Inclusion At Core Of American Values

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by Reed Anfinson
Publisher, Swift County Monitor-News

In London members of the British Parliament mourned the loss of one of their own last week. Jo Cox was stabbed and shot by one of her constituents driven to an insane anger over her support for England remaining in the European Union and for its support of immigration polices that bring Muslim refugees to the country.

His anger was fueled by far right wing literature and web sites. “My name is death to traitors, freedom for Britain,” alleged murderer Tommy Mair said when asked his name in his court appearance. In his mind, anyone who thought differently, anyone who thought inclusively with a sense of compassion for people fleeing persecution and war, was a traitor.

Not less than a week before Omar Mateen had walked into the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, and gunned down 49 people and wounded more than 50 others. The nightclub was known as a place where gays could gather to socialize in a safe, welcoming environment.

Mateen said his shooting rampage was inspired by the radical, violent Muslim extremist group ISIS – but accepting his word provides a convenient but flawed conclusion. ISIS was simply a cause he could attach his hatred and anger to as he sought some meaningful peg to give his act of violence more stature.

He was a man known to be physically abusive to his former wife, a man who says he hated gays but seemed fascinated or obsessed by them, and who had a volatile temper. Though he was Muslim, he was born in America and raised by parents who came here in the 1980s. That early morning in Orlando his hate and anger boiled over into insanity.

In France, Muslim extremists murdered 12 members of the staff of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical magazine that had published controversial cartoons of Muhammad. Intolerance of free expression and western ideals was at the heart of their act.

It was back in April 1995 that American Timothy James McVeigh murdered 168 men, women and children in Oklahoma City when he detonated a truck bomb in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. His reason for the bombing? He thought he could inspire others who thought like him to rise up against what he saw as a tyrannical federal government.

These mass murders, and the many others that far too often take place in America and around the world, are most often committed by people whose outlook on life is shaped by combination of anger and intolerance.

In writing about Orlando and the Paris attack at Charlie Hebdo, New York Times columnist Frank Bruni said: “Both were attacks on freedom itself. Both took aim at societies that, at their best, integrate and celebrate diverse points of view, diverse systems of belief, diverse ways to love. And to speak of either massacre more narrowly than that is to miss the greater message, the more pervasive danger and the truest stakes.”

“All Americans are under attack, and not exclusively because of whom we drink, dance or sleep with, but because of our bedrock belief that we should not be subservient to any one ideology or any one religion. That offends and inflames the zealots of the world,” he says.

Those zealots are born, and nurtured, both in foreign lands and in the United States.

There is no shortage of web sites that fire the flames of intolerance and hate. Those with extremist views, whether they are rooted in the Christian or Muslim religion, can find literature and supporters who will stoke their flames of loathing and prejudice.

“The place where they were attacked is more than a nightclub,” President Obama said of the Orlando shooting. “It is a place of solidarity and empowerment where people have come together to raise awareness, to speak their minds and to advocate for their civil rights. So this is a sobering reminder that attacks on any American, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation, is an attack on all of us and on the fundamental values of equality and dignity that define us as a country.”

Those who teach and nurture deep hatred that festers poisonous thoughts, twisting reason, shutting off compassion, inciting a boiling anger that demands a violent outlet are as guilty as the person with a gun in his hand. They cannot escape the guilt of the consequences that their teachings motivate. Those who standby silently when others spew hate, or joke and laugh about it, are complicit as well.

“Today we know that we are targeted as Americans, because this is a society where we love broadly and openly, because we have Jews and Christians and Muslims and atheists and Buddhists marching together, because we are white, black, brown, Asian, Native American,” Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti said after the Orlando massacre. “The whole spectrum and every hue and every culture is here.”

America’s inclusiveness, its opportunity for individuality to freely express itself, is what makes our nation unique and special. It is why so many oppressed in other nations seek our shores.

With his talk of racial profiling, surveillance of mosques, banning Muslims from coming to America, carpet bombing cities indiscriminately killing innocent people to get to a few terrorists Republican presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump lays out policies that undermine the freedoms America guarantees in its First Amendment and the core beliefs of what this nation stands for.

Trump promotes an aggressive belligerence whether it is dealing with protestors at his rallies, with our NATO allies, or with trade partners around the world. He believes belligerence and anger, and his grandiose threats, are the best ways to confront those he feels are doing America wrong. Statesmanship is for weaklings.

He didn’t create this atmosphere. It thrives on the internet, on talk radio, and on partisan television shows. He simply tapped into it.

“What nobler vision can there be than that of a society where people can be comfortable in their difference?” writer John Nichols asks in a recent article. That belief is at odds with where Trump would take this nation.

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