Saturday is the 9th anniversary of the 9-11 attacks. I was 20 when that happened. A brand new adult. I had just voted in my first presidential election, and my first lesson was that democracy was a big fat joke that my history teachers played on me and my generation. Then 9-11. The era of terror. The Bush era. Living in a constant state of paranoia for the first year, until I realized that our fear was fueling the Bush agenda. With fear, you can control anyone. If someone is scared, they will do anything to make the torture stop.
What does a Koran book burning in the buckle of the Bible belt tell me? All of what I mentioned above happened when I lived just 70 miles north of the city where the infamous book burning will take place tomorrow to show the world that "Islam is of the Devil."
Let me tell you all a story about growing up in the Bible Belt. It is overwhelmingly run by the Baptist church. If you can't picture this, just imagine Salt Lake City, UT replaced by evangelical preachers or Vatican City run by snake handling Pentacostles. It's a little like that, but much more visually subtle. Extremists costume themselves in business attire, attend college, and appear to be neutral on political issues when in public. When one enters an Evangelical or Charismatic church, however, you get a glimpse into a whole different perspective. The evangelical Christian community has never been tolerant of any belief outside of their own for as long as I remember. When I was in Middle School, I would often attend church with some of my Baptist friends after Saturday night sleepovers, and the things I heard horrified me. One time I sat through an hour long sermon on the evils of Gay people. Another Sunday, I had to bite my tongue as a Youth Minister "schooled" the kids on the evils of other "Christian" religions outside of their own.
I moved to Jacksonville, FL from Danbury, CT when I was just 6 years old. The culture shock was so intense and traumatic that I STILL remember being asked about my devilish Catholic beliefs and my "funny" New England accent. There were kids in the neighborhood who were actually told by their parents that I could not be their playmate because I was not a "real Christian."
This is the mentality that flows through the South. Keep in mind, that this is not EVERYONE. In fact, after years of working, playing, and socializing with the Liberal Minority in the South, I learned that those in the South who are against hatred and intolerance are the most passionately outspoken, and are often willing to put their reputation and livelihood on the line in the name of social justice and equality.
When I heard about the organized Koran burning by a Pastor in Gainesville, FL scheduled for the 9th anniversary of the day we all became collectively terrified, my first thought was, "Well, that's not surprising."
I remember when I was still in Jacksonville, and those of us in College at the time of this attack were struggling with our feelings. I felt betrayed by my government, and so many of my friends felt the same way. I also felt helpless. People in Hollywood were being blacklisted for speaking out against the war. All of a sudden, our beloved Freedom of Speech was not being honored at all. To say I was saddened by that is a gross understatement.
Now, 10 years later, we have had PLENTY of time to process this. It's time to wake up! Whether you think Islam is "of the devil" or not, we still have the Freedom to practice Religion in this country. Besides that, burning the Koran in such a public manner will only cause an even further divide between us and the Middle Eastern community we have spent 9 years trying to convince that we are supposedly only trying to "liberate."
If you live in the South, I hope you will drive down on Saturday and stand up to this incredibly depressing and ignorant form of "protest." They certainly have the freedom to spit out hatred, but we also have the freedom to speak out AGAINST it.
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