I usually drive to work along the Hudson River. It’s a nice drive. Beautiful old buildings to my left and the Hudson on the right. But today I took the bus through the city.
In northern Manhattan there was a man, an African American man, dressed in a manner that clearly identified him as a Muslim, trying to cross the street after the bus passed. I reacted. “What a brave man to announce his religious affiliation in this manner.” I was horrified. My immediate reaction was to fear for his safety because people would know his religion. I didn’t have time to consider, “Have we really come to this?” before the bus drove by the mural reproduced above. (Photographed with an iPhone.) It appears to have been painted around the time of 9/11 or shortly thereafter. (The bottom third is certainly more recent.) It speaks of unity. The unity of New Yorkers. The unity of Americans. Of all Americans.
I now hear that there is preacher who wants to burn Korans to make a statement. To show the world that we aren’t going to let Muslims get away with…with who knows what. Political figures, such as Newt Gingrich (a man with a Ph.D.), are making frightening and spurious claims about Muslims. There is no doubt: the sickness that is religious prejudice is infecting America, making a sham of the most cherished values of this nation. And yes, I am well aware that we have not always lived up to these values. But to see how far we have sunk in nine short years leaves one breathless. The 9/11 terrorists would be laughing in their graves, if they had them, for what they have managed to do to us. We have come to fear fellow Americans for no other reason than that they profess to be Muslims. And if you think that this is not due to base prejudice and fear, consider how many Americans started to assail white (former?) Christian males after Timothy McVeigh slaughtered 168 adults and children in Oklahoma City. (Or perhaps a better analogy: suppose an all white anti-government militant group, identifying itself as Christian, blew up the Washington Monument and the White House. Would white Christians then be treated as suspect?)
America is in bad shape economically. We have suffered through years of wasteful war. But we have come through hard times before. Let’s hope we can do so this time without condemning the innocent.