Of Shoes and Stamps and Sealing Wax...
There are many who are forwarding an email protesting the new postage stamp
celebrating the Muslim holiday of Eid. They say that we should boycott these stamps because it would be "a slap in the face
to all those Americans who died at the hands of those whom this stamp honors." They go on to list the bombings of Pan Am Flight
103, the World Trade Center in 1993, military barracks in Lebanon & Saudi Arabia, the USS Cole, & the World Trade
Center on 9/11, emphasizing that these were all "Muslim attacks."
I work with many Muslims who are American citizens & shared our horror &
outrage at these events. To say it was Muslims who committed these acts is exactly like saying it was "Christians who bombed
the Oklahoma City Federal Building" or "Christians who perpetrated the massacre at Jonestown." Christians can easily perceive
that any terroristic or criminal acts committed by perpetrators who may have been Christian &/or inspired by a twisted
interpretation of Christian dogma, are only evil idiots doing what evil idiots do. They don't represent the religion as a
Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, there really isn't any such-and-such "religion
as a whole" anyway. Every faith, if it's existed for any time at all, develops schisms, sects & even what others view
as cults, that all claim to be the correct interpretation of that faith. Sometimes this results in violence, which isn't the
domain of any religion in particular, but can be seen in the histories of practically every faith in existence. This is truly
terrible when you consider that, not only are all of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic faiths actually derived from the same histories
and even share the same prophets, but also that with few exceptions, every religious faith currently practiced has the commandment
to live by doing right by your fellow man as a basic tenet.
You can't condemn an entire religion because of the acts of a few any more than
you can condemn all of a certain race or nationality or sexual preference or identity. It's human nature, especially when
times are tough, to single out groups that are perceived as being responsible for terrible events & focus the quite natural
feelings of hatred & anger on any indiidual who is perceived to be associated with that group. This sort of mob rule has
led to some terrible injustices throughout human history. This is dangerously ignorant, recalling our not so distant past:
interment & prejudicial treatment of Japanese-Americans, Italian-Americans & German-Americans during WWII;
lynchings & Jim Crow; "Irish need not apply"; that's only a few.
We've survived through the founding Revolution, the Civil War, two World Wars,
the Cold War, the Great Depression, 9/11, assassinations, and a multitude of natural disasters throughout American history
and we're still struggling to survive today. Our survival & success depends on the best part of our national spirit: disaster,
conflict & oppression may bring out the worst in some, but for the vast majority it brings out the best in us. We may
hang on to our cultural, religious, or ancestral traditions here in America (hence the hyphens: African-American, Mexican-Americans,
and so on...) -- & there are too many religious beliefs among us to name them all (and each adherent would assert that
their beliefs are, if not superior to all others, the best-loved one in their own lives) -- but we are all first & foremost
*Americans*. And, despite our "hyphens" & our "isms," we help each other through hard times.
We are all one people here in America. That's the meaning of our flag. That's
what we sing about in our national anthem. That's what's engraved on the plaque on Ellis Island, the meaning of the Statue
of Liberty. That's what our country stands for, & that's the only way to ensure that it remains standing. The adage "United
We Stand, Divided We Fall" couldn't be more apt than when applied to the United States of America. We celebrate our differences,
but we are all Americans.