Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Jeffrey Feldman and Joan Walsh Bring Light to the Heat of Ginned-Up Ground-Zero Mosque Controversy

Jeffrey Feldman and Joan Walsh bring welcome light today to the heat of the Republican-manufactured controversy about the Islamic cultural center being planned in New York City.  As both writers remind us, the projected structure isn't even a mosque, but a Muslim community center with a room for prayer.

I particularly like Feldman's reminder that the need to demonize and scapegoat despised others runs deep in American history, and this need must continuously be resisted in each generation.  Feldman parallels the Republican-engineered mass hysteria about this Islamic culture center with the witch trials in Puritan Massachusetts, as depicted by Arthur Miller in his classic play The Crucible.

As Feldman notes, 

If there is one, key lesson from Miller's The Crucible germane to our current situation, it is that each of us must cultivate our own immunity to mass hysteria. We must learn to be aware of false accusations, to question theories that seem irrational, and to distance ourselves from those who wield hysteria in exchange for power over us. And the best place to start is to look at our own history where we have made these mistakes in the past.

The price of a humane society is constant vigilance to identify distortions of truth serving, in each generation, to justify the dehumanization of vulnerable minority groups within that society.