Think of the children

August 15, 2010

The principal assumption of those that seek to demonize the Muslim communities existing in the United States is a historically familiar one: at any moment, the monolith other might reconfigure itself into a fifth column. Muslims must, therefore, constantly prove themselves worthy of citizenship by denouncing themselves and their religion, their identity. In a sense, this hysteria is a reversal of one of Western civilization’s core principles, that one is innocent until proven guilty. No such civility can, of course, be extended to a dehumanized monolith as the parts are necessarily a miniaturization of the whole. Ergo, if one Muslim flies a plane into a building, all Muslims could, conceivably do so, and therefore they must be guilty until proven innocent.

How does one prove oneself innocent? By protesting over and over, in a loud voice, to an indifferent public, that they personally are not guilty, can never be, even though they are Muslim. The psychic trauma inflicted by this forced litany is massive. It must show itself in the simplest things: one must repeat “I repudiate myself” even when engaged in the mundane activity of buying a can of tomato juice at Walmart at noon or while walking to the subway. This is in no meaningful way different from sufferers of PTSD who must repeat “I am safe” while reading the newspaper on the bus or the fervent child of an alcoholic who must make loud protests about how she cannot drink as her father was a drinker. In effect, they must convince themselves in order to persuade others of their intrinsic worth.

There have been multiple repudiations of Osama Bin Laden and his ilk by plenty of people, respected and not. No sane person could possibly consider terrorism a worthy means to an end or shrink from its human cost. I don’t know enough Muslims in America to know their attitudes towards this or that but I am certain, that they are human, and sane. Nor do I think it’s relevant that I haven’t gone around asking. I know enough husks of human beings that will forever be stained by past or association and the wounds inflicted on their souls. Let me ask you this: Are you ever convinced by constant protest? If a child were to deny, quite stridently, that she did not beat up her brother, would you not suspect she did? You must think there has to be something deeper. Does anyone take the roadside preacher mumbling about the Rapture seriously? He has, quite certainly, given that sermon multiple times. To be sure, he believes his words. He is sincere. He is doing it for himself but also for our benefit. He wants you to share his belief. Just as the Muslim who takes pains to dissociate themselves from the terrorists are being forced to.

This is what apologies amount to.

I moved to the NYC area from Vancouver BC. There’s history in BC, of demonizing Japanese-Canadians that supports everything I’m saying here, just as there is history in the works of Holocaust survivors like Aharon Appelfeld, the history of trauma forced upon a community. There is no nobility in suffering, not for the oppressor or the oppressed. Ten, fifteen years from now, we will have moved on from this present hysteria once it is made abundantly clear by these constant protests of innocence (we will tire of hearing the same dull chants), but they will still be here, broken and unable to speak much more than “Here, for you, I repudiate myself.” Here is Joy Kagawa, a Nisei, a second generation Japanese-Canadian who lived through internment camps and suspicion despite assimilation and decades of paranoia, on the effects it had on her.

My experience of the Japanese Canadians […] is of a vastly and profoundly disparate and broken people […]. Many Nisei, like myself, who suffered the drawn out trauma of racial prejudice during our formative and young adult years have a deep timidity burned into our psyches with the injunction that we must never again risk the visibility of community.

By demonizing, as a culture, we are forcing deep timidity upon the young and the future. They will not ever easily risk the visibility of community. They will live with shame. Entire sections of the population will never raise their voice in song or be able to look you in the eye. Seriously, think of the children.

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