Yesterday was a very angry day.
Not for me, I was fine. In fact, I spent the day doing things that I love. I rewatched Troy with the missus. I checked out some Alliance of American Football. I grilled. I had some beer and cut down all of those red-berry bushes my wife has been on me about. They’ve been on my list, so when the snow uprooted the bigger two entirely it created an opportunity. I’m all about opportunity.
So my day was great. Hers, too. She sorted through some old clothes. We continue to unpack the stuff we brought in the move that was still packed up because we didn’t know how long we’d stay. There’s now a bag in the garbage, a bag for the needy, and two piles were thrown in the laundry. Life is good.
The anger I saw was mostly from Christian conservative friends and family online. I mean, the most hateful stuff you can imagine. Mostly aimed at Muslims, but definitely aimed at Democrats. There must have been some serious stuff on Fox News about the physical barrier, the faux emergency at the border, or the Somali-American politician currently serving Congress in Minnesota’s 5th district. Maybe all three.
One guy posted that any leader that can’t swear allegiance to the Bible in America should be cast out of Washington. Another wondered aloud what happened to a (fictional) 1950’s law prohibiting Muslims from holding office. There was one false meme about immigrants bringing smallpox into the country through the southern border. I saw that one from three different people. In one of them the disease was changed, but they all used the same picture of an immigrant with scabies from 2014 to prove that the current caravan was carrying an epidemic into the U.S.
Is this a typical Sunday? I admit that a lot of Sundays I’m offline in the morning, meeting with friends or watching pregame football, so I don’t know. I do know this is nothing new, but there was a terrifying uptick of it yesterday. Why?
Another friend of mine – another conservative Christian – posted a meme about not using the Word of God to promote hate, but instead love. Although I did challenge the assertions of some of the others, I went out of my way to thank this last friend for finding meaning in his chosen faith. For recognizing that Christianity is supposed to be a religion of acceptance even if it is so rarely utilized that way. The reason the Christian faith became so popular in the world is because of its universality, not its exclusivity.
But going beyond that, the most popular belief system in the world today isn’t a religion but an ideology. Liberal democracy. Humanism. It is a particular strain of belief that says that all men and women are created equal. That each of us have an inalienable right to freedoms such as speech, expression, peaceable assembly, and our choice or not of religion. The last one guarantees the Somali-American politician currently serving Congress in Minnesota’s 5th a right to serve.
We can all disagree. I can believe there is no god and you can believe in as many as you like. I can accept downtrodden refugees at the border, and you can fear them. I can believe in the right to bear arms in America and also believe that we need better laws to control them. You can believe that abortion is murder and I can believe in a woman’s right to choose.
Our modern systems of government allow for those beliefs. And it is in the shared politic of public discourse that we come up with rules of law to guide us, and to ensure that my belief is not entirely imposed upon you and your belief is not entirely imposed upon me. Democracy guarantees a balance, or at least it ought to.
You folks out there aren’t “stupid Republicans.” I’m not an “idiot liberal.” We just see things differently, and that’s okay. What we absolutely have in common is that we do not want some authoritarian principle to enforce their beliefs upon us if they contradict our own.
That’s why America was made. To challenge authoritarian rule.
Democracy is sticky. It’s terrible, as Winston Churchill once said. The worst form of government except for all the others. It requires compromise.
We can have a great society. Build a better democracy. Be the beacon of the entire world. But we have to agree that we do not have all the answers, you or I. We have ideas and beliefs. And when we learn to talk those through, without the spite and hate, we become better people.
So leave the memes behind. Lose the hate. Ilhan Omar, my old youth pastor, my brother, and me. We’re probably all good people trying to figure out how to be better, how to live in this crazy world of competing ideas. We’re going to get a lot further in love than we ever will in hate.
That part I strongly believe.