I read a quote online somewhere in the midst of the chaos surrounding the Boston bombers which, paraphrased, basically said Twitter is useful as a tragedy is happening or just after but by 12 hours later, it’s a mess.
I found out the bombing happened on Facebook. I got home from Facebook and there it was. In the moment, it was full of nice, thoughtful posts about praying for Boston. If anyone was suspicious or scared, they didn’t really say, but naturally, whether we acknowledge it or not, a bomb going off anywhere puts us all on edge. 9/11 gave violence a different context–a bigger one.
The anti-Muslim sentiment fortunately wasn’t too common, but it was still there. It’s always there. I think I beat some to the punch on Facebook and just reacted to it on Twitter, but here’s something that should surprise no one–racists don’t like being called out on it, especially when they obviously can’t justify it and resort almost immediately to personal attacks, laying blame, and what at least look like (failed) attempts at public humiliation. Really, what’s humiliating is to publicly blame an entire religion for the acts of a few people. You know how they tell college kids not to do things like post pictures of themselves underage with beer or tweet about being high or get naked on the internet anywhere ever because it could ruin careers? I’m pretty sure potential employers–or even potential friends are lovers–are really put off by someone calling an entire religion trash. You’re basically saying, “Things might get really awkward if someone who’s not a white Christian interacts with me.” We won’t get into the fact, too, that saying things on the internet opens you up to criticism. It may be your Twitter feed or Facebook page and people can certainly choose not to look, but if you’re making it public, you’re inviting people in, and you may not like what you present to them. We also won’t get into the fact that calling someone on this isn’t forcing beliefs on them.
All anyone is doing is continuing a cycle of hate. By the way, people don’t like it if you point that out, too.
Hate is taught. Hate happens for all sorts of different reasons. It will always exist, often without good reason. Certain groups of people hate each other, some hating America. And because they hate us, some people in this country decide to hate them, too. Sometimes you have people like me saying, “What’s the point of all this, and what good is it really doing?” but most of the time, those people seem to be hard to find.
That has to be a miserable, isolating, and scary existence.
It certainly ignores a lot. For starters, no one has met every single member of a religion. It’s not possible. And every single one has violent extremists, but that doesn’t mean their actions have widespread support. To act like every single one of them is the enemy is to deny that. Even with the Boston bombers, the attacks have been denounced by their family, their friends are confused, and Muslim religious leaders and even Iran denounced it and separated themselves from it. To fear and hate Muslims because of two bombers in the midst of other Muslims denouncing them is to deny them entirely, which either makes you very stubborn or very ignorant. We won’t get into the quote on my Facebook feed today discussing a correlation between intelligence and conservative values, though I have noticed there’s a lot of denying facts going around that viewpoint.
What I find especially frightening is that in every person I’ve seen displaying this animosity, their language and behavior suggests they truly believe they’re taking some sort of moral high ground but generalizing and villainizing–or even worse, they see this as a twisted form of patriotism. They cry self-defense, but this goes back to ignorance. It ignores the good people–the many good people–out there and denies that this is bigotry, no matter how you spin it. It simultaneously denies the bad, too. You can kick out every single Muslim in this country if you want, but you’ll still be left with tons of equally violent, fanatical Christians killing in the name of their god or their version of morality. A problem isn’t solved–one is just ignored instead.
The reaction to violence has, in some cases, been more violence. Some who blame Muslims have sought some out and physically harmed them. How is this going to solve anything? It contributes to a cycle. You hate them because they hate us because you hate them. Dialogue and understanding in this case are certainly too idealistic to realistically expect, but this hostility isn’t helping anything. Even by speaking up in defense, you open yourself to almost equal amounts of hatred and misunderstanding. A man on Twitter told me to move to Iraq or Afghanistan and insisted I was clueless and knew nothing about how the real world works. Nevermind the fact that 26 people died in an elementary school a few months ago at the hands of a white Christian and his religion wasn’t discussed, and nevermind the fact that my dad was almost literally blown up by Muslims and yet I don’t blame the entire religion for that.
Fortunately, we do have a silver lining. For those paying attention and listening, they didn’t see Islam as the enemy anymore when relatives spoke out–they realized you can’t generalize and reconsidered their beliefs. Many others would do well to follow suit. Otherwise, we have no hope of making progress as a nation.