Wednesday, August 6, 2014

On Good or Bad and Whether Those Words Even Have Meaning any More...

Is it me, or has our nation become so ethnically, politically, and religiously polarized that we can no longer distinguish between good and bad?

Let's paint a quick picture:  Hakeem, an American Muslim, living in Dearborn, MI, politics for a minaret in his domicile.  He and his family run a chain of refueling stations in the area.  As a small business owner, he identifies with some of the tenets of the Republican party's platform.  However, he's also interested in getting his dearest relatives out of harms way in the Middle East and wishes to co-locate them at his home in Dearborn.  Clearly, he's on the wrong side of the Republican party on this one.  People tend to treat him like he's a pariah.  Hakeem is a very, very bad guy, right?

The more conservative Republicans and, particularly, the members of the Tea Party, are likely to brand this tax-paying American as a foreign invader, or even worse, a terrorist.  Religion has become the "skin-color" of the 21st century.  If you're Muslim, or have a Muslim sounding name, you're negatively branded (or worse).  If you don't think this is the case, consider our sitting president, Barack Obama.

Regardless of how one evaluates his presidency, there are many in this country, perhaps even a majority, who have a preconceived (and negative) notion about him.  And for many, it is clearly about his race and/or the fact that his name sounds like it might be "Islamic."  Barack was a "bad guy," before he even got started, unfortunately.

Now let's introduce "Jesus."  Jesus is a American citizen of Mexican heritage, who runs a medical marijuana business.  Jesus is making a lot of money, but he can't put it in the bank because his occupation, while legal in his home State of Colorado, is still a violation of Federal law.  Hence, the banks won't touch his money. Jesus has been very successful in business.  He, his wife, son and daughter live in an expensive home with several new cars that he paid cash for.  He's recently started storing his money in a banking cooperative that uses armed guards to protect the cash.  Jesus is a very bad guy, right?

And then there's Erik.  Erik is fundamentalist christian.  He goes to church every Sunday.  Erik doesn't like people who aren't like himself.  If they're not Christian, they're bad people.  If they're not white, they're bad people.  And they don't belong in this country, because the U.S. is one nation, under God.  He believes that we shouldn't allow foreigners on our soil.  He is strongly anti-tax and believes that government is inherently bad; he is a strong proponent of personal freedom.  He owns many weapons including assault rifles and believes that they will help him to protect his family, but he buys them at gun and knife shows to avoid some of the gun control issues he has to deal with at retail outlets.  Erik is a very good guy, right?

There is so much intolerance in this country that it's becoming palpable.  People make judgement calls about other people without any due consideration of their real life experiences, ethics or personalities.  We all rail against profiling, yet we all tend to do it every day.  I'll bet you just did it, while you were reading about Hakeem, Barack, Jesus, and Erik.  I guess my point is that life is increasingly becoming difficult from the standpoint of differentiating shades of gray. I'm thinking back to a biblical passage (not that I'm a great follower, but for some reason, I remember this one):  Let he who is perfect (without sin), cast the first stone.

Consider this:  just because someone may not share your particular belief set should not be sufficient reason for castigation.  We are a country of diversity, and we always have been.  For nearly 240 years, it has been our strength and rallying cry.  It's time to reel it back in, folks  -- time to embrace diversity and make it our strength, once again.