Healing America from the Bottom Up

Healing America from the Bottom Up

by Yehezkel Landau The stunning victory of Donald Trump in the presidential election forces all Americans to rethink our assumptions about the web of social relations in which we live. The political polarization of our society has been strikingly confirmed by the even split in the popular vote. The pollsters and pundits, as part of the comfortable elite, failed to appreciate the depth of resentment stirring among many Americans, not only white males with limited schooling or economic opportunities. The widespread failure to anticipate the election results reflects the silos in which we all operate, reinforced by the selective news outlets and social media platforms through which we receive news and views. The ideological fragmentation of America into segregated, self-reinforcing constituencies makes it impossible for us to hear each other or to conduct honest, compassionate conversations across difference. The consequence of this mutual alienation is a debilitating “blame game” in which our political opponents are held responsible for all the woes besetting our country. It is a short step from this negative generalizing to scapegoating “Others” as a way of coping with our anxieties or expressing our anger. The language of fear, resentment, and scapegoating was prevalent throughout the Trump campaign; yet to a lesser extent it also characterized discourse on the left, when perceived reactionaries were labeled “deplorable” riffraff who threaten the future of our country. But there is no rhetorical symmetry here. Trump’s bigoted, xenophobic, and misogynistic statements attracted supporters who share those hateful prejudices. His endorsement by the Ku Klux Klan is enough to ring alarm bells. Our neighbors who are Muslims, or Mexican immigrants, or...
Anti-Muslim Rhetoric is Sacrilegious and Anti-American

Anti-Muslim Rhetoric is Sacrilegious and Anti-American

by Yehezkel Landau The anti-Muslim rhetoric used by various candidates for political office in recent months has done far more than pollute our public discourse with ugly bigotry and hatred.  That would be alarming enough to justify an all-out campaign to discredit the message along with the messengers. Sadly, the impact of this toxic language, amplified by sensationalist media, is even more dangerous than the reinforcement of negative stereotypes or the scapegoating of an entire faith community. The malicious appeals to fear, resentment, and hatred are a profound threat to the moral values that undergird American society. Those values include tolerance for legitimate differences of opinion, mutual respect, and the constitutionally enshrined right to practice one’s faith without harassment. Beyond that, Islamophobic rhetoric is an attack on religion itself. It is a sacrilege that cannot be tolerated by people who believe in the One God who has created each and every one of us in the Divine Image. As a Jew, I am aware of the anti-Semitic parallels from the last century in this country—including Father Coughlin’s inflammatory radio broadcasts in the 1930’s—as well as in Europe.  I know that a verbal assault on any single group or community is an assault on us all. What starts as a denigration of one religion and its followers inevitably becomes extended to others who do not fit the declared norm, including “heretics” or “infidels” in the rabble-rouser’s own faith community. The United States remains an unprecedented experiment in collective self-government. Its lofty goals and principles are a beacon of hope to people the world over. They convey the highest ideals of...

Religious Leaders Respond to Orlando Shooting

Dr. Tarunjit Butalia, of Sikh Council of Interfaith Relations The Sikh Council of Interfaith Relations stands with religious organizations across the United States in condemning the brutal murders carried out in Orlando this weekend.  The Guru Nanak wrote “God within us renders us incapable of hate and prejudice.” It is our hope that with a united call for peace, the citizens of this country can stand together and recognize that within them all is the power to extinguish bigotry from this world.” Statement by Religions for Peace USA on Orlando, Florida Shooting On behalf of our 50 national religious member communities, Religions for Peace USA lifts up prayers and our deepest condolences to the victims of the sickening attack this morning in Orlando, Florida that left over 50 people dead and 53 injured.  We especially stand with the LGBTQ community who were the target of this vicious attack. There is no excuse for such brutality. Whenever attacks such as this are perpetrated we are confronted with a choice: to mimic the hatred we see or make a bold commitment to overcome it. The interconnected nature of our world leaves us little choice; we must all become peace-makers now. If we respond to every act of violence with a thirst for revenge, we will undoubtedly succeed in little more than inflicting unspeakable suffering on one another. Religions around the world call us to our highest and best values — those which lead us to courageous peace-making on every level.   We, therefore, urge people everywhere, to make a fresh commitment to building a world of peace and justice and doing all we can to renounce violent language and actions...

Combating Islamophobia with Our Shared Humanity

Combating Islamophobia with Our Shared Humanity by: Tarunjit Singh Butalia   With the US presidential primary season in full swing, some of our aspiring presidential candidates have begun to raise slogans of exclusion – particularly targeting Muslim Americans and their faith. The underlying assumption seems to be that if you vilify certain ethnic and religious minorities, then your prospects of becoming a presidential candidate are enhanced. Such divisions in the fabric of our nation have been tried in the past but fortunately have failed miserably.   These recent events remind me of an incident that occurred a few weeks before the 10th anniversary of 9/11 while I was visiting with my doctor. On entering the small waiting room, a three-year-old child playing in the corner looked up at me (wearing a turban) and exclaimed to his mother “Mom — there is the bad guy.”   Then silence descended on the waiting room. There were only the three of us in the room — the child, his mom, and me. The child went back to playing with the legos. The mom and I silently looked at each other for a few minutes or so but it seemed like eternity.   What could one say to a 3-year-old who shared what was on his mind? How could I get mad at this little child for exhibiting such prejudice? These are the questions that went through my mind and probably through the mind of the embarrassed mother.   But soon my thoughts shifted to the ill-fated morning of 9/11. I remember being in New Hampshire that morning getting ready to go to...

Leaving America: The Land I Want to Move To

Leaving America: The Land I Want to Move To BY OMID SAFI  This is a question that comes up in almost every conversation I have these days. Almost every single Muslim friend of mine asks the same question. Many Hispanic friends. Quite a few gay/lesbian friends. Many progressive friends. “Where would you move to?” The tone is always the same. It is a hushed kind of fearful concern. It is a different tone now than it was a few months ago. Back when Trump was a walking Oompa-Loompa Orange joke with a bad hairpiece, it was almost a kind of wistful joke. Haa haa haa. Look at us. We’re posting articles about most desirable places to live around the world. You know, like this list of best cities in the world and this piece on Norway being the best country to live in and this article on the 10 best places to live abroad. Sure, we would love to have a place with socialist policies of Scandinavian countries, Mediterranean weather, and Vancouver/Toronto cosmopolitanism. My friends and I would have long, semi-serious conversations. Here are the places that many of my friends have suggested: Turkey? Love, love Turkey. Amazing, cosmopolitan history of Muslims, Jews, and Christians living side by side. Istanbul, truly one of the most gorgeous cities in the world. Problem: increasing authoritarian tendencies in the government. Canada? Oh sweet, friendly neighbors to the north. So cosmopolitan. So polite. So much like America, but with a better socialist healthcare system. Fewer guns. Until recently, there was the problem of having a Prime Minister who was basically George W. Bush-lite (Steven Harper). But now he has been replaced by...

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