Everyone is weighing in on the topic of the community centre (that people keep calling a mosque) in what used to be a Burlington Coat Factory by the strip clubs in Lower Manhattan.
A friend wrote a comment in a thread on a Facebook page, and it is haunting me. It was along the lines of: America never has been a tolerant country. It only pretends to be.
One of our core beliefs as Americans is that we do not persecute. We are the good guys!
But then I came across this excellent photo essay in Time:
A Brief History of Intolerance in America
America has a history of intolerance. Over the course of its history, America has persecuted Jews, Catholics, Chinese, Japanese, Native Americans, and African Americans.
We can't let this small, ugly side of America to represent us all. We need to stand up and speak out. A bad economy doesn't make it OK to project our fears on a scapegoat. The First Amendment isn't up for a vote.
America's "problem" with Muslims has been manufactured by the corporate oligarchy to keep us fighting among ourselves.
Meanwhile, they keep screwing us so the rich can get richer. I really don't know how we stand it.
One of the commenters on my blog said that believing all Muslims are terrorists is like believe all Christians belong to the KKK.
There are good people in America. We just need to speak out against the haters -- and turn OFF Fox News.
Crap. I forgot to had my URL to my comment.
It's not just America that has a history of intolerance of course, almost every country ever inhabited by humanity has. It's the choices individuals make now that can change things for the better.
The Swiss, neutral nation that it is, won't let mosques with minarets be built. Flooded with Muslim immigrants, Europe is awash in questions of tolerance. It's not just the US. They're/We're just louder than everyone else.
As Happy Frog said, despite the claims, intolerance is not the exclusive province of the United States. Having travelled throughout Europe and Oceania, I have witnessed a similar proportion of intolerant people in these locations as compared to the U.S.. Just listen to some of the callers on News Talk ZB, they are intolerant and anti-muslim as any “Tea Party” member in the US.
I think where the difference lies, is that many in the US are willing admit that we unfortunately have people like this in our country. Whereas, it seems in my experience the stock European response is to not acknowledge their own issues, but point out Americas.
As a travelling American, I have on more than one occasion been subject to lectures on American arrogance, imperialism and rudeness. While I actually agree with much of what they said, it gets a bit annoying to be subject to it. It would be hard for me to imagine a French tourist getting grilled on their treatment of Algerian Immigrants or an Australian about Aboriginals while vacationing in America.
That being said the world has plenty of intolerance to go around and we should all look to try and stamp it out in our own back yards before pointing fingers outward, after isn’t that a bit intolerant to begin with?
Brian, thank you for your comment. I do know very well what it is like to answer for America's policies and deal with anti-American sentiment (as I had to for the both terms of Dubya while I was living overseas in NZ). It was very uncomfortable for me. I was embarrassed for my country, a place that I once had been proud of.
I don't think anyone is saying here that America is the only country that is intolerant. The "back yard" argument is faulty. You cloud the issue at hand by pointing out problems in other countries. All this does is mask the complexity of America's issues.
Of course, other countries have a right to point out America's issues, even if it hurts. It's like saying I can't comment on 9/11 because I didn't live in NYC. And what about freedom of the press?
I'm sorry it is not enjoyable to hear these things about your country. America might be doing better than some of countries, but it still needs to take care of its business.
I find it very worrying watching what is happening in some countries at the moment. The forced repatriation of Romanians in France at the moment is very scary. (although they are all taking the 300 euros that Sarkosy is giving them and as soon as they get home hopping on the next bus back to Paris!)
The UK is the same as the US at the moment. Some of the rumblings about illegal immigration and racial tension as times become difficult is really ugly.
Tolerance is one of the most important virtues I try to achieve every day. It's what I try to teach my children. It's what I admire in my children. So, for my corner of the world, I'm good.
And that Happy Frog is right. It's not just America. It's people who are historically intolerant of others people.
I meant to say it's what I admire in my wife. I think I will go tolerate some blankets and a pillow.
America is supposed to be a place where people from other less tolerant countries can go to escape oppression. Our fundamental values are to stand up for people's right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. America should be about supporting the little guy, not the rich bankers on Wall Street.
Julie, totally agree that other countries and their citizens have a right to point out others faults. My issue has more to do with those who are only willing to accept a one way dialog. I have no problems with non Americans pointing out America's flaws and glad to discuss them. I do take issue when during said conversations if I point out similar flaws, I get a dismissive "Oh, it's a complex problem, you could never understand". I will say since Obama has been elected, I find my roll as “Assistant Manager of the United States Complaint Department” has lessened while traveling.
As for intolerance in the US, one area that it’s growing is in the political arena. The sudden rise of the Tea Party, Beck, Palin, Fox News etc… have created an angry, misguided, irrational fringe. For a growing minority, there is no need to look at both sides and debate facts. Instead they take their marching orders from TV or Radio and regurgitate them to anyone in earshot. Even when presented with facts that expose their opinion as false, they will still refuse to listen. Now, not all Right leaning folks are like this, and there are some on the left who are equally as bad. But, I find the ones on the right to be more numerous and intolerant. It is said when a comedy show like “The Daily Show” is more factual source of new than some so called new channels.
Apologies for another long winded rant, I guess I enjoy discussing these kinds of topics. BTW, enjoy your blog. I originally followed it because I was a Yank who spent time in NZ and enjoy hearing about others experiences, and later wound up finding many of your other posts entertaining and interesting.
Was just thinking of you tonight, and how I had to get over here. Thank you for this perspective from abroad. I read the Wall Street Journal daily, and listen to the BBC, but it is still VERY hard to see how we are truly perceived outside of our country.
Thank you for letting us know how others think we sound.
"America's "problem" with Muslims has been manufactured by the corporate oligarchy to keep us fighting among ourselves."
Ridiculous. America is no less or more tolerant than any other country, and has done way better in creating a diverse, melting-pot citizenship than other cultures that are stuck in old-style hierarchies, such as France and Japan.
Say what you want about this mosque situation, it isn't so outlandish that some are offended by it. The 9/11 attack was the Pearl Harbor of this generation, and it is not crazy to still see the extreme Islamic beliefs as the enemy. Give it time. If anything, I think Americans as a whole have been rather open to the Muslim and Muslim-American community, with little "backlash," despite 9/11 and two wars in the Middle East.
Black/white issues still plague America much more than discrimination by religion.
Constitutional rights are always black and white.
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