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Deep down, all the way to my core, I had a lingering suspicion that last Tuesday’s meeting at the conference center would get ugly. It’s as if my faith in humans as decent people is constantly waning. I knew it was going to be bad.
I’ve never wanted to be wrong like I wanted to be last week.
Undoubtedly, you have heard the backstory by now. Hundreds paraded around before the event screaming and shouting about First Amendment rights. It was an ingenious front for the underlying purpose for some in the mob.
It was all one big cover for an uprising of hate and bigotry.
Cheers for a burned down mosque? Booing dead soldiers? Quite the display of hypocrisy from a crowd of flag-waving, southern, Christian ‘Mericans.
Pardon my belittlement. But those leading the charge aren’t fooling anyone. The protest to the event was billed as a stand for First Amendment rights, but I’m not sure what that has to do with yelling at Zak Mohyuddin to “speak English” and cheering at a burned down mosque. At the mere mention of change and diversity someone shouted, “We like our past.”
If you like the past so much, put down the camera phone you’re filming the event with, drive your truck in the lake and go home and smash your TV with a hammer. Would slavery be proper, too? It is, after all, a part of the American past most connected with the current issue – a prejudiced view.
I felt bad for Mr. Mohyuddin. It takes a great deal of gumption and integrity to stand up there and take a personal bashing from a room full of teabillies and continue the course.
I can’t help but feel some compassion for those who were there to learn something. They wasted their time and, unfortunately, are painted with the broad stroke used to describe activist Pamela Geller and the rest of the teabilly gang.
In America, we as people have the right to peacefully assemble, protest and speak our minds. That is not
up for debate. Although some would go to great lengths to make you believe it is. (I read an email before Tuesday’s meeting that the press was under direct instruction from the Oval Office to ignore this meeting and that FBI agents would be on the roof with snipers and facial recognition devices would pick out everyone speaking against the government at the door … now tell me it isn’t about fear.)
The complete disregard and absence of respect on display Tuesday isn’t the American way. We don’t have to agree, but we can listen, can’t we? I learned that kind of courtesy in grade school. To put it simply, interrupting is impolite.
For people so keen on history, some seem to forget where we came from. We forget the escape from religious restrictions our greatest of grandparents endured so they could come here – to be free.
On Tuesday, many held up signs touting religion and clinging to the Bible but only to use it as a mask for their hidden agendas of hate and misunderstanding.
The Bible says in Matthew 5:33 and 5:44: “You have heard that it has been said, you shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which spitefully use you, and persecute you.”
Maybe this passage from the Declaration of Independence works just as well: “All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Black, white, Christian, Muslim, Latino, Japanese, gay, straight, man, woman and child. We are all created as equals. Like it or not we all must live together on this earth.
There is no protesting that.
-Josh Peterson is the editor of the Manchester Times. He has won TPA awards for his writing and photography. He can be reached by email at email@example.com or by telephone at 931-728-7577 ext. 105. Follow him on Twitter @joshpeterson29