The Gift of Advocacy

Over fifty years ago, people like Martin Luther King began speaking out about the civil rights of people in the United States, specifically the civil rights of African-Americans.  In the face of violence towards themselves and those that supported them, Rev. King and others maintained their advocacy for equal rights, not just for a privileged few, but for all people.  The combined strength of their voice, their actions brought our nation, indeed, our world closer to this ideal.

Fifty years is a long time; many have forgotten the struggles of the 50's and 60's because prejudice and bigotry has once again raised its head in our world.  What is it about the human psyche that there is such a strong need to vilify and demonize those who are different than we are?  

Recently, a large corporation pulled its support from a television program that showed Muslim-Americans at work and at home.  The program was an attempt to teach people that Muslims are not all terrorists, just like Christians are not all fundamentalists and Republicans are not all rich.  When we make sweeping generalization, when we stereotype, when we assume we know, we severely damage our relationships with others.  

Lest we forget, let us look back on our history, those of us who come from the comfort and privilege of these United States.  Let's begin with the finding of America.  
  • Christopher Columbus, hailed for years as a great hero, lead a search for gold and riches into America that killed, mercilessly, the Native People, called "savages" by the good people who wrote our history books. 
  • The Pilgrim Fathers of Thanksgiving fame are painted as peace loving settlers amongst the Native People, yet a year after that first gathering of thanks, the brutal and senseless massacre of the Native People began.  Why?  The desire for more land, more wealth, more, more, more.
  • As this country acquired more, the settlers began to enslave African people, dragging them from their homes, separating families, killing those who would not comply to the demands of their "masters." Let me remind you that these same people called them selves, Christians.
  • As the "West was won," settlers, eager to make it rich on gold and oil, continued to persecute the Native People, housing them on reservations under the benevolent guise of treaties and placing into forced labor Mexican-Americans as well as Chinese immigrants, who had escaped the horrors of their country only to face bigotry and enslavement here. 
  • In Boston, where I was born and reared, Irish-Americans where considered lower in status than African-Americans.  Treated as animals, my ancestors were sold into slavery and servitude, raped, abused and killed.  Their persecutors filled the lovely white New England churches each Sunday, sure of their goodness.
  • When Pearl Harbor was bombed, Japanese-Americans where herded into detention camps, losing property, livelihood and pride.  Interestingly, German-Americans were not put into detention camps, but then, they looked "American," didn't they.
  • Now, Muslim-Americans face the threats, the abuse, the cruelties of bigotry and oppression. Those who want to perpetrate hate, continue to niggle at the American conscious, calling into question the integrity of this particular group of Americans.
As a mother and teacher, I can state, first-hand, that no one is ever all right or all wrong. No human being is perfect, if we were, we would not be here.  Promoting hate does nothing more than make the world a hell.

During this Season of Light, a time when all Abrahamic traditions, (i.e., Judaism, Christianity, Islam, etc.) celebrate Love, Light, and Sacrifice, why do some feel the need to persecute others? 

When Lowe's, the corporation mentioned above, pulled its support of the Learning Channel's new series, All-American Muslims, Lowe's unequivocally promoted and surreptitiously supported prejudice and bigotry towards Muslim-Americans.  Supporters of Lowe's actions state that the company can pull their support for any program.  They bring up the "rights" of corporations to put their money into whatever endeavors they see fit to support.  After all, it is the "American Way."

Opponents to Lowe's actions argue, according to a CNN report, "that this situation is more than just being politically correct; it is about bigotry. Would a major American company remove its commercials...from a show highlighting the lives of Latinos, African-Americans, Jewish Americans or members of the LGBT community?"

The thing is, all this began when a "small, little-known group," the Florida Family Association, began a campaign against the show. This association is really one person, David Caton, the same person who attempted to demonize the work of the Gay and Straight Alliance, years ago. (Read more here - New York Times) Mr. Caton claimed that the series was "totally absent the true essence of Islam, which is the focus of a Muslim believer."  He went on to state in the CNN interview that the series was propaganda, an attempt to make American-Muslims look like Americans. 

Lowe's official statement as recorded in the Washington Post says, "The North Carolina-based Lowe’s issued a statement apologizing for having 'managed to make some people very unhappy.'

'Individuals and groups have strong political and societal views on this topic, and this program became a lightning rod for many of those views,' the statement said. 'As a result we did pull our advertising on this program. We believe it is best to respectfully defer to communities, individuals and groups to discuss and consider such issues of importance.'"

If we left issues of this caliber up to "communities, individuals and groups" we would be returning to the days of pre-civil rights, where lynchings where the result of such discussions; back to the time of the Inquisition, where people were tortured, and burned alive for not believing; back to an age before democracy, the Supreme Court and equal rights.

Thankfully, there are those who are standing strong against all this bigotry and prejudice.  My Fellow American is one such group.  My Fellow American promotes our country’s principles of liberty and justice for all. Here is a video from their site.

As we near the Holy Days, let us remember; let us open our hearts and minds to all our brothers and sisters; let us shine the Light of Love and Peace into the darkest corners of the world; thereby, upholding and continuing the work of Dr. King, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, and Sojourner Truth, and others like them all of whom believed in a world of equality, justice and peace.  Let us all give the Gift of Advocacy.


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Brenda Marroy said…
Wow Linda. You pretty much said it all. It sickens my heart to see what we've become as a people, and the lies that we've bought into. Thank you for writing the truth.
meleah rebeccah said…
I wish I had a better comment, but I think you've said it all.

Happy Holidays, my friend. xoxoxo
Linda said…
Thank you, Brenda and Meleah, for your kind words.

I believe with all my heart that if we can just open our hearts and minds, the world will be better.

May the Love and Light of this season bless you.
Alv0808 said…
I agree with your statement Linda. The world today need to retouch with mercy and love. Merry Christmas, Happy Holiday and Happy New Year...
Dear Alv0808,

Thank you for your kind words and thoughts. I know that you, too, are a Light in the world. Keep shining brightly!


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