The Paradox of Grief
by And the White Lion Roars!
On a bleak, rainy, chilly Sunday morning in December, the White Lion looks around and finds many, many reasons to stop suppressing the roar that I’ve been trying to contain for the last month or so.
I’ve been trying to suppress it because I know how far away the election of 2016 is, and I know that the outrageousness we’ve been seeing so far is going to stop once the caucuses and primaries get going, starting on February 1st in Iowa. But some of what I’ve been hearing is so disturbing that I am truly afraid for my country. I am astonished and horrified that hate and racism have become so fashionable in this country. I’m sure that some will say that this fire has been started by Donald Trump and his racist, hateful rhetoric. I disagree, especially since a news story I saw yesterday (December 12th, MSNBC) by a journalist who had spent some time travelling with the Trump campaign. His story suggested that all the folks who gush that Trump “speaks from his gut,” “tells it like it is,” and tell the truth at all times. According to that reporter every word out of Trump’s mouth is carefully planned, and every step of his campaign is carefully orchestrated. He is not speaking from the gut, he is responding to what he hears out there. I see his recent attacks on Senator Ted Cruz (a deplorable human being himself, and I’m fairly sure his candidacy is illegal.) He attacks the person closest to him in the polls; it started with Jeb Bush, who had been anointed as the republican candidate by the media, but not the voters. He then attacked Ben Carson, who had risen in the polls to be just behind Trump and gaining. Now it is Cruz who is rising in the polls, and have even moved ahead of Trump in Iowa, so he is the latest victim. I have a hard time believing those who claim that Trump is a democratic plant who is trying to ensure that the republicans lose and can’t gain the White House next year. In fact, that idea is so laughable that this is the last time I’ll mention it, except to say Thank You to Mr. Trump on the inauguration of Senator Bernie Sanders.
At any rate, as I said earlier, I have found the nascent hatred of “the other” that Trump has given permission for the ignorant and un-American “haters” out there to express loudly and proudly. One female legislator from Nevada, who has children, stated for the cameras that she would be happy to shoot Muslims herself and “put them out of their miserable lives.” This is also a woman whose family Christmas photo shows her entire family armed, including her young children, but that is another story entirely.
I started to make friends with Muslims in the early 1980s through my work. I had never met a Muslim before that; I led a very cloistered, white life. But race has been one of my two big causes since I was very young and started going to an integrated school. I realized just how racist my family is, and how silly their racist ideas are by being exposed to these people whom I had been taught were ‘different’ and ‘lesser’ than white people. They weren’t. Neither were the Muslims. They were people. They were parents. They had left their home countries, even back then, to find a better life for their families. They spoke fine English, with an accent, yes, but they were working very hard to integrate into this country. They’d been taught that they would find freedom here, and that they could practice their religion freely. And it’s true, this country was founded by people who were leaving Europe because of religious persecution. One-hundred-fifty years later the United States was founded, and a constitution that guaranteed that the government would not interfere with the practice of any religion. But now political candidates are promising not to let any Muslims into the country, and a percentage of the people who hear this horrible, discriminatory talk are taking it one step further, and fire bombing, setting fire, talking of armed insurrection and murder against people who have been living in horrific conditions for a very long time. I have truly never met anyone from another country who doesn’t miss their home. Leaving family and home behind is always hard, and they wouldn’t do it if they and their families could be safe and prosperous, and they wouldn’t be in danger from a dictatorial regime or hateful religious leader.
I am embarrassed and ashamed of what the United States has become. Hate is an ugly thing, and hating people one has never met, just because they are different of skin color, politics or religion are even worse.
All that said, I need to annoy some of my liberal friends. I have always believed that credit should be given where it is due, no matter how much we dislike the person who deserves the credit. I’ve never made a secret of my dislike for former president George W. Bush, and I confess to have laughed at the jokes made about him when he said that terrorists attacked us because they “hate us for our freedom.” I realized after the recent terror attacks in Paris that he was right. There were some Muslim owned businesses who were attacked simply because they served non-Muslims in their businesses; they were working “too hard to assimilate” and those people are too corrupt and hedonistic. It is well known that the vast majority of victims of Islamic terrorists are Muslim, but they are apparently being attacked, down to the elderly, the mothers and the babies, for not being the “right kind” of Muslim. This realization also led me to the feeling that President Bush, while he definitely gave aid and comfort to Al Qaeda and the Taliban, he and his evil minions (Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, et al) did NOT invent ISIL, to whom I will now and forever refer as DAESH because that is a name they hate being called.
I was a very late bloomer, and graduated from college at the tender age of forty-seven, and so the stories shared by some wonderful professors are still fairly fresh in my mind. One of them, Professor Baharlu, was one of my top two favorites. He identified as a Persian, and had lived in the United States since the 1950s. One of the stories he told about early Islam, as in very soon after its founding, was a directive from Muhammad that if they wanted to spread their new faith, they must destroy the history and culture of the people in the countries they were trying to proselytize. As a result, from that very early time, Islam has tried to spread itself by the sword. As a result the great libraries and art works of that ancient, highly civilized part of the world was destroyed. Please don’t misunderstand, Judaism and Christianity have done the same thing. In fact, it’s not so long ago that Catholics and protestants were doing this in the United Kingdom as recently and the twentieth century, all the way up until the 1970s. But those two have pretty much stopped doing so, even though the rhetoric of some of their adherents, especially in the American s0uth, still suggests a willingness to do so, and the current temperature against Islam is leading to violence against them, so I am not demonizing Islam by telling this story, I am not. But the notion that one religion is right, and that anyone who doesn’t agree must die. Even if the holy book preaches love of one’s enemies and not hating people who are different. This is where Daesh is coming from, spreading their form of Islam by wiping out dissent or disagreement. And so, in spite of the fact that I disagree with a great deal of what President Bush did and said, and though I know his policies in the Middle East have led to the longest war in history, he did not cause Daesh to arise.
Definitions of ISIS, ISIL and DAESH break down to the same thing, the desire of this group for a world wide theocracy based on their very narrow, violent interpretation of Islam.