Trampling freedom won’t protect it

We shouldn’t let fear get the best of us

Mr. Tuchinsky, former editor of the CN&R, runs the communications-management firm Idea Cultivators.

Recently, a fairly progressive relative of mine forwarded an e-mail message that left me shaking my head. The subject line said “Goodbye Great Britain”; the message linked to a video clip on YouTube titled “BRITAIN TODAY” posted April 7. The video rebroadcasts a CNN report showing protests and marches by fundamentalist Muslims in the United Kingdom.

The original e-mail message contained the following:

“This is happening in all of the large cities of England and Scotland. The British government should deport all non-citizens of the Muslim faith—but do they have the courage? …

“Now the USA is allowing a mosque to [be] built right next to where the twin towers once stood. Are they out of their mind[s]?”

The e-mail message linked to the video clip talks about deporting illegal immigrants, infusing its stance with legality, but there’s no such delineation from one of the initial forwarders, who says, “This is what our country [h]as to look forward to. If something is not done to stop it, the United States & Canada are next.”

I was shocked to see fear-mongering put forth by a woman who’d never before displayed signs of prejudice or reactionary thinking. So, I called her on it. She explained she’s frightened for the future, comparing Muslims who advocate Sharia law to Nazis of WWII Germany.

I see the parallel. We’re in rough economic times. People are scared. Scared people embrace scary solutions.

However, there’s a key distinction. The Nazis rose to power by winning German elections. What are the chances of fundamentalist Muslims taking hold of our democracy when their platform openly challenges virtually all American citizens?

The United States has a lingering legacy of racism: slaughtering Indians, enslaving Africans, interring Asians, etc. It’s tragic how Americans have been—and, apparently, are again—willing to deny their neighbors’ basic rights upon which this nation was founded. (A nation of immigrants, I might add.)

A vague call to vague action is a slippery slope.

How we react to adversity shows more about our true character than how we act in times of prosperity. Let’s not allow ourselves to degenerate into feral creatures, lashing out in fear. History demonstrates, time and again, that freedom has a way of overcoming oppression. We mustn’t turn into oppressors.