Friday, August 20, 2010

Warning: tonight I am heartsick, and I'm climbing a soapbox

Although not specifically related to museums in any way, you may file this post under observations on our current cultural landscape. Forgive me my soapbox, I've grown accustomed to employing it when I feel like the world has gone completely crazy.

Heartsick. That's what I am. Heartsick about this entire “Ground Zero mosque” situation, its contrived political importance and the senselessness of turning the Muslim equivalent of a YMCA into an ugly national debate.

Lately, I am reminded of the first time I stood at the gates of the monument at Wounded Knee in South Dakota. I was 15 and couldn't shake the overwhelming feeling of guilt and shame born of knowing that people who looked like me had committed a brutal massacre on that ground simply because they could not understand someone else's way of life. Instead, the white cavalry chose to see the Lakota only as other than themselves, un-American, ungodly, and undeserving of sympathy, or respect. Wounded Knee was a desolate, haunting place. It was horrible. I have never forgotten how heartsick I was that day, and I believe I am a better person for it.

Today, I am sorry that people who think they share my faith are seeing our Muslim neighbors as "others," spreading hatred instead of compassion and understanding. Truly these people do not know my God. I am sorry that along with losing their common sense, many Americans have lost any sense of the history of the terrible atrocities committed against marginalized peoples in the past, how each act began with small, but purposeful steps toward setting these groups apart from the powerful majority. The examples are too numerous, the parallels so obvious, and yet many of our citizens have been stirred up by so-called leaders and are choosing to ignore the sad legacy of intolerance, racism, and hatred. They are choosing not to remember. It has been said that when a totalitarian government comes into power the historians are always the first ones to disappear, now I know why.

Tonight, I pray for the safety and well-being of my Muslim friends and their families. I also pray for the rest of my fellow Americans, that we may come to deserve the birthright of freedom our forbears paid for with their own blood-- the same freedom that our men and women in uniform are fighting and dying to protect. As a child at a Christian church camp I stood hand in hand around a flagpole with other little girls and boys who looked like me, and together we sang, "Long may our land be bright with freedom's holy light, protect us by thy might, great God our king." Our fathers' God, author of liberty, please let it be so for all Americans.

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