No Good Deed…

Yesterday, I was driving to the grocery store, thinking about how mad the world has gone and how helpless I feel about everything. I don’t know how things came to be this way, and I don’t know what to do to stop this slow motion political train wreck from happening. Nothing I do as an individual will ever be good enough.

While I was in the grocery store, I bought some flowers and decided to drop them off at the Idriss Mosque on the way home. I can’t imagine what it must be like to feel as if you are surrounded by people who want you gone, and I wanted them to know that not everyone feels that way. In fact, the majority of us do not feel that way.

When I pulled in to their parking lot, there were several cars there, and I certainly did not want to disturb them in the middle of prayers, so I decided to simply leave the flowers on their front porch with a note.

As I approached, there was a woman standing on the sidewalk around the corner. She was a tiny, older woman. I really took little notice of her. I assumed she was waiting for a bus or a ride or something. But as I was leaving, she confronted me and asked me what I was doing.

When I told her I was leaving flowers, she asked me why, so I told her I wanted to give support to people who were being discriminated against.

In a thick accent, she then began quizzing me as to my family background, and I said Danish, and she shouted that I was not an American, then, and that I had better take care of myself instead of worrying about anyone else.

When I told her I couldn’t disagree more, she pointed at my flowers and said they were bullshit, and that I called them Islamic f*****s. As I walked away, I said I would never call anyone that. The hatred in her eyes is something I will never forget.

I went back to my car and wondered if she was going to throw the flowers away. That bothered me a great deal. But I knew I couldn’t sit there, guarding the flowers all day. So I left.

As I drove home, I grew very upset. Here I tried to do something good, and this woman had made me feel much worse. But was I leaving the flowers just so I could feel good? If so, then maybe that woman was right. Maybe they were bullshit, and I wasn’t doing it with a pure heart after all.

I came home and I sat down and I cried. I cried for me. I cried for the mosque. I cried for humanity in general. And I am still left with the feeling that nothing I do will ever be enough.

The experience was very surreal. I suspect there are lessons I will learn from it as I reflect on it over time. The only thing that I’m certain of is that I really did hope for a positive outcome.

I don’t know what that woman expected to achieve. I don’t know why she perceived me as being such a toxic force and felt the need to respond in kind. I just hope that one experience with a random hate-filled crazy woman will not keep me from trying, in my admittedly inadequate way, to heal some of the wounds in this world.

Update: Recently I received a lovely card from Idriss Mosque. It said, “Thank you for your continued support and friendship.”  I’m glad they got my message, and the encounter with the crazy woman was not their fault. I wish them well.

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Important Story, but Wrong Angle

It seems that a man in Oklahoma beheaded a former coworker. When you read about this, much is made of the fact that this guy had recently converted to Islam, and was trying to convert others as well. Apparently authorities are investigating his background.

When you read about this story from a variety of sources, several words and phrases jump to the forefront. “Muslim”, “Islam”, “Sharia Law”. What you aren’t seeing, and what seems blatantly obvious to me, is “Mentally Ill” and “Untreated”. Why is no one talking about this? This guy is a nut job. He needs help. Pure and simple.

The fact that his particular brand of crazy was focused on twisting a religion and taking it to a violent extreme is not, repeat, NOT an indictment of that religion. Yes, he spouted a lot of religious stupidity on his Facebook page. He could have just as easily decided he was the next messiah and that the rapture (another twisting of a religion, not mentioned even once in the Bible) had to be brought on through his own personal actions. He could have decided that he was an alien from outer space, and that it was his job to turn us all into the Venusian version of chicken pot pie.

The real story here is that he is yet another mentally ill individual who was showing all kinds of warning signs, and yet nothing was done to help him, with horrifying, tragic results. This could be an opportunity for the media to delve into the problem of mental illness in this country, ways to increase security in the workplace, and come up with a more effective system to get people the help they so desperately need.

Instead, this horrible story has been twisted into an attention grabbing sound bite about the evils of Islam. More and more, news is taken into this strange corporate machine, is twisted, bent, embellished and turned into a product that will draw attention, incite fear, and further an agenda. I long for the days of responsible journalism. If they ever really existed.

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Exploring Seattle — Part Two

This past Sunday I went to the local Unitarian Universalist Church in hopes of making new friends. I happen to be a UU myself, so it was a good fit, but I honestly believe that regardless of your creed or religion, if you want to meet people who are welcoming and open minded and non-judgmental, find your local UU church. In fact, whenever I travel on a Sunday I look for one, because you get a much more personal, less touristy experience that way.

One of the basic tenets of UU is that there are many paths to the divine, so they are very welcoming of a wide range of philosophies from Athiesm to Humanism to Paganism to Christianity to Buddhism to Hinduism to Judaism to Islam. The only thing UUs have a hard time with are fundamentalist charismatic types who try to force their beliefs upon others. It’s also why you don’t hear much about UUs. We don’t recruit. We don’t believe in influencing others. So you’ll never hear us saying that our way is the only right way. You’ll never hear anyone criticizing your race or your sexual orientation either.  In fact, we don’t have a single way. And that’s what I love most about this community.

When searching for a local congregation, I was thrilled to discover that there were many, many, many to choose from. In Jacksonville, as large as the population is in the area, there were only two. Jacksonville is a hyper-conservative stronghold. So when I saw the abundance in the Seattle area, I got really excited.

The minute I walked in the door I was made to feel very welcome. And the service was all about embracing change. That’s what my whole life seems to be about these days, so I had to smile.

After that, many UU Churches have something called “Joys and Sorrows” or “Cares and Concerns” in which you can stand up and share the good or bad in your life. I hate public speaking, but I stood. I told them that I had moved all the way out here from Florida, and that I don’t know a soul. I told them I was looking forward to exploring this amazing city and state but that I am also quite lonely. That was hard for me to say. Really hard.

After the service, everyone was on me like ducks on a junebug as we like to say in the South. They were giving me phone numbers and e-mail addresses and telling me I was very brave for having said all that. They also recommended veterinarians and dentists and doctors and mechanics in the area, and fun things to do and great places to walk my dogs. They invited me to the women’s group and the book club and the yoga classes.

So there you have it. I have found my first foothold. I hope that eventually my work schedule will settle down so that I can take advantage of it. Baby steps.

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[Image credit: uui.org]

“Those Towel Heads Can’t Be Trusted.”

Yup, that actually came out of a coworker’s mouth the other day while we were discussing the Boston bombings. And I must admit I went off. I couldn’t help it. I’m so sick of the ignorance and bigotry. This is what I said to him:

“Every sweet has its sour; every evil its good.”

                                                                  -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Naturally his response was, “Huh?” To which I replied, “Do you seriously think the Muslims are the only group with a lunatic fringe, a mentally deranged and evil element? Seriously? Okay, then how do you explain the following?”

  • Adolph Hitler was a Catholic.
  • Pol Pot was a Buddhist.
  • Stalin, responsible for the execution of hundreds of thousands of people, went to a Greek Orthodox Seminary.
  • Pinochet was a Catholic.
  • Vlad the Impaler, torturer of thousands, was Christian.
  • Baruch Goldstein, an Orthodox Jew, perpetrated the 1994 Cave of the Patriarchs massacre in the city of Hebron, killing 29 Palestinian Muslim worshipers and wounding another 125.
  • Eric Rudolph, the Olympic Park Bomber, was Christian.
  • Ted Bundy was a Methodist.
  • James Holmes, the shooter in Aurora, Colorado, was Lutheran.
  • David Berkowitz, the Son of Sam, called himself a born again Christian.
  • Sampson Kanderayi was a Christian who killed more than 30 people to appease evil spirits.
  • Andrew Kehoe, a Roman Catholic, blew up 45 people, 38 of them children, in a school in Lansing, Michigan.
  • Wade Michael Page, the man who shot six people in a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin last year, was a devout Christian.
  • Robert Oppenheimer, who oversaw the Manhattan Project which produced the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, instantly killing  150,000 men, women, and children and many many more in the years that followed, was interested in Hinduism.
  • Jeffrey Dahmer was baptized into the Church of Christ, the religion of his childhood, after he went to prison.
  • The Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, was an atheist.
  • Dylan Klebold, one of the Columbine shooters, was Lutheran.
  • Ivan the Terrible was Russian Orthodox.
  • Charles Carl Roberts IV, the man who shot all the Amish school girls, was a member of the Faith Church.
  • Torquemada, the poster child of the Spanish Inquisition, was, of course, Catholic.
  • Timothy McVeigh was a Roman Catholic.
  • Adolf Eichmann was raised Lutheran, and was an active member of the Evangelical Church until 1937.
  • Mao Tse-tung, who was responsible for 40-70 MILLION deaths, was an atheist.
  • Genghis Khan prayed to the Burhan Haldun Mountain, and consulted Buddhist Monks, Muslims, Christian missionaries, and Taoist monks.
  • Adam Lanza, the Sandy Hook shooter, was Catholic.

And how do you explain the following?

  • The vast majority of the participants in World Wars I and II were not Muslims.
  • In Rwanda, where the rivers have run with blood, 56.9% of the population is Roman Catholic, 26% is Protestant, 11.1% is Seventh-day Adventist, 4.6% is Muslim, 1.7% claims no religious affiliation, and 0.1% practices traditional indigenous beliefs such as the Jabiyan ethno-religious belief system.
  • Angola, home to one of the most brutal civil wars in history, is a predominately Christian country.
  • 33 people died in the Salem Witch Trials, which were conducted by a Puritan government.
  • Very few Muslims resided in America during our Revolutionary or Civil wars.
  • The vast majority of the owners of slave ships that transported slaves to the Americas were Christians.
  • The Aztecs hadn’t even HEARD of Islam, yet still managed to perform their human sacrifices.
  • Apartheid in South Africa was perpetuated by the Afrikaner minority. This system was responsible for the death of thousands and the displacement of hundreds of thousands. Afrikaners are predominately Calvinists.
  • At least 110,000 Iraqis have died since we Americans declared war on them. Some say it’s more like 1,033,000. 4,486 US soldiers were also killed. Our main justification for that war? 9/11. The number of Iraqis who were involved in the attack on the World Trade Center? 0. Another justification for that war: weapons of mass destruction. The number of weapons of mass destruction found? 0.
  • The murder-suicides in Jonestown were conducted by the People’s Temple Cult.
  • It was Christians who gave blankets infected with smallpox to the American Indians.
  • It was the US Public Health Service that intentionally misled 399 black sharecroppers into thinking they were being treated for their syphilis when in fact they were not. (They wanted to see how the disease would progress. Nice, huh?)
  • The Crusades were started by Pope Urban II.
  • When the Chinese tried to stop opium from being brought to their shores by the British, the British started the Opium Wars.
  • Germans slaughtered 10,000 Nama in South West Africa.
  • 11 Australian men, 10 of European descent and one of African descent, slaughtered 30 unarmed Aboriginals, mostly women, children, and old men, like they were dogs. It was called the Myall Creek massacre.

Do you still think the followers of Islam have cornered the market on murder and violence? Give me a break. We’re equally bad. And equally good, but that’s a subject for another blog entry.

So the next time you’re tempted to spew your Islamophobia, at least now you’ll have some facts, which means you’ll have to admit, at least to yourself, that what you’re trying to convince yourself of is actually nothing but hatred and ignorance. No culture is composed entirely of saints or completely of sinners. Stay stupid if you want to, but at least have the backbone to own it.

“Every sweet has its sour; every evil its good.”

                                                                             -Ralph Waldo Emerson

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(Image credit: peaceisgood.net)

History Repeats Itself

Here in America most of us think of the Great Depression as being something that impacted our country alone. Not so. The depression did originate in the United States after the stock market crashed in 1929, but it spread throughout the world, causing drops in personal income, tax revenue, and international trade. Unemployment went sky high. Construction came to a grinding halt in many places. Sound familiar?

In Germany, unemployment soared as American loans meant to help rebuild the country after World War I dried up. As people became more and more afraid, their political system got increasingly extreme. The German people were looking for someone to blame, and the Jews, who were so culturally different from them, became good scapegoats. “They” were not like “Us”.

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Cartoons like these, demonizing the Jews, became quite common. We all know what happened from there, and most people, if they have any sense at all, are horrified and ashamed at the deterioration of humanity that resulted in the holocaust.

That could never happen again, right? Well, I came across this cartoon today.

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In the present day, it’s not the Jews we are targeting with our fear. It’s the Islamics. Even people that I care about very much are saying things like “All of them are evil.” “They all want to destroy us.” And every day you see more and more news about Islamic atrocities, as if in our culture sexual abuse, kidnapping, murder, bombers, and hatred don’t exist. As if we all agree with our government 100 percent of the time, and can therefore be tarred by the same brush. As if “they” are animals that are incapable of love, humanity, integrity, intelligence and goodness like “us.”

When I hear this kind of ignorance spewing forth, I want to shake people and say “Look what you are doing! Again! Can’t you see?” When you start convincing yourself that a certain group of people is less than human, it leads to worldwide destruction. We will all lose.

We’re sliding down a slippery slope, people. I want to at least be able to say that at some point, I had the decency to say, “Stop.” But my voice doesn’t carry very far. If you stand with me, it will carry farther. Don’t let the hatred and fear that is being spoon fed to all of us override your common sense. For the sake of humanity.

Doomsday Postponed: The Antidote for All This Holiday Cheer

Well we survived the Mayan Apocalypse. Whew! What a load off the shoulders of all those doomsday preppers out there. Or is it? I mean, once you get past the feeling of being a total fool, what do you do for fun?

Here’s the thing, people: the end of the world has apparently been coming for a long, long time. The first prediction I can find through my lazy Google search was for 634 BC. Apparently a lot of Romans thought that 12 eagles had revealed some mystical number that was supposed to represent the lifetime of Rome, and people arbitrarily decided that that each eagle represented 10 years, so Rome was supposed to be destroyed 120 years after its founding. I wonder how you prepare for the end of the world in an era when you don’t have canned goods?

There were many predictions that the world would end on December 31, 1999, but this kind of millennium prediction is, apparently, old hat, because the same thing happened 1000 years previously. Even the Pope at the time was in on that prediction, causing riots throughout Europe. Boy, I bet Pope Sylvester II felt awfully sheepish the next day. Doomsday predictions based on calendars that are made up, often quite arbitrarily, by humans make me laugh. (See more about that in my previous blog entry entitled “I’ve Got Your Number. Right here. https://theviewfromadrawbridge.wordpress.com/2012/12/12/ive-got-your-number-right-here/ )

Oh these pesky, impetuous popes! The ironically named Pope Innocent III predicted that the world would end 666 years after the beginning of Islam. So we should have been toast in the year 1284. Honestly? Is this responsible behavior for God’s Representative on Earth? I don’t think so!

But the funniest predictions, if you ask me, are from the people or groups whom I call “revisers”. These are people who have the audacity to push the date further out into the future when their previous predictions don’t come to pass. Case in point, the Bible Student Movement, the group responsible for originating those delightful Watch Tower tracts that get stuffed under your windshield wipers at strip malls to this day, has predicted that the world would end in 1874, and then (oops!) 1878, and then (our bad) 1881, and then (we mean it this time, really we do) 1908, and then (seriously) 1914, 1916, 1918, 1920, and 1925. For crying out loud, people! What’s it going to take for you to stop getting sucked in to this stuff?

The Jehovah’s Witnesses branched off from the Bible Student Movement, and jumped right on the doomsday bandwagon. They have predicted our ruin would occur in the years 1941, 1975, 1984, and then they wised up and got more vague and said it would all be over “sometime” before 2000. Well, so much for that. And yet I still get these people knocking on my door. When is THAT going to end? That’s what *I* want to know.

Another one I find amusing is Elizabeth Claire Prophet. She was the leader of the Church Universal and Triumphant. She became convinced that the Russians would start a nuclear attack and had her followers spend millions building an enormous fallout shelter. But we all know that construction projects are rarely, if ever, completed on time, so when the bunker wasn’t done by the predicted date of the nuclear attack, she simply revised the date. You’d think that would have been a bit of a red flag, but no. When the structure was finally completed, everyone took shelter and waited for the explosions, which, of course, never came. Not surprisingly, the movement lost a lot of followers after that, including her own son. Search her on youtube and you’ll see a lot of interesting footage of her in full military garb, or speaking in tongues. She came by her flair for languages honestly, though, as she claimed to have been previously incarnated as Nefertiti, Queen Guinevere of Camelot (apparently she was real after all), St. Theresa of Avila, St. Catherine of Sienna and Marie Antoinette. She died of Alzheimer’s disease in 2009, leaving behind a big ol’ honkin’ fallout shelter in Montana, in case you and a couple thousand of your friends should ever need one.

Okay, so I have been poking fun at all these doomsday chumps, but sadly, these predictions can have a very negative and sometimes tragic fallout, if you’ll excuse the pun. People often spend a great deal of time and money preparing for an end that never comes. They also warp their children into living a life of fear and anxiety and paranoia. And even worse are the predictions that lead to death. On March 26, 1997, Marshall Applewhite and 38 of his followers in the Heaven’s Gate Cult committed mass suicide so that they could be picked up by a space ship and live lives at “a level of existence above human”.

Of course, I have no answers for all of this, and I’m certainly not going to make any predictions. I just know that there are a lot of people with anxiety disorders in the world, and there are even more people who are so desperate for answers that they’re willing to follow those people. I prefer not knowing the date of my demise. If the bombs are going to fall, I’d rather have them drop right on my head while I’m living my life to the fullest.