Thoughts on Thoughts: The Fear and Hate Tango

Matt Ferner published an article at the Huffington Post today, Wednesday, December 16th, discussing the call to arms that states such as Texas, Florida, New York and Oklahoma are calling for given the recent media attention on terrorism, specifically terrorism connected to people of the Muslim faith.

Ferner points to the attacks in Paris and California as one possible catalyst for police asking citizens to “legally take up arms.” However, as Ferner also points out, Muslims are concerned about this call to arms, given, well, they’re Muslim. It’s a nerve-wracking gig these days.

The fear is that the combination of “anti-Muslim hate” and “legally tak[ing] up arms” is a deadly combination.

While it’s hard to tell given the generally manipulative nature of the media, it seems to me that walking down the street and whistling a show tune is pretty much a deadly combination these days. It’s not that I want to make light of the serious attacks taking place in our country—no. It’s not that I don’t think those of the Muslim faith don’t have serious grounds for fear—no. I’m just finding it hard to believe when I don’t hear about someone dying in our city on any given day, which is sad.

Now, Ferner tells us that Sheriff Milton Antony tells citizens to “prepare for battle,” which seems a bit extreme to me, but what do I really know? The truth of the matter is that none of these attacks (thankfully, and hopefully, this will continue to be the case) has affected me family personally. I don’t know what it’s like to be a grieving mother, sister, daughter, etc. of one of the dead. I don’t know what it’s like to be a Muslim. I don’t know what it’s like to be a police officer or a sheriff or a first responder.

I don’t know what it’s like to be anything other than myself.

Given Ferner’s article, we can also assume New York law enforcement is encouraging citizens with the license to carry firearms to do so. The article paints a picture which seems to point to an armed citizenry country-wide, for better or for worse. Texas law enforcement are right there with Antony, as expressed in this quote provided by Ferner’s article:

“We need to send a message to the criminal element as well to these terrorists and these jihadi who want to murder in the name of their god, and the criminal element that wants to go out, you know, and just totally destroy our way of life.”

The problem with messages, if I can interject my own viewpoint (which I can; it’s my blog), is they depend heavily on two parties—the sender and the receiver. And as such, messages are often convoluted, because no matter how clear the sender tries to be, the receiver might just fail to understand. So what message are we sending by encouraging our citizens to arm themselves? What message are we sending if we don’t do so? Who is deciding which message is right, wrong, or otherwise?

Even scarier, what if there aren’t cut-and-dry, right-or-wrong answers?

Ferner seems to have a slight bias (we all have biases) that favors the Muslim side of the argument, which unfortunately (for journalism) comes through a bit when he points out that the sheriffs and various law enforcement officers who are calling citizens to arm themselves seem to come from “majority-white areas seemingly unlikely to be the targets of large-scale terror plots.” He follows this point up by discussing the very real issue of Muslim discrimination in this country and abroad, citing several examples of Muslim hate crimes in our nation.

While I don’t understand what it is to be a Muslim, I do understand what it is like to be hated for who I am, and I know it doesn’t feel good. I would not volunteer to be a Muslim in this country right now. Just as easily, though, I would not volunteer to be a police officer, either. No one can catch a break—no one. Everyone seems to be a target of something: accusations of bigotry or prejudice, racial or religious discrimination, or straight-up violence.

The truth is—everyone is just plain scared all-around.

I think we need to recognize that fear, and not spend time invalidating it. Invalidation might take many forms, including pointing out that someone’s opinion is wrong simply because it’s not likely they’ll be a victim of a terrorist attack. Check out this quote from the article, and think about how it makes you feel:

“While the threat of terrorism looms large for many Americans, the odds of an American dying in a terrorist attack carried out by a perpetrator espousing any political ideology, whether overseas or at home, is extraordinarily low. The average American is more likely to be crushed to death by a television or other piece of furniture than to be killed by a terrorist.”

This makes me feel like it’s okay for the media to turn our attention to each and every piece of violence in America, including inducing a near-panic of terrorism via the news networks on the regular, but it’s not okay to be afraid, because after all, I could just as easily be assassinated by my flat-screen. Ferner’s motive here is likely encouragement, but when people are afraid, these types of “encouragement” usually don’t do the trick. I think if people are afraid, they should be able to admit they are afraid without someone telling them that fear is wrong, or unfounded—that’s all.

That being said, we also need to admit that fear makes people do all sorts of stupid things, like make comments such as the one Ferner points out Jerry Falwell, Jr. made when he encouraged students at Liberty University to acquire concealed weapons permits so “we could end those Muslims.” Sure, this is far from the best choice of words—it’s deplorable, even—but it is just one example of what fear can turn into.

Ferner offers up some valuable insight for both sides, but at the end of the day, we’ve got to remember that when we’re making decisions based in fear, there is a large chance we’re not making the best ones. No one understands what it’s like to be someone else. Everyone is in a different position when it comes to violence and terrorism in America. We’re all basically trying to stay alive, but we forget our humanity along the way sometimes. No one should have to live in fear—Muslim, law enforcement, or otherwise.

But we do.

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