Friday, December 11, 2015

Response to a Muslim Grievance, 1776, a Personal Gripe

Muslims make the point that when mass shootings appear in the news, the religion of the shooter is never cited unless he’s Muslim. Fair enough. But my exposure to the actions and rhetoric of radical, fundamentalist Islam goes back a long way and has left a deep, indelible impression. I can remember when Ayatollah Khomeini, the once de facto ruler of Iran and a major religious leader, actually ordered a hit on Salmon Rushdie because his treatment of the prophet Mohammed in “The Satanic Verses” was disrespectful. It took my breath away. I equated that with someone the stature of a pope or cardinal demanding the death of Andres Serrano for his “Piss Christ,” the controversial photograph of a crucifix placed into a jar of urine. Would that ever happen? Could that ever happen? No, it’s unthinkable. Yet I saw a prominent member of the Muslim clergy do just that. Now add to that the unimaginable horror and scale of 9-11, all the anti-American rhetoric I’ve heard over the years (“Death to America!”), the stories of mullahs in Pakistan and elsewhere preaching jihad from their pulpits, the innumerable acts of terror in Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and here, and, yes, speaking as an average American who casually watches the news and reads the newspapers, the militant Muslim extremists fanatically devoted to their religion have my attention and they stand out. The marathon bombings happened only five blocks away from where I work, for crying out loud. I sheltered in place like the people in that San Bernardino suburb just did. And I’ll admit it: when preliminary reports of yet another terrorist attack starts trickling in, I expect to hear Muslim names. Sorry, I’ve been conditioned. I feel bad for the ordinary, peace-loving, law-abiding Muslims and I regret the unwarranted criticisms and scrutiny they are forced to put up with — which, as every thinking person knows, is wrong, wrong, wrong — but, fair or not, Islam has a big PR problem.
I am reading “1776,” by David McCullough, a book which picks up the American Revolution story from the time of the British siege of Boston. One interesting thing about the book is that the author presumes the reader remembers details from his high school US History class, particularly the events and grievances that culminated in a declaration of independence (remember, in the beginning, the colonists merely wanted their rights to be respected, not to necessarily break from Britain). Do you remember what the Stamp Act was? Or the Intolerable Acts? I had to look them up. Something else I think noteworthy is that I find myself, for the first time in my life, seeing George Washington as a mortal being, not the demigod who appears on quarters, dollar bills, and the occasional equestrian statue. When he took command of the Continental Army in 1775 he was only 43. He stood six foot two, weighed 190 pounds, had reddish brown hair, and made an imposing figure. And, as I continue to read, I think back to the history books we had to study in school with the only aim of regurgitating dry facts back onto quizzes and tests, never once thinking of the flesh and blood people who were the actors of this great drama.
I am the landlord of a Section 8 tenant here in Boston. The Boston Housing Authority (note: a tax payer-funded government agency) pays for most of her rent. They were the ones who wrote the original lease back in 2003 and they send inspectors annually to make my life interesting. Every now and again I have to get in contact with someone at the BHA, and always — ALWAYS — the people I need to speak to never answer their phones and never return their calls. Always.
That is all.


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