I saw a Facebook post the other day that recommended all manner of violence against the Muslims who are defying the French “no public prayer” ban. My rule of thumb for commenting on these kinds of hateful and/or stupid things is to refrain unless they are so outrageous as to warrant a response. This one did, and I have just finished a largely unfruitful exchange with the original poster and his supporters.
I learned something valuable: Some people love an excuse to hate and hate a reason to think. I guess I already knew that, but the level of vitriol in this series of posts and responses was just too nasty to ignore.
My one and only suggestion throughout was that something has gone horribly wrong when one wants to do violence to people peacefully praying in public. Radical Islam is to be despised to the degree that it promotes violence against innocent people in the name of Allah. In cases where one’s life is in danger or safety in question, appropriate and measured violence in response is perfectly justified. I have no obligation to die or be injured at the hands of anyone for any reason. This is a far cry, however, from wanting to turn the hoses, or worse, on peaceful Muslims.
The world is turning into a nasty place. Perhaps it has always been so, but it seems to me that economic uncertainty and the emergence of a small but potent set of pathologically violent religious fanatics has brought out a hatefulness in “regular” people that bears watching.
Not that we should seek to silence those who hate all Muslims, or Jews, or redheads with green eyes. We should not. Their kind need not be placed in a pressure cooker now only to explode later. What we should do is answer, when appropriate, with reason and a level head.
What is the appropriate time to respond? Each must find his/her own answer to that question. I have no intention of answering every hate-riddled post on the Internet. I also have no intention of letting pass comments that are clearly over-the-top. It is unlikely that I had any impact on the main posters in this exchange–they are well beyond reaching, at least for now. Someone reading the exchange, though, may just temper his/her convictions a tiny fraction. He/she may start to doubt just a little bit that lumping all Muslims together into a bundle to foment hate and violence is right and good.
In this time of uncertainty, I encourage others to do likewise. Goodness does not win out in headline-prompting events, but rather in the small, discrete acts we choose to do each day. When you see writing by someone who hatred is truly disturbing, answer it without descending to insults and hyperbole. When you hear someone spout off inappropriate remarks, tell them what you think, or at least refuse to endorse it with an agreeable laugh. Let the world know that there are still principled people who stand up for their ideas without resorting to mindless hatred and violence. You and I may never see the good that comes of it, but we will go to bed at night knowing we did our part to fight against the madness that is daily creeping into our world.