The Monsters Are Always Due on Maple Street
Yesterday, in the wake of the evil, vicious shootings surrounding Charlie Hedbo, a controversy arose in the small town of Newberg, Oregon’s Mountain View Middle School social studies curriculum.
For a number of years, a class in world studies has had a section designed to teach students about Islam. This section appears to have been added sometime after 2001, no doubt as the rest of the country found itself suddenly wondering, “Wait, Muslims are the ones that believe what, exactly?” Judging by the assigned homework, it appears that the section follows in the footsteps of most junior high social studies curriculum, which is to say that it is saccharine, uncomplicated, and watered down to the point where it seems to be treating its students’ mental faculties with derision. (Both of my sons took social studies in junior high, and much of what they learned was akin to riding the It’s A Small World ride at Disneyland.)
The controversy, over local talk radio much of the day yesterday, stems from a number of concerned parents’ single concern: That the class does not teach it’s children “the truth” that Islam is an inherently barbaric, violent religion that is The Enemy. In talk radio land, of course, this is proof of a kind of forced, stealth indoctrination — not only into liberalism, but into whatever hidden mechanizations are paving the way for the government outlawing your religion and implementing Sharia Law as the law of the land. The call to arms has gone out here in Oregon – and has been answered by a surprisingly large number of otherwise good, tolerant citizens — to force the middle school to change its curriculum into one that warns children of the dangers that lie festering within the homes of their Muslim neighbors.
Indeed, the monsters are always due on Maple Street.
And if that seems bizarre or even unusual, it’s because your memory is short. Around the time I began writing here, there was a push — a very, very popular push — for the government to disallow the building of mosques in several parts of the country, including New York, North Carolina, Idaho, Tennessee and Michigan. It bears underscoring that most of these demands to use the power of the State to refuse Muslims their legal right to build a house worship happened not in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, but in 2011 — the second half of Obama’s first term. Further, just two years ago the most visible members of one of the two major political parties gathered in Washington, DC to tell their followers that their Muslim-American nieghbors were knee deep in nefarious plots: The president was a secret Muslim out to destroy America, the FBI and security forces were being “brainwashed” in preparation for a quasi-military coup, and within the first months of 2014 America would outlaw churches and synagogues as the push for forced indoctrination into Islam commenced. To underscore yet again, this was not some local KKK meeting from September 12, 2001. It was from the largest grassroots political conference in the country just two years ago — an event that featured the several one-time leading candidates for President and the then-current vice-presidential candidate of one of the two major US political parties. It was broadcast live on CSPAN.
This, I believe, is the rather important context that ran through my head when I read Vikram’s wonderings as to why the White House treats an attack from North Korea terrorists and an attack from Muslim terrorists so very differently.
Vikram’s take, I believe, is that it is related to the degree of power and motivation we see in our enemies. This may well carry more than a little truth, but I suspect it lacks the above context. In Vikram’s threads, I believe Tim came a little closer by suggesting it’s that in 2015 the thing we Americans truly fear is being called racists. But Tim also ultimately misses the point where that larger context takes us, which is this: If the White House is to be responsible in its leadership, it has to recognize that we can often times be our own worst enemy.
There is, as far as I have ever seen, heard, or read, no instances where Americans are glancing suspiciously at their Korean-Americans neighbors and demanding a price be paid for the actions of Kim Jong-Un. Major news networks do not insist that we treat all Korean-Americans as suspect and enemies of the state. Korean-Americans do not have to worry if their neighbors will have their churches shut down, or indeed burned to the ground by concerned citizens. Korean-Americans do not go onto Facebook to see their locally elected officials making light, “funny” comments about how they need to be shot, nor do they have to walk by town-hall Tea Party rallies declaring them “evil.” No pundit one from a major political blog, think tank, or publishing house is rushing to argue that we forcibly intern all Korean-Americans. And while it’s possible that in the next presidential election one of the two major parties will choose to tell its brethren that Korean-Americans are out to destroy their way of life, call me dubious.
That’s why the White House has to treat one attack differently from the other, and that’s why doing so is the responsible thing to do. And it’s not just an Obama thing: President Bush also made a point to repeatedly remind Americans that our Muslim neighbors were not the enemy.
And it isn’t because Muslim terrorists are so powerful (or at least not entirely so), nor is it because two presidents in a row have feared the label of racist (or at least not entirely so).
It’s because of the very true — but very impoliitc — realization that, at certain times and with certain topics, we are our own worst enemy.
[Picture via Wikipedia.]