Like most Americans I spent a majority of last week in front of the television trying to make sense of what had happened. Tuesday and Wednesday were spent channel surfing between CNN and ABC, because of their levelheadedness and professionalism. On Thursday however, I stumbled into the dark side of the American character, that went far beyond the opportunistic price gouging.
Here In Cleveland I awoke to the news that graffiti had sprung up over night in residential neighborhoods with the message; "Arabs must die," scrawled across buildings and bus stops in red spray paint. Irrational nationalism is to be expected in times like this, as emotions and tempers flare from the initial tragedy. But what one does not expect, while bodies are still being pulled from the rubble, is Americans blaming other Americans for what is clearly not domestic in nature.
While channel surfing I decided to see what the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) was talking about, and was literally shocked to hear the hateful propaganda being spread under the banner of Christianity. The reverend Pat Robertson said, and I quote, "America is experiencing contractions resulting from the birth of a new world order centered around Christian revival."
Calling the last three days "God's hour" Pat said it was important to check the pulse of America, and then went to Jerry Falwell for a discussion about how the Christian community should interpret these terrorist acts. Mr. Falwell, again showing his complete lack of knowledge, and his unwavering intolerance, said that this was God's way of punishing Americans for permitting the work of the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Organization of Women, and People for the American Way. He also said that America is being punished for tolerating homosexuals and pagans.
With my jaw resting firmly on the floor, my mind raced. I couldn't help comparing this sort of religious fanaticism with that of those responsible for the act of violence responsible for the World Trade Center massacre. To group law abiding Americans in with; to use his words, "Middle Eastern monsters such as Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein," is not only hateful, but irresponsible and reckless, in this time of national mourning. It's dreadful to think we are witnessing the beginning of yet another religious war.
If blame is to be placed, it belongs with those responsible for these heinous acts of barbarism. Attacking flight attendants with box cutters are the acts of misguided humans, not some omnipotent divine being, to attribute it as such is nothing more than denial based in religious convenience. If America is indeed at war, it will not serve the greater good if those Americans with religious convictions seek to scapegoat Americans they deem to be a threat to the tenets of their faith.
America is a place of unparalleled freedoms; this is a good thing. A perception of moral treason is not the issue here, and for certain members of the Christian broadcasting industry to imply that it is, should be seen as a mean spirited form of McCarthyism to be denounced at every utterance.
In the face of tragedy, all should be concerned about how we can support each other, not tear each other down. Because we are Americans first, cultural heritage, religious beliefs, and sexual orientation are secondary to our common bond of community. Those hoping to further their own interests in response to this crisis, trample the memory of those lost to the terror of zealotry. This will not stand.