In 2001, when planes flew into New York’s Twin Towers, I lived in California and recall that the morning after 9/11, Quakers in my town went as a body to the nearby Muslim center, making of themselves a circle of peace. Since December 2 of this year, when two radicalized individuals killed 14 people in San Bernardino, once again, in that same California town, Quakers and members of other churches have formed a continuous circle of peace around that Muslim Center, and have escorted Muslim children to and from school.
Wouldn’t it be remarkable if every religious body sent a delegation of support to Muslim mosques and centers as a sign of solidarity and respect?
Why are we witnessing hostility toward Muslim women who cover their heads? For hundreds of years, Roman Catholic Sisters covered their heads and wore long dresses. They were almost universally respected and called the “good Sisters.” Why has that respect not carried over to other women whose religion encourages head coverings?
The United States hesitated to support the Jews rounded up into concentration camps, did not respect Japanese Americans who lived peacefully among us during World War II, has never apologized to Native Americans for the genocide we practiced against them, and still does not universally respect Black citizens. A Christian nation? (Not my definition of Christianity!) Until recently, this “Christian” country, for whom “Christian” meant “Protestant,” was openly mistrustful of Roman Catholics. Recall the hysteria when John F. Kennedy, a Roman Catholic, ran for president and had to assure people that the Pope would not be dictating policy in the Oval Office. One nation with liberty and justice for all? (Not as I interpret those words!)
Religion and ethnicity continue to be a trigger for hostility in the United States. Our history shows that every wave of migration has been opposed and resented. Ellis Island was primarily for those who came over in the steerage and baggage levels of immigrant ships. Its purpose was to “weed out” undesirables. (People with money were automatically “desirable.”)
Why are religion and ethnicity triggers for hostility? All major religions are based on principles and values of peace and compassion. And, be honest, immigrants have always improved this nation.
If you want to find angry trigger-happy people who stock weapons in their homes, look to citizens, not immigrants. We have so many unhappy bona fide citizens that if we counted them they’d probably outnumber new people trying to enter this country.
Mr. Trump with his hostile rhetoric incites intolerance; his form of intolerance incites violence. His message and the embrace of his irrational message are very like an earlier decade when Adolph Hitler lit fires of hatred in Germany, igniting a hell storm of death.