A few issues keep popping up for me and are detracting me from my main goal this year. I feel a need to address them. They primarily focus on one of two topics. Since the Charlie Hebdo attacks in France, there’s been this insistence that Islam is some particularly vile and heinous religion. The second, related issue is that the United States is some sort of privileged, exceptional nation.
The problem I am having with the current espousal of Islam hatred is that it’s ahistorical at best. It is racism at worst. It tend to also blur the lines between the best and the worst. (To be fair, this area is slightly outside of my area of focus, so I lack the in depth knowledge to discuss it fully.)
The ahistorical aspect tends to look at the Muslim extremists (for lack of a better term) from places such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Sudan, Yemen, et al. and claim this is causality to condemn Islam. Hamas is classified as a “Muslim terrorist group” by several nations. I find that Hamas represents the problem quite well. Hamas has a dual purpose. They do represent Sunni Islamism. But they are also a militaristic group dedicated to Palestinian self-determination and against Zionism.
When we see Hamas commit and act of violence, or see support for Hamas from people in the Palestinian territory, can we be sure it’s an act of political violence? Is it always an act of religious violence? That ignores the historical reality of the region.
When we look at the history of these cultures and regions, we see similar patterns. There was the French in Algeria, the British in Nigeria. There has also been increased US involvement in the Middle East. (Re: Operation Ajax for clarity.)
When President Obama spoke recently and pointed out that Christianity has it’s own history of violence, the conservative outlets went crazy. A lot of people pointed out that the Holy Wars and Spanish Inquisition were centuries ago.
Obama’s comments were brief and didn’t really get to the heart of the matter. These things did not end hundreds of years ago. Some of them were merely decades ago. Some of them are ongoing. Christianity was used to justify the Belgian Congo. There is even a religious undertone to the violence committed by the IRA. More importantly, Manifest Destiny is Christian in it’s foundation.
This idea that as society moved Westward it became more evolved until it went to California is rooted in a religious theme. (The idea was that past California was the Orient – where we get to the orientalism of Europe and the cultural condemnation of Asian culture, where Islamic hatred has roots.) The very idea that the US has the right to treat the other world as inferior is Christian in origin.
The point is that one does not have to “defend Islam” to claim that it’s not quite accurate to condemn Islam above all other religious dogma. The same is true for the United States. There’s a wide variety of opinions between thinking the United States is the most star-spangled, awesome country in the world, and thinking it is the absolute worst cess-pool of a nation on earth.
I’ve been chastised a few times on internet forums for simply pointing out some of the flaws of the United States today. Simply pointing out that the US has the largest prison population in the world, or pointing out that the US has ethnic persecution that results in street executions, or pointing out that the US is falling behind in education is deemed as “hatred of the United States.”
What is downright infuriating is that most people that claim it is hatred to point out flaws of the United States have no problems constantly condemning other countries. Not a day goes by in the United States where someone is not condemning the People’s Republic of China. But the positives are few and far between.
The truth of the matter is that the PRC has an 81% approval rating of the federal government (according to the Kennedy School of Law) but what is the approval rating of the US Congress? In 2014 it was 15%. (Gallop) Yet, somehow a country that has a high public approval rating of the government is less legitimate than one that has almost no approval from it’s citizenry? That’s just laughable.
None of this means that the People’s Republic of China does not have problems. Nor does it mean that the United States is the worst place on earth. But we don’t have to make either claim to simply say that the People’s Republic of China is not the worst place on earth, or that the United States is not better than the rest of the world. It’s not a zero sum game. Why can we not think the people of China have the right to have their own government and the people of the United States have the right to have their government?
The discussion usually devolves where I ask those claiming American exceptionalism what makes the United States superior to every other nation on earth. It’s never a rational answer. Sometimes the answer is hot dogs and apple pie. Other times it’s some poetic nonsense about the US Constitution. None of them can tell me what rights are in the Constitution that exist nowhere else on earth. That’s because there are none… and there doesn’t have to be.
You can like the United States and not hate Denmark or Germany or Brazil. You can think the United States is a nice place and accept that other people think Spain or Kenya are nice places. Some people like spicy guacamole and others like mild. It doesn’t mean that spicy guacamole is better than mild for everyone.
What is more infuriating in this regard is this claim that the United States is so superior because it allows for such individuality and personal freedom, yet the same people making this claim allow for no dissent. Disagreeing with them that “The United States is the most fucking fantastic thing to ever happen to the earth,” means you are not deemed fit to stay in the United States. “If you don’t like it, leave.” The US has so much freedom of speech, shut the fuck up if you don’t like it. The US is so morally superior, it can bomb the shit out of anyone that disagrees.
Yes… America! We have so much freedom that if you don’t like, fuck off and get out.