Why We Should Interpret the Islamophobic Glenn Beck Juggalo Movement As A Sign of Progress
for the story goes:maura:"Mr. Jones, in a lengthy interview at his church, said he sincerely hoped that his planned Koran-burning would not lead to violence." (nytimes)“Your country? It can’t survive like this. It won’t survive like this. America is fucked. You’re fucked. I can’t think of a single area in which you are not fucking failing. You’re going broke. Racists and bigots run rampant. You’re Norma Desmond, okay? You look in the mirror and you see something that at best used to exist, at worst only existed in grande speeches rife with rosy rhetoric. It is not going to get better without incredible, drastic change. And I can’t be alone in thinking that change is never, ever going to come.”
I wish I could argue, but I really can’t. And I don’t have it in me to be part of an aggressive opposition to racists and bigots and homophobes. I don’t have the hatred and vitriol in my core for them that they have for me. I don’t have stones to fight aggression with aggression, hate with hate. Maybe that makes me a coward. In fact, it probably does. I can only hope that people more intelligent than me with a stronger will to oppose destructive ignorance and hatred are successful, and that the good in people that I still believe is there finds some way to overcome.
But I’m scared. I’m scared for my daughter, I’m scared for this country’s future. I’m scared by a country that responds to, in the case of our president, a groundbreaking display of just how far we’ve come, with a level of hate, fear, and potential violence that only leaves us looking like a country firmly and irrevocably divided.
Yes, oh God, yes, but wait, no, actually, no. In 10,000 words or less:
This is not particular to America. Switzerland passed, by popular referendum, a constitutional amendment banning minarets. Because they look like missiles. Most European countries have recently passed laws restricting or banning Islamic dress, particularly the hijab (though often wrapped up in gender equality issues, there is clearly a religious issue here). Violent attacks have been documented throughout Europe. Spain, England, Netherlands, Germany, more I’m sure. There are major anti-Muslim factions in their political parties who decry the “Islamification” of Europe and want immigration stopped from Islamic countries.
Canada is like 85% white and was not attacked on 9/11. The US is 75% white and was attacked on 9/11. Not that this justifies the bullshit, but let’s at least be honest about the fact that we are a diverse and diversifying country that remains the target of Islamic extremists. We have to confront issues others don’t. While we’re at it, where is the black Canadian Prime Minister? While we’re at it, where is the black European head of state? Granted, we are behind in electing a woman, and our elected officials still don’t adequately represent our demographics, but let’s not get too hasty here.
We should recognize that so much of this insanity is misplaced anger and rage driven by economics, and that in recessions, people are always angry at whatever government is in charge. Obama was elected in large part because of this, and now he must face it himself.
This is not a groundbreaking display. History tells us that progress overcomes, but never without a fight. Those stripped by progress of their sense of superiority ALWAYS fight tooth and nail for the scraps. There are always small-minded people who blame those of another gender, race, religion, or sexuality for all of their problems. And there has never been a shortage of politicians, small-minded or otherwise, willing to take advantage.
A black President. Muslims in America. Gays marrying. Scary times if you’re an asshat. Scarier if you’re a racist, uneducated, born-again Christian without decent job prospects.
These are depressing times, but I remind myself that it used to be so much worse.
Just one example: it’s worth remembering that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were preceded by an unprecedented decade of activism and violence. Following Brown vs. the Board of Education in 1954: Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott; Woolworth-inspired sit-ins; Campaigns in Albany, Georgia, and Birmingham, Alabama; the March on Washington; the “I Have a Dream” speech. (And more.)
But also: The Southern Manifesto, signed by over 100 Senators and Representatives, called using any lawful means necessary to prevent school integration; the “Little Rock nine” and Eisenhower calling in the 101st Airborne; George Wallace standing in a doorway until Kennedy sent more men in uniform to intervene. Selma. Billy clubs and tear gas from the police. And murder. To stop a march. Lots of murder.
Democrats famously lost the South for a generation or more. MLK lost his life. So did both of the Kennedys. So did a lot of people.
For all of history, forever, the books will read that in 2008, America elected a black man to be President. This is kind of a big fucking deal. Book burnings, cardboard signs, racist t-shirts, tea party rallies. Those assholes can’t ever change that.
The fringe is scary, but remember, they didn’t used to be the fringe. They used to be the majority.
As the nation moves, silently and glacially, towards a better future, those most opposed to change become louder and more reactionary. The inevitability is frightening to them; they cannot change the future, so in a last gasp, they burn books and wave racist signs.
We need to recognize that when we see a growing fringe movement, it is NOT because things are getting worse, but in fact because, in the long run, things are getting better.
I do not mean to be glib, but I think it’s true: two steps forward, one step back.
Progress may be inevitable, but that doesn’t mean it just happens.
The civil rights movement didn’t happen simply because it was the right thing to do. People fought for it. With their bodies, with their voices, with their hearts, and yes, with their wallets. But we, and I mean to include myself only in spirit, in the long run, we won. And we are winning.
Progress is not a train we hop on. We don’t look out the window and watch the landscape fly by, amber waves of grain, purple mountain majesties. No, we get out and push it forward. It’s hard work. Sometimes we grow weary, and don’t have the strength, but always we push, for ourselves and for our children.
This is what our parents did, and this is what we do: we push the fucking thing up the fucking mountain, to get to the other fucking side.