I believe firmly in the right to free speech. However, today I saw a video of American citizens using that right, and it made me cry. The extremists (yes, they do deserve that label IMO) in the video made me feel ashamed to be an American.
Every culture has moderates and extremists, educated and ignorant, tolerant and haters. Yet, it is crushing to see some of my fellow citizens refuse to educate themselves on the current issues, pick out extremist point of views, and scream that hatred. They will be heard. We moderates tend not to gather by controversial buildings and shout a message of tolerance. Well, when we do, it is in defense of a group or topic being protested already it seems.
This video is disturbing. The worst part, to me, is not the message they are trying to convey. Rather, it is the elected government officials spouting off similar hate. They, like everyone else, have the right to say what they feel. However, we vote our officials into office to lead this country. Hatred never leads; it always follows. Their speeches of support to these extremists only give more credence to a group who should get gold stars for standing up for their rights, but who should lose all those stars for not educating themselves before speaking out with such force and anger.
Whatever happened to the separation of church and state? This is a question I have asked myself more as I grow older and more involved in society. We have the right to believe freely in the religion of our choice. We have the right to speak about and gather for that religion. We do not have the freedom from religion. When I look to my government and say keep your religion and morals off my life, my body, my politics… it goes unheard.
I worry. From encounters on my travels, I have learned that much of the world is well versed in American politics – often better than we are. Their opinions are strong and forceful: Why did you do this?! Why would you make those choices?! Each time I would explain, those were the choices of my government. Here are my reasons for supporting or not supporting those choices.
Reports like these… they will set us back. Just as loud, angry protests of those in Iraq and Afghanistan depicted only a handle of the countries’ views, protests like the one in the video will put forth an unflattering image of the US. We are not all those angry citizens. Many of us strongly support the freedom of Muslims to practice their faith in the US just as we support Catholics, Protestants, Baptists, Mormons, etc… We understand that just because a percentage of some foreign countries are involved in terrorist activities does not condemn their whole country.
There will always be extremists in this world. Sometimes, we need to step back, take a breath, and remember that they are the exception to the rule.
I have faith in our country. I believe we are great. But it is not a given. We must work everyday to prove our worth.