After spending a week with my 12-year-old grandson, I am convinced that we Americans are a naturally tolerant people. One often hears of kids his age getting involved in humane efforts like collecting food and clothing for the poor as well as save-the-environment efforts. Our conversations were sprinkled with not only tolerance for ‘the other’ but egalitarianism as well. Apparently, intolerance must be carefully taught to children, otherwise they would continue with liberality throughout their lives.
As we rode the South Shore commuter train to and from Chicago both days, he experienced many types people riding along side him- people of many ethnic and economic backgrounds. It truly was a mini melting pot of Americana as it stopped to load passengers from every socio-economic neighborhood along the way.
There has been a recent spate of intolerance in our land, especially towards those who practice the Muslim faith. President Obama was severely criticized this weekend by the right-wing for his message of freedom of religion. For those critics, the First Amendment apparently needs to be amended, just as many of them are calling for limits to the Fourteenth Amendment. Naturally, many in the Republican Party are demagoguing for political gain, but that tactic, the criticism of the freedom of religion for Muslims, is both troubling and explosive.
What does that say to the world at large about the fundamental ideals of America? It clearly mocks the Ezra Lazarus poem on the Statue of Liberty. Further, it reminds one of those ugly religious wars fought on the blood-stained soil of Europe.
What possible political advantage do those on the right-wing expect as they carp against the building of a mosque near Ground Zero? Do they expect that most Americans will respect them for their stand against religious tolerance? Do they expect a few more votes in November? Is that their goal?
As I type this, tens of thousands of American military men and women are standing on Muslim soil fighting for America. Many say that we are ‘fighting for freedom.’ We Americans like to toss that freedom word around as we head into yet one more foreign military operation. Operation Enduring Freedom is the official Pentagon name for our war in Afghanistan. Operation Iraqi Freedom was word-smithed by the Pentagon for the war in
Iraq. Apparently, the word ‘freedom’ mollifies deployment of our troops in foreign lands.
Freedom and tolerance; they fit together like glove. You can’t have one without the other despite what political operatives want us to believe.