Shutdown brings out the worst in us

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(Contributed photo)

 

The American government shutdown has brought out the worst in all of us.

It has revealed the arrogance, stupidity and childish ignorance of not only the US government but also some unsettled citizens who are displaying their grievances with the shutdown in a variety of ridiculous ways.

A group of sense-hating Republicans — fan favourite Sarah Palin, and newcomers Ted Cruz and Mike Lee — recently joined frustrated veterans that felt overlooked and abused by the government shutdown. Hilariously, as she was using these poor people as pawns for her political relevance, Sarah Palin demanded that the government stop using veterans as pawns. They are her pawns and hers alone, apparently.

These veterans had legitimate concerns about veteran programs and services under the shutdown.

However, in a group led by the aforementioned three figures, some sort of outrageousness had to ensue didn’t it? It’s been a long time (too long in my opinion) since extreme members of the Republican Party critiqued Obama with some good old-fashioned hate speech

A man named Larry Klayman who represents a conservative organization of some kind told supporters at the rally that America was ruled by a President who “bows to Allah.” Klayman declared that Obama needed “to get up, to put the Quran down, to get up off his knees, and to figuratively come up with his hands up.”

There hasn’t been this level of frustration with Obama since his re-election so it makes sense that the racism and religious accusations that have persisted since 2008 resurfaced this week. It’s extremely confusing why these conservatives and the politicians who encourage their twisted reality like to delegitimize their message with nonsense that completely shuts them out of the mainstream. Why do they have to bring Obama’s faith into the equation? Well I will tell you — it is because he is black but they can’t get away with saying that.

In the strange, inconsistent world we live in, Muslim is an acceptable slur. It can be used to discredit someone, even the most powerful leader in the world. These people accept that by calling someone Muslim, it automatically discredits their legitimacy as a political leader and more significantly, as a person.  This is the same world where Helen Thomas, a reporter for over half a century, was fired because she expressed views critical of Israel in saying that Jews had a place in Europe. Not hell — Europe.  Anti-Semitism, rightly so, is unacceptable but sensitivity over any anti-Israeli criticism can lose you a career. And this is not about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in any way, but the difference in societal acceptance in religious commentary.

Nobody in the media or on the street can go around calling someone inferior because they subscribe to Hinduism. It just does not happen. But you can say absolutely anything you want about Muslims and Arabs and be completely fine. It gets used to conjure images of danger, fear and 9/11. Heck, people make careers out of it. Cheers to you Ann Coulter and Glenn Beck.

Humour me for a second and imagine Obama was criticized openly for his race and not because he is a closet Muslim. Imagine if a rally broke out on Capitol Hill with thousands screaming about the President being unfit to hold office because he is black. It would be a hate crime and spark a civil rights retaliation because the black community spent hundreds of years proving they were human, equal to  white America.

It seems Muslims are going to suffer through a similar struggle. However, the starting point is September 11, 2001 and over a decade later there has been no progress.

The interesting and scary question I suppose, is how many years will it take for Americans to go back to their pre-9/11 state of not caring about Muslims one way or another? I’m not sure I can conceive a world where that is possible.

To get us moving in the right direction, political figures could quit being spineless and speak up when accusations are thrown around regarding Obama being a Muslim. And they shouldn’t speak up in defense of Obama and say “Obama is not a Muslim” but instead say “Islam did not shut your government down, Islam is irrelevant to the presidency, and he would be just as qualified regardless of his religion.”

I know this is wishful thinking but we have to start somewhere. I like to think humanity moves past a certain evolutionary threshold. Then, weeks like this one happen and we revert back to a dark past which may not be in the past after all. Unfortunately, it seems racism is not validated until the group we traditionally receive as the white majority says it to be so.

This point was brilliantly articulated by Gawker Editor, Cord Jefferson. He writes, “An entire set of minorities confident that the everyday slights they’re seeing are real and hurtful, and an entire set of other people assuring them that they’re wrong.”

It is this battle of validation that keeps genuine progress impossible. Until racism can be validated by the victim rather than the perpetrator, there will always be an unspoken and uncertain racial tension.

A confederate flag was waved in front of the White House this week. Yes, a confederate flag was waved in front of the first black First Family. How do these people exist? How is this allowed to happen?

We have to come to terms with the fact that we can leave these people behind. They do not require attention or representation. For God’s sake, unless he was the only fair-skinned, blue-eyed man in the Middle East, Jesus looked more like Obama than Jim Caviezel. Get with the program, people.

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