It has become a scary world to wake up in. The kind of scary that boggles my mind and makes my heart hurt. 2010 seems to be conjuring up the days of Jim Crow, McCarthy hearings and Japanese internment camps.
We went from campaign grumblings about then-candidate Barack Obama's true nationality, to a seeming marked increase in the number of Americans who believe the president is lying about his religion. The media-fueled debate - is he Muslim or is he not - has been ignoring the most important consideration: Why should it matter?
Tea Partiers, while certainly having the right to take any political position they like, have hinged their movement on attacks against the President's person and race, more than on position statements intended to address the maladies they identify. The group's racist statements and signage have not stirred the widespread outrage they deserve.
I guess the country's general apathy made for the perfect environment and time for the State of Arizona to try to legalize racial profiling. The state's Governor Jan Brewer touted untruths and unfounded statistics in her campaign to paint Mexicans as Arizona's biggest crime and social problem. Few called her on it, and many supported the legislation that would have allowed police to stop and question anyone who 'looked' like an illegal immigrant.
Jan Brewer and others who prey on the fears of the ignorant are largely responsible for my fears. As are those like Newt Gingrich and Rudy Giuliani for whom division and discord have become effective political tools. What seemed like small pockets of intolerance in 2008, has ballooned into a canvas of xenophobia that threatens to undo all the country's progress of the last 50 years. The most recent display of hatred is ironically centered around the site of the deadliest act of hatred against the United States, nine years ago today. The actions of the September 11 attackers were motivated by hatred, intolerance and a warped sense of religious duty. (Rev. Terry Jones is apparently motivated by the very same things.) After the attacks, every speech aimed at rousing the country's spirits heralded the precepts that make America great - justice and liberty being chief among them. We need those speeches again. We need to see the lunacy of wanting to bar a perfectly legal Islamic center from being built blocks from Ground Zero - whether our discomfort is based on sentimentality or religious indifference. We need to be reminded that "liberty and justice for all" encompasses those who look, dress, worship and speak differently from us.