“This is not America. America was not built on hate!”
These words of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington, summarize the feelings of many of us when we read about the “anti-Muslim frenzy” that is escalating because of the opposition to the construction of a mosque near “Ground Zero” and the threatened burning of Korans in Florida.
Indeed, “America was not built on hate,” but hate feeds on fear and insecurity and our topsy-turvy economy has bred plenty of fear. Fear does strange things to us.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt understood that when, in the midst of the Great Depression, in his first inaugural address he told the nation: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
When we are gripped by fear we are driven to do something…anything…but something. Oftentimes our actions are extreme and they trigger extreme reactions.
It is ironic and sad indeed that the event that brought us together in 2001 is tearing us apart in 2010, but events seldom occur in isolation. They are part of or the culmination of a continuum of events.
Polarization has gripped our nation for several decades and has climaxed in the present schism in our country reflected in religion, in politics and many other aspects of our society.
We no longer attribute good will to those with another point of view, but paint them as evil and deserving of punishment for holding their perspective.
Intolerance has two faces, one is fear, and the other is hate. Fear is bred by insecurity and/or lack of understanding. Hate is the extreme reaction to fear and insecurity, it is basically an urge to eliminate that which is causing our fear and insecurity.
Love of neighbor is mandated by Jesus (Matt 22:39) the Jewish scriptures (Lev 19:18) and the Koran (4:36). It is based on the inherent God given dignity of human beings.
Hate and intolerance must be eliminated one person at a time. I cannot eliminate hate and intolerance in anyone else, but I can work to recognize it and eliminate it in myself.
Each of us is responsible for eliminating it in our own life. To do less is unworthy of our God given dignity.
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