It occurred to me that there are two issues in our country that feed into the prejudices of opposing groups. On the one hand, we have a group of bad actors committing terrorism in the name of Islam, creating a fear among too many that all Muslims are terrorists. And, on the other hand, we have a group of inept, racist cops committing murder under the guise of public safety, creating a fear among too many that all cops are corrupt.
Neither is true. A small fraction of Muslims are radical Islamic terrorists, and a small fraction of cops are despotic thugs that think black lives don’t matter. They don’t represent the majority of either group in which they belong. Yet, their acts are so heinous and vile, those of us on the outside looking in paint both communities with broad brushes and insist that our prejudicial views are justified. Why? Because we only listen to like-minded voices on either topic. We don’t want to hear that the truth is complicated and contrary to our pre-conceived notions.
I’m not going to pretend that there isn’t a problem with using a religion to turn desperate people to terrorism. I’m agnostic, so it’s easy for me to blame religious doctrine as a catalyst for hatred. But to me, there is no difference between Islam and Christianity in that aspect. Both are tools of oppression and hatred in the wrong hands. Theocratic governments, poverty, and lack of education is the historical formula for creating a terrorist. At this point and time, the Middle East happens to be the epicenter of these three elements.
I’m also not going to pretend that we don’t have a problem with the justice system in our country. Not all cops are bad, but the bad ones are being protected by the system. It’s a grotesque byproduct of the “Blue Wall” mentality. Misconduct by a police officer is protected by police unions, and district attorney offices that are essentially partners with the police departments in their jurisdictions. Corrupt cops are allowed to skate too often because there’s a ‘protect the badge at all costs’ thread of thought at the top of most police departments that taints everyone in uniform.
Here’s the thing, good Muslims, the majority of Islam, are as frustrated by the acts of terror committed in their religion’s name as most non-Muslims. And most police officers are as angry about the corruption among their ranks as most civilians. And both are equally enraged that they must share the blame of depravity committed by a small number in their communities. A few have spoken out, but they’re largely ignored because their condemnation doesn’t fit the “all are corrupt” or “all are good” narratives.
There clearly has to be a change on both sides of all issues. A person doesn’t deserve to be considered a terrorist because of their ethnicity and/or religion. A person doesn’t deserve to be labeled a criminal because of the color of their skin, and a person doesn’t deserve to be identified as a corrupt racist because of the badge pinned to their chest. We have to start talking to each other instead of at each other. When we start listening to each other, we can then institute meaningful systemic changes that solve the problems in a fair and just manner. If we continue to shout at and insult one another, we create wider divides that grow increasingly hard to bridge.
In closing, be a hugger, not a hater.