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The U.S is a relatively young country theoretically established on principals of freedom, opportunity and diversity, but as of late the fear-mongers appear to be getting the best of the public and has pulled political conversations into an unproductive downard spiral.
A 14-year-old boy named Ahmed Mohammed was arrested for attempting to build a bomb on Monday, Sept. 14.
On Friday, Sept. 18 a man at presidential candidate Donald Trump’s campaign speech in New Hampshire called President Barack Obama a Muslim, which Trump did not correct. The unnamed man continued by asking “When can we get rid of them [Muslims}?”
Kim Davis, a county clerk from Kentucky, refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples following the Supreme Court ruling in June and was subsequently arrested and jailed, and as of Friday, Sept. 18 she may have denied marriage licenses to same-sex couples again.
Meanwhile, many cars and trucks continue to don the Confederate flag here in Clarksville, some with the phrase “Heritage not hate” on the flag. While seeing the Confederate flag is not a novel occurrence in Clarksville, it now brings to mind the shooting in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina by Dylann Roof.
Liberals assume an attitude of simply knowing better, treating those who support a conservative agenda as lesser people, and unflinchingly supporting the President’s agenda and accusing those who don’t of being fundamentally suspicious of people based off of race or religion.
Many accusations, bold statements and heated conversations have occurred following the arrest and subsequent media frenzy surrounding Ahmed Mohammed. Some publications like The Daily Beast have been latched onto what they percieve as the obvious implications of an arrest based on bomb-related charges of a teenager whose last name is Mohammed: clearly the teacher who called in the homemade clock was racially profiling Mohammed as being linked to terrorism, the arrest was unprecedented, Mohammed deserves an apology and the U.S. needs to take a long look in the mirror and stop being so afraid of people who aren’t white. Meanwhile, allegations that Mohammed didn’t even build the clock himself have surfaced, along with a call to put the fact that radical Islamic groups have been responsible for numerous bombings around the world into perspective when examining the events that transpired leading up to Mohammed’s arrest.
Calling attention to the possibility of Islamophobia and overcompensating for a two-hour long arrest of a teenager is only treating the symptoms of the problem: We have created a world where people are desperately afraid of one another. There is a reason behind the zero-tolerance policy at MacArthur High School where Mohammed was arrested. The idea that Islamophobia is a prevailing issue threatens the narrative that racial and religious biases are a thing of the past. Mohammed was instructed by his engineering teacher to not show around his homemade clock and didn’t want to answer the questions police asked him about the clock, and this has somehow become the argument for why it makes sense that a skinny, 14-year-old in a NASA T-shirt was arrested for attempting to make a bomb. It challenges all of us to consider what we would have done in the situation and how we see those around us based on how they dress or what we perceive their religion to be. Most Americans simply aren’t as exposed to people who are Islamic. What Americans have been exposed to is a 24-hour news cycle that reports on terrorist organizations, some of which are affiliated with extremist Islamic groups, and a War on Terror that has been around since 2001. However, carrying over the image that all people who are Islamic hold some deep-seated hatred for the United States creates a dangerous and hate-fueled rhetoric.
As aforementioned, someone at Donald Trump’s campaign in New Hampshire said of Muslims, “When can we get rid of them?” When can we get rid of them? This implies violence, and Trump didn’t stamp out the anti-Muslim fire. The man who asked this question also said Obama is a Muslim and not an American, which Trump did not correct or address. Ben Carson, another presidential candidate, has also said that a Muslim should not be president.
“I feel like people should stop basing everything on religion, first of all,” said biology major Emily Greene, “especially when it comes to working in a position where you’re for the law.”
County clerk Kim Davis serves as another prime example of this sentiment. Davis made headlines for refusing marriage licenses to same-sex couples and is in the throes of controversy once again for altering marriage licenses. Davis cites religion as the reason why she won’t issue these licenses. Being uncomfortable with same-sex marriage doesn’t make Davis a bad person. It doesn’t even necessarily make her an intolerant person. Her beliefs get in the way of her doing her job. Instead, her cause has been picked up as one akin to religious persecution.
This case has been used as a platform for dismissal of people who believe marriage should be between a man and a woman. The story gained popularity because it hit the hair-trigger of intolerance, sometimes under the name of bigotry or hatred. Davis’ beliefs prevent her for performing a job function. She didn’t say that people who are gay should be removed from the country or publically criticize people who are gay and seeking marriage licenses. The spectacle generates the publicity, though, and it gives people an opportunity to hash out their frustrations with the mounting tension between church and state and advocates for states’ rights against those who believe in a strong centralized government.
Supporters of states’ rights may also find themselves supporting the continued use of the Confederate flag, a symbol that has long been associated with hate groups like the KKK and now the shooting in Charleston, South Carolina this past June.
The Battle Flag of North Virginia, now commonly referred to as the Confederate flag, has become less of a flag and more a symbol. Its origins stem from the southern states banding together and rebelling against what they believed was an unfair attack against them by the president. Now it’s come to represent a slew of different interpretations: freedom, rebellion, racism, southern pride and neo-Confederacy, to name a few ideologies that seem to be wrapped up in the flag. Trying to argue about whether or not the flag should be sold and displayed is pointless because people hold onto it for such different reasons.
Encountering vastly different interpretations of the world isn’t the problem with living in the U.S. at this moment. It comes with the territory of living in a nation of people who don’t all come from the same place. “It takes all kinds,” as the saying goes. However, when people can’t even agree on a common narrative, we as a community and nation at large have a problem. The facts are that radical Islamic groups have been responsible for numerous bombings and other heinous acts, Kim Davis individually violated the law by refusing to sign marriage licenses to same-sex couples and the Confederate flag has been used to show southern pride and to display hatred against people of color. None of these events amount to the world ending and creating a nation of divided, fearful people is not what is going to propel the U.S. forward.
Graciously tolerating people with differing opinions from your own is a valuable life skill and one well worth developing in in today’s political climate. Sometimes the best thing to say is, “I really don’t know what happened, I wasn’t there.” Do we really want the country to devolve into an awkward family dinner with everyone on the cusp of erupting on one another?