A Message to Friends Regarding the Muslim Ban

Just sharing a little personal experience here. A stream of conscience, if you will.

I understand that fear of the unknown is natural. Seeing a Muslim extremist on television about to chop off someone’s head is frightening indeed. So many of my friends have strong opinions on this and yet the vast majority of those friends don’t even know a single Muslim. Not one.

While working with government contractors and associations I’ve had the opportunity to work with quite a few Muslims. I’ve had a Muslim supervisor. I’ve worked for a company with an Iranian president I assume to be Muslim. I recall being in meetings where no two people were from the same country. There was a harmony of purpose to achieve common goals together. No one blinked. No one regarded anyone else with suspicion. On several occasions it was a Muslim who had my back, so to speak.

I’ve also performed music regularly at a restaurant owned by a Muslim. My music wasn’t censored. The money was green. All good stuff.

How strange is it that some people are willing to include dogs and cats within their concept of friendship, but not Muslims.

I make no claims to any expertise in this area, but I’ve noticed that the countries in Europe where terrorism is the biggest concern have Muslim communities that are marginalized. In those countries most of the Muslim population live in ghettos segregated from the main population. Laws are passed controlling the way they live and dress. Some sensible, some merely exclusive.

It’s always been different here in the U.S. Muslims come here, albeit in fewer numbers, and assimilate seamlessly for the most part. They are happy, productive and patriotic.

Your new president (sorry, I just can’t bring myself to say “our”) has the power to change this. His actions are that of a reactionary rather than an intellectual. I want to say he’s just f@/king dumb, but I’m trying to write with some degree of sophistication.

Banning Muslims sends a huge message. A message large enough to cause a sensitive high school kid to abandon his plans on medical school because he now feels disenfranchised—a potential ISIS recruit in the making.

Sure, some of the Islamic traditions seem backwards and primitive to the western world. I certainly believe they need to evolve. But I really doubt that ostracizing them or cramming our culture down their collective throats is going to have the desired effect. We should live by example and watch as they adopt over time to a more progressive world. We should punish them when they actually break a law, not before.

There are Islamic extremist nutcases out there—foreign and domestic. It seems they don’t pick their targets randomly. I don’t plan to live in fear, but neither do I want my country to adopt policies guaranteed to make us more of a target.

But really, I guess that’s my way of saying if you don’t actually know any Muslims you have no credibility with me.

The New Colossus

I believe it is safe to assume Emma Lazarus, author of “The New Colossus” which graces the inner wall of the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, would not vote for Donald Trump.

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Let’s forget for a moment the completely insane notion that it’s actually possible to deport 13 million people of any race or origin. A nation that couldn’t find takers for a handful of Guantanamo prisoners can pull this off? Sure.

Let’s also forget the cost to execute such an undertaking would run into billions of dollars, but certainly wouldn’t end there because the bulk of those deported would no longer be contributing to the tax base. Yes, they pay taxes and do so without the loopholes.

Let’s also forget the destabilizing effect of losing those “aliens” whose lives are so intertwined with our own. Many of us love them and need them.

Instead, let’s focus on the ideal of the sonnet.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

Storied pomp? Arrogance? Apparently many in this country have decided to embrace the temperament of those ancient lands from which our predecessors fled.

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me

Who could have dreamed that people of such desperation would contribute so much beauty in music, art, philosophy, and well — everything? Perhaps people who are made to feel like outsiders work a little harder for acceptance. Perhaps those who feel entitled need to be made aware of the whole picture, not just the dirty little fringe aspects that are common to the low lifes of every society.

Liberty-StatueLet me sum this up. I’m not afraid of xenophobic idiots and self righteous thinly-veiled racists who spout this nonsense. You will lose. Your numbers are dwindling. Your flag has been taken down.

Our current president is living proof that when push comes to shove, a mighty woman with a torch, whose flame is the imprisoned lightning, will show up at the polls and kick your deluded asses. Enjoy the banter while you can.

Be Nice

In the late ’70s and early ’80s I was involved in a Christian Pentecostal church which subsequently became very controversial because of its association with a high profile evangelist of dubious sincerity. I was young, inexperienced and, for the most part, dumber than a rock. However, in retrospect there were many great lessons to be learned apart from faith and scripture. Also, this experience exposed me to many fascinating characters; some good, some outright disdainful.

One of the good ones was an elderly preacher by the name of Glen Miller. As a musician I will never forget his name for obvious reasons. He was a sweet man who was extremely fond of the adage “A man convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still.” In that regard he practiced what he preached. I once witnessed him in a heated debate with another preacher during which he remained kind and respectful throughout. All the heat came from his opposition.

The United States is moving forward with some historic Supreme Court decisions that step on very sensitive areas in our communities. Many people feel their rights and traditions are under attack. Perhaps the latter is true. I think it’s clear some traditions need to be attacked. After all, sacrificing virgins to the Sun God was once an acceptable tradition somewhere. With the way we are able to exchange information in modern times, there is no excuse for failing to evolve and become more enlightened.

The momentum of social progress can rise gradually like the tide, or come crashing like a wave. It’s the wave that concerns me. As we debate the issues of today, we need to understand that the adage is true. Human nature can be extremely defensive. If you start an argument with an insult, your words are completely wasted beyond their contribution to a mob mentality. You will not convert anyone regardless of the strength of your logic. However, if inciting a mob reaction is what you intend, be prepared for the consequences.

Am I guilty of this? Oh, hell yeah. That’s why I decided to do a little blog writing as self penance.

We are truly divided. There will never be a time when everyone becomes liberal or conservative. In fact, there are studies that indicate our political views may be more in our DNA than in our souls. Is it not wrong to attack someone for having tendencies that they were born with? I know this is a fuzzy line. Even I have moved from one end of the political spectrum to the other as the result of arguments put forth with the correct recipe of logic, diplomacy and persistence.

Keeping it real, I know that at my self righteous best I am still dumber than a rock in the greater scheme of things. When you spend enough time looking at Earth from the perspective of the Hubble Space Telescope you are forced to realize there will always be more questions than answers. It’s an exercise in humility. Like that line in the Lee Ann Womack song “I Hope You Dance”: I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean. Humility and diplomacy go hand in hand.

The country is experiencing growing pains. Everyone is cranky. The best advice I can give was better delivered by the Patrick Swayze character in the 1989 film Road House. Be nice.