Blog Roundup – August
Last week, in the wake of a number of attacks on religious minorities in the Midwest, some colleagues and I attended a vigil to support our Muslim and Sikh brothers and sisters. Instead of standing in solidarity with those communities, we heard several speakers denounce the GOP and preach against the party’s use of polarizing language while simultaneously employing words just as divisive.
I left dissatisfied. I agree wholeheartedly that prejudiced rhetoric like Rep. Joe Walsh’s (who recently said that there is a radical strain of Islam present in a number of Chicago suburbs) is dangerous and un-American. But countering hate speech with more hate speech isn’t productive, and frankly, shouldn’t we be better than that?
How, then, do we decry the hate speech of leaders in a way that invites them into dialogue and relationship instead of alienating them, that seeks reconciliation rather than retribution?
Some of our bloggers this month addressed these same questions. Chris Stedman’s reflections on storytelling point to one way in which we can build common ground. Skyler Oberst’s post offered one of my favorite prescriptions for the problem of prejudice: “Hatred is a sickness. And you don’t get mad at sick people, you heal them.” Audrey Allas reminded us all what is at stake when we stand up for pluralism.
I’ve kept coming back to the song “One” by U2. It speaks eloquently to the pain and anger many people, both perpetrators and victims of these attacks, must feel, but notes the futility of responding in kind ( “I can’t keep holding on to what you got, ‘cause all you got is hurt”).
My favorite line: “We get to carry each other.” Get to, not “have to,” not “are obligated to.” Our interdependence isn’t a hassle or an imposition. Instead, brothers and sisters, whether you’re Muslim, Sikh, or Islamophobic, it’s a privilege and a blessing to carry you, and to be carried by you. The Sikhs in Wisconsin who fed reporters and law enforcement after being attacked showed this so beautifully.
I think, also, of one of my favorite songs from the movie Hairspray, which, despite dealing with a painful topic like racism in 1960s Baltimore, is irrepressibly upbeat. I love the song for its optimism in the face of prejudice, and because I believe that entering the promised land together will look an awful lot like dancing.
As I sign off from IFYC, I leave you with one last thought. A wise man once told me that the heart of the Gospel is found in one two-word verse: “Stay awake.” We have work left to do.
After August, Blog Roundups will be written by IFYC’s new Communications Associate, Gautam Srikishan, a recent graduate of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
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