‘We have to get the “us” and the “them” right. The “us” are the people who believe in the American promise of pluralism. A country where George Washington said that it would give bigotry no sanction, persecution no assistance. A country in which one of our earliest presidents, Thomas Jefferson, reverently owned a Quran, hosted an Iftar dinner. America is a great arc of inclusiveness. It envelops everyone. I want my children to contribute to this country just like the children of my Jewish friends just like the children of my evangelical and Catholic friends. The “us” are the ones who believe in pluralism. The “them” are the ones who believe in extremism. It’s that simple.’
Our very own Lindsay Wells (she ran our events until she graduated from FSU Law School and moved back to Miami) exercising some good old American common sense in today’s Democrat:
One Saturday in August of 2009, I started an experiment.
Instead of going for my usual morning run, I had pestered my fiance into walking with me to the nearest Starbucks for breakfast. As we made our way down a busy local road to Starbucks, I realized that we were walking by numerous pennies and passing each one up without the slightest inclination to pick it up. After a mile and a half, we reached Starbucks and gladly handed over $7 for two regular small coffees without so much as batting an eyelash.
As we sat outside and enjoyed our morning coffee, it struck me as odd that I can spend almost $10 on what I can make on my own for a fraction of the price without so much as flinching, but I don’t even consider the loose change on the ground to be worthy of consideration. That was when I decided to do my experiment.
On the way back, instead of passing the pennies, I picked them up. By the time I reached home, I had collected seven cents. I was hooked. (Read the rest HERE.)
Editor’s note: Lindsay is the most organized person I know. Her penny campaign may just end up paying off the national debt.
“There is growing Islamophobia in this country. How else would you describe the fact that mosques around the country are being attacked? We are Americans too. We are treated and talked about today as if Muslims are not Americans. We are Americans. We are doctors, we are investment bankers, we are taxi drivers, we are store keepers, we are lawyers. We are part of the fabric of America. And the way that America today treats its Muslims is being watched by over a billion Muslims worldwide. And the battleground today is not between Islam and the West, the battleground is between moderates of all faith traditions in all the countries of the world against the radicals of all faith traditions in all parts of the world.(emphasis added)
“…American Muslims are very happy and thrive in this country. One of the misperceptions that exists in the Muslim world which needs to be fixed is the perception that Muslims in America are living in very very bad circumstances. The fact is we are practicing. We fast, we pray. We are able to do that. Our laws protect us, our political system protects us and we enjoy those freedoms in this country. And the Muslim world needs to recognize that.”
Editor’s note: In case you are one who feels inclined to judge all of Christianity as Dove Outreach Ministries in Gainesville has judged all of Islam, meet my dear friend Lea and her spectacular friend Claire. Lea and Claire are participating tomorrow in what our summer dinner speaker Stephen Kiernan calls Authentic Patriotism. Authentic Patriotism often happens without a lot of fanfare, certainly without network news coverage, but make no mistake that it is there. I cannot imagine a better way to mark the 9th anniversary of the devastating events of September 11th and the higher angels of Americans in response. And as whatever happens in Gainesville tomorrow happens in Gainesville, think Lea and Claire. I will be. (Find Lea’s fabulous blog online HERE.)
oh yes, one floridianâ€™s plans for september 11th have gotten a lot of press coverage lately. and i am not going to add to that insanity by linking to any of it.
because in my never humble opinion, the problem with that â€œchristianâ€™sâ€ plans for september the 11th is that it is way too easy.
because he plans to burn.
burning is easy. isnâ€™t it? light a match. put it next to something flammable and VOILA, fire. really, we have been doing it for thousands of years. even the youngest boy scouts learn how to set a fire. then they learn what the results of that fire are… because something winds up in ashes. and if the wind catches it just right, lots more things than you ever intended wind up in ashes.
so what will i, also a â€œchristianâ€, be doing tomorrow? something harder than burning. i will be building. the same kindling that burns is also used to build. the same Bible that he reads tells me to use my faith to build.
you see our friends and neighbors, the tomans, have a daughter, claire (pictured above), with down syndrome. and claire rides to school with us everyday. she loves me in a way that far surpasses the way anyone other than Jesus has ever loved me. she thinks i am a rock star because i sing a song to her every morning with the day of the week in it. it isnâ€™t a really clever song and i donâ€™t sing it that well but she cheers for it so loudly that at times i feel like justin beiber must feel.
so tomorrow morning we walk in the buddy walk to build relationships with our neighbors. we walk to build a bridge of understanding, of community, of education, of support for those who know and love people with down syndrome. i walk because i want tomorrow to be a day of hope. a day when the sound of laughter is louder than the sound of burning timbers.
why build? it is harder. it requires getting up early on a saturday. of getting sweaty through working and walking and talking. it takes WAY more time than burning. and WAY more energy. and the results… well, not as quick as burning. not as certain.
how do i know?
well, i have burned way too many things in my life. i have taken the easy route and just burned things up with my words, my actions, my revenge, my selfishness, my need to be RIGHT and HEARD and do it MY WAY. i have seen the collateral damage. i have felt the flames and they have even turned and burned me and scarred me even when i thought i was doing something to make someone else hurt and feel the pain. i have smelled the smoke in my hair and in my clothes. i have singed my nostrils and burned off my eyebrows. i have been downright pyromaniacal. and it was easy. fast. certain. resolute.
oh yes, i know how to burn.
so on september 11th, i will choose to build. in such a small small way that i wonder if anyone will ever see any results from it. but i choose the joy of hard work. the joy of walking hand in hand with friends, family, and strangers. the building of one brick at a time. one log. one board. one nail. one window. one door.
do i write all this because i think i am â€œbetterâ€ than that other floridian. nope. just worried for him. worried that this might singe his eyebrows off before it is all said and done. worried because i know that pyromania is addictive and fire spreads.
perhaps i am a bit wiser. i have been shown a â€œbetter wayâ€. by someone who liked to build. because He is a Carpenter. you should see what he can do with two boards and some nails (yeah, that one might have been over the top). but He might just be able to tell us a thing or two about how to build…
Fire came one sunny September morning to America nine years ago tomorrow. It was bright and blinding and so unexpected that even these many years later we can barely look directly at it.
When radical Islamists chose to set fire to America, the consequences – human nature being what it is – were probably to some extent predetermined: There would be more fire.
Former Catholic nun Karen Armstrong writes in The Battle for God that extremism of one ilk exists because extremism of the other does. Extreme action on one side provokes an equal and opposite extreme reaction on the other. And so it goes, with many flavors of homegrown extremism having taken center stage since the 9/11 attack. Tomorrow’s installment of extremism, straight from central casting, was to be a ceremonial Quran burning. (At this writing it’s been suspended but it is not yet clear if “suspended” really means canceled in what has inexplicably become a Muslim/Christian he said/he said. You can’t make this stuff up.)
Outside of burning California hillsides, fighting fire with fire doesn’t really work. Most people with a stake is seeing a fire put out use water instead.
In the days after 9/11, in one of the innumerable searching conversations happening in the American family, my brother (a military man well acquainted with “fire”) imagined how he wanted America’s reaction to play out: We’d capture Bin Laden alive, then bring him back to New York City, get him a good lawyer and put him on trial. Then, in the darkest and least civilized corners of the world, that America would ensure such a man a fair trial in our abiding commitment to the rule of law would shine a light so bright that the forces in the world that build would irrevocably trump the forces that destroy.
My brother was describing water.
That conversation – and more generally the tragedy of 9/11 – were no small part the genesis of what would eventually become our Tallahassee Florida go at dousing the fire with water by building The Village Square.
But fire is flammable and demands attention and 50 members of a congregation a couple hours south of us has been getting international news coverage by pouring gasoline on it (by using water, The Village Square is lucky if we get covered in local briefs). Fire is hot, fire sells newspapers.
When asked to speak about The Village Square, I’ve been known to lament that we’d be a national mass movement by now if our events involved statements of outrageous fury instead of thoughtful moderation. It’s simply the elemental difference between fire and water. This week Terry Jones and his Gainesville church have proven my theory as even the Vatican weighed in on their intemperance.
Other efforts at extinguishing fire with water get equally short shrift compared to the fire starters, such as this group of national religious leaders who got a big yawn from the media as they tried to advance moderation in the face of the planned event in Gainesville.
America is – at her best – the perfect solution to fire, both at home and elsewhere in the world. Our founders were students of human nature and prescribed an effective system to balance extremism. It’s tragic when we can’t rise to the call of our birthright because we’re stuck in an equal and opposite reaction to the horrible extremism of that day nine years ago. We may not quite know it, but we are in a unique position to shine that light my brother described all around the world in multitudes of ways that dampen the fires. Maybe welcoming a mosque near ground zero is just such a moment when a country with a really Big Idea shines a really big light?
My daughter is a junior at the University of Florida. She says there is a rumor going around campus that the football game being played tomorrow in Gainesville (91,000 people in “The Swamp”) is the target of a bomb threat. News yesterday was that the FBI says there are credible retaliatory threats. And so it goes: Extremism begets extremism.
General Petraeus knows fire and water and equal and opposite reactions. He said of the plan to burn Qurans: â€œWeâ€™re concerned that the images from the burning of a Quran would be used in the same way that extremists used images from Abu Ghraib â€” that they would in a sense be indelible.”
Indelible is a good word for what people do with fire.
— Please note that we are waiting for a statement of support for The Village Square from the Vatican.