When We Become Them: facing extremism around the world.

The extremists in this country are pinning us against them. The “them” is varied depending on the fear. It is the “gays” when marriage needs be defended, or the torch of moral righteous needs to be relit. After all, it’s the gays bringing down this country, as some have said. Or it’s the liberals when abortion becomes the hot-button topic, or when political correctness becomes intolerable. You know, it’s the whole “everyone wants their rights now-a-days. Why should they get special treatment” justification for disallowing basic rights toward others. Or “them” in reference to the government depending on who is in power. You can never lose by pinning people against their own government officials. It’s fear mongering at its best.  It’s also the socialists, communists, fascists who adorn the word them, not necessarily real socialists, communists, fascists, but the label is still given freely and without true provocation from the “them” who now unwillingly wear this label.

The latest “them” to wear the label seems to be the 5 to 7 million Muslims in the United States. They are the “them” to be fearful of in this country. They flew the planes on Sept 11, 2001. They are barbaric. They practice the devil’s religion. They want to take over the world and they will kill you to prove their loyalty to Allah. They are heathens.  Even our own president is a secret Muslim. He’s one of them…them, they, they, them…we could go on and on.

We all use the words “they or them” to group people together. If we are to honest with ourselves, we all have prejudices to one degree or another. We may do it in innocence fun (or so we say), or in aggravation over life events. We may do it out of ignorance or out of arrogance. As humans, we all divide up.

We divide in many ways, but the most common way we separate ourselves is by race, ethnicity, sex and religion. This is a natural human response. We trend toward the familiar. This allows us to feel safe and secure in our surroundings. However, when we feel unsafe because someone or something is different, we also tend to fight to defend our division rather than challenge it. We do this by rationalizing our fears. For instance, people of Arab descent attacked us. They used their religious beliefs to justify their actions, so we became afraid of them. The “they and them” are now all Muslims. They, all Muslims, did this by their actions.  So therefore, we are justified in not trusting them because after all, they attacked us first. Their justification in their actions leads to our justification in our need to be prejudice toward all Muslims. As soon as we remove the individual Muslim persons from the equation: the individuals, who say, perverted their own religion out of fear and prejudices, we make room for our own fear and prejudices. However, just because we might prejudge all Muslims doesn’t mean we are going to physically harm or attack them as did those on 2001. There are varying degrees to fear and prejudice, and its important to point out that not all prejudice leads to violence.

In order to really get to the heart of my concern, we must jump into another level of prejudice that divides us against the proverbial them I speak of and examine outside the realm of every day prejudice. For this discussion I will have to turn the table on them: the real them who seek to divide us until we end up stuck in the middle of their hate-based war.

This “they” I speak of are the extremists within the world. They exist everywhere and they are alive and well in this country too. They exist in all religions, including Christianity. They exist in all races and in both sexes. They point fingers in the other direction and hold themselves in high regard. They hide behind their race, religion, and gender to push forth a separatist agenda which will elevate them to positions of power. The power they seek can only be gotten by holding others down. They can only do this by justifying the reasons another group should be the target of this treatment. And to establish this justification is no easy feat. It requires a mixture of hate, fear, ignorance, and a strong belief in their “cause” whatever the cause may be.

In this country, the rise of this extremist point of view came into focus with the Ku Klux Klan. They gained a sufficient foot hold in about 1920’s when America had an influx of immigrants. They felt the country was being invaded. The Catholic and Jewish religions were growing and this made portions of the American population nervous. There was a lot of Anti Catholic sentiment growing around the country and the Klan tapped into that fear. They looked to restore America: this was their slogan. The Klan slowly grew from the 20’s through the 50’s until the next big moment when our country would once again test its level of acceptance. The African American children were beginning to be integrated into the mainstream school system and collectively African Americans had begun to empower themselves in the name of social justice. It was a fight to establish equality. From this period of high anxiety and uncertainty the Klan membership boomed. They, the Klan, would battle against them, the blacks, for proper social order, to restore social values in the name of Jesus Christ. And for them, this battle still wages on today.

The Ku Klux Klan considers itself to be the champions of Christian values and morals. They burn crosses to glorify the light of Christ. They claim the world doesn’t understand God’s plan, but they do: many lights become one light with no blacks, Jews, and fags. They claim the light of Jesus Christ shines down on the Klan. Perhaps it does, but I only say this because sun shines down on all people and so does God’s light. However, it doesn’t make their cause just.

More recent in history, formed out of the belief systems of the Ku Klux Klan and Nazi inspired Germany, are a fraction of people referred to as Skin Heads. Statistically, they are the fastest growing white supremacist group in the United States. Most of these skin heads consider themselves Arian Christians. They firmly believe in their Christian identity. They desire their land (all land) for their own culture and believe a great war will transpire between the pure white Christian man and all others who are different. They live this belief in fear of the day when the white Christian race dies. They are not waiting for this war to come. They are bringing the war to us and use Christ to justify their hate.

Right now, the war has begun. The rise in Christian Fundamentalism in is country is growing. In a matter of a few days a church in Florida has taken the position to burn the Quran in protest of the proposed Islamic Center that may be built two and half blocks from Ground Zero. This is their justification. It is a perfect justification for an all ready established prejudice against an entire group of people. It is perfect because it plays on “our” fear and anger. If they can build a mosque, we can burn their book! Muslims become the “they” we are at war with in this country. They disrespect us, we will disrespect them. One religion against the other—Christianity against Islam—the war has started on our soil. Some may say they, the Muslims, brought it to our soil when they knocked down the twin towers; however, the seeds of this war were sewn long before the planes were sent flying into American infrastructures. We were at war within ourselves. History has shown this. This war is and will always be within the individual.

We will do anything for our religion. It is the most powerful tool to use against each other as human beings. What other justification is needed to harm another human being than to do it in the name of God? There is no other. We use God to abuse each other, even our own children.

In the African country of Nigeria modern day witch hunts are taking place. Just like what happened in this country back in the 1600’s, in Nigeria children are being accused of witch craft. Children are being tossed into rivers, buried alive, beaten, orphaned, and even put to death for fear of being witches. They believe witches bring misfortune to those around them: this is why illness and poverty exist. This belief isn’t coming from tribal religions; it is happening and being sanctioned by Christian Pastors. Non profits are trying to work with the locals in order to stop this, but the belief in their version of Christianity is too strong. Even when faced with logic and reason, the fear of their children being witches can’t be overcome. If you asked them, “Do you fear sending your children away?” They would say, “I fear not doing it.” Their religious beliefs are stronger than their ability to look inward and find truth. They would probably make no association between fear and their actions. For these Christians, to not take action would seem, for them, as if they were giving themselves over to fear. In their mind, to take the steps to stop the witches is brave. They actually have witch hunters in Nigeria and to be one is noble.

Around the world, extremism is rising. We need to look no further than the war we are fighting in Afghanistan to know extremism is alive and well in the world.  The resurgence of the Taliban is proof of it. This group is a prime example of the extremist movement within the Islam Faith. The resurgence of this hardliner Islamic group is not only a problem for secular societies across the globe, but also for women and children living under Taliban rule.

The Taliban first came into power during the Russian invasion. The United Sates helped fund the Taliban in order to fight against Russia during the cold war era. We feared a Russian takeover of the land and we needed a buffer, so not knowing the full outcome of our actions, we propped up the Taliban.

The Afghan people were fractured, broken, and looking the cleanse themselves. In essence, they wanted to get back to a purer Muslim tradition; and with the Afghans fearful, wanting a new identity to “get right” with Allah, the Taliban the upper hand. Hiding behind this idea of being the true face of Islam, they sought to control the people through oppression. Under Taliban rule, the literacy rate in Afghanistan has dropped to its current rate 13%.  The people of this country have little means to empower themselves through education to fight of ignorance, let alone empower themselves to fight off the extremist views of the Taliban. The sad truth is that Afghanistan was not always this impoverished or its people this uneducated. Decades of war has caused this country to slip into chaos.  Unfortunately, through this chaos we, the United States or the Western World, have become the Afghan people’s “them”.  Taliban and Al Qaeda propaganda has taught these people that we are the sole cause of their misfortune. We are the ones Good Muslims should fear.

This brings me back to the extremist here in the United States. It is Far Ring Wing Fundamental Christian Extremists who own the word “they” in this country. They are the leaders of a group of growing people who are not only feeding off their own disdain for others; they are feeding off the resentment and dissatisfaction that a good majority of people feel. They are using it to push their cause along with an end result being chaos in this County, or maybe even the World.  If we are in chaos, they have power because who would the majority of people turn to? I will tell you whom most would turn to, it would be God. Just like the Afghanis, we would feel like we need to “get right” with God. After all, the chaos would have happened because we weren’t living a righteous enough life or so they would have us believe. And if we get rid of the witchy religions and Satan’s secret religion (Islam) then God will be pleased and order will be restored; again, so they say. We can keep going with if…if the gays come back to the light to repent and marriage becomes sacred again, if women spent more time at home and became true Mothers again, if women also honored their bodies by waiting for marriage before having sex, and if children learned respect again and if we went back to the old ways then things would be good. However, I have to ask, “how far back do we have to go to be right with God?”  Do we have to start sacrificing again? It may sound absurd, but where is the line? How far back do we go to feel safe? How much of our collective fear do we hand over to a few in the name of God?

As much as I try to just ignore these groups and hope they will go away, I know in my heart they won’t stop. They have a mission. They wait for the right moment and they attack the weakest aspects within our collective human nature: they prey on our prejudice of other’s who are different. They use our commitment to God to justify this prejudice.

In a few days, on September 11th, 2010, Christian extremist in this Country will try to hijack our fears once again. They will bring their war to us by inciting their worldly enemy, the Muslim religion.  They will invoke the generic name of “they” in order to bring power to themselves through the righteousness of their Christian God. They will be the ones who are just in their cause. They will tell you they do it for you, for our country, and for the one true God. They will try to convince you into a choice to stand on the side of righteousness for country, for god or to allow our country to be taken over by them, the Muslims. It’s God against Devil, America against the Middle East, and Christian against the Non-believer.

We are being divided beyond comfort. We are being divided into war. How far do we allow them to divide us? It is within our power to stand up and unite, not as Christians or Muslims, Blacks or whites, American or non-American, man or woman, gay or straight, or even Republican or Democrat, but as human beings who are tired of these extreme views which only serve to wound us at our core. How many people have to get hurt before we get over our fears? How much genocide has to occur before we realize we are one race, the human race? How many people have to be oppressed before we understand that to oppress one group of people leads to oppression of all? How many generations of children have to live their entire lives in suffering before we value a life from start to finish? How many?

I ask you to stand up to those who oppress, who speak words of division and hide them behind the Word of God. I ask you to not silence your voice in hopes they will go away, because they won’t. When they say, “Let’s go back to and restore old values and morals,” I hope you will respond with, “How about instead of going backwards, we learn from the past and move forward with new values, so we never repeat the mistakes of the past.” How about it?

Let’s discover the value of honoring the individual, not just ourselves as individuals, but collectively honor each other for the individuals we all are, within the entire Human Race. Let’s find the value in healing the division by bringing unity. Let’s begin to value the education we receive within choosing to understand our Indian neighbor, or Muslim co-worker, or Wiccan class mate. Let’s bring a new value system to this country, or even perhaps the world. Let’s look at “them” as an opportunity to learn from each other in acceptance, instead of allowing other’s to use it as a tool for further division. I ask you to speak up and unite in truth. Unite, not as Americans uniting under the flag of this country, but as people uniting over the noise these Extremist make in their attempt to drown out the truth: we are One People. Don’t let those living in fear (not just with fear) manipulate your heart, mind, and emotions. Allow instead the truth of human nature to surface in you. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge your own fears and prejudice, because we all have them. Without them how could we grow beyond them and truly learn to love one another without fear? We can’t overcome our fears without having them to overcome in the first place. They are of value, if only to teach us to grow past them.

On Saturday, if the Quran gets burnt, I will pray it does not incite more violence around our country or the world. Regardless of what occurs, I will continue to speak for truth and healing. I will not hate, nor will I use any hateful thing someone else does to justify my prejudice toward a group of people, even the Extremists. As they work toward angering the other side, I will work toward calming the middle in order to bring balance and I hope you will too. I will not bury my brother or sister in my own fears. I will acknowledge my fear of this extreme hate. I will overcome. I will never become them hating them.


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