Sunday, December 6, 2015

Unburdening Myself about Immigrants and Islam

This latest terrorist attack in California has shaken me - I admit it.
Not so much because it makes me afraid of being attacked, but because I am afraid of what it means for the country - and for my own heart and soul.

This one is different. This wasn't a terrorist attack upon strangers in Paris. This wasn't even a terrorist attack upon strangers in Boston of the U S of A. This was cold-blooded murder of co-workers and peers who threw you a shower and bought you gifts for your baby. This was the slaughter of people who opened their hearts and lives to you, and with whom you shared office space and a holiday gathering only minutes before you murdered them.

This strikes at the heart of what I think of when I think - "America". If the news interviews are any indication, this office gathering was full of people from many other places in the world, who chose to make this country their home, and to become Americans. From some of their accents, they were "first generation". They lived and worked together, and seemingly got along well together. 

Except for the fellow who was born and raised here, and the wife he imported. That imported bride (who passed the government's "vetting", by the way), now seems to have been the catalyst and driving force. 
By all appearances they were living the American Dream - freedom of worship, a good education, a good job, co-workers who cared... 

At what point does all of that opportunity, trust, and multicultural inclusion translate into mass murder? Where did the short-circuit happen? 

Certainly this guy and his wife wouldn't be the first Muslims in this country to turn to the insidious message of hate. The Army psychiatrist, and the Boston Bombers come immediately to mind. (And no, I'm not even going to even speak their names) Clearly living in America didn't work any magic for them. But why didn't it? What was different for them? And why didn't their religious communities and families recognize it?

Being in medicine, I have many friends and associates who are first or second generation immigrants, who have made a life here and become Americans. So, what works for THEM that didn't work for these others? I don't know - I wish I did.  But it does now make me worry about the continuous new influx of immigrants - and God help me - yes, Muslim immigrants. I HATE that I feel that. I don't want that suspicion taking root in my heart - I don't like it - but I'm struggling with what to do about it.

I learned religious tolerance early on. My mother converted to Catholicism from Lutheranism when she married my Dad. My Dad had lifelong Jewish friends from Dental School. I learned about the Pillars of Islam, and the Bhagavad Gita, and the life of the Buddha from - of all sources - Sister Mary Lilliose in World Cultures class in high school.  I'm about as religiously open-minded as they come. So, these new seeds of suspicion that are trying to germinate, have me in despair for myself.

I don't consider myself anti-Muslim, or even anti-immigrant (as long as everybody got here legally). As is often said, we are all immigrants to this country if you go back far enough. Though I kept my Irish married name when I divorced, I am Pennsylvania German to the core. There are German ancestors from nearly every branch of my tree who arrived in PA before the Revolution. Then there are a sprinkling of English who intermarried, and then more Germans who arrived and set up farms before the Civil War. 

But my people became Americans almost as soon as they arrived. They fought in the French and Indian War, and in the Revolution, and in the Civil War - because THIS was their country. Yes, some of them held on to traditions and language. My maternal grandfather could still speak a little "Pennsylvania Dutch"  - the German dialect that was passed down in his family, and which was still spoken in the streets and markets of rural PA when he was a boy. But they were Americans, without a doubt.

So, I wonder what is happening now? What made this couple turn against the very people who had welcomed and accepted them? I'm not sure which was more shocking to me - that the man was born and raised here and wasn't himself an immigrant - or that he and his wife would abandon their own infant to go perform their butchery.

None of it makes sense to me. I am struggling to not let the rot of suspicion and religious discrimination get to my soul. It makes me worry for myself, and for my country. Because this attack wasn't from Muslims who were strangers. This one is harder - because this one came from Muslims who were coworkers and apparent friends. This attack was more insidious than Fort Hood or Boston, because it may now cause people to become suspicious of those muslims they already know, and previously trusted. I hope I'm wrong.

This is the kind of betrayal which can harden people's hearts and destroy communities.
IF we let it.

I'm struggling not to feed that particular wolf.
But not at least admitting the struggle, and not talking about it only makes things worse. We NEED to have this same conversation as a country. We NEED to talk to eachother and our Muslim friends and neighbors. We need to admit to our fears. We NEED to agree to support eachother, and to help eachother understand, and to work with the Muslim community to keep this from happening again.

The national conversation needs to happen. The president with his platitudes and mocking scorn of real concerns,  and the attorney general with her threats  - can both go pound sand. 
We need to talk.

Thanks for letting me get that off my chest.

1 comment:

  1. I agree, this is what we as Americans, should do. I don't have your background in comparative religion, although I have explored several from the inside. Islam is the one I will research now.

    Thank you for your heartfelt thoughts and for sharing them for all.