Friday, April 3, 2015

Up the ante! Down with the anti-!

      Yesterday, we heard the horrifying news of the killing of 147 college students in Kenya.  Further reporting later in the day and this morning suggested that the majority of the students that the Al-Shabab militants singled out as hostages or for killing were Christians.  That is, their "crime" -- other than being Kenyan, since many Kenyan Muslim students were freed -- was their religious tradition.  The Somali Al-Shabab gunmen were, therefore, both anti-Kenyan and anti-Christian. We have recently heard similar stories coming out of other countries where religious extremism and political discontent have become potent allies in pressing a particular agenda.  The anti-[fill-in-the-blank] forces seem to be out in full.
      Sometime in the last couple of weeks I was listening to a radio discussion about whether anti-semitism was so on the rise in Europe that Jews would be better off, or safer, in some other country -- the U.S. and Israel were suggested as good examples  where their "safety" was better assured.  There was, of course, discussion as to the source of the anti-semitism:  was it related to increasing Muslim extremism in Europe?  Or was it related to a resurgence of Nazi-like thinking? 
The experiences of Jews in Europe has been seen to be negative, however, regardless of the source. 
      Reporting out of Burma/Myanmar, on the other hand, indicates that the Rohingya Muslim minority is being persecuted by the Buddhist majority, sometimes quite violently.  Many of us can recall the horrific Christian massacres of Muslims in the Balkans several decades ago. But lest we think this is all somewhere "over there", we read, often enough, of anti-Muslim incidents in the US. The killing of three Muslim young people in Chapel Hill, NC a few weeks ago is just one example.
      So, within the span of about a week, I heard stories of "anti-Muslim" actions, "anti-Christian" actions, and "anti-Semitic" actions.  If I plug the words "persecution" and the name of any religion into a search engine, I can be assured of multiple results.  The same would be true, of course, if I 
substituted the names of ethnic or racial minorities for religious groups. As much as any group is persecuted, so are no groups free of being the persecutor.  We, as a species, seem hell-bent (and I use that word purposely) on being opposed to folks who are different from us.  If we can't find something obvious, we will manufacture some feature/belief that we can use to divide us from the "un-washed". And, once we've established the dividing line, we're not too far from setting up mechanisms to eliminate the opposition.
       I am not so naive to believe that there aren't some folks who pretty much ARE wrong, and who need to be corralled.  I would see various terrorist groups -- foreign and domestic -- as examples.  Those groups take an "oppositional attitude" and run amok with it.  Yet most opposition does not need to result in violent conflict; it can, sometimes, result in productive discussion and learning . . . if we are willing to allow for the possibility that we have something TO learn.
       Refusal to be taught is refusal to grow, a refusal to proceed, a refusal to progress. It is a choice to live in an "anti-world".  The challenge to us who think more positively is to up the ante, to live in a "pro-world", to learn and to teach that a peaceful future can be seen in the eyes and hearts of those who look different, and differently, than us.


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