we even do something to fix it. But that doesn’t less the stain on our nation as a whole.

If we let this continue; if we allow our nation to fall into that same pattern of behavior we should all be ashamed of ourselves.

We know better.

We are better.

The quote at the top of the post comes from Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce. We ignored him and destroyed his people and his culture. Let’s prove that we’ve learned something since then.

It’s time to step up people. When someone says something ignorant or intolerant or just fucking wrong you need to say something. I don’t care if it’s uncomfortable. Silence is assent. If you stay silent then you are agreeing with that ignorance or intolerance or wrongness.

It’s is the responsibility of the rational to stand against ignorance. It is the responsibility of the respectful to correct the intolerant. It is the duty of every American citizen who has read and understood and who loves the Constitution to not let this happen again.

I am not a coward and I am not going to allow fear and hate and ignorance to force the hand of the nation I love ever again.

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