The calendar date surprises me only in the way that it crept up on me. And yet here it is, and I have an impression much like the last time I had to move house, sitting in the middle of several boxes, and thinking, “How to go from here?”
Nine years after my city was attacked, I think we are still asking ourselves this question.
I’ve seen us start the conflict in Iraq and right now it has many similarities to Vietnam. There is much to be said for the effect that it had upon our troops; post-war PTSD is often permanent, and there can be no amount of therapy for some of our fighters than can put them right – it can only re-enable them to function. Barely.
We already know, as a nation, as a people, as individuals, that the war failed. Aside from the deaths of our troops, the United States became the butt of the world’s jokes and, in many parts of the globe, earned us contempt. It has also landed us in a very, very questionable situation: we have to pull out, lest we waste more money and lives like this, but at the same time, there is a risk of backlash.The Middle Eastern countries, whether they have mass weapons or not, have a long memory and I can promise you, this will not be forgotten anytime soon.
War brings the worst in people, whether at home or abroad, and this war has brought out a lot of what has gone on unnoticed for a long time. I have seen post-9/11/01 anxiety become a sort of an odd apprehension; to this day I look askance at the sky if I hear jet engines. Many other New Yorkers have started doing the same thing. When the Air Force One plane flew a little too low over NY, people have raised hell about it, citing that after planes brought down two buildings, the pilots of AFO should know better than to trigger this particular memory.
Even now, when I went to get more groceries, I remembered that nine years ago, when I was setting a land speed record coming home from school and keeping one ear on the phone and one eye on the television, I was pelted by ash and smelled a particular sort of acrid burning something in the air. I didn’t know as I was going home that what I was smelling was jet fuel, insulation, and victims. And today, nine years later, with groceries in hand, I marveled that the air smells clean today. And remembered, right then and there, exactly what that smell was like.
It doesn’t go away. 364 days out of the year, we New Yorkers try not to think about it, but we get a firm flashback today.
And lately, especially n the past three years, this day has been the attractor of controversy, mostly on the account of extremism, the most notable of which is the book-burning pastor.
I’ve been trying not to comment on these, but I feel that today, I should.
The book-burning pastor comes first, if only because I am an author, and I take this sort of a thing very personally.
I will first say, book-burning has been a signature method of the Roman Catholic Church to stifle protest. In England, before Protestant religion took hold, the Church has been ordering burnings of any religious pamphlets or texts that it disagreed with. Martin Luther’s works were burned en masse, wherever they were found. Book censorship has been a signature in pre-revolutionary countries (France and Russia, notably), and done so because controlling the media was the best way to control the masses and, back then, before the Internet had made information easily accessible, the best way was through books, and not necessarily tracts, political nonfiction, etc. Even fiction that was found to “promote ideas” was outlawed…of course, this was still circumvented, but I digress.
The point is, unfortunately, this “pastor” doesn’t shock me at all, but considering that the Islamic world holds their book in the same regard as the Christian world holds the Bible, and the Jewish world upholds the Torah, to burn the Koran is the highest of insults, and not just to them: to us as well.
Contrary to what the fundies in the US claim, this country was not founded as a Christian nation. The Founding Fathers were Freemasons, deists – believers, and keen to make this country a free one by the principles that were held important in those days. Life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness encompassed vastly different things in 1776 than it does now in 2010, but they knew even then one of the important things to establish was “to live and let live.” This principle was tested and evolved with time, and as of right now, this book burning is a nice old-fashioned slap in the face to that principle. Many have said, not just Islamic people, that the US doesn’t practice the tolerance that it preaches.
And you know, they’re right. How tolerant is this country, really? And not just to other religions, but to Different People? The immigration law in Arizona speaks to contrary. The fact that gay rights are a constant, uphill battle says something as well. The fact that a woman makes 77 cents to a man’s dollar says something else. And the fact that atheists are vilified are something less than human says yet another thing. Put all of this together, and the gilded image of tolerance begins to crack.
I have seen a lot of people say, “That guy has no right to call himself a Christian.”
I get where they’re coming from. The principles of Christ-like living have gone by the wayside, and this guy’s actions are a slap in the face to those people who have managed to adhere to their faith without ruffling feathers, or insulting someone of a different faith – or someone who is not religious altogether. Those people feel insulted by the fact that one extremist is doing something that goes against their principles to that degree. And I understand that.
However, if you consider how popular extremism has become, I’m not altogether surprised.
Really, though. Christianity in the US has lately been a contest of who could get more outlandish in their beliefs, principles, actions, etc. The book-burning pastor is only one example. The protesters outside of Planned Parenthood who intimidate and browbeat women regardless of what they’re actually there for are another. The people who “exorcise” their children and killing them as a result of that “exorcism” are yet another. And let’s not forget people who will, despite concrete, scientific proof to contrary, claim that the world really was created in 7 days, 2010 years ago.
It amazes me, and not in a good way. I’m astounded at what people can justify with what’s supposedly in their bibles, never mind the intent with which those particular verses were written, and never mind the number of times the Bible has been revised in the past five hundred years alone. And most people forget that the Bible was written by human beings to explain what back then, they had neither the science nor the proof to explain. Now, however, we do have that science and proof now, and it amazes me that some people will stuff their fingers in their ears and scream “la la la, can’t hear you!” to something that completely counters their religion.
This is the exact sort of attitude that has bred the book-burning pastor, and that is the attitude that is most obvious to the rest of the world. America is the butt of the world’s jokes, because for all our tolerance, we have tolerated enough intolerant people that have made themselves the center of attention with their own ignorance.
Truly, had the people researched the history of religion, and done so thoroughly, they would see their Jesus was often called “rabbi” – which means teacher – and that their own religion is a subset of Judaism. And that the Islamic religion had been the last monotheistic subset of the Judeo-Christian faith. And that all of the sects – Protestant, Presbyterian, Southern Baptist – would never have happened, had Martin Luther not gained popularity in Europe (England particularly), in the 1500s. And all of those religious changes were marked by bloodshed.
And all of those things have one major common trait with today’s world: lack of acceptance of differences.
Because after all the wars are done, we still have to share the world and coexist in it, as different people. Whether deist, theist or atheist, gay, straight, or in between, regardless of skin color, we still have to coexist.