Conservatives have brains that work differently from the rest of us. They do not tolerate ambiguity, conflicts, or paradox well, and they prefer structure, clarity, and stability. This brain research might offer what one blogger called a “Unified Field Theory of Wingnuttery.” Does the theory explain the last month of rabid anti-Muslim fervor stirred up by the Geller-Palin-Gingrich-Beck-Fox syndicate?
It might, though this batch of nuts is so profoundly rotten, they reek. Ordinary wingnuts cannot hold two ideas about one subject together if the ideas point in opposite directions, so they confuse fiction with reality. For example, the Tea Party-Beck rally in Washington D.C. gathered at the Lincoln Memorial on the anniversary of the great Civil Rights march while obeying instructions warning them to stay off the Metro lines to the Black areas of town, like Howard University.
Because they cannot hold opposing ideas together, Wingnuts believe: “we are good, ergo nothing we do can be bad.” These traits run on steroids when religion is involved—ergo, nothing rightwing white Christians do is bad. Unfortunately, I’ve noticed some of these traits among leftwing religious activists as well—these are my people. Religious left folks can be sure of our own rightness, making us unable to see our heterosexist, racist, or culturally offensive behavior. Christians have a trope about being sinners that softens the certainty somewhat. However, the true Wingnuts, left or right, prefer to spend 99.99% of their time denouncing the sins of others.
The current Geller-Palin-Gingrich-Beck-Fox-Tea Party syndicate, funded by the third richest family in the U.S., takes wingnuttery to a whole new level. They believe ordinary Muslim Americans (5 million of them) do not exist, because 19 terrorists from Al-Qaeda (maybe 10,000 of them) attacked us in the name of a fundamentalist form of Islam. Come to think of it, those terrorists also probably didn’t believe Muslim Americans exist; they certainly did not care whether or not they lived or died.
These extreme wingnuts have managed to make W look better, which is a flat out miracle; he did, after all, enlist the help of liberal Muslim leaders like Imam Faisal Rauf after 9/11 to spread the word that Islam is a religion of peace, whereas this new Wingnut gang has tried to turn Rauf into a terrorist. Another miracle: I’m feeling oddly grateful for Orin Hatch of Utah, who is no friend to feminists. But he’s the first Republican leader to support the building of the Islamic Cultural Center at Park51. Go figure.
I think the syndicate will fail to halt the Islamic Cultural Center in New York because over half of New Yorkers support its being built and the various arguments against it have started to bother even Orin Hatch. But the rotten wingnut propagation of negative views of Islam have increased vociferous anti-Muslim uprisings all over the country. Recently, the construction site for a new mosque in Murfreesboro, TN, was torched and is under federal investigation—an act of terrorism 886 miles from Ground Zero.
Such hate campaigns usually spawn apoplectic confusions, so that anyone who vaguely resembles a Muslim, like a Sikh or Hindu, may also be targeted for violence. This lumping of South and West Asians into the 1.5 billion people in the world who are Muslims, many of whom look nothing like the stereotypes, has been happening over and over since 9/11. Diane Marsh O’Connor, who lost her daughter and unborn grandchild in the 9/11 attack, knows the implications of such bigotry. She bemoaned the defensive replies to the charge that President Obama is a Muslim, as if the charge were a negative accusation. O’Connor does not want another group of American children to grow up believing something is wrong with them; the pain behind her concern was evident when O’Connor described the impact of racism on the African American children in her classroom.
I live in Oakland, CA, which has a thriving Islamic Cultural Center downtown and many Muslim communities around the city. They co-exist with Jewish congregations and Christian churches, as well as Buddhist, pagan, Hindu, Sikh, Unitarian Universalist, Mormon, and other religious communities. A year after 9/11, the Islamic Cultural Center opened its doors to a major peace march. I had just moved to Oakland that summer, and it was my first, but not my last, experience of Muslim hospitality in the city. I’ve been back to the Islamic Cultural Center a number of times. I’m grateful they are there and grateful to be able to pray with my neighbors. I’ll be joining them, along with folks from my UCC church in Berkeley, on September 10th to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, the finish of Ramadan. We belong to a network called the Axis of Friendship, and we’ve been asked to bring a message and pray with our friends at the Eid festivities.
I don’t think all the wingnuts can be changed; then again, miracles do happen. But a miracle comes from a lot of good people working really, really hard against the odds, while other things line up to put the wind at their backs, and everyone is surprised by the outcome. Orin Hatch might have been persuaded by one of his Muslim American constituents—the University of Utah has had a center for Middle Eastern studies for 50 years. Or, perhaps, as a Mormon, Hatch is sensitive about religious persecution and the moral implications of Islamophobia.
Given that only 9% of Americans claim to be familiar with Islam, the first step in disempowering the rotten wingnuts is to get to know our Muslim neighbors, to support their rights, and to hold teach-ins about Islam in our local communities. We have to reach across the stinking wingnut pit of hate and violence, shared with the terrorists they demonize, and take the hands of our Muslim neighbors. That’s the only way to believe in miracles—by making them happen.