Terrorist babies? What’s next?
“The art of leadership. . . consists in consolidating the attention of the people against a single adversary and taking care that nothing will split up that attention. . . . The leader of genius must have the ability to make different opponents appear as if they belonged to one category.” —Adolf Hitler
Last week I attended a Somos America meeting, a coalition of non-profits, civic and activist groups working against SB 1070, and heard for the first time the term “Terrorist Babies.” This morning I looked up the phrase and was appalled to find that it had come from the floor of Congress, used by a congressman from Texas to incite fear about people allegedly coming across the border and having children to be raised as terrorist citizens.
This flagrant attempt to put Latino/a immigrants in the same category as terrorists brought to mind the above quote by Adolf Hitler, and it send a stab of fear into my heart. While Hitler was insane, he was also a very smart politician who was able to move an entire country and rally them around a hateful and racist agenda. An agenda that cost millions of lives and tore the world in pieces.
I also read another quote this week: “unresolved trauma can keep us excessively cautious and inhibited, or lead us around in ever-tightening circles of dangerous re-enactment, victimization, and unwise exposure to danger.” (Peter Levine PhD. from his book Waking the Tiger: A First Glimmering) I read this quote just after I finished co-hosting a radio show, “A Different View,” on a local AM station here in Phoenix where we had been discussing immigration, the Mosque in NYC and the economy.
When I read the quote, I did not know the context for it, but was immediately cognizant of the fact that our entire country has never been give the opportunity to heal from the trauma of the 9/11 attacks on the World trade Center. Instead, we were fed rhetoric of US and THEM. We were fed a steady diet of antagonism and revenge and we were told that war was the only option. We were told that the men who did this were Muslims and that we had God on our side. Religion was used as a wedge to justify war. Over and over we heard only that they were Muslims, little if anything was said of their political and social motives. Islam itself became the enemy, and all those who call themselves Muslims became terrorists. Little was done to clarify a difference, and since Islam is not well understood by non-Muslims in the US, it was easy to conflate the two, to create an enemy, in an attempt draw the nation together with one common enemy.
There are people who felt these attacks could be exploited for personal, political and professional gain. And they were right. And some continue to exploit the fear that was manipulated from these attacks. We have been fed a steady diet of fear and loathing since that day, and the diet continues. It seems to me to it becomes more and more insane each day. Here in Arizona the lies about the increasing crime rates, drug trafficking and violence continue to spread despite the facts. These lies have fueled our fear and have allowed us to become more susceptible to even bigger lies, like the one about “Terrorist Babies”. A claim drawn from thin air with no foundation in fact or reality. A claim designed solely to conflate terrorism with immigration creating the illusion of a “single adversary” in not just Muslims, but now in the Latinos community as well.
“Unresolved trauma…leads us around in ever-tightening circles of dangerous re-enactment, victimization, and unwise exposure to danger.”
Our fear closes us off from our compassion, from one another, and from God. The inability of people to step back and listen to one another (ourselves as UU’s included), the rhetoric on both the right and the left, the demonization of others- none of this will succeed in bring about the Beloved Community. None if it will succeed in bring us together and healing the wounds of a nation. If we are to cast out fear, we must bring Love. If justice and equity are to be a reality, we must bring compassion to all of our interactions and we must honor the inherent worth and dignity of all people, not just those with whom we agree. We must be willing to engage with one another to find solutions and not assume that we have the only “right” path. We must truly live our values and not just talk about them.
Gandhi said, “We must be the change we wish to see in the world”.
The Buddha said, “No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.”
Saint Augustine said, “If you would attain to what you are not yet, you must always be displeased by what you are. For where you are pleased with yourself there you have remained. Keep adding, keep walking, keep advancing.”
And the blessed George Carlin said, “I put a dollar in one of those change machines. Nothing changed.”
We live in a democracy; a melting pot of ideas, cultures and religious beliefs. As religious people we are called to find that way. As religious people we are called to create the Beloved Community we seek by acting in manner that is consistent with our beliefs even when it is difficult to do so. We are called by our faith to move from judgment to compassion and from fear to love. This is a spiritual practice, a vital, life giving, life sustaining practice that brings us to the side of Love where we can stand with firm resolve, and the assurance that God, and the future of all people, is on our side. As religious people standing on the side of life, we must engage in this spiritual practice together- from judgment to compassion and from fear to love, each and everyday. This is to truly Stand on the Side of Love.
Rev. Paul Langston-Daley
West Valley Unitarian Universalist Church