Thursday, July 06, 2017

Making Assumptions - Muslims And Whites, Conservatives And NPR

Here's an interesting piece about a Muslim/Indian-Amerian doctor practicing in a small western Minnesota town.  He's been there a couple of years when the Trump campaign starts unleashing anti-Muslim tirades.  Then the election.  Then he finds out his county AND his town voted 60% for Trump.  What should he do?  Stay?  Leave?
"In two hours, he was supposed to give his third lecture on Islam, and he was sure it would be his last. A local Lutheran pastor had talked him into giving the first one in Dawson three months before, when people had asked questions such as whether Muslims who kill in the name of the prophet Muhammad are rewarded in death with virgins, which had bothered him a bit. Two months later, he gave a second talk in a neighboring town, which had ended with several men calling him the antichrist. . .
. . . He began talking about Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who had referred to Islam as a “vicious cancer.”
“There are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world! Now, according to General Flynn, we have to purge them? ‘We have to purge the world of Islam!’ ” he said in a mocking voice.
He was far off his outline now.
“You can sense I’m angry about that,” he said. “Wasn’t Jesus angry when he went into the temple and knocked over the tables of the money changers? He was angry. Injustice should make us angry! Okay? I am angry about the election. Because there is injustice there, and I have felt that within my family. And with the burning of mosques? And something like 150 bomb threats to Jewish synagogues? We should think.”
He looked at Duane again, a neighbor he had considered a friend before the election but had barely spoken to since."
This article highlights (for me anyway) how susceptible people were who had never really knowingly met a Muslim and their assumptions.  Also how the Muslim doctor has to guess at what his neighbors are thinking about him and his family - his assumptions.  It's also a reminder that the divide is not a clearcut as it's portrayed.  And that talking to each other can make a difference.  A good story, well told.

A second example of assumptions happened when NPR read on the air and tweeted the Declaration of Independence.  Apparently many Trump supporters, seeing tweets with 180 characters of sentences from the Declaration, thought NPR was mocking Trump.

“He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers,” read one line of the document.
“A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people,” read another.
Some people — presumably still in the dark about NPR’s Fourth of July exercise — assumed those lines were references to President Trump and the current administration.
“Propaganda is that all you know how? Try supporting a man who wants to do something about the Injustice in this country #drainingtheswamp,” tweeted one user whose account has since been deleted but whose messages were captured by Winnipeg Free Press reporter Melissa Martin. 

So many things these days are like Rorschach tests - how we interpret them says more about us than it does about the original.

When I heard the NPR folks reading the Declaration, I was struck by some of the items on the list of grievances against King George:
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
It was amazing how the colonists could so vehemently protest these wrongs, when they were committing similar wrongs, and would continue for over a 100 years more, on Native Americans.

But in their eyes that was different.  Another grievance against the king was this:
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions. 
I wonder if English newspapers ever referred to the rebelling colonists as 'merciless savages'?

It was ok for the colonists to plunder the native lands, override tribal governance systems, burn towns and destroy lives of the indigenous peoples of North America, but not for the British to do these things to the colonists but in a much less heavy-handed way.

Lots of assumptions here - those of the more conservative listeners and mine, plus the colonists assumptions about the Native American people, whose plunder was justified because of the assumption that they were uncivilized children compared to civilized Europeans whose job it was to teach them the ways of Christianity and civilization.

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