Thursday, May 26, 2011

Hatin' in Tennessee

The last time we talked about the planned mosque being built in Murfreesboro, TN, CNN had given the comically hapless group of Islam-haters bent on halting its construction enough rope to hang themselves. Undaunted, the Quixotic band of bigots then took to the courts, armed with a sure-to-be-bulletproof argument -- something about perceived slights and imagined hardships under the non-existent booga-booga of Sharia law. Predictably, this too was tossed, leaving the mosque opponents to dream up yet more reasons for why the First Amendment applies to all religions except that one.

While we've seen our share of anti-Muslim activity across the fruited plain of late, some horrifying and some hilarious, I think Murfreesboro may be that junction where religious bigotry and plain, old-fashioned stupidity come to a point. In running down the whys-and-wherefores of the Murfreesboro mosque story, including its recent dénouement, Leonard Pitts, Jr. (whose terrific piece from last year about facts -- or the lack thereof -- in everyday argument is also readily applicable in this case) explains exactly why we should be paying special attention to this case:
Maybe you’re tempted to turn away in disgust. Yield not to temptation. We need to see this. This is what it looks like when a country loses its mind. 
It looked like this in Germany in 1938 on Kristallnacht, in Rwanda in 1994 when the Hutus savaged the Tutsis, in America in 1942 when the Japanese were herded behind barbed wire. 
My point is explicitly not that Muslims face mass vandalism, genocide or internment. Lord only knows what they face. Rather, my point is that the psychological architecture of what happened then is identical to the psychological architecture of Murfreesboro now. Once again, we see people goaded by their own night terrors, hatreds, need for scapegoats, and by the repetitive booming of demagogues, until they go to a place beyond reason.
Much more at the link, all of it worth reading.

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